I didn’t want to come home. I enjoyed eating on campus, picking up apples at GreenStar and drinking cappuccinos from Gimme! Coffee. But even before I left Cornell to live at home with my parents, my family was discussing the plan for grocery shopping. My sister, who lives in New York City, insisted that I do the shopping instead of my parents, since their age puts them at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. I was excited for this job; I have always loved a trip to the grocery store.
I no longer feel this way. Two days after arriving home in mid-March, I made my first trip to the grocery store for our weekly staples. Although I had a list, I was totally unprepared for the scene I encountered: Each aisle was crowded with people, but empty of stock. The next week, I went to a different supermarket with a new plan: Not only was I armed with a paper list (I didn’t want to touch my phone in the store), but my earphones were in so I could get specific advice from our resident grocery expert — my mom. I felt like I was on a mission, where I was the spy and my mom was providing instructions in my ear for how to navigate a tricky situation. This market had at least four aisles that were completely picked clean. This was the first time (except for snow days of years past) I saw evidence of panic buying. By my third grocery store adventure, I was fully prepared. I wore a bandana covering my nose and mouth, had my mom in my ear, a handwritten shopping list in gloved hand and Purell in my pocket. At the end of an hour, my cart was filled to the top and I was exhausted.
I am now an expert at grocery shopping during the time of COVID-19. After my experiences of success and failure, I have created a streamlined plan to make grocery shopping as speedy and painless as possible.
Step 1: Consult the whole household when creating the grocery list. Evaluate what you will need for the next one to three weeks. This list could include fresh produce, refrigerated items, shelf-stable and canned products and bread, as well as toiletries and other household necessities. Organize the list by these categories, so it is easier to check off items as you go through the store.
Step 2: Gather all necessary supplies for the trip. This might include reusable grocery bags (if your local market allows those), a mask (homemade ones work great), a small bottle of hand sanitizer and clothes with pockets.
Step 3: Make sure you’re familiar with the layout of the store so that you can move as quickly as possible. If you are unfamiliar with the market, it’s useful to be on the phone (using headphones only, so you don’t contaminate the phone) with someone who can help you along the way. Pick a shopping time when the store is less likely to be busy, such as early in the morning, or mid-afternoon.
Step 4: While shopping, touch as few items as possible. If you have disinfectant wipes, cleanthe cart handle upon arrival. Have your method of payment easily accessible (so that you don’t touch other items when paying). Keep at least six feet (ideally more) from other customers, if possible; go down the less populated aisles. And, as everyone knows by now, don’t touch your face!
Step 5: When checking out, genuinely ask the cashier how they are doing. Grocery store workers are risking their health by showing up to their jobs every day.
Step 6: After loading bags to your car, sanitize your hands before touching the handles and the wheel. If taking public transport or walking, skip to step 7.
Step 7: When you get home, leave what you can in the car or in a specified spot inside your home for a few days, or wipe items off with soap and water or disinfectant.
Step 8: Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
Step 9: Congratulate yourself. Grocery shopping is no easy feat, especially now.
Step 10: Cook, eat, rest, repeat.
Unfortunately, to date, I have not located toilet paper.
Melanie Metz is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.