Home News and Features My Experience Buying Groceries Online

My Experience Buying Groceries Online

53
0
The Shaw’s in Montpelier. Photo by Franklin Jensen.

One thing we all need to survive during these unusual and historic times is food. Staff at local grocery stores and co-ops are making herculean efforts to ensure food is available, even as their store hours are often reduced (see list at the end of this story). But what if you’re avoiding public contact and would prefer to have groceries delivered to your home?


Two local grocery chains—Shaw’s and Price Chopper—have joined the online shopping platform Instacart to facilitate home delivery of groceries. Instacart also makes deliveries for CVS Pharmacy and Petco.


I decided to give the service a try, and while it took some time to pick out items on my computer screen, the service worked fine and my groceries were delivered to my door in Montpelier about four hours later (there is also an option to schedule a later delivery date). The site is designed to remember items you ordered previously, which should help cut online shopping time on future visits.


With a flier from Shaw’s in hand, I began my experiment by going to shop.shaws.com (you can also go to instacart.com). Before I began shopping, the site asked me to enter my zip code. I plugged in a few zip codes from this region (05602, 05641, 05682, 05650, 05651) and found Instacart will deliver to all these places, and probably most local towns.


There are sale items and featured items at the top of the first page, but if you click the “Departments” tab (at the top) you can browse specific types of products, such as frozen, produce, dairy and eggs, household, beverages, deli, and the like. Clicking on the items in each category gives you more details, often including nutritional information.


The price is displayed next to each item and by clicking on the “plus” sign you can add that item to your cart. When stocks of an item were low, I was asked if I would accept a specific substitute. At delivery, I ended up with five substitutions on my order of 17 items.


The promotional flier I had picked up offered $20 off my first Instacart order of $75 or more, plus free delivery. So, bargain-hunter that I am, I loaded up my cart until it reached $80.42 (later reduced due to substitutions). To get the discount, I had to click a link on the checkout page and enter my discount code.


That reduced my bill by $20, but I also had to pay an Instacart service fee of $4.02 plus a tip for the delivery person of $4.02 (both amounts were based on 5 percent of the original total). However, you can change the tip amount to anything you want, and you can also change the tip amount after your delivery is made.


My delivery person said the food delivery business is booming right now, and she also said there seems to be plenty of product available at Shaw’s in Montpelier—where she filled my order—and at Price Chopper in Berlin. I secretly hoped she used plenty of hand sanitizer before and after doing my shopping, but I didn’t ask.


While the selection of items available from Shaw’s online was good (they even had toilet paper!), it’s probably smaller than you would find in person. A few of the substitutions made in my order were ones I might not have chosen to make, but as someone who was sitting at home on my duff while the delivery person did the work, it’s hard to complain.


In sum, for anyone who needs or wants to stay home during the pandemic to avoid contact with other shoppers and store staff, or who just wants to enjoy the convenience of having their groceries delivered, Instacart works well. But remember that while this system might reduce exposure to viruses, it may not be entirely germ-free.


Personally, I’ll probably continue to do at least some of my food shopping in person. If you will too, here is a list of the reduced hours and other changes at local grocery stores. (This list may be subject to change as this situation develops.)


For Shopping in Person, Here are Grocery and Food Store Changes:


Hunger Mountain Co-op, Montpelier—hours reduced to 9 am to 6 pm, first hour designated for seniors and those with underlying conditions; café and food bar closed; the number of customers in-store will be limited at busy times.


Shaw’s, Montpelier—hours reduced to 7 am to 8 pm. Special times are reserved on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 am to 9 am for seniors and other vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, and Shaw’s asks that you avoid shopping during these times so that the stores can be available for them.


Shaw’s, Berlin—hours reduced to 7 am to 8 pm. Special times are reserved on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 am to 9 am for seniors and other vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, and Shaw’s asks that you avoid shopping during these times so that the stores can be available for them.


Walmart, Berlin—hours reduced to 7 am to 8:30 pm.


Price Chopper, Berlin—hours reduced to 7 am to 8:30 pm; open 6 am to 7 am for seniors and those with disabilities only.


Hannaford, South Barre—regular hours: 7 am to 11 pm, 7 am to 10 pm Sundays.


Shaw’s, Waterbury—hours reduced to 7 am to 8 pm. Special times are reserved on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 am to 9 am for seniors and other vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, and Shaw’s asks that you avoid shopping during these times so that the stores can be available for them.


Uncommon Market, Montpelier—regular hours, 6:30 am to 8 pm; 9 am to 7 pm Sundays.


Adamant Co-op, Adamant—hours reduced to 9 am to 5 pm on M, W, Th, and F, and 8 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays; regular hours on Saturday (9:30 am to 3 pm) and Sunday (10 am to 1 pm).


Roots Market, Middlesex—store is closed, orders can be placed by phone (and eventually online) and then picked up; hours reduced, check the website.


Village Market, Waterbury—regular hours 7 am to 8 pm; first hour designated for seniors and those with health issues.


Tops Friendly Market, Northfield—regular hours, 7 am to 9 pm.