I have lived with the fear of leaving my home before. About a dozen years ago I was in a head-on collision due to black ice on the way home from doing our first real grocery shop after moving to Nova Scotia. It happened one block from our new house and I had to walk by it every time I left to go anywhere. I was diagnosed with PTSD and when there was snow or ice on the ground, I did not leave the house. I honestly felt as though the outside world was trying to kill me.
When the pandemic started, I started to feel that same fear. I tried hard not to let it in but damn it, it has found me once more. Not only that I am a horror movie fanatic. Couple all of that with the wild mind of a writer, it is next to impossible not to let the anxiety get a strangle hold on me again.
When our government officials plead for us to stay inside and none of the big stores around where I live have delivery available to me, it compounds everything. As a former military spouse and superhero wannabe, I want to do the right thing. I want to stay home but bloody hell, we need food! I barely brought anything with me and my roommates have done an incredible job of stocking up but we still need food. Being typical Torontonians we do not have a car and ahem, yours truly, does not even drive.
So we have to go out. We have to leave our homes and potentially get infected by Covid-19 while we are out.
I have not geared up entirely yet with my goggles and face mask but I am getting there. I am not an expert, just someone who is doing her best to stay healthy and not hurt anyone in the process. Please take the following as NOT professional advice but as my personal story on getting food and trying to remain sane at the same time. Let me know your story, your advice, your wisdom. Let’s share our collective shopping experiences, frustrations and fears. The world is trying to keep up and these are unprecedented times. We try to do what we can to minimize our exposure and the exposure of others. If I could dress up as Darth Vader or Boba Fete you know I would!
One thing I would like to insist on is truly taking a moment to look your cashier in the eye and say, thank you. Thank you for being here. For keeping us fed. For taking care of us. For risking everything to keep us safe and cared for. I do every time and wish I could do it to all of the people on the front lines during this crisis.
Going To The Store
My roommate Michelle from Cooking With An Abundant Heart and I waited outside for around half an hour physically distancing ourselves from each other and the people around us while we worked on our grocery list. From being apart we kind of shouted our lists to each other so we could divide and conquer when in the store. Once inside I wore gloves and kept my sunglasses on to minimize potential exposure. My steam punk goggles would have been a better choice because the tint of my sunglasses made it hard to see the products in this unfamiliar store.
I got a cart and started shopping. Too quickly. I missed things I needed and wasted time having to go back. I just wanted to get food and get the hell out of there but not knowing the store, that was very, very hard. For the most part people kept their distance but when aisles are only five feet wide you can not stay six feet apart if you are walking in opposite directions. Plus, there were some people huddled up and completely unaware (at least I hope so) that I could not get past them.
One thing is clear according to the above photo, people are baking again. I am sure the anti-bread movement is still going strong out there but there are a lot of people who have stocked up on flour, yeast and apparent cocoa powder damn it! I am out! But in a way the empty baking shelves warmed my heart and fueled my foodie fire. We are getting back to being makers. You have to take the moments of joy when you find them right now, even if it means you go without.
What Did I Buy?
Before you freak out over how stuffed my cart is please note this is a mini grocery cart. And yes, cereal is my comfort food. I have been rationing the last of my Life Cereal which I could not even find online to buy from amazon and so I got that, Red River Cereal because it lasts FOREVER and I wanted to make Michael Smith’s No Knead Bread again! I also indulged in those mini cereal packs because they make me feel like a kid again and will be my dessert when I am too tired to make myself something.
Most of all I wanted produce. I like to live on salads, fruit and smoothies whenever possible but the produce situation right now is so tricky and challenging I had held off. I could not any longer and broke the bank and bought as much food as we could Uber home. We had to carry all our food up a tall flight of stairs all the way down to the back of the building to our apartment. I already wanted to pass out but the work had only just begun.
Cleaning Everything When You Get Home
For the best tutorial on how to clean your food watch this video. It has since been questioned whether or not to wash produce in soapy water but I did. I washed everything! I started with disinfecting my sink and then filling it up with hot soapy water after rinsing well. Then I washed my gloves, keys, hat, sunglasses first. I emptied the sink, disinfected it again, rinsed it and filled with hot soapy water. I washed everything down except the produce.
We covered the counter with a garbage bag. The area on the right by the sink was the “contaminated” area where all the bags and and groceries went. After washing them (including the boxes that mostly ended up in recycling) we put them in the “uncontaminated” area.
Then I got to the produce. Emptied the sink, sprayed it with disinfectant, rinsed and this time filled with warm water and soap. Not hot. I washed the produce, rinsed in cool water and put them in the uncontaminated area. Before you judge me for using soap, I just want to say that if vinegar is not enough to clean Covid-19 off food there is no way in my mind that warm water is enough. That is my personal preference. I know that cooking and nuking food helps kill the virus so with produce going to be eaten raw? I was not taking any chances.
Once everything was cleaned I rolled up the garbage bag on the counter towards the contaminated area.
Finishing It Off
I put it all in the garbage (ugh, the environmentalist in me hurts to write that) and disinfected the counter. Then, we disinfected ourselves. We each had a shower and put our clothes in a plastic bag for the laundry.
What a bloody workout!
For the first time I got out my cutting board and Santoku knife. What a joy to work with not only fresh produce but my own kitchen tools again. Despite being ravenous and exhausted, I took my time and enjoyed every moment of making this salad that yes, I had washed these ingredients in soapy water. I LOVE salad but will not be killed by it. Am I over reacting? Probably. Do I care? No. I took a stress workshop once that changed my life. It taught me to do whatever you need to do to feel safe. Then, let the rest go.
And no, I did not taste the soap at all. Even the mushrooms. I rinsed everything really well and put the rest in a Ziploc bag with some paper towel.
I am one of those people who likes to shop every other day for food. It is my ritual so stocking up like this has become very alien to me. Back when I lived on a mountain in BC we used to do this and so I know the first thing to focus on is the fresh food that will last the shortest amount of time so I will be back to salads for a while now, happily but very aware with every bite that the next grocery shop is a little big closer.
How has your experience getting food been? What have you been doing to keep yourself safe while stocking up? Have you been able to get food delivered? Are you like me having to walk to the store and Uber home? What advice do you have to share?
Stay safe foodies! I am with you in spirit.