I drove to the store for the first time in over a month and it felt unbelievably strange to go out in public after four long weeks of isolation.
I took a long, deep breath after reaching the store’s parking lot. Then I pulled the elastic bands of my face mask over my ears and adjusted it to cover my mouth and nose.
Was I ready to face the new reality of pandemic shopping? I wasn’t so sure. I triple checked my list of necessary items before stepping out of the car:
- Wallet. Check.
- Phone. Check.
- Reusable bags. Check.
- Hand sanitizer. Check.
I leaned over to the driver’s seat and grabbed my grocery list and a pen. We only shop two to three times a month now, so we can’t forget anything.
Before exiting the car I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror. My own reflection, (with a full face mask on), seemed so strange. I stepped out slowly and double checked my list of supplies a second time.
Walking toward the building I noticed bright orange arrows directing pedestrian traffic and ten or so customers waiting patiently in line outside of the store.
When one customer stepped forward the rest of us stepped forward too. We looked down as we walked and stopped at the giant orange Xs tapped to the ground below our feet. Each “X” signified a six foot gap, (a safe distance), between customers.
When a customer approached the entrance an employee held up his hand silently signaling everyone to stop. After a minute or two he waved that person forward and into the store. Those without masks were turned away at the door.
Inside a Store During a Pandemic
Inside store patrons were eerily silent. Most people were shopping alone so they didn’t have any family members or friends to talk with. I didn’t see anyone chatting on their cell phones or asking for assistance either and I was unprepared for the silence.
During my trip I only saw one child in the entire store. She appeared to be seven or eight. Her pink, hello kitty mask hung low on her face exposing her nose and mouth. “I can’t breathe,” she told her mom, which is probably why she pulled it down.
As I walked around I became hyperaware of everything I touched. I wiped off the cart before I placed my hands on it and put my items in reusable, washable bags while I shopped. When my left eye began to itch I utterly refused to scratch it. I kept blinking and squinting as I walked around so it wouldn’t bother me so much.
Life After the Pandemic
After I finished shopping I loaded my groceries into the car and sat down in the front seat. Inside I felt a sense of ease again.
I spritzed homemade sanitizer onto my hands and rubbed it in while I contemplated the state of our world. I stared out the window and saw the stress of this pandemic on the faces of those returning to their vehicles.
As I drove home on a quiet, nearly empty road I wondered what will change as a result of this pandemic. How will things be different from this point forward:
1. Limiting Trips to the Grocery Store
Before this pandemic I went to the grocery store a lot. Each week I checked out the weekly store circulars and stocked up on our favorite food staples. During my coupon frenzy days I could easily hit three or four stores in a day and five to six stores in a week!
That all changed with this pandemic. We have only gone to the store a handful of times in over a month! Unfortunately, we can’t save as much money by stocking up two to three times a month, but I relish the time I’m saving.
When this is all over I will continue to limit my grocery trips. It would be great to shop once every two or three weeks instead of two to three times per week.
Cooking simple meals is definitely helping on this front. In the past we purchased ingredients that only worked in one or two recipes. Now we are trying to create as many meals from the same set of ingredients.
When this is over I will shop less frequently.
2. Using Grocery Delivery Services
I don’t intend to use grocery delivery services regularly after the pandemic, but I may use them more often than I have in the past. We tried it once in March and I really enjoyed the convenience.
It’s true that we spent more on service and delivery fees, but we avoided random splurges and impulse buys, so I don’t think we made out too badly.
I could see myself using Instacart during particularly tough weeks when the kids and I are sick or busy with after school activities. My kids are older now, but it’s still not easy to drag two kids around the grocery store.
Prior to the pandemic I gave up my precious hours of child-free time to go grocery shopping. I wouldn’t mind paying someone else to pick up my groceries so I could spend that time blogging, writing or working.
When this is over I will use food delivery services more often.
3. Using Digital Forms of Payment
I don’t like to carry a purse. I never have and I can’t imagine I ever will. When my children were little I despised carrying a diaper bag. I considered inventing baby backpacks so they could hull their own diapers and baby wipes around town.
For most of my life I’ve carried a very small wallet in my back pocket. There’s nothing inside but two credit cards, my driver’s license and my AAA membership, which my sweet dad still purchases for me every year.
I rarely use cash, but now I’m limiting my use of credit cards too. How great would it be to remove credit cards from my wallet entirely? It’s easier to pay for goods with my cell phone and I get to avoid those germ-ridden keypads too.
I am more than happy to lighten my load with digital forms of payment. Cashless apps and mobile wallets have become my favorite go to way to pay for groceries and other household staples.
When this is over I will definitely use digital payment options whenever I can.
4. Reducing Our Food Waste
In a typical month my husband and I only go out to eat once or twice a month at most. I’m not opposed to eating in restaurants during non-pandemic times, it’s just that we really enjoy cooking. Plus it’s pricey, and not always super fun for us to go out to dinner with our kids in tow.
We’ve been cooking at home for many years now, but we haven’t been great about reducing our food waste. On any given day you can find some type of produce shriveling up in our fruit and vegetables bins.
Since the pandemic we’ve been keeping a close eye on our food supply. Every day we search through the refrigerator to figure out what might spoil soon and then make a plan to eat it.
We turn those little bits of peppers, onions and chicken into all sorts of tasty morsels. It’s been fun creating recipes from a hodge-podge of ingredients.
We also cook much smaller portions than we ever have before. When we get home from the store we break down large packs of chicken into two or three breasts and divide one pound of meat into one-quarter packages. That way we cook the perfect amount and don’t have to worry about managing leftovers.
I bet we haven’t wasted more than an ounce or two of food since we went into isolation. I will definitely pay more attention to food waste after this pandemic.
When this is over I will continue to reduce my food waste.
5. Reducing Our Possessions
I’ve always been a minimalist at heart, but this pandemic has certainly shown me the value in owning fewer possessions. My children have a bookshelf full of toys at their disposal, but they haven’t played with most of them.
Instead they’ve found infinite ways to construct elaborate tracks used to race marbles. Other than my computer, a pad of paper and a pen I haven’t needed much either.
We’ve been wearing the same shirts and pants for weeks on end and no one has complained about it. As long as the clothes are soft and comfortable no one really cares how many times we wear them.
I pair down my clothing frequently, but I still keep a number of items in my drawer that I might wear some day. After this pandemic I’m getting rid of all of them. If something isn’t comfortable and flattering I’m donating it.
When this is over I will own fewer physical possessions.
6. Increasing My Use of Telemedicine
Just after the doctors offices closed I suffered from an infection. In the past I would schedule a doctor’s visit, but this time I dialed up Doctor On Demand. When my oldest son’s eyes started getting scratchy and watery we called the nurses line at his local pediatrician’s office and asked for advice.
I don’t think telemedicine can solve all of our ailments, but I do think it has a place for certain illnesses.
In fact, I hope that home testing kits for strep throat, urinary infections and other problems become more accurate and readily available as a result of this pandemic.
Wouldn’t it be great to provide consumers with the necessary training to properly swab throats and avoid a trip to the doctor’s office? We could save ourselves time, money and the risk of exposing ourselves to additional germs at the doctor’s office.
We can’t completely avoid in-person doctor visits, but for some routine ailments I would definitely choose telemedicine. When this is over I will use telemedicine more often.
I’ve been contemplating returning to work when my youngest son starts kindergarten this fall. Up until now I’ve worried about balancing the demands of working with the rest of my life. It’s tough to juggle pick ups and drop offs, because my husband goes into work late and comes home late too.
I’m hopeful that companies will see the value in letting their employees work from home and expand those opportunities.
Flexible telework schedules would allow my husband and I to share the responsibility of shuttling the kids back and forth. It would help me personally, because my chronic pain is infinitely worse with a commute.
8. Limiting High Monthly Expenses
My husband and I are big savers, but this pandemic has shaken many of my financial beliefs to the core. Suddenly our cash savings don’t look so plush and healthy anymore.
While we can limit some expenses we cannot impact others so easily. Up until a month or so ago we had two large ten year mortgages on two separate properties. Thankfully we paid one of them off in February.
In the future I don’t know if I would sign up for such large debt payments. Sure it’s nice to pay off our debts quickly, but it’s also risky to have so much money going out the door each month.
We will definitely increase our cash reserves or choose longer term mortgages in the future.
9. Shop Locally & Support Local Businesses
This pandemic has placed a spotlight on local businesses in our area and I’ve been much more aware and attentive to the needs of my community. The majority of new businesses in our community are struggling to keep their doors open.
A pizza shop a few blocks away from us is offering a 20% kickback to local schools in the hopes that they can drum up more business. The owners own a string of restaurants that are on the verge of collapsing.
We live in a college town void of students right now and the customer base for these restaurants shrunk dramatically when campus closed down. The bagel shops, pizzerias and coffee shops are all grappling with empty tables.
Every year I provide Target and Amazon gift cards as thank you gifts friends, neighbors and teachers. Moving forward I may switch to gift certificates to local stores, spas and restaurants in our area.
It seems like a better way to spread the money to those who need it. Providing local gifts is a new idea for me. It’s not something I’ve ever focused on before.
10. Spend More Time Outdoors
Ever since this pandemic began I’ve been craving the outdoors. In the past I would step outside, hop in my car and drive from place to place, but now we are spending a lot of time inside our house and not going anywhere at all.
I suddenly crave fresh air like never before and I’ve been searching for new ways to get it. Rather than sitting inside at my desk I take my laptop outside and sit at the table in our backyard.
I encourage my children to come outside to ride their bikes, draw with chalk or simply walk down the road for a little bit. Unless it’s raining I see absolutely no reason not to go outside for at least a little while.
When this pandemic ends I will continue this trend and spend more time outdoors.
11. Move to a Less Densely Populated Area
I am a country girl at heart. I grew up in a very small town on an acre of land with a farm just behind us. Now I live in a densely populated area and I really dislike it.
I’m not a fan of the traffic, commotion, long lines or perpetual noise from emergency vehicles, horns and helicopters. My county has the most cases of COVID-19 in our entire state so there is a heightened sense of fear here too.
I’ve wanted to return to the country for quite some time, but this pandemic is definitely pushing my drive to return to the countryside.
Work has kept us stuck in our current location, but maybe teleworking will open new opportunities for us. I would love to live near rolling farms again soon.
12. Take Better Care of Ourselves and Others
The most disturbing thing about my trip to the grocery store was the deafening silence. In this new world people pass one another without uttering a single word.
When we see others we expect to hear their voices and listen to their laughter, but now no one wants to look at one another let alone talk to them.
We can’t reach out with hugs and close visits, which means we need to make a larger effort to call, text and video chat with friends, family and neighbors.
This pandemic has highlighted the need to reach out like never before. Since it began I’ve been texting and emailing friends just to check in.
In a post-pandemic world I will continue to stay in touch more often. I will not take these relationships for granted.
13. Attending Sporting Events
Every year my husband and I purchase basketball and football tickets to support our alma mater. I wonder when the stadiums and arenas will open for business. It’s surely impossible to maintain a six foot distance in our seats.
We’ve already purchased our tickets for the season, so what do we do now? Will we attend games if the college says it’s safe? Will I fight with my husband if he thinks it’s safe, but I don’t. Does it make sense to risk one parent, but not both?
Does it even make sense to let one person attend? After all, if one of us is exposed it greatly increases the chance that we will all get sick. Right now I wouldn’t be willing to risk it, but will I change my opinion as time progresses?
Will I ever look at a giant stadium full of people the same way? Will I tell my kids to keep their hands off of the railings and escalators and wipe down our seats before we sit?
When this is over will I attend fewer sporting events?
14. Spend More Time Reflecting on Gratitude
There is nothing like a world wide pandemic to help us reassess the aspects of life that we value most. In the hustle and bustle of every day life we often forget that life is fragile and that we are only guaranteed this very moment in time, not any minute after it.
I’m still hopeful that some aspects of our lives will improve when this pandemic is over. What will change for you?