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Tag: Whole Foods Market

Why I May Never Visit a Supermarket Again

Eating sour grapes can be a powerful motivator in how to source your food. The question is whether you need to physically go the market to maintain a sweet experience.

When I was a kid growing up in New York City, my mother often took me along when she shopped at the supermarket. During those little excursions, she taught me that you had to touch the produce to make sure you were getting the freshest and tastiest pieces. Green grapes were a family favorite, but I always thought it was a little strange when I saw her pop a grape in her mouth in the middle of the fruit aisle to make sure the bunch was sweet. But then I saw other ‘experienced’ shoppers doing the same, and I quickly learned that stealing one grape was okay (but not two).

This very hands-on grape-selection process clearly requires an in-person presence, one that online grocery shopping simply can’t provide. This early lesson set my perspective on how to shop for my groceries for decades.

Early Doubts
When services like Peapod cropped up, I wasn’t interested. I figured it would be unlikely that a stranger would gather up the best-quality produce for me.

And I also couldn’t integrate the hit of the delivery cost with the benefit of time saved not shopping and not waiting on the check-out line. It just didn’t align with the value system that I had learned growing up.

But like so many things, the pandemic changed all of that.

I Became an Online Grocery Shopper
Last year, in my total focus to practice social distancing, I tore up my shopping rule book and turned to the web to source my family’s groceries and supplies. I shopped online at FreshDirect, Whole Foods Market and Stop & Shop. Of course, because so many others were practicing the same strategy, it was especially difficult to find open delivery slots.

Eventually, even though the pandemic continued on, grocery shopping websites seemingly became more adept at handling the demand. And I eventually found it much easier to schedule deliveries whenever I needed them.

Recently, I visited Whole Foods online at 6:30am, because I realized that we were low on eggs. On the check-out page, I spotted an open 12-2pm delivery slot. By 1pm, the neatly packed bags of groceries were on our doorstep. And by 1:10pm, the eggs were safely in my refrigerator.

The cost for this emergency egg delivery?


That’s because I’m an Amazon Prime member. I only added in a tip.

Wow. Right?

Pleasantly Surprised
And no eggs were cracked! While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, it does support my general finding that online items actually show up in really good shape.

We typically shop weekly at FreshDirect, and the apples, pears and bananas have been top quality.

That said, some of the red grape orders have been disappointing. When grapes start to go out of season, you can taste it immediately. Unfortunately, there’s no ‘pop-a-grape’ button to press on the website. You’ve just got to go for it.

Yes, you may not get exactly what you want when you shop for your food online, but grapes notwithstanding, I’ve found that it’s been pretty darn close over the past year.

My Prediction
I certainly understand that many people continue to shop safely at the market by wearing their masks and practicing social distancing. I’ve simply chosen a different practice, which was first (admittedly) prompted by fear. And now, I’ve become accustomed to this new shopping mindset, which works really well for my family. And I figure since I’ve come this far, why take the risk?

But one day (hopefully soon), herd immunity will take that concern off the table. And this leads to the obvious question. Will I eventually go back to the market after the pandemic is over?

Predicting future behavior is always tricky. But I’m going to say… no. Certainly not as a regular practice.

I think the pandemic has permanently changed my grocery shopping from the physical to the virtual.

Sure, I might need to run in to the market for something I can’t wait a few hours to have delivered. (Writing that sentence would feel entirely absurd to me a year ago.)

But when it comes to my weekly patterns, I don’t believe visiting the supermarket will return to my schedule.

Sour Grapes
Yes, there’s the loss of the social factor. Sometimes it’s nice just to get out and see a few people. Maybe run into someone you know at the market.

But aren’t we already on Zoom, 24/7, being exposed to a seemingly limitless supply of human faces? Why would anyone feel the need to go out into the physical world? (cough)

Sometimes, tasting a few sour grapes reflects the pleasures of the larger journey. And those moments don’t need to be confined to the produce aisle.

There’s a whole world out there that hopefully we can return to soon… and be free to source our next sour grape. It’s the journey that matters.

Seven Tips for Online Food Shopping during COVID-19

The coronavirus has affected how we need to shop. I’ve got a few suggestions on how to get what you want delivered to your doorstep as quickly as possible.

I think it’s clear that if you’re able to stay at home during this COVID-19 pandemic, then you absolutely should. And for me, that includes an ongoing attempt NOT to go to the supermarket to buy food and supplies. I know you could debate whether my choice is too extreme, but it certainly isn’t hurting the larger problem. In fact, in my small way, I’m happy that I’m doing my part to help flatten the curve.

My wife and I successfully stocked up on our essential needs three weeks back before the coronavirus in the U.S. changed life as we knew it. And I felt great that we had enough food and toilet paper to keep us comfortable for over a month.

You may recall the original social distancing recommendation was for a two-week window. In hindsight, of course that was way too short.

Navigating the New Uncertainty of Online Shopping
Over the past days, I’ve come to the realization that since our new reality is going to last some number of months, the only way to access ongoing essential supplies without visiting brick-and-mortar stores is to buy your food online.

But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that finding an open home delivery slot is really difficult and a lot of perishable inventory is sold out. I’ve also found this to be true for important non-perishable items that can simply be shipped out.

The other variable when shopping online is whether the items you’ve successfully ordered are still going to be available when it’s time to deliver them.

There are many unknowns, and the situation is likely to remain extremely fluid.

Extend your Supply Chain
So, it’s clear me after considering all of this, that you’ve really got to plan ahead! And that means rethinking how you’ll go about buying your food.

I’ve quickly come to the realization that this challenge is similar to how a company might source and manage its own supply chain. In fact, I think that’s exactly what it all boils down to… how to extend and maintain your own personal supply chain.

So, if you’re using online ordering as your primary method to bring in your home supplies, here are seven tips to help improve your haul.

Set Up Several Home Delivery Choices for your Perishable Foods
I’ve put in place:

  • Peapod
  • FreshDirect
  • Instacart (a couple of markets I use rely on this service)
  • Whole Foods Market (Amazon)

Maintain Multiple Website Vendors to Ship Non-Perishable Items
I’ve got:

  • Amazon
  • Jet
  • Costco
  • Boxed

Snag Your Delivery Timeslot!
Finding an open delivery slot is the most important piece of the equation. You can usually adjust your order up until the day before your delivery. But if you can’t claim a specific day, your food will just sit in your cart.

Expect Inventory to Vanish at the Last Minute
So, to avoid disappointment, you should order the same items across your different supply chains. The worst that can happen is you’ll receive more than you need. If it’s perishable and you can freeze your extra inventory, great. If not, then you’ll just need to figure it out. It’s a better problem to handle than not having enough food, right?

Plan Out 2-4 Weeks
I’ve found that delivery windows are usually booked solid and only show availability 1-2 weeks out. So, to keep your supplies stocked, you’ve got to think further into the future than that. For me, it’s an entirely new way to ‘hunt and gather.’
(Yes, what’s old is new again.)

Check Available Delivery Slots Several Times a Day
You’ve got to catch new slots shortly after they become available and before they’re scooped up. Keep trying!

Remain Flexible and Tenacious
Today, I happen to be a bit annoyed with Fresh Direct, because I’ve not been able to find a delivery slot for two days. And I’m also pleasantly surprised that I was able to catch a same-day delivery opportunity from Whole Foods Market via Amazon. That said, I couldn’t find most of the produce I wanted. Still, I received part of what we needed in three hours, not two weeks.

It’s all relative. We’ve simply got to apply a different mindset to shopping now. Forget about ‘one-stop-shopping’ convenience. That’s so 2019.

When I was a kid, my mom would proudly talk about visiting several supermarkets in our New York City neighborhood until she was able to find everything she was looking for… exactly the way she liked it. I’m not sure I’m going to be getting anything exactly the way I like it, but applying my mother’s mindset of ‘tenacious search’ should serve me and my family well in the months to come.

Specialty Food Companies
Another supply-chain option is identifying online businesses that specialize in sourcing and selling specific foods direct to you.
(Think seafood or fresh produce.)

I’m still exploring this. More thoughts soon…

So, I know there’s a ‘slight’ ethical snag to this whole system. It’s all based on someone else going shopping for me or working onsite at a company that’s shipping me my supplies. And that means they’re not at home protecting themselves and their families like I’m trying to do. By taking less risk, I’m necessarily transferring some of that to someone else.

It opens up huge economic and social questions. I’m doing my part to flatten the curve, but I know my actions will still create ripples into a much larger pond with endless repercussions I will never know about.

What’s for Dinner?
These are scary times, and there are few easy answers. Considering everything we’re dealing with, if we can take advantage of technology to help us put food on the table while keeping us and our loved ones away from the coronavirus, I think that’s essentially a good practice.

You’ve just got to put together a dependable supply chain online with multiple sources and keep track of it all!

And then stay tenacious… like my mom.

Now, it’s time to get to work.

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