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Unfortunately, the way we shopped in January no longer applies — the rules of shopping for groceries have changed practically overnight.

Now more than ever before, it’s important that we all know what we should stop doing at the grocery store in order to keep ourselves, grocery store employees, and everyone around us safer.

Here’s a checklist to help you make sure you’re doing what you can to effect positive change at your local grocery store.


1. Stop crowding employees (or trying to squeeze by them in a crowded aisle).

Shopper talking to a grocery store employee.

If you see a grocery employee restocking a shelf or an employee shopping for a pickup or delivery order, please don’t suck it in and turn sideways to try and shuffle-squeeze by them.

It’s better to wait until they move and you can get by them with six feet of clearance, or turn around and go into the aisle from the other end.


2. Stop bringing your family into the store.

Woman and kids in a grocery store.

We are all stir-crazy at home. I just had to explain to my twelve-year-old why walking around the block with her neighbor friend is still not gonna happen (“But we will be outside!”).

A trip to the grocery store isn’t a family outing anymore. And even if your kids are aching to get out of the house, taking them (or your partner!) to the store isn’t the answer, as the less people in your home potentially exposed to the virus, the better. Also, the fewer people that are in the store, the easier it will be for everyone to stay six feet away from each other.


3. Don’t come to the store more than twice a month if possible.

A woman walking into Whole Foods by herself.

Gone are the days of a “quick trip to the store to get two things.”

If you can, get what you need for two weeks and then make smaller visits only when you need perishable items like produce. You can freeze eggs, milk, and cheese, so you don’t need to buy those every week.

Try not to visit the store if all you need is an item you could buy online and can wait a day or two to receive.

Find a balance somewhere between stocking up for a month, which hurts store inventory, and visiting the store just to buy trash bags or other non perishable items.


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4. Don’t ignore floor markers that indicate six feet distance.

A checkout line with people shopping, standing near markers on the floor that say, "Please Wait here

Please follow the store’s request and use the markers. If there aren’t any markers, pretend there are, and place yourself six feet behind the person in front of you.

If you need to get through an area with floor markers and people in line, go around the line. Please don’t go in-between the floor markers to get to your destination.


5. Avoid the store during rush hours (right before dinnertime).

Customers with baskets full of food standing in a long line at Costco checkout.

Business Insider pooled research from consumer data trends and found the least crowded times to visit the grocery store are early in the morning.

The very first hour the store is open is the least busy, but since many stores reserve that first hour for seniors and vulnerable shoppers, the hour after that (beginning at 7:30 or 8 a.m., depending on the store’s elderly shopping hours), are less crowded than any other time of the day.

The most crowded time of day is 4 – 6 p.m. Avoid it if at all possible!



6. Don’t ignore the disinfectant wipes for shopping carts — and use the store’s hand sanitizer stations.

hand wipes cart to disinfect w sanitizing wipes

Coupled with the extra cleaning the grocery store is doing right now, wiping down your cart is a positive contribution you can make to your local grocery store and community.

Some stores have hand-sanitizing stations. Use them! Or bring your own hand sanitizer and use it a couple times during your shopping trip.


RELATED: Tips for Shopping Walmart During the Coronavirus Pandemic


7. Stop getting in front of slower customers because you think they’re taking too long.

Woman reaching into a refrigerated case to grab a gallon of milk in a grocery store.

You know how in non-pandemic times there’s always that person who stands right in front of the refrigerated case, taking forever to decide which type of milk to get? Or the person who blocks the entire selection of avocados, trying to choose the perfect ones? Well, there’s always that person’s counterpart — the one who worms in front of them to grab “one quick thing,” forcing the slower person to step out of their way.

If you’re the slow person, stand back until you decide. If you’re the one who shoves their way in, don’t. Instead, breathe, be patient, and wait until the first person leaves the area before you make your selection.


8. Stay at home if you feel at all sick.

person from neck down sick tissues everywhere wearing rainbow socks

Of course, we all want to think positive and not panic if we come down with a sniffle. But, we live in uncertain times. It’s too tempting to think: This new cough I have is probably allergies/my asthma/what I ate this morning and not COVID-19. After all, it’s me. I’m fine!

A good rule is: When in any amount of doubt, don’t go out.

Please make decisions based on how you want others to behave, and don’t come to the store if you have any sick symptoms at all. Even if you don’t have COVID, you don’t want to expose anyone to any virus right now, as it could compromise their immune systems and leave them vulnerable to much worse than a sniffle.



9. Don’t shop without a list and a plan.

Someone's hand writing a grocery shopping list while looking through a store sale flyer.

Now is not the time to wander grocery aisles, pondering what sounds good for dinner. The more time you spend in the store, the more you risk (and add to) exposure — yours and everyone else’s. Remember, being out of the house right now should be quick and to-the-point. So, do all your dinner dreaming at home before you get to the store.

Make a meal plan and create a shopping list based on the layout of the store so you’re visiting each area of the store you need only once.


RELATED: Tips for Shopping at Costco During the Coronavirus Pandemic


10. Stop complaining to grocery employees.

A sign inside Walmart with a list of items that are limited, 1 per customer.

If you’re tempted to complain to a grocery store employee, please don’t. They’re already fighting their own negative thoughts as they work selflessly in the trenches to make sure that can of beans is on the shelves when we visit. Seriously, first responders, health care workers, AND grocery workers are on the front lines right now and we need them. Please be kind, patient, and thankful.

Here’s a short list of things not to complain about:

  • Store hours: Employees don’t make these decisions, their corporate offices do. Remember that store hours are reduced in part so employees can cover each other when they’re sick, and so they can restock the store.
  • Having to touch the credit card machine: Consider that you’re making an employee’s day brighter because you didn’t hand them cash, which is notoriously dirty. Sanitize or wash your hands after you touch the machine.
  • Store purchasing limits: Again, employees don’t regulate this. And limits are in place so that everyone can get a couple jars of pasta sauce for the week.


11. Don’t touch merchandise unless you’re buying it.

A woman shopping in the produce section.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of gently squeezing apples before I buy them. I’ve stopped that bad habit since the novel coronavirus outbreak, but I know I’m not the only one who has done this in the past!

We are in a new era of grocery shopping where touching things and then leaving them for someone else is a big no-no.



12. Don’t assume employees can control how much inventory they receive.

Totally bare shelves inside a Walmart store.

Sometimes they get everything they ordered and are able to fully restock, sometimes they don’t get it all, and sometimes they simply don’t get any of the items they ordered (like meat right now).

I promise they’re as frustrated as you are, but they don’t have any control over whether or not the warehouse can restock their shelves.


13. Don’t try and relate to employees in risky situations unless you actually can.

Walmart grocery pickup employees greeting a shopper.

Grocery store workers are putting their lives on the line — yes, it’s great that they haven’t lost their jobs like many other people have. But, please don’t tell them they’re “fortunate to be working” as it might come off as offensive, even if you have good intentions.

Don’t try and communicate that you know what they are experiencing unless you do know. If you’re a health care professional shopping for groceries, feel free. Because you actually do know what it’s like to risk your life to help others.

Thank you to all grocery and health care professionals, and every other essential worker. We appreciate you, we need you, and we recognize that many of you are sorely underpaid!


Don’t scroll up! Here are the articles mentioned:

The Ultimate How-to-Freeze Guide

Tips for Shopping Walmart During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Tips for Shopping at Costco During the Coronavirus Pandemic


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Two shoppers lifting their hands up to celebrate a successful shopping trip inside Walmart.

13 Things You Need to Stop Doing at the Grocery Store