Adapting to the new reality means something different for everyone, but grocery shopping remains essential. While free samples and leisurely strolling up and down every aisle may be things of the past, there are ways to make the experience less anxiety-inducing. Taking some basic precautions and being flexible can greatly reduce the risk in a post-pandemic world.

Shop Around

Look for stores that are taking safety precautions such as sanitizing carts, protecting cashiers with barriers or sneeze guards and requiring masks. If you have limited options, protect yourself and others by wearing a mask and reducing the amount of time you spend in the store. Indoor activities are generally less safe than outdoor, so the less time you spend inside with people outside of your immediate household, the better.

Plan Ahead

Reducing your trips can reduce your risk. Aim for making a grocery run once every two weeks, if possible. A well-planned shopping list along with creative meal planning can make all the difference. For example, if you commit to a shopping trip every two weeks, you want to use fresh items first to avoid spoilage. Some items (like meat) can be frozen to prolong their lifespan; just remember to thaw them in the fridge overnight before you plan to use them.

Some stores offer the ability to pick up groceries. You choose what you want online, and the workers will grab the items you need and deliver them to you on the curbside. This can help you avoid going inside at all. Check out the websites of your local grocery stores to find out if they offer these types of services.

Look for Special Shopping Hours

Some stores offer early morning slots reserved for elderly or immunocompromised shoppers. If your risk level puts you in one of these categories, shopping within these special time slots can also make the experience safer. Only use these time slots if you need them — they’re meant to protect the most vulnerable. If you’re able, adding a grocery pickup for someone high-risk to your trip can be a great way to give back.

Though grocery shopping has changed in recent times, by preparing appropriately you can avoid most risks. Remember that taking precautions such as wearing a mask, staying socially distanced and sanitizing frequently can reduce the spread of the virus and keep you and your family safe. The most important thing you can do is stay calm and do your best to take care of yourself during these times of uncertainty.