How Viable Are Grocery Delivery Services?

 

As full-time RVers, it’s no big deal to restock groceries when we start to get low. Whether we’re in Eugene, Oregon, Revelstoke, BC, Galveston, Texas, or anywhere, it’s just not a problem. There are grocery stores everywhere and for the most part, they’re pretty much the same, even if the brands and store arrangements are different.

Grocery shopping no longer a familiar full-time errand

It’s a process we’ve all done repeatedly with little or no stress, but now everything is different. With the COVID-19 virus in every state and province in North America, restocking groceries suddenly took on a whole new dimension, especially for full-time RVers since many of us are in the over 60 high-risk category.  We are suddenly aware that a simple trip to the grocery store could result in a serious illness or possibly death.

Many of us are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from our primary health provider.  We certainly don’t want to get sick on the road and leave our spouses to deal with all the uncertainty of an unfamiliar location, the obligations of our rigs, and the ambiguity of where to stay and for how long.

Therefore, we decided to try out a grocery delivery service rather than risk going in a grocery store.  We reasoned that at least we would only have brief contact with one other person, and we should be able to maintain a safe distance.

Should you get your groceries delivered? Photo by Joe Goldberg via Flickr Creative Commons

The downside of grocery delivery

It seemed like a good idea, but there’s a downside.  We were preparing to leave our site in Palm Desert when we first made this decision.  Our first effort to order groceries from Whole Foods was a time-consuming process of finding the items on their website, choosing what size, brand, and quantity of each item and adding it all to our cart.

The process probably took 45 minutes.  Once we got to the check-out screen, we needed to pick a delivery time, and at this point, we learned that there were no delivery times available. That information would have been helpful to know before we spent 45 minutes filling up the shopping cart.

Thinking that Whole Foods might be temporarily short of drivers, we tried to change the order to curbside pick-up, just to learn this store didn’t offer curbside service. We tabled the whole grocery idea for a few days to see if things would improve, and a few days later there were a few limited delivery dates, but none before our departure date.

Delivery availability only revealed at check-out

At that time, we gave up on Whole Foods and switched to Ralphs. Of course, we had to start all over, and the process took another hour. Again, we couldn’t access the delivery options until we were in the checkout process and sadly there were no delivery dates available before our departure.

We were tempted to just chuck the whole idea, and go to a grocery store to buy our supplies, but we recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was redefining everything, and we were determined to embrace the new normal.  If TV hosts can broadcast from their homes, we certainly could figure out how to get groceries delivered.

We left Palm Desert a few days later with whatever groceries were in the rig and we started on the final leg of our 6-month around the country journey to get back to Oregon. We weren’t concerned about our food supply, we needed a few things, but we had enough to eat. Even though the process had been frustrating, we weren’t worst for wear.

empty grocery store

The right time to shop may give you access without the crowds. Photo by Pixabay

Planning ahead

As we got closer to Oregon, we decided to try the online grocery delivery one more time.  This time we were planning ahead. In fact, we were near Sacramento, CA when we placed the order.

Instead of trying to get the groceries before leaving a location, we were anticipating our arrival and scheduling the order for the arrival date.  But now we were obliged to order from Fred Meyers because we’d be leaving Ralphs behind in California, and the Whole Food Markets in Eugene, Oregon, did not offer delivery or curbside pick-up.

A new store meant a new order… new brands, sizes, quantities, etc. The process was becoming familiar, but not faster. Again, during checkout, we learned that the Eugene Fred Meyers store only offered curbside pick-up, which we surmised would be almost as safe as delivery. We finalized our order for over $230 worth of groceries to be picked up, in Eugene, four days later.

By the time we arrived in Eugene, supplies were getting low, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and go to the Whole Foods Market before stopping at Fred Meyers to pick up our main order.  As it turned out, we’re grateful for that decision.

We arrived at Whole Foods right before the dinner hour and were encouraged to see very few people at the store.  The store was well stocked and it was easy to maintain social distancing. Since we were not sure what to expect from Fred Meyers, we fortunately decided to purchase most of the items that were on our original list.

The plan and the reality differ

To make a long story short, we went to Fred Meyers to pick up our original order. The order was not ready (they were short-handed) and many of the items we had ordered were not available.

Out of the 89 items we’d ordered they could only deliver 15, which included, ironically, three packages of taco sauce mix, but none of the ingredients for the tacos. All in all, our $230 worth of groceries cost $26, which took another phone call with the pick-up manager, and 4 more days to get the charges straightened out in our bank account.

If you must go to a grocery store, go during non-peak hours. Photo by Jens Hemblach via Flickr Creative Commons

Our experience might not be typical

Perhaps our online grocery shopping experience was unique and many of our readers have found this option to be a real blessing. After all, the stores have been under immense pressure during this pandemic, short on supplies and staff, and are dealing with a massive spike in demand.

Will we use the online option again in the future?  Maybe. Online grocery shopping is relatively new, and in the future, it may become the new normal. But for now, I believe we’ll continue to shop for groceries in person and just try to do it as safely as possible.

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