During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being encouraged to shelter inside and only go out when necessary, Easter Tucker of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff said.

“There are many things you can do to reduce your trips to the grocery store,” said Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader for UAPB.

“Search your food pantry, refrigerator and freezer, create menus for two to three weeks from what you have on hand and make a list of items you need to purchase for your menus.”

Tucker advises that while shopping, buy as many non-perishable items as possible. Rather than buying fresh orange juice or vegetables, buy frozen. Good, non-perishable items to buy include dry beans, peas, lentils and dry milk.

“Shopping online is a good option to use to avoid going to the store,” Tucker said. “If you do go to the store, wear a mask and keep at least 6 feet from other customers. When you return home be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.”

According to Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people should avoid frequent trips to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tucker said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following guidelines for when shopping:

• People should shopping if they have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

• If possible, order food and other items online for home delivery or curbside pickup.

• Only visit the grocery store, or other stores selling household essentials, in person when absolutely necessary. This will limit one’s potential exposure to others and the virus that causes COVID-19.

• When a person has to shop in person, they should go during hours when fewer people will be there (for example, early morning or late night).

Here are ways people can protect themselves while shopping:

• Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines.

• Cover the mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when going out in public.

• If a person is at higher risk for severe illness, they should find out if the store has special hours for people at higher risk. If they do, try to shop during those hours. People at higher risk for severe illness include adults 65 or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.

• Disinfect the shopping cart, use disinfecting wipes if available.

• Cover coughs and sneezes.

• Do not touch the eyes, nose or mouth.

• If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card or a keypad). If one must handle money, a card or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.

• After leaving the store, use hand sanitizer. After getting home, wash the hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• At home, follow food safety guidelines: clean, separate, cook, chill. There is no evidence that food or food packaging has been linked to getting sick from COVID-19.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Debbie Archer is an Extension associate-communications at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.