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  • Writer's pictureAmy Zukowski

Online Grocery Shopping – A Beginner’s Guide

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Take Inventory and Make a List

Since the demand for online ordering has skyrocketed, it can take a while to secure a delivery slot. Be prepared to place an

order a few days to a week before you need the groceries. Start by taking note of what you already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. While going through items, check for spoiled or expiring items to use asap. If you really love organization, you could make a spreadsheet of your inventory. Then make a master list of everything you need; a two-week supply minimizes your need to shop. If you have items that you purchase every time you shop - start with those and build from there. It could be worth listing alternatives for certain items just in case stores are out (no potatoes, try instant; no egg, try flaxseed; no sour cream, try Greek or plain yogurt).

Check Different Options

There are a plethora of options for grocery delivery including Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Shipt, Walmart, and Peapod. Location matters, depending on where you live, certain services may have more availability than others. You may want to take the time to have a cart ready in multiple applications to see if you can secure a better time slot.

Order Very Late or Very Early and Keep it Fresh

Some people have had success at getting time slots after midnight when stores tend to restock and most people are asleep. If you’re not a night owl, others have had success ordering before 8 a.m. In this strange world we live in grocery time slots have become hot commodities - like seats to Vampire Weekend concert. That being the case, it might pay to refresh your browser every hour or so to see if you can get a time slot.

Try Local Chains, Farms or Restaurants

If you are having a hard time finding certain items on your list, try checking out local chains. In our area we have Sprouts and Natural Grocers which might be a little pricier but could have more of the items you need in stock. Some restaurants, butchers and food stands have been allowing customers to purchase products from them directly. For meats you can search

Opt for Pick Up

Some services allow you to pick up your items. This might open up some time slots to you if you have that option. You can skip the delivery fee but don’t forget to tip the shoppers that took the time to get your orders; they are risking their health for you.

Make yourself Available

Make yourself available around the scheduled delivery/order time, in case your shopper is having trouble finding items. Sometimes you can “real time” suggest a substitution or offer advice on locations of items that you are familiar with – let’s face it, we’ve all had to navigate an unfamiliar store and it’s no fun! It took me nearly an hour looking for a jar of gravy at an unfamiliar grocery store on my way to a party. Also, shoppers with some delivery companies cannot leave the store until you approve a substitution so making yourself available helps you get an acceptable substitute.

Tip Well or More If You Can

Even if you're missing a few items or your delivery came late, please tip your shopper and courier generously. Most of these contract workers are relying on tips to make a living and they’re putting themselves at greater risk to ensure you get the food you need. Some services, like Instacart, have a default 5 percent tip on orders, but consider adding more to that number if you can during these unprecedented times. We have heard of shoppers initially offering a high tip and then dramatically reducing it after the shopper has done their job. DON’T be that person.

Skip the Store

Still having trouble getting a grocery delivery? Try ordering boxes of fresh produce instead. You could try a produce delivery service like Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market which are both a great value, The Fruit Guys for those who love fruit, Perfectly Imperfect Produce which is good for families, for Best for seasonal fare there is Farmbox Direct, and for organic try From the Farmer. These services will deliver a variety of fruits and vegetables to your door. Even though you can’t select the exact produce on your list, it's a good option to experiment in the kitchen, lower food waste, and actually order some groceries.

Happy shopping!



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