During the coronavirus pandemic, many grocery stores have instituted special hours just for seniors so they can do their shopping. The measure allows the more at-risk shoppers to get the provisions they need while avoiding crowds during peak hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security recommend that families keep an ample amount of food, water, regular prescription drugs, health supplies and other necessities on hand during the pandemic. In following their recommendation, what are your strategies for buying enough groceries to last for weeks without sacrificing your nutritional and health needs?
Four Grocery Shopping Tips During Coronavirus Pandemic:
1. Take Stock and Plan Ahead
Check your fridge and pantry before you go to the grocery store. Make a two-week meal plan and list all the ingredients you need. Keeping stock of what you have in the pantry and fridge is a good practice in general. There are misunderstandings and misconceptions that frozen foods never expire or that canned foods are good to eat past their expiration dates, while in reality, food items lose their nutritional value or spoil over time.
How long do frozen foods last?
- Bacon, sausage and hot dogs
- Leftover pizza
- Chicken nuggets
- Meat-added soups and stews
- Hamburger; ground beef, turkey, lamb, veal and pork
- Chicken and turkey (pieces)
- Steaks and roasts
Smartphone users can take inventory quickly with mobile apps such as Pantry Check and NoWaste. Their barcode scanners allow you to compile a list of foods you have and sort them by categories. You may add pictures, expiration dates, as well as quantities of food items easily.
If you are shopping for the whole family or an older loved one, consider using a mobile app like OurGroceries or Out of Milk that synchronizes shopping lists from multiple users across devices. To take it one step further, you also could build a two-week meal plan with nutritious recipes using an app such as Mealime; the app will generate a shopping list automatically to include all ingredients you need.
2. Select Nutritious and Longer-Lasting Foods
Shop responsibly with storing food safely in mind. In the best-case scenario, prepare, precook and store meals properly so your family or older loved ones can reheat them anytime.
But if that is not an option, keep things simple! opt for no-cook nibbles or foods that require little or no preparation. For example, by mixing quick oats, milk (or its alternatives), yogurt and chia seeds, you can make overnight oats that are loaded with fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids for breakfast. Consider frozen vegetables if your or your loved one’s fridge is not big enough to store two weeks of fresh produce.
Nutrition consideration aside, do pick up snacks and drinks that you and your loved ones enjoy. Keeping your mood up during quarantine can decrease your anxiety level and is good for your mental health!
3. Wear a Mask to the Grocery Store and Wash Your Hands After Unpacking Groceries
In a news briefing on April 2, 2020, President Trump said his administration would release recommendations for wearing face masks when in public places. The guidance intends to further protect people from being exposed to the coronavirus.
Studies indicate that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for hours up to days. But touching surfaces is not a main way to contract the coronavirus. Nevertheless, public health professionals advise shoppers to minimize touching items as well as your eyes, nose and mouth while in the store. Also, wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, after you leave the store and unpack your groceries.
Some stores offer no-contact delivery or curbside pickup if you submit an order online. If the service is not available through your local store, check mobile apps such as Instacart for options.
4. Mail Order Prescribed Drugs
Health advisors recommend that seniors and individuals with chronic health conditions maintain a couple weeks’ supply of medications. But insurance often pays for only up to a 30-day supply. If you have issues getting enough medication to stay home for a prolonged period, contact your insurance company and your doctor for support. If possible, set up a mail-order plan so you can stay away from the pharmacy.
Keep an accurate and current list of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications you take. Before adding a health supplement or vitamin to support your nutritional needs during quarantine, consult your primary physician or family doctor to avoid drug interaction.
The general rule of thumb is to put off your grocery shopping trip for as long as possible. If you can, order what you need online and arrange no-contact delivery; alternatively, enlist a friend, family member or neighbor to help. Go to the store during special hours for seniors if none of these options work for you. Wear a mask, stay socially distanced and remember to wash your hands afterwards!