The Etiquette Rules of Coronavirus Grocery Shopping: Be a Good Person and Follow These!

Grocery shopping has suddenly taken on a whole new significance as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve. Honestly, each time I go, I wonder if it’s my last grocery run before home quarantine. From the looks of the shelves and fellow shoppers’ carts, that thought is on all our minds. That makes it tempting to load up, but as I looked at the last few bags of dried black beans on the shelf this morning, I had to check myself: Dried beans go a long way, there are only two of us at home, and other people can use them, too. I limited myself to two bags. It made me think: It would be great if we could have some house rules at the grocery store. Now, these wouldn’t be a bad idea to implement anytime (seriously, who keeps buying all the cauliflower gnocchi at Trader Joe’s, and will you save some for the rest of us!?), but while we all navigate through a confusing and frankly scary time, just having some basic niceties in place can help us all keep calm (and maybe make our fellow shoppers’ lives a little less panicky).

1. Don’t hoard beyond what you genuinely need.

Look, the temptation is real. Experts have been telling us for a while that it’s a good idea to have two weeks to a month of food on hand in case of a quarantine. But how many rice-and-beans meals can one family eat? Fun fact: One pound of dried beans makes six cups of cooked beans, which is 12 servings. For a two-person house that’s almost a week of dinners.
Maybe mix it up a bit as you load up. It was easy to see at my store what the least favorite beans was — limas were left in abundance.

2. Keep your distance (at least two shopping carts!).

You know that thing where you lurk behind the person who’s dawdling in front of the box of crackers you want? Yeah, don’t. The CDC’s recommendation for keeping six to 10 feet away from people applies in grocery stores, too. So give your fellow shoppers as much space as is feasible while they take their time figuring out which snack they want to get them through the pandemic.

3. But still, be warm.

Does someone look confused? Need help reaching something? Maybe you can help! I had a few things on the belt during checkout and the woman in line behind me asked me where I found something. I pointed her to the exact aisle and she seemed so grateful. It’s tricky when you’re trying to allow space, but we can still talk to each other, after all, and if nothing else, offer a smile (which is contagious in a good way!).

4. Look, don’t touch.

Filed under A Good Idea for Everyone: Use your eyeballs here. Now’s not the time to pick up 10 different boxes to read the labels and put them back. Similarly, don’t man-handle the produce. The fewer things we all touch, the better.

5. Be extra kind to the check-out clerk.

It’s not a fun time to be working the register. Your customers are stressed and scared, and probably mad that the store is out of their preferred brand of toilet paper. So when it’s your turn, ask how they are. Thank them. Make their job as easy as you can.

6. Bring your own bags.

Hopefully we’re all already bringing our reusable bags, but I’m hearing of disposable bag shortages at some stores. So now more than ever is a great time to remember to grab those totes as you head out the door! Not everyone has made the switch and we want to be sure there are bags for them at the store.

7. See if your neighbors need anything.

You may be able to get out and about, but you might have neighbors who can’t. The story from this Instagram post (above) really touched us but highlighted too how isolated and fragile some members of our society are. Maybe they’re at home with little kiddos home from school or maybe they’re part of an at-risk population. Shoot them a text before you leave to see if they need anything. It’s been amazing seeing my own community come together to look after one another, and we can all use some positivity right now.

8. Limit and avoid WIC-marked items if you can.

This one could really make a difference for someone else: Before you grab an item, especially if it’s low in stock, check the price tag on the shelf for the letters WIC. If you see those letters, it means you’re looking at an item that’s approved for purchase with Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) funds. And you should reconsider. If WIC items become unavailable, shoppers using this program (which helps provide nutritious food to pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women with low income) may not be able to substitute it as easily as you can. Yes, it’s slim pickings right now, but when someone else needs it more than you, it’s worth looking for another option.

9. Return your grocery cart.

Things feel frantic right now, but that doesn’t erase the golden rule of the parking lot. Let’s all agree to put our shopping carts back. Parking lots are packed as it is right now, and a stray cart can tie up a valuable spot (or spots), not to mention remove it from service where it’s needed in the store. Returning it just takes a minute, and you can consider it grocery karma if nothing else. The original article appears here: