Getting Groceries … The Virtual Way

Although each one of us is experiencing the pandemic in our own individual way, there’s one thing we all need – groceries. There are three primary ways people are getting their food. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each option, as well as actions you can take to reduce your exposure to COVID-19 in each situation.1

Please be aware that the information shared here was current at the time it was written. However, circumstances change daily and may impact the information included here. For example, some stores may change their policies about in-person shopping, others may put restrictions on delivery and some services may be discontinued. Now, let’s get started!

Going to the Store


  • If the store is out of something, you can choose your own improvised replacement item instead of completely missing out on a needed ingredient
  • You may find inspiration for new meal and snack ideas
  • Typically it’s easier to get food on short notice than waiting for a shipment (but try to consolidate trips to reduce repeated exposure)
  • Supports local economy; even if it’s a national chain, people in your community work there


  • More potential exposure to airborne viral spread
  • Exposure to the virus on carts, frozen food door handles, card reader, signature stylus, etc.
  • Temptation to chat with friends you run into instead of maintaining social distance

Things to Know or Do:

  • Use a debit or credit card; avoid touching cash
  • If you can don’t take your children
  • Ideally, you should choose one family member to be the primary errand runner to reduce exposure to germs (into your home and family, as well as out of your home to other shoppers)
  • Many stores no longer allow reusable bags
  • Wipe down cart handles (before and after use)
  • Use hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes when you get to the car (include your handbag, steering wheel, door handle, etc.)
  • Try to minimize trips to the store, without hoarding an unreasonable amount of food
  • Guidance from health professionals continues to evolve, but they seem to be moving toward  recommendation of wearing masks in public (but NOT the N95 masks frontline healthcare providers need)
  • NEW! OpenTable has recently announced that it’s now offering the opportunity to make a reservation for grocery shopping. Because it’s brand-new, it’s not available everywhere yet, but keep an eye out for it

Curbside Pickup


  • Can complete a cashless transaction (pay and tip online – please tip generously)
  • Can save a common grocery list online or in an app (usually)
  • Can sometimes use e-coupons and discounts without handling paper coupons
  • Can stay in your car
  • Supports your community and local economy


  • May require a membership fee
  • Will probably include a delivery charge
  • Less control over when groceries will be ready
  • Potential for missing or incorrect items
  • Some stores won’t allow certain products to be included in these orders (like TP and cleaning wipes)

Participating Stores:

National chains mentioned here typically offer curbside pick-up in most locations, but current availability may vary.

  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Costco (warehouse pickup)
  • Kroger
  • Target
  • Regional stores like Hy-Vee and Wegman
  • Locally-owned grocery stores

Grocery Delivery


  • Can complete a cashless transaction (pay and tip online – please tip generously)
  • Can save a common grocery list online or in an app (usually)
  • You don’t have to leave your house, which is helpful if you have children or sick family members
  • If you’re responsible for an elderly family member’s groceries, you can have their food delivered directly to their home
  • When you choose a local store for delivery, it supports your community


  • May require a membership fee
  • Will probably include a delivery charge
  • Potential for missing or incorrect items
  • Due to high demand, will probably be a long wait for delivery – or not available at this time

Food Delivery Companies:

Some companies have a lot of experience providing this service, while others are new to the game. Ask your friends and family members for recommendations or check out online reviews. Many of these currently have limited delivery slots available, so planning ahead is crucial.

HEADLINE: Food Handling at Home

Because the novel coronavirus is extremely new in humans, research on transmission methods is in the very early stages. However, we can look to physicians for their opinions and recommendations on how to handle groceries when you return home or they’re delivered.

This recent news report includes a brief interview with three physicians who offer a common sense approach to integrating your food into your home. In addition, an article from Medline provides insights into grocery shopping during the pandemic. It also includes a link to a video with a more detailed and extensive process for cleaning the products you purchased.

Please keep in mind that these lists are just a starting point and that life in the coronavirus era changes moment-by-moment. Stay healthy!

1 This article provides general information gleaned from a variety of sources. It is not intended to offer medical advice or epidemiological insights. Please consult your primary care provider or other health resources with any questions about your risk of contracting coronavirus.

Leave a Reply