Friday, April 18, 2014

Making It: Avoiding the Hassle of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in San Francisco brings visions of endless circling of too small parking lots looking for a space. Checkout lines as far as the eye can see. And, no guarantee what you need will be there when you are. That's why grocery shopping is one activity I've delegated.

Good Eggs Packaging

The other day, I realized I was out of a few ingredients necessary for making my Thai-flavored Vegan Broth. No problem, I thought! I had enough time to pop out to the market, pick up the ingredients and still videotape the segment. Wrong.

I forgot it was Monday and most markets haven't restocked from the weekend. The shelves and produce aisles were striped bare. While they didn't have everything I needed, luckily they had workable substitutions. And, that's why I now shop almost exclusively online, with services like Good Eggs and Google Shopping Express.

Google Shopping Express Packaging

How We Started Using Grocery Delivery Services

Before we became a family of three, cubes and I would spend one or two evenings a week, walking to Bi-Rite Market, picking up local, fresh ingredients. In fact, one of the factors for where we looked at renting was how close it was to Bi-Rite Market. With a toddler, a walk that's doable for us, a twenty minute leisurely mile walk, becomes an expedition. And now that Gates wants to walk rather than ride, a mile is too far of a distance. So, if we do it, it's a weekend trip or a solo trip. Both of which are no fun.

Yerena Farms Strawberries

When cubes' company began offering delivery of fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables and meats through Farmigo, we jumped on it. After a farmer pointed me to an online fresh-from-the-farm delivery service for residential customers, LolaBees Harvest (now closed), I jumped on that too. For at least a year and maybe longer, we've been getting our meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables delivered to our door, first Farmigo, then LolaBees, and now Good Eggs.

Good Eggs Packaging

What You Might (I Miss) About Neighborhood Markets

Go to a small friendly neighborhood market long enough and you'll know the checkers and the section leads and they'll know you. I miss the discovery of new cheeses and recommendations of wines and recipes to try that we got at Bi-Rite. (I don't miss the stress of wondering whether Gates could make it there and back before she got tired or worse wanted to be carried. At about eighteen months, Gates was too tall for me to carry safely for long distances or an extended period of time. She's not quite old enough to understand why mommy can't carry her any more and often only wants to be picked up by mommy when tired.)

Spontaneity. Although as parents we don't really have that luxury. Arriving home to an empty fridge with a hungry toddler takes the fun out of a leisurely stroll through the aisles of the produce department crafting a menu featuring local in-season ingredients.

Serendipitous meetings. While you wait in line for your fresh-from-the-oven bread along with twenty or so others at one of the busiest corners in the heart of the Mission's foodie corridor you're bound to see a friend or two walk by. You're also just as likely to make friends with people you see in line with you week after week. (Getting our fresh loaf of Tartine bread delivered to our door is pretty awesome--especially when it's raining.)

Bacon Gruyere Brioche

Tips for Shopping for Groceries Online

Online grocery shopping requires a few changes to how you plan your meals and how frequently you shop.

  • Consider delivery fees, in addition, to the cost of items. A slightly more expensive item from a store you're buying other items for may end up less expensive, if you have to pay a delivery fee for each store you purchase from.
  • Regularly inventory your pantry and your refrigerator. If you run out of one of your staples, you may have to wait to have it delivered. Some services deliver the same day; others the next day; others two days later and not on weekends. Also, most services require a minimum purchase.
  • Review weekly purchases and subscribe to commonly purchased items where possible to reduce costs. Revise the frequency of your subscriptions if you find your purchases going to waste. Savings that go into your compost bin aren't savings.
  • Reference your calendar weekly and adjust the following week's deliveries based on planned activities and workload. If you're swamped at work, you may not have the energy to cook when you get home. Switch out pre-made meals for raw ingredients if your budget allows.
We're still trying to get the hang of using grocery delivery services. I'd love to be able to say we don't waste anything we buy, but we do. I've cut back on the amount of food we buy and am meal planning two weeks in advance to reduce the waste. I'll let you know how that is working in a future a post.

How do you shop for groceries?
Got any tips for reducing the amount of food that gets wasted?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Disclosure: When I signed up for Google Shopping Express it was part of the pilot where testers received free delivery and have their monthly membership fee waived. I still receive this benefit. Personally, the convenience of having sundries and groceries delivered to my door and not having to hassle with parking and traffic outweighs the costs of the service so I'll keep using them when the pilot benefits end. When we begin paying a delivery fee for each store, I will change my purchase habits, stocking up monthly on items rather than shopping weekly.