March 2020

"How do I safely go grocery shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic?"

There is now heightened anxiety over the Corona Virus, understandably so. We are all potential hosts, irrespective of who we are or where we live.

We do need to increase our awareness. In the past few weeks heading to the store for food and essentials has been the only time many of us leave our homes. It can increase more anxiety and fear. People want to know how this can be done safely.

The CDC suggests it’s best to order food online. Doing so dramatically reduces your contact with other people—there’s very little chance of contact since you’re not exchanging money or plastic cards. The food is left outside your car door or in convenient parking areas designated for pickup. This alleviates you having to get out of your car and encounter others. There are definite wait times for deliveries. However, this may be the best option. If possible, plan what you need in advance and order for two weeks. One issue will be having fresh produce. It only lasts so long in the refrigerator before it spoils. So, you might want to order your veggies weekly, knowing it may take up to five days to get your order.

The CDC states that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging. It might be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it, and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

However, you should always wash your hands before and after handling food. The CDC also recommends you wash your hands again after you unload your groceries. I suggest wiping down you counter first, using one side as clean and one side as a dirty area. Place your bags on the dirty side. Wash your hands. Unload your groceries onto the clean side, one by one.

If you have produce, place it in a basin of soapy water in your sink while you unpack the rest of the bags. The CDC does not recommend wiping down grocery items at home, stating that currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging, Do not use bleach on food. Doing this will cause more health problems.

Rinse your produce, and dry and put away as you normally would. When you’re done with your shopping bags, store them as usual. There is no evidence that the virus can live on your bags. Be sure to wash off your counter and wash your hands for at least twenty seconds.

If you do need to go to the store, remember to distance yourself by six feet from others. Wipe the cart handle with a bleach wipe. Be certain about what you need, and pick up only what you need to buy. This will reduce the spread of anything on your hands or what is potentially on what you pick up.

It’s possible that someone who is infected coughs, and the droplets that contain the virus land on a surface that you then touch. A March 17 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus could live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to four hours on copper.

You should assume the virus has contaminated the surfaces around the store. So, try to touch as few things as possible. Avoid touching your nose, face and mouth. Place raw food in a bag to prevent direct contact with the cart.

Visit stores that are open for seniors only during certain hours, which is usually early morning. Use self-checkout to avoid contact with others. If you use a checkout stand, realize the clerk has little movement in their stall. So, stay back as much as you can.

Visit stores that enforce social distancing by requiring people to stand six-feet apart. Some stores have marked the floors with bright tape to show where you should be standing. If you use cash, remember it is considered ‘dirty’. After paying, gel your hands. If using a debit/credit card, you should wipe down your card before and after use. When you get into your car, use sanitizing gel so your hands don’t touch the steering wheel without being clean.

When possible, have friends or family shop for you, and leave the items at your door. Stay home as much as possible. Every shopping outing has some risk. Make sure you have enough food for good nutrition. Try to stay health during this crisis. Eat well, exercise as you can, try to decrease your stress by participating in positive outlets and influences.

Dr. Swartzberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, knows how to make your trip to the supermarket as safe as possible

He says that packed supermarkets could be the “site of the greatest risk to having social distancing work.”

It’s safe to assume that if a piece of produce has been out, it’s been handled by at least 10 people. Other goods are less risky, but it’s still worth wiping down cardboard boxes of crackers or other packaged items.

When was the last time you sanitized your favorite reusable grocery bag?

Stay safe and healthy!!


Recipe of the Month

White Bean, Asparagus, and Mushroom Cassoulet (Serves 4) from Cooking Light

5 cups water
3 cups (2-inch slices) asparagus--about 1 lb.
2Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cups sliced chanterelle or oyster mushrooms--about 10 ounces
1 /3 cup finely chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram or dried oregano
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a large stainless-steel skillet, and add asparagus to pan. Cover and cook 2 minutes; drain. Rinse asparagus with cold water; drain well. Set aside.

Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat. Add mushrooms, shallots, and garlic; sauté 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add wine; cook 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in broth, marjoram, and beans; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 12 minutes or until thick and beans are very tender. Stir in black pepper.

Preheat broiler.

Place French bread and butter in a food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and cheese to coarse breadcrumbs; pulse until combined. Stir asparagus into bean mixture; sprinkle coarse breadcrumb mixture evenly over bean mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until crumbs are golden.

Nutritional Information

  • Calories: 328
  • Fat: 14.2g
  • Saturated fat: 4.6g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 6.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
  • Protein: 15.7g
  • Carbohydrate: 36.3g
  • Fiber: 8.8g
  • Cholesterol: 16mg
  • Iron: 5.7mg
  • Sodium: 530mg
  • Calcium: 198mg