Lessening the Anxiety of Grocery Shopping in the Time of Coronavirus
March 30, 2020
Categories: COVID19 | General

It goes without saying that life as we knew it has changed drastically. No one is exempt from the impact of Coronavirus. The term ‘unprecedented’ is used often to describe these current events.  Ordinary everyday tasks that we took for granted present extraordinary challenges.

Grocery shopping has been a chore I typically enjoy. I like trying new foods and recipes and shopping for items is part of it.

Last week I decided to take advantage of Whole Foods 8 am – 9 am opening for those over sixty years of age.

In hindsight, there were several things I did wrong; things I had not considered thoroughly enough beforehand.

    1. I used my reusable grocery bags. I have since sanitized those bags but have never sanitized them before. I carried the two bags and filled them with what I needed and then proceeded to the check out. The cashier did not wear gloves while handling my products and then the gentleman bagging the groceries handled them without gloves.
      Here is what can be changed; Leave the reusable bags at home. Either bring your own brown paper bags or use the stores bags. Bag your own groceries. It means one less person touching your food. I could wear gloves if I could find gloves.
    2. I was picking up fruits and vegetables bare handed; fruits and vegetables that no doubt 100 people ahead of me had already touched. I squeeze avocado to test ripeness, doesn’t everyone?
      Here is what can be changed; Use the plastic bags provided at the store to pick something up. Drop that into a second plastic bag and then seal it. Again, this is about minimizing the number of people touching your food. It is not about the food you buy, but the interaction with people.
    3. I did not have a bottle of hand sanitizer in my possession. I have two bottles with only drops left. I keep one in my car.
      Here is what can be changed; Carry sanitizer into the stores. If you have it, use it. Use it on the grocery cart or basket. If you find any, buy it. But let’s not hoard it people.
    4. I brought my groceries into my home and simply put them away. I immediately washed my hands in the suggested time of 20 seconds.
      Here is what can be changed; Bring the groceries into your home and plop the fruits and vegetables in a colander or sink to be rinsed in hot water and leave to dry before putting away. No reason to not wash your hands the minute you come into your home before further handling your food. It is apparently unlikely that the virus is spread through packages and food but going forward, I am wiping down all packages before storing. It might be unnecessary, but it isn’t hard to do so I say, why not? And then of course wash your hands and all the surfaces the food touched.
    5. I used a credit card but also accepted the paper receipt from the cashier…the one who was not wearing gloves.
      Here is what can be changed; Maybe the paper receipt is a small thing to be worried about, but I can pass on the receipt going forward.

All in all, I think I managed the shopping trip decently, but I experienced anxiety while in the store and once I came home. I can do better and will.

The store was very quiet. I showed up at the very end of that hour of senior shopping. People seemed aware of keeping distance from one another. I had 3 powerful sneezes (allergies) while in the store and was terrified of people thinking I was being reckless. I literally ran to a corner isolating myself from food and people when I felt the sneezes coming on. I shoved my face into the crook of the arm of my coat. I didn’t want to be near me, so I understood people giving me a wide berth. Sorry fellow shoppers.

I have not returned to that or any other grocery store since. My husband however did go into the same store just this past weekend and here is what he observed.

  1. Two employees dedicated to spraying and wiping down grocery carts and grocery baskets.
  2. All incoming foot traffic was directed to one door which was the lobby where all the carts were being sanitized by employees working fast and furious.
  3. Each aisle that had freezers with doors had an employee dedicated to wiping down the handles of every door touched.
  4. The cashier asked if he would prefer to pack his own groceries.
  5. The coffee bar and the open food bars were closed.
  6. Several employees were wearing face masks and gloves while stocking shelves.
  7. Whole Foods announced that employees working during this period will be paid an extra $2.00 an hour.

A final word about the hoarding of products, particularly toilet paper and cleaning supplies. I appreciated Whole Foods limit on the number of six roll packages to five per person. I bought two, mainly because I had a healthy supply at home but couldn’t completely bypass the opportunity to add to my collection thinking 3 weeks ahead.

In the time of disturbing stories of hoarding, came this story from across the pond.

My friend Ruth shared the story of her mother in England. She went to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and did not want people thinking she was panicking (or hoarding) so bought a smaller package of toilet paper than what she normally would. In a time of crisis, Mrs. Babour, who tends to ‘stockpile’ when things are on sale, actually has LESS toilet paper than she would under normal conditions. In the words of Ruth, “So my mother who typically has twelve tubes of toothpaste and twenty rolls of toilet paper for two people now has less for fear of looking bad in a supermarket full of people she doesn’t know.”

I smile every time I think of this story.

Shop smartly and limit how often you must go into the stores. In the city of Beverly, the mayor has asked the citizens to limit shopping to 2 days a week. Each ward has 2 days that are designated as their shopping days. It is entirely up to each person to adhere to the suggestion. These are the things we can control. These are ways we can contribute to working together to come out on the other side of this.

Good Morning America has a helpful video regarding the issue of safe grocery shopping;

Here at Elder Services, we will continue to do our best to bring you updates and resources so tune in to our social media platforms of FaceBook ( and our websites at and where you can sign up for our e-newsletter, The Shoreline.


Author Info
Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne’s background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. “I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you’ll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services’ audience.”

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