If once-a-week grocery shopping gives you COVID-19 anxiety, imagine what it feels like showing up every day as a supermarket employee.

While many of us have been ordered to stay at home, there are numerous people heading out each day to keep life moving for the rest of us, grocery store staff included.

People still need food (and apparently more toilet paper than ever), which puts those stocking it and ringing it up at risk. Some retail chains have offered employees incentive bonuses, like extra paid sick time and $2-an-hour wage increases, but no price can pay for the invaluable role of working on the front line. And in fact, some staff are striking as part of a demand for greater coronavirus safeguards.

With supermarkets busy and stress levels high, consider sending thanks to the employees working hard so that you can restock your kitchen. Here are some suggestions for how to share your appreciation. (And it’s not just cashiers: Seeing your pharmacist regularly? What about food couriers? Many of these ideas can be applied for other essential workers, too.)

Shop fast and efficiently

The biggest thanks you can give to supermarket staff? Stop showing up for groceries daily. Grocery stores are busier, and more crowded, than ever. This increases the amount of person-to-person interactions that staff are faced with daily (and the amount of impatience they have to deal with among customers).

Shop smart by planning out meals ahead and making a list. Purchase enough food to get you through a week, or more if you can afford it. Can’t find that bottle of salad dressing you love? Now’s not the time to track down an employee to find it for you. Choose a replacement and move on. Limit your contact with staff as much as able.

Voice your gratitude

Small acts of kindness can go a long way right now. And saying a simple “thanks” is one of the easiest things you can do any time you walk through the checkout line.

Now, more than ever, don’t rush that gesture. Make eye contact, and let them know that you really value what they do. Here are places to start:

  • “I realize how hard you’re working, and I just want to say thank you.”

  • “It’s people like you who are helping me get through this. Thank you for showing up today.”

  • "I know these are challenging times, and I just want to let you know how grateful I am for you."

  • “I appreciate you and all that you do.”

  • “Thank you for showing up today. You’re helping to keep us all nourished and fed, and that isn’t going unnoticed.”

If time allows, ask how they’re feeling, what they’re looking forward to when this is over, or the best thing that happened this week. This can help you both find optimism in an otherwise challenging time.

Write a thank you note

Take that “thank you” to the next level by writing a personal card. It’s a simple gesture that can have a positive effect on both you and the recipient.

“It takes your focus away from something negative and places it on something positive,” says Elena Anguita, founder of the Spread Thanks movement and author of the book of the same name. “Then, that note becomes this tangible gift of love that the person can continue to review.”

Be aware that cashiers might be understandably apprehensive of touching anything you hand to them. Minimizing contact is the best way to keep them safe, so be respectful of that, including paying with a card instead of cash. Before handing over a thank you note, ask if they’d like to receive it, and voice loud and clear that you understand if they aren’t comfortable accepting so that they don’t feel awkward refusing.

Health experts say the risk of COVID-19 infection from envelopes or packages is very low. Although, if you want to pair it with a bottle of hand sanitizer, that’s a gift most front-line workers would welcome.

Pay it forward

Across the region, there are stories of people paying it forward: restaurants giving away extra food, cafe customers buying coffee for strangers, and florists donating thousands of flowers once destined for events now postponed.

At the supermarket, it’s easy to do. Buying a chocolate bar for yourself? Pick out two and give one to the cashier on your way out. Better yet, if there are items near the cash register, treat them to something they can pick out themselves. If there’s a staff member whom you see regularly, ask they what their go-to treat or comfort food is, and surprise them with it the next time you’re in the store. Or give a small gift card so they can treat themselves (make it for a local spot to support your cashier and a local business in one go). Even small gestures — a $1 seltzer or pack of gum — can help brighten someone’s day. Again, don’t take it personally if staff reject your gift. Feeling safe is the highest priority.

Sing it!

From quarantined Italians to police in Spain to our own neighbors in Center City, people across the world are joining in singalongs to find a moment of joy amid these anxiety-ridden times. In Toronto, people on one street stand on their porches every night to sing in support of front-line workers. Consider creating your own song session to pay tribute to supermarket staff.

Aim to arrive near store opening or closing hours. And call around to some neighbors to see whom you can band together for the occasion. (Just make sure everyone maintains a six-foot-plus distance.) If you’ve got any instruments at home, bring them, too.

Not musically inclined? Anyone can clap their hands. Stage a neighborhood round of applause, instead, for the staff as they enter or leave your local store.

Share your new hobby

Crocheting? Cross-stitching? Painting? COVID-19 is inspiring all sorts of people to dive into new hobbies, and if you’re among them, consider showing off your talents, or making a small gift, for people behind the register. Remember: It’s the thought that counts. Sometimes there’s nothing more valuable than a laugh that you share in together.

Speaking of laughter, if you prefer to avoid passing around tangible items, make one of your new hobbies comedy. Start studying up on some jokes, and prepare to deliver a dose of humor instead.

For those with kids, ask each little one to create a “thank-you drawing.” You can deliver it to the cashier or simply hold it up briefly during checkout. While either way it might not make it to your cashier’s refrigerator, it’s likely to bring a smile.

Deliver a treat

The key to the heart — food.

If your local supermarket permits it, organize your neighbors to order delivery for the staff at your local market. Call ahead to approve any food drop-offs with management: policies will vary by store; understand it’s not personal if your idea is denied. (A quick call to Trader Joe’s at 2121 Market St. resulted in a green light on pizza delivery. Whole Foods at 929 South St. said it’s against store policy.)

If you get approval, food courier services like Grubhub and Caviar offer a library of options for items like cupcakes, bagels, and more. Individually wrapped items are even better.