Like many things, RULES ARE CHANGING! Gloves, once encouraged, are now frowned upon. Masks, once discouraged, are now seen as imperative. To see up-to-date guidelines.

The following guidelines are still MOSTLY the same as when the article first published on March 23, 2020. Where updates are needed, we have linked to the new CDC rules.


Published March 23, 2020

Many common courtesies we’re used to exercising at the grocery store have been turned on their heads thanks to this pesky virus: Hold the doors for the pregnant, disabled and elderly. Help others with their carts. Get something from the top shelf for the shorter person. Right now, avoiding interactions like these is paramount to keeping us and others safe. But that doesn’t mean we can’t exercise compassion and good manners when we visit “essential” businesses. It’s also worth noting there is no current evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19 (source). It’s person-to-person. So whether you opt for a Costco trip or a visit to your independent neighborhood grocery market, here are some guidelines to safely alter our grocery store mindest during this uneasy time.

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  • Park far away from the entrance. This will not only ensure distance from others, but it will also help you get some extra steps along the way.
  • SEE CDC UPDATES : Wear gloves and take them off as soon as you leave the store. Some stores will give you these when you walk in, but it’s good to have your own just in case. According to the CDC, a mask should only be worn if you’re sick or directly caring for the sick (source). Healthy people should save these high-demand masks for the people who really need them, like healthcare providers.

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  • Clean off your cart or basket with a wipe before you grab it. Again, the store should have these near the door, but bring your own in case they’ve run out.
  • If you can help it, keep your phone in your pocket while you’re shopping. Your cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat (source). Ten times! We highly suggest giving the phone a good wipe down on a regular basis these days.
  • Now — more than ever — it’s great to have a plan before you head to the store. Grab the essentials and ingredients that can cover many meals and types of dishes.
Gloves and wipes on a grocery store shopping cart
Spotted at my friend Michael’s Costco in Portland, OR. This is the unfortunate truth in many grocery stores. But there are others that have things in stock or are restocking every day. Try some of your smaller, local markets, too. Image: Michael Freeman


  • Don’t be greedy. If you see an item’s almost out of stock, take what you need and leave some for others. Many stores are putting limits on how many of certain things people can buy, such as meat and cleaning supplies.
  • As you’re moving through the store, be spatially aware of the six-foot rule. If you see a cramped aisle, give it a few minutes and circle back. Be patient and remind yourself everyone is in this together.
  • Try not to touch anything except the items you wish to purchase. Now’s not the time to be feeling around for that perfect avocado. Grab what you need, cart it and move on!
HEB in San Antonio Texas notice with limits to the products
A notice on a shelf at an H-E-B in Texas states the quantity limits of certain items. Image: Patrish Jackson


  • Use a credit or debit card. Cash should be handled as little as possible right now. Use plastic and give your cards a good wipe after the transaction.
  • Bring your own bags and bag your haul yourself. Nicely tell the bagger that you’re happy to do it. Don’t forget to wash down your reusable bags between uses.
  • Only use the express lane if you have fewer than the stated number of items.
  • Try not to use the self-checkout if you have two weeks’ full of groceries. And if you DO have a full cart and someone else only has two or three items, let them go ahead of you.
  • Thank the workers you see restocking the shelves, working the deli counter and checking you out. They put themselves at higher risk than most just by showing up to work.

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Stay safe out there, be kind and courteous, and let’s continue to support each other both behind closed doors and in public.


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Zoe Yarborough
About the Author
Zoe Yarborough

Zoe is a StyleBlueprint staff writer, Charlotte native, Washington & Lee graduate, and Nashville transplant of eleven years. She teaches Pilates, helps manage recording artists, and likes to "research" Germantown's food scene.