If like me, you used to enjoy grocery shopping—until COVID-19. What was once a fun-filled exploration of food options has become a carefully planned strategy of how to get in and out without interacting with anyone or touching a single, unnecessary item! As updates change daily, I imagine you have questions about what to do with those groceries once you get home.
First Step: Make a Plan
So, you have made it through the grocery store, practiced 6 ft. social distancing, no interaction, appropriately waiting your turn for checkout, used grocery store appointed bags—and now you are ready to take your loot home! I recently read a CDC posting that a virus similar to COVID-19 becomes noninfectious on most surfaces after the first 24 hours and that there isn’t much concern over the contents of sealed containers. Whew – Good to know!
Wednesday, was the beginning of “Mandatory Mask” wearing at the Co-op. After shopping at the White River store and based on the CDC recommendations – I created an “action plan” for what to do after I leave the store. I arrive at my car, repeat hand wiping with sanitizer/wipes and then transfer groceries into the car. I carefully remove my mask, aware of which side of the mask faced out (don’t want to touch it!) and store it in a bag with groceries for cleaning later on. When I get home, I go over my plan for sorting/putting away my purchases. It goes like this:
- carry all bags into the mudroom and leave them there,
- enter kitchen, wash hands again to the tune of Happy Birthday 2X with soapy warm water,
- wipe the counter surfaces with disinfectant,
- retrieve all grocery bags, unpack perishables/packaged items, throw store grocery bags away,
- store packaged items in pantry, let sit for 24 hours before touching, AND
- wash hands – AGAIN!
Groceries away for now!
Second Step: Care for Produce
When it’s time to use my veggies and fruits, I also have a COVID-19 protocol. Before using the produce, I wash hands again and then look over what veggies and fruits I’m working with:
- For most produce, it a simple rinse and gentle massage under the water will do,
- Rinse the outside of fruits and veggies (to reduce contamination), use a veggie brush/sponge for thicker fleshed items like cucumbers and melons,
- Rinse all berries in a colander, drain completely before refrigerating,
- Any unpackaged lettuces and greens benefit from a soak in a bowl of cool water, drained and dried, and
- With heads of lettuce or cabbage, simply peel the outer leaves off.
Third Step: Facemask Care
The final task of this shopping event is critical – to care for the facemask I wore while shopping. Correct wearing and washing is essential if these masks are to be effective. Things I consider – have I touched the outside of the mask, how often it did I wear it, did I put it down where it might have contaminated something else? These masks can be tossed in with laundry or hand washed with hot, soapy water, rinse well and hang to dry.
Weekly shopping – done!
Looking for more information about Food Safety and COVID-19. NC State has provided a great collection of resources.
Fourth Step: Reflection
On my way home, I happened to hear the song by the Rolling Stones – “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” The first part makes sense – none of us wanted this, but the second part – what is it that we need?
Perhaps it is a message to slow down our activities, an opportunity to reflect on what we’re grateful for – whether it’s family, friends, community or getting back to basics like bread baking. There is so much good happening in our local community, and despite the fear, hardships and annoyance we feel, it can also be a time to reflect on what is good in our lives and how we can give back to someone else in need.
Perhaps this is what we need right now.