Eliminate Grocery Shopping? Online Delivery Services to the Rescue

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As the holiday season comes to a close and the New Year begins, most of us are in a mood of reflection on the past year. It’s also a time to make a fresh start and commit to New Year’s resolutions. After making it through several months that include Halloween candy, Thanksgiving feasts and a glut of holiday parties and dinners, it may be that your New Year brings a new attitude toward food.

Perhaps one of your resolutions involves healthy eating and including more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. If you have already put this resolution into practice, you know that the devil is in the details. There’s no magical meal fairy that shops, peels, slices, mixes and cooks up healthy food. The reality is that there are menus to plan, shopping lists to create, and food to purchase, store and prepare. But with the New Year underway, families return to work and school. No one has any extra time to spare, which presents a challenge in putting your plans into action.

Perhaps this is why we refer to New Year’s Resolutions instead of New Year’s Wishes. The word resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do something.” It’s time to take stock of all your options with the firm resolve to set yourself up for success.

First, look at your strengths and weaknesses. Trips to the store take time, as well as wear and tear on your vehicle. Going to the store with children in tow takes more time and energy, especially if your kids are good negotiators when it comes to snacks and toys. It may make sense to spend less time at the store by avoiding that trip altogether. If the hands-on work of shopping is one of your weak points in meal preparation, consider the value of paying someone else to do that, ordering what you need from a delivery service. Your options include online grocery delivery services as well as companies that deliver prepared meals.

My debate over the merits of ordering online groceries was resolved when I received a gift certificate for a company that delivered organic food. I was still skeptical; if I couldn’t pick out the food myself, how would I know it was really fresh?

Was the service affordable?
The company I used allowed me to set preferences about items I wanted, as well as items I didn’t want. Deliveries could be set at your pace–weekly, biweekly, monthly–and could be stopped at any time. Each delivery box contained fresh, flavorful and unblemished produce. There was also the occasional adventure, like the week that romanesca arrived. I had to Google this lovely, fractal lime-green cauliflower, as I had never bought it before. The arrival of unanticipated veggies led to learning about foods that I had consistently passed at the store in favor of more familiar produce.

If you’re thinking of using a delivery service for groceries or meals, there are a few things to consider. First, find what services are available in your area. Instacart, Google Express, Amazon Fresh and Door to Door Organics are active in many metropolitan areas, and they’re always expanding their services. Companies such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Plated offer delivery service of fully prepared meals to many cities across the nation. In your area, local grocery stores might also offer delivery or pickup services, allowing you to shop online on your time.

Once you know what’s available, figure out your food budget to learn if online shopping makes sense. One factor to consider is the delivery fee. Add to that the fact that you might still need to make a trip to the grocery to supplement your order, depending on your menu plan. Consider whether the cost of the service is offset by the amount of time you normally spend shopping, as well as transportation costs.

Another option is to use a grocery delivery for non-perishable items. In this scenario, a regular delivery of staples–paper goods, dry goods, canned goods–would mean that your store trips would focus on fresh food. You could successfully tour the healthy “outside perimeter” of the store: produce section, meat counter and dairy case.

Last but not least, if your trips to the store require cruising up and down every aisle, shopping online might help you stick to your list and reduce impulse buying. Wandering the store means seeing tempting snacks, candy, baked goods and frozen treats, as well as seasonal items like plants, sports apparel and other items that are hidden budget-busters. Ordering online means you’ll avoid these altogether.

Think about the pros and cons of ordering food online as you look for ways to succeed with firm decisions to change your habits in this New Year. HLM

Sources: epicurious.com, moneycrashers.com, reuters.com, shipt.com, thefreedictionary.com and topgrocerydelivery.com.