A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Grocery shopping: ‘Before, during, after’

How to plan for fewer grocery trips during Covid

Grocery shopping may seem difficult during COVID-19, but our expert says your approach shouldn’t be too different if you buy wisely and keep your shopping experience efficient and healthy.

Editor’s note: This article was published on April 30, 2020. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.

It may be a whole new ballgame when you grocery shop because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), but a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian says your approach shouldn’t be so different if you typically buy wisely and keep your shopping experience efficient and healthy.

Dietitian Chrisanne Urban offers tips for good shopping that she calls “Before, during, after” and planning is at the heart of your success.

“You do not catch COVID from food but from person to person,” Urban said. “Plan but don’t plan out of fear or to hoard food or supplies. Despite empty shelves from time to time, the supply chain remains strong. The goal is to minimize store time. Get in and get out. Plan, shop, save money and time and you’re more apt to come out without as much junk food, too.”

Your approach to shopping during this time should be the same, she said, “whether it’s COVID, losing weight or healthy eating. Planning is key. That has not changed.”

So consider these tips to help you have a good shopping experience:


  • Plan meals for a week or two. Look at what you have in your cupboards and freezer. Then, plan your grocery list with what you’ve already got in mind. If you’ve got meat in the freezer, plan a meal around that and it’ll save you money, too.
  • Make a list. This helps minimize time in the grocery store. Go on your community grocery stores’ websites to find weekly sales. Lay out your list using the store’s layout. This helps limit time and exposure to other people. Is it time to order on-line for curbside pickup? Pros include convenience. Cons include not picking out your own fresh produce; and wait times for pick-up service could be nearly a week out, even in rural areas.
  • Shop alone or have someone do it for you to decrease risk of exposure. Older adults are at higher risk so you may want to consider shopping for them.
  • Timing. Shop during non-peak hours. More stores are advertising certain shopping times for older adults and those who are immune-compromised. Is there someone else who can shop for you or is it time for curbside pick-up?


  • Cover up. Wear a mask and gloves to decrease your exposure risk.
  • Social distancing means maintaining 6 feet between shoppers. Grocery stores typically have marks to designate that distance on their floors.
  • Sanitize. Before going into the store, use hand sanitizer in your car. Sanitize your cart handle. Minimize your number of touches in the store.
  • Buy what you need. Don’t be a hoarder. “We’re not going to run out of food,” Urban said. “Toilet paper is very much in stock.”


  • When you get home, it’s very important to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Some reports have suggested keeping groceries in your garage or car for a time after purchase. “Don’t do that,” Urban said. “Properly store your groceries. You don’t want meat and other refrigerated items out of the refrigerator since you may end up with a food-borne illness like salmonella.”
  • Current information notes there’s no need to disinfect your food using bleach, soap or disinfectant. They’re not meant to put on food since they can cause illness, she said. It’s important, though, to rinse fresh fruit and veggies and not to rewash bagged lettuce since you could contaminate it in the process.

Visit Marshfield Clinic.org for more information about COVID-19.

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