Sunday, April 26, 2020
A couple of winters ago I did a lot of grocery pick-up orders. The flu was going around pretty bad and I wasn't going to go into a store to touch carts or be near people (I had this "stay home" thing down a long time ago, folks)! That was in the days when you could get next-day or same-day slots. In the past couple of months the grocery orders at my local stores have been working a little differently than normal, so I thought I would jot down what I have learned.
My local stores only give you a one-hour window to complete your order, of you forfeit your spot in line. I had several times reserved my spot, only to miss the one-hour ordering deadline to keep it. So my first tip is:
1. Throw a few staples in your cart that get you to the minimum required order, and buy those things IMMEDIATELY. Reserve the time you want, and check out all the way to the confirmation email. Sometimes the site confuses you to think you have finished the purchase, but make sure that you keep clicking the "continue" button until it really goes through. Don't worry, you are not committed to just that little amount of stuff, or even have to keep it in your cart, because you can...
2. ...MODIFY your order. You can usually do this up to the night before your pickup. Find that confirmation email and there is usually a button on it to "modify" or "review" your order. You can then keep shopping the site at a more comfortable pace, even for several days, adding things to your cart.
3. Think about your time slots carefully before your commit. I have had the last slot and arrived there just a few minutes late at the end of the hour, and they would not open for me, even though they had my grocery order in there and were open five minutes previously. I had to drive all the way back the next morning to get my order. I avoid that last slot not only for that reason, but because I suspect that most of the items on my list are gone from the store by the afternoon when my order is being filled. Try to get an early slot.
4. Make a list! I know that most of you always have one, but when the world turns funny on you, often times your mind won't work and you may have forgotten to write some things down. Do this on paper in addition to the online cart. Keep the list going as you usually do, writing things down that you have just opened. Yes, you may have just opened your bag of flour and it will take you several weeks to go through it, but your grocery slot might be two weeks away too!
Making a weekly menu or meal plan is essential. Even if you don't follow it, you will always have the ingredients coming to make something. Keep those ingredients in your cart.
Think ahead to special occasions as well. Do you have any birthdays in the family coming up that might require cake-baking or special meals?
5. If your store lets you make notes on your order, keep a copy/paste list of frequently used directions on your computer. Things like "about 2 pounds" or "can substitute with unsweetened" or " about 6 firm apples" or whatever you usually have to write out. It saves some time.
6. Be careful of quantities nowadays. When I started using the grocery pick-up again this year, they had these great sales going on: "buy 5 save $5!" Hah. Just look how they were encouraging hoarding in the old days. Putting five of these items in the cart immediately canceled them on my order, because that week they had suddenly limited those items to 2 per person. I actually went into the store after my pickup and found them on the shelf.. At the same store, I had a person tell me "if you have a quantity of two on your list, we will at least give you one if we can't fill the whole order" but I have yet to see that happen. If you can, put a note in the substitutes to say "if you can't get me two, I'll take one please."
7. Know what your store is willing to do! I have been given some tips over the years by employees, such as asking for things not on the website. I was told to put something similar in the cart, then in the notes say what you really want. For instance, you may be used to shopping the bulk section for better prices. You can put a packaged item on the list and say "I do not want this, but I want a pound of nuts from the bulk section."
8. Think outside of groceries for convenience. Sometimes it is truly one-stop-shopping at your store, even on their grocery site. Type things in the search bar and look around! I put sandpaper and paint brushes on my last grocery order for a home project I was doing. I was able to get a three-ring-binder and inserts for an office organization project as well. My grocery store has a clothing section, and though limited online I can get socks if I need them in a hurry.
9. Use the text options for no surprises. Let them have your phone number and you will get updates about substitutes etc. in real time. That way you know what is going on, and can reject them if you don't want them. It means less waiting time in the parking lot for them to go in and out to adjust your receipt. Some will email you the substitutes instead, and that is great too.
10. Look for bags button at the checkout. If your state has banned free bags* be aware that some stores will not bag your items at all. You will go home with cabbages rolling around in the trunk. You can keep your own bags in the car, but nowdays the employees will NO LONGER touch your personal shopping bags, and they don't want you out with them bagging your own groceries. I don't mind paying to have it bagged, but I can't ever seem to find that button! Thankfully the other store pick-up gives me lovely paper bags for free.
11. Try to make it in your order time, but don't panic if you are late. No need to speed because you had a delay getting to town! Stores will hold your pick-up order until you can get there, up to the end of the day (and sometimes you can even pick it up the next morning-- call your store to find out).
12. Expect it to take time! It can be discouraging, especially if you are used to popping into the store physically and quickly getting what you are used to. It's frustrating to be searching all over the website for something when you know just where it is in the store! After a while the site will be able to suggest things for your cart that you frequently buy, which will save a little time.
I hope this helps some of you who are new to doing grocery pick up!
*Bonus rant: First, they took away our free paper bags twenty years or more ago, because paper bags kill trees. We no longer had a choice but were given plastic. Then, after they had us all used to free plastic bags, they took those away because plastic kills the environment. But oh, paper bags are OK now because we found out that we can plant more trees. But, you have to pay 10 cents for a paper bag. Just use your own bag. Oh, never mind, there's a pandemic on and we don't want to touch your germy bag! I don't blame them, I didn't want to bring my own bags in the first place.
OH, and since they took away the free plastic bags, I've taken to keeping empty bread bags for times when I need a plastic bag... just like my grandmother who went through the depression (she used to wash them out and hang them on the line. I no longer think she was crazy.). I have been forced to buy small plastic garbage can liners for the wastepaper baskets. It's a conspiracy, I tell ya.
Monday, April 20, 2020
When I list all the things that were gone from grocery store shelves in the past two months, I come up with flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, oil and maple syrup. Hmm... what can you make with all that? Guess my area has a lot of pancake lovers. Haven't seen a shortage of butter yet, though... it's nice to think that people are enjoying baking.
Lots of things happening in the sunshine! I see more people out cleaning their yards. I see kids playing out in the sunshine that were used to being cooped up in a classroom this time of year. I'm sure it's motivating to get your schoolwork done if you can go and play! No long school bus ride to get to your own yard. And no one thinks your kid is truant or un-socialized.
Front porches are getting used the way they ought to! My neighbor is very creative-- she asked for a front porch concert. So we got out the fiddles and played to the neighbors, who put out their lawn chairs by the street. I've heard of more than one front-porch church service. The bigger the porch the better-- I believe every house should have a porch wide enough to fit a table and chairs. Dining al-fresco is a lovely idea.
I see creativity and people getting to projects done that they have been putting off. Honey-do lists are getting shortened. I wonder when some of that extra time will trickle down to me???