The Grocery Store in the Time of Covid-19
today at 1:56 pm
After a lifetime of going to the grocery store, when Covid-19 hit I wasn’t exactly sad to hand off the grocery shopping to a delivery service. One less risk, it seemed a safer option for my husband and myself. I eased my conscience by tipping generously.
Although I’d expected a few bumps in handing off my grocery shopping to another, I had no idea how peculiar it might get. The craziest mix up was the 18 pounds of bananas that came in lieu of the 6 bananas ordered. The missing 5-pound bag of potatoes and other unremunerated whoops moments weren’t a big deal, but the double-billing of one $160 payment was.
It was time for me to retake control.
So after considering all that I’d learned about how to mitigate risk in a grocery store, I sought a second opinion from my husband–do you think we can tag team the grocery shopping SAFELY?
He felt sure that we could. Told by the grocer that Tuesdays were less frequented, we decided to try the senior and compromised immunity hours of 7 AM to 8 AM on Tuesdays. For a couple who are often sitting with tea and newspapers before then, 6:30 AM is a very doable hour.
My strategy for the safest grocery shopping was to be in and out as quickly as possible, to minimize infection. Planning our meals, I first made a grocery list. Triaging that list in a list that followed my imaginary route through the well-known grocery store to avoid doubling-back, only then was I ready.
On the night before the grocery store expedition, before turning out the light and on turning on the sleep meditation we listen to every night, I ‘set’ my brain to wake by 6:30 AM knowing that the alarm clock would wake us. Sounds goofy, but I’ve been able to do this trick since I was in high school. Though not a 100% dependable way to wake, it sometimes works.
On Tuesday at 6:17 AM it worked, giving me plenty of time for that single cup of caffeinated Earl Grey tea. Having given up caffeine months ago after hearing Michael Pollan talk about stopping caffeine on Fresh Air, I’d stopped. So I knew that one caffeinated cup would jolt my usually decaffeinated wide awake.
Suiting up in clothes that we planned to wash immediately on returning home we left the house at 6:51 AM. Parking at the store, we slipped on our washable cloth masks and disposable gloves, exiting the safety of the car. Walking to get a grocery cart, I smiled to see a store employee having just cleaned the grocery carts.
Wouldn’t need my ‘grocery store’ purse with cleaner, paper towels and hand sanitizer today.
With the doors open, we were off to the bread/egg/frozen fruit aisle. The still empty store had new signage, marking the aisles as directional one-ways. Though not honored by one shopper, the store was so empty I wasn’t worried. It looked like what midnight shopping used to look like in 24-hour groceries in our former home in the City of Chicago before Covid-19.
The stock was still limited, but nevertheless I was able to find 95% of my list including one of the previously never available items from my delivery service, poblano peppers. Small to you, but as a woman who cooks a lot of Mexican dishes–a wonderful sight to my eyes and tongue.
The aisle with toilet paper had only paper towels. The cleaner aisle had few cleaners, but lots of bleach in all sizes available, plus a large supply of hand sanitizers. The reasonably-priced store brand unsalted butter only came in salted–so with salt a trigger for my Meniere’s–I sprang for the pricier unsalted brand-name butter.
We flew through the store following my beautifully triaged list. A few times, my husband would go one way for X, while I’d go another way for Y–allowing us to more efficiently hunt and gather over $200 of items in under 30 minutes. When my husband went to an empty checkout aisle, I skedaddled to wait by the car in the parking lot.
Once home, we left the car windows open to clear it out. Stripping down inside, our clothes and masks went into the washing machine for a hot bath, as we showered. The vegetables and fruit then bathed in the cooling waters mixed with my homemade cleaning solution.
No mess, no stress. It felt like a small victory for one couple, at a time when we are otherwise so very cloistered.
Maybe to find our best time, I’ll use a stopwatch next time. Maybe.