During the pandemic, it can be confusing to figure out how you're supposed to shop for the things you and your family need — not to mention those little extras that might bring you a bit of happiness and joy in these uncertain times. Generally, as long as you follow the basic guidelines of social distancing and stay mindful of the needs of others, you can still buy nearly anything you need or want. With so many struggling, it's also important to do what you can to support small and family-owned businesses who have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
Method 1 of 3:Buying Essentials in Person
1Designate a single shopper for your household if possible. In some areas, only one person per household is allowed to shop in stores. However, even if this restriction isn't in place where you live, it's still best to limit exposure by only sending one person out to buy essentials.
Sending the same person out to buy essentials every time ensures that only one person in your household is exposed. If someone in your household is still going to work, they may be the best person to send out on errands, since they're already out.
If you have small children that you can't leave at home by themselves, it's okay to take them with you. Just make sure that you control their movements and keep them from touching things or getting too close to other people. For example, you might want to keep a toddler strapped in a car seat or stroller while shopping.
2Make a list before you go to the store. When you're shopping during a pandemic, your goal is to get in and out of the store as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some areas are limiting the length of time people can stay in stores. However, even if your time in a store is not restricted, this isn't a time for you to meander up and down the aisles just seeing what's there.
Restrict your list to essential items that you and your family need, including food, medicines, and household supplies.
Write your list on a single piece of paper that you can throw away after you leave the store. Don't keep it on your phone or you'll constantly have to check your phone while at the store, potentially spreading germs.
Group the items on your list into categories that are typically found in the same areas of the store so you'll be more efficient in your shopping. For example, you might have a group of dairy items, a group of fresh produce items, and then another group for pasta, grains, and other staples.
Tip: Don't forget snacks and treats! While you might not consider these things strictly"essential,"if a carton of ice cream would make you smile, go ahead and add it to your list. Your mental health is important and this isn't the time to deny yourself an occasional treat.
3Go shopping when the stores are less busy. With so many people working from home (or not working at all), common traffic patterns have been disrupted. However, many stores are likely to be less busy early in the morning or late at night.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
Many stores have designated the first hour they're open as"senior hour"specifically for the elderly and more vulnerable people to shop. Check the store before you go and don't visit during these times unless you're a member of a vulnerable group.
Tip: If you search for the store on Google, a box typically shows up that tells you when the store has the most traffic so you can plan your visit accordingly.
4Wear a cloth or paper mask while out in public. A cloth mask not only keeps you from inhaling virus particles but also protects people around you from your own germs. Because you may not have any symptoms for several days after you've contracted the novel coronavirus, the mask is a necessary precaution to help slow the spread of the disease.Trustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
Avoid touching your face while wearing a mask. Keep hand sanitizer with you so you can quickly disinfect your hands if you happen to touch or adjust your mask while out in public.
Warning: Surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that are necessary for healthcare workers. If you have a stockpile of these masks, consider donating them to your local hospital.
5Carry your own disinfecting wipes for carts or baskets. While many stores have disinfecting wipes available, it's better to bring your own just in case. Wipe down the handles of a cart or basket before you use it, then throw your wipe away in the nearest trash can.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
If you have children with you, wipe down the area where they'll be sitting as well as any other part of the cart that they might touch while sitting in it or walking beside you.
6Avoid touching your face or your phone while shopping. Touching your face or your phone with dirty hands is a good way to expose yourself to the novel coronavirus and other germs. Put your phone in your purse or pocket if you need to have it with you while shopping. Otherwise, it's a good idea to leave it in your car.Trustworthy SourceCleveland ClinicEducational website from one of the world's leading hospitalsGo to source
Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you if possible, or use wipes to clean your hands if you need to touch your face or phone. You can also use disinfecting wipes to clean the surface of your phone.
7Buy items in quantities that your family needs. With people spending more time at home, it's likely that you'll need to buy larger quantities of food and other household goods than you did before the pandemic. However, hoarding mass quantities of basic goods means there isn't enough left for everyone else.
Because you want to limit your trips, stock up on food and other essentials that your family will need for the coming week or two. Plan on making a single shopping trip once a week at most.
8Stay at least 6 ft (1.8 m) away from employees and other shoppers. Practice social distancing while you're out in public. Avoid areas where there are more than 2 or 3 people congregated. If you need items on an aisle with several customers, circle around and come back when they've cleared the area.Trustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
If someone is standing too close to you, don't hesitate to ask them politely to step further away.
9Pay with a credit or debit card instead of cash. Most stores have machines that allow you to insert your credit or debit card yourself so you don't have to hand it off to the cashier. Paying with a credit or debit card eliminates the necessity of that personal contact, which decreases the exposure for both you and the cashier.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
If you have a no-touch payment app through either your smartwatch or your smartphone, you might consider enabling those to avoid touching the keypad or pen on the payment console.
10Wash your hands and disinfect after putting your things away. If you have the option, put your groceries in the trunk to transport them home. Bring your groceries in and put them all in a single designated area. Take them out of the bags and put them where they go, then throw away the bags and disinfect the counter where the bags were sitting. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds to thoroughly clean your hands.Trustworthy SourceState of MassachusettsOfficial website for the State of MassachusettsGo to source
While there's no evidence supporting the transmission of the virus through food packaging, you might want to wipe down nonporous containers, such as glass or cans, with a disinfectant wipe.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
You might also consider changing clothes after you get home since your clothing was potentially exposed to the virus and might have absorbed it.
Method 2 of 3:Ordering Delivery or Online
1Buy what you can online to limit local traffic and personal contact. If you have the ability to order things your household needs online to limit your trips out, doing so ensures you can stay home as much as possible. Most grocery and discount stores also have delivery options, although some require you to pay a monthly or yearly subscription.
Online orders are ideal if you have small children at home and can't shop without taking them with you.
Tip: Many stores are having sales or offering special discounts to online customers. Take advantage of these offers to buy a few"non-essential"treats for yourself or your family, such as toys, games, puzzles, or comfortable clothing.
2Place delivery orders several hours before you need them. Because so many people are ordering delivery, drivers are often swamped with orders. Additionally, delivery services may have fewer drivers available in some areas. Don't expect services that promise delivery within an hour to live up to those promises during the pandemic.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
If you plan ahead and request delivery the day before you want it, you're more likely to get it at the time you want.
3Pick up your order at a local store if possible. Many grocery and big-box stores allow you to place an order online and then pick it up curbside at a nearby store location. Typically, this will save you a delivery fee. It might also allow you to get your order faster.
Ordering online also means that you don't have to worry about exposing yourself to the virus during the checkout process because you can pay for the order from the comfort of your own home.
When you arrive to pick up your order, open your car door yourself rather than letting an employee do it. Try to stay in your car as much as possible and give employees plenty of room as they load up your order.
4Specify how you want your order delivered. Most delivery apps and services allow you to specify contactless delivery — for some services, this is now the default. Some will leave your order at your door, while others require you to provide a designated place where you'll pick up your order.Trustworthy SourceConsumer ReportsNonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testingGo to source
When at all possible, avoid person-to-person contact with your delivery driver. This protects both them and you from potential unnecessary exposure to the virus.
Tip: If there's a way to tip online or through the delivery service's app, tip your delivery driver that way rather than handing them cash, which potentially exposes you both.
Method 3 of 3:Supporting Local Businesses
1Shop locally-owned businesses online. Many locally-owned small businesses have opened up shops online, even if they previously didn't. Search for your favorite local shops online and see if they've added online shopping to their websites.
Those that don't have online shops set up might also take orders for shipment or delivery over the phone, which gives you another contact-less way to patronize your favorite local establishments.
2Buy gift cards to use after the pandemic. If a local shop is completely closed during the pandemic, buying gift cards provides the owner with immediate cash income to help them stay in operation and eventually re-open after the crisis is over. Many small-business owners are also offering incentives to customers who buy gift cards during this time, such as special discounts or invitations to private shopping events.
In addition to buying gift cards for yourself and your family, you might also consider buying gift cards for friends and relatives. This can be a good way to show someone you care and are thinking about them as well as introduce them to one of your favorite local shops.
3Order meal kits from local restaurants. Many local restaurants are offering meal kits consisting of the food they serve in their restaurants. In some cases, these kits have enough food to feed a family of 4 for several meals. Ordering one of these and picking it up provides you with no-hassle meal options with minimal contact or exposure — and you're also helping support a local restaurant.
A basic internet search can help you find local restaurants near you that are offering meal kits. The website for your local news station may also have information on which restaurants have meal kits and other food services available.
4Donate to a virtual tip jar to support local restaurant workers. Many communities have set up virtual tip jars online to support restaurant and hospitality workers who depend on tips to make a living. Even if these employees are receiving unemployment or other benefits, they typically aren't bringing in as much income as they would if they were on the job.
For example, if you're having a"virtual happy hour"with some friends online, you might tip the virtual tip jar the same amount you would tip the bartender if you were having that same happy hour out at a bar.
If you buy a meal kit from a restaurant, you might use the virtual tip jar to tip the same amount you would if you were eating that meal out.
Tip: If you previously engaged people for services, such as dog-walking or babysitting, continue to pay those people using Venmo or PayPal to show your support.