7 Easy Ways to Minimize Your Exposure to Germs at the Grocery Store


What do you think of when you see a grocery cart handle bar in winter? Rainbows and puppies? Lavender scent? How about a crud-encrusted germ factory fueled by the cough residue of a thousand people?

The only thing that might be worse than getting the flu is constantly worrying that you or your kids will get the flu. The good news is there are a few easy hacks that should minimize picking up germs in the grocery store without turning you into that guy  – You know, the one who winces while touching the grocery cart handle with a clean tissue and douses his kids in Purell if they even gesture towards a credit card terminal.

But really, eww grocery carts and credit card terminals.

Without further ado, here are some easy hacks for skipping the germs without looking like a complete hypochondriac … on the outside.

Hack #1: DIY Cart

No matter how clean or dirty the grocery cart handlebars are, we just don’t want to touch ’em, free grocery store sanitizing wipe or not (am I right?!). Plus, there is just no way to legitimately clean all the parts of the grocery cart that you will touch. I mean really, who actually touches just the handlebar? And even if you magically do, your kids won’t. They will be chewing on the buckle, grabbing the sides of the cart, and running their tongues up and down the sides of it just to make you look like a crazy family when your neighbor walks by.

The best way to remove this source of a million germs is to just not use a grocery cart. “Wait, where am I going to put all my groceries?! I’ve got insatiable munchies a family.”

Great news. You don’t carry them; your DIY cart does.

Here’s how it works: Bring a stroller that is +1 seat larger than what you need for your kids. So, if for example, you have one baby and a single stroller, you wear the baby in a baby carrier and put the groceries in the stroller.

Boom! DIY cart and no nasty, germy hands.

Hack #2: Give the Credit Card Terminal the Finger

I don’t know about you, but the “pen” at the credit card terminal is just sooo … “popular.” Everybody touches it, and there is no handy sanitizing cart wipe next to it.

Good news though; there is a way to avoid touching the Pen of Pathogens. Whip out one of your fingers and use that to sign your name.

“But wait, won’t I now have credit card terminal germs all over my fingers?” Yes. But I view this as s a numbers game. How many people use the Pen of Pathogens? Probably 95% of the people who walk into the store. And how many people use their finger? Not many. So now (in theory) you are getting exposed to the germs of a much smaller group of people. And maybe, they are the people who are as paranoid about getting sick as you are. Which is good because they will probably already be doing Hack #3…

Hack #3: Know the Location of Your Nearest Sanitizer

You know those cart wipes that we scoffed at but secretly rely on if G-D FORBID WE HAVE TO TOUCH A CART? Well, as long as those puppies are alcohol-based (or are at least human skin friendly, which I assume they are), we can use them to clean our hands on the way into the grocery store and on the way out.

If we do this, we will effectively ensure we clean our hands +2 times during the day than we otherwise would have. And, we will (in theory) neutralize any germs we pick up from the nasty credit card terminal.

You can also attach a hand sanitizer to your stroller for instant hand sanitizing on the go. Just make sure you keep it out of reach of your kids because they might take a tip from that guy and squirt it e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.

Hack #4: Pay By Phone

Another way to skip touching a credit card terminal is to use your smartphone to pay for groceries. If you enable ApplePay or GoogleWallet, you can hold your phone over a NFC reader, and wabam: Groceries paid for! Added benefit – you don’t have to wait 45 minutes for the chip reader to approve your $3 ice cream purchase while your kids “rearrange” the candy display (“These chocolates would look fantastic in my mouth over here…and these Skittles would go nicely my pocket over there…”).

Hack #5: Get Dressed Up

If the previous hacks aren’t getting you psyched to go to the grocery store, then maybe a game of dress up will. Getting germs on your hands and then touching your face is a fantastic way to get sick, so why not dress up for the occasion?

Don your best white princess (or purple nitrile) gloves and go grocery shopping. You can use a cart and your kids can for reals touch everything in the store. Then when you leave, you can take off the gloves.

If that isn’t dressy enough, you can also take a tip from Asia and wear a face mask. By covering your mouth and nose with a k-pop face mask, you will prevent yourself from touching your own mouth and nose with your now germ infected hands (note that the face mask won’t stop you from inhaling viruses though). While you are at it, why not turn this shopping trip into an epic party: throw on some light up shoes and do the shuffle in the dairy aisle.  In addition to boosting your immunity through exercise, you will also increase the amount of space between you and … everyone else in the store.

Hack #6: Skip the Germs and the Line

Several large retailers, like Target and Whole Foods, will now pick out (and sometimes deliver) items for you. This is great because now you are avoiding the store entirely or at least making your visit much, much shorter.

How is this a good thing? Well, being the germaphobes health-conscious individuals we are, we also may involuntarily shudder when a complete stranger coughs within a 500 foot radius of us on us. If we limit our time in the store by picking up pre-ordered items at Customer Service at Target (for example), we reduce our exposure to airborne particles. And if Instacart delivers our groceries, we get to skip all store germs entirely (for a price). So, if you are truly paranoid about the flu, the home delivery premium might be worth the peace of mind.

Hack #7: Keep Your Distance

“We are all just a handshake away from the flu.”
– One of my kids’ doctors

Don’t feel sick? Well you might after you read this: People are contagious before they feel sick.

This is bad news for us hypochondriacs health lovers because it means we have no idea who can actually get us sick. Is that happy, energetic person completely healthy… or totally contagious???

Add in the actually sick people who are hopped up on OTC cold meds, but who really should be staying home (“Just one more hit of NyQuil and I’ll be good, Bro…”), and you’re in a veritable pool of contagion.

There can only be one takeaway from this: Freaking out about getting sick is pointless. We need to stay away from everyone during flu season, approximately from October until May.

So stock up at Costco, cancel all your social plans, and start streaming Netflix…

I’ll see you in May!

Really though, where do you fall on the germ debate?

Will you cling to your Oscillococcinum while braving the grocery store in a full-body hazmat suit (comes with free shipping!)? Or, will you say “Bucket!” and gleefully touch all the carts, displays, and credit card terminals with reckless abandon?


One Comment Add yours

  1. Claire says:

    You only live once!💃🏿🛒🕺🏼

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