by Kim Braly RD and Annika Carlson, BS in Dietetics
The scene of empty shelves at not one but several stores can be quite alarming. Even if it’s something you don’t necessarily need, seeing items missing from the shelves can contribute to what is commonly referred to as “scarcity mindset”. When we perceive deprivation, it can affect our cognitive process (the way we think) as well as our decision-making(1). In other words, thinking things are bad can result in bad outcomes, making a bad situation worse.
Having hope in times like these is vital, and though we can’t have access to everything or complete knowledge about how things will unfold, there are lots of skills you can develop and ways you can prepare yourself and your family to withstand times of fluctuating security, both in general and regarding food. When limiting trips to the grocery store, you can use the following tips to maximize your intake of nutrient rich energy sources while minimizing your exposure to viral infections:
How to Grocery Shop Efficiently During Quarantine
1. Menu-planning (1-2 weeks at a time)
- Plan to make foods that also freeze well and are easy to portion, such as:
2. Keep your pantry well-stocked, but with kitchen staples you can rotate and utilize (see list below)
See (Food Staples (What They Are & How to Store Them) for some ideas to get you started!
3. Get creative with what ingredients you have on hand
- Look in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for foods that need to be used up (it helps to write the ingredients down as you go).
- See “A Note on Swapping Staples” in the post Food Staples (What They Are & How to Store Them) .
4. Plan and divide your supplies into portion sizes so that you only eat what you need and that your items last longer
5. Save money and time spent in the store by deciding which meals and snacks to get beforehand.
6. Organize your list according to the section of the store that they are located in, reducing the time in the store and lowering your number of runs to the store.
7. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Make sure to put perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you return from the store
8. Consider loved ones who can’t shop for themselves
Think of friends and family that might be part of the compromised population, or are unable to leave their homes to shop. You can support them by researching delivery options or by offering to shop for them.
The following are some additional tips for shopping with immunity in mind. These tips are especially important to consider if you or a loved one is immune-compromised. To date, there are limited data about patients with IBD who have COVID-19 (4). There is an international effort working to create a database (pediatrics and adults) for those with IBD that contract COVID-19. For more information visit https://covidibd.org/.
Shopping when Immune-Compromised
1. Stay informed about public threats and take actions to protect yourself and others. People at risk include older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. Those with autoimmune conditions are strongly encouraged to know the risks that public health threats represent, and to take the appropriate precautions. Follow the specific guidance being issued by your local health department (5).
2. Know that while you cannot control the actions of others, you can control your own health during a crisis. While your health and external environment can be disrupted, remaining aware and accountable to your own health and things you can control can keep you protected from threats.
3. Use resources you trust for information.
Consult trusted sources for current, accurate information, and take steps to avoid contagion and manage illness. Know that there are resources for you and your loved ones to address your unique circumstances and needs. Some of these trusted sources include:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Health Council (NHC)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Johns Hopkins University & Medicine (JHU)
- American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA)
4. Many stores have dispensers with disinfectant wipes.
- Use these to clean your hands, cart, basket, etc. before shopping.
- Use your personal hand sanitizer or wash your hands when you return from your trip.
Your sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol, and you can check the label to confirm the amount (5).
5. Consider using a grocery or meal delivery service. Many services have even lowered their fees or gotten rid of extra costs temporarily to support local businesses and help keep people safe and their needs met during this challenging time. Less time in crowded public places means minimized exposure to viral infections.
- Amazon Fresh & Amazon Prime
Coronavirus Tips Blog Post_v1
“For older people and those with underlying health conditions- the group that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends stay home-I would highly recommend using a grocery delivery service.” (3) -Jim Rogers, Consumer Reports director of food safety research and testing
6. Wipe down food packaging like glass or can containers with disinfectant wipes.
There’s no evidence yet to support these packaging methods as a mode of transmission. However, it can’t hurt to give items with a lot of contact or chance of contact a good wipe down (3). Clean and disinfect objects that are frequently touched (5).
7. Keep good hand hygiene.
Wash your hands well:
- After putting away packaging, and that includes boxes and bags
- Opening containers and using their contents
- After putting groceries away
- After touching the counter or other surfaces
Also, do not touch your nose, eyes, and mouth if you have not washed your hands (5). When you wash your hands, it should be with warm water and for at least 20 seconds (5).
8. Think about items that have a lot of contact. For example, take extra care in washing produce such as fruits and vegetables.
9. Ask your local grocers, businesses, shops, and delivery services what precautionary and procedural measures they have taken to protect your health as a customer at their store(s). Many businesses have this available on their website, but if you are wondering what policies your grocery or delivery services have put in place, you can ask how often employees or contracted delivery personnel have been asked to wash their hands, stay home if they are feeling sick, and what other hygiene and health measures they have taken. Especially in businesses that are not offering paid sick leave, it is important to know how closely these measures are enforced.
10. “E”-tip (tip electronically).
If you are ordering digitally then this is already a perk! Most online ordering systems will offer this as an option. Consider offering this option if you are a business owner, and consider using this option if you are a consumer.
11. Consider wearing a face mask. Wearing a mask can reduce the risk of potential spread of disease (5).
12. Utilize screening tools. Many offices and medical centers are using screening tools to ensure patrons aren’t showing symptoms before entering the building.
These tips will help keep you protected during quarantine. Happy shopping, and stay safe and well!
1. Novotney A. The psychology of scarcity. American Psychological Association. 2ZZ 014.
Accessed at https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/scarcity.
2. AARDA-COVID-19. COVID-19 & Autoimmune Disease. American Autoimmune Related
Diseases Association, Inc. Accessed at https://www.aarda.org/aarda-covid-19/.
3. Stanger T. How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery Shopping. Consumer
Reports. 2020. Accessed at https://www.consumerreports.org/food-shopping/how-toprotect-
4. IOIBD Update on COVID19 for Patients with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. IOIBD.
Accessed March 31, 2020.
5. Coronavirus (COVID-19): What IBD Patients Should Know. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Accessed March 31, 2020.