13 Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Germs at the Grocery Store

Updated: Jan. 03, 2024

When you have to go to the store for essentials, protect yourself with these coronavirus grocery shopping tips.

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Disinfecting groceries during COVID-19
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Do wear a mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend wearing masks or face coverings when going out to public settings like the grocery store or pharmacy. If you’re over 60 or are immunocompromised, look into grocery stores with senior shopping hours.

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Safe shopping practice during a viral epidemic outbreak in Pennsylvania, USA.
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Don’t handle items unless you absolutely have to

How many people felt that avocado before you did? Do your best to avoid handling produce and other items while you’re shopping. Make your best guess and follow the rule we set for our kids with a bowl of communal snacks: if you touch it, it’s yours.

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Shopper wearing gloves to prevent the coronavirus covid-19 uses a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of a shopping cart.
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Do bring your own wipes

Grocery stores are paying special attention to store cleanliness, but they can’t always keep up with every cart and handle. Bring your own disinfectant wipes to wipe down anything you need to touch like doors, carts and freezer handles.

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Portrait of a mature woman with her daughter wearing a protective mask shopping in a supermarket
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Don’t bring your family

The more people you have with you, the more likely someone will pick up a bug. And let’s be honest; grocery shopping with kids is hard enough as it is. Designate one member of the family to shop or look into a grocery delivery service.

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A woman paying for her groceries with her smartphone, using the contactless payment option.
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Do use electronic payment

If your store accepts Apple Pay or other types of electronic payment, use ’em. If you need to use a debit card, be sure to wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe when you get home. If you have to touch your phone to the sensor for electronic payment, wipe it down as well.

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Woman cashier wearing protective face mask and gloves to prevent viruses, scanning disinfection products at the cash register and packing in paper bag
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Don’t ask for a receipt

Help protect yourself and your cashier by declining a paper receipt. This cuts down on the contact time and ensures that you won’t have to touch each other. Some stores provide emailed receipts.

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26 March 2020, Bavaria, Deggendorf: An assistant puts a bag of food in a trunk. The woman provides food for the elderly and sick. (to dpa-Korr ""Happy that something like this exists" - shopping help for the elderly and sick") Photo: Armin Weigel/dpa (Photo by Armin Weigel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Do relax your standards for reusable bags

Reusable bags are great for the environment but also provide another surface that could transmit germs from your house to the store and vice versa. Many stores aren’t allowing them now because they’re often difficult to clean; choose paper at the checkout.

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BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - MARCH 28: Shoppers wearing a surgical masks look at a prepared meals at a Trader Joes in Brooklyn, New York on March 28, 2020. The store lets in a minimum amount of shoppers at one time due to the spreading coronavirus. Trader Joes is an American chain of grocery stores headquartered in Monrovia, California. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
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Don’t go in without a plan

The days of lazily strolling around the grocery store until dinner inspiration hits are gone for now. Try to minimize your time out in public by walking into the grocery store with a detailed list so you can get in and get out quickly. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for how to stock a pantry.

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Asian women with face mask for protection against influenza virus shopping in supermarket
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Do be friendly

This is a great time to give your fellow shoppers the benefit of the doubt. We’re all under higher levels of stress right now, and a little kindness can go a long way. Smiling at someone who’s 10 feet away won’t put you at risk, and remember, we’re all in this together.

Who knows? That person you smile at may be one of the shopping angels serving your community.

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Woman wearing protective mask while grocery shopping in supermarket, Coronavirus contagion fears concept
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Don’t buy ripped or damaged packages

It’s important to inspect your packages of meat and prepped veggies all the time but especially now. If you notice a tear in a product, bring it to one of the store employees (wearing your mask of course) so that they can discard it.

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Young woman in medical mask and empty shelves in supermarket
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Do have a backup plan for your ingredients

It’s no surprise that many of the items on your list may be low-stock or sold out once you arrive at the store. Think through some backup options so that you can still get everything you need. If you’re stocking your pantry, these creative substitutes can help.

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Young woman and little child wearing protective mask makes disinfection of hands with sanitizer in airport, supermarket or other public place. Safety during COVID-19 outbreak. Epidemic of virus covid
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Don’t forget your own hand sanitizer

Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your car to use as soon as you finish grocery shopping. Most stores now provide a large bottle of hand sanitizer but everyone at the store is touching the same dispenser. Once you return home, wash your hands with soap and water.

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To avoid microbial contamination: clean your phone. (Photo by: TIROT/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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Do wipe down your phone

Most of us use our phones to keep a grocery list or pay for our items, and it can pick up germs along the way. Be sure to clean your phone if you pulled it out at the store.