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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Using Grocery Delivery Services

Our neighborhood roads have become eerily quiet in this last week, with the exception of delivery vehicles. If you feel that you are at risk to go out to grocery stores, then delivery is a viable option. Ill share my own experience.

As February was ending, it became to feel less and less safe in my area. I knew of a few people who had been sick for a while with flu-like symptoms. The flu season has hit hard for us, in addition to COVID19. I was also watching international news and the future for the US didn't look good. Anyways, I was apprehensive about going to my last 2 shopping venues. So, I chose to do delivery service for both of them. I used 2 different services, Shipt and Instacart.

I used Shipt for a Target grocery delivery. Shipt has a 4-week free trial. You have to call to cancel the membership before the 4-week end, or you will be charged $99 -- just beware. And I anticipate the phone lines will be busy in another 3 to 4 weeks. So, it may be wise to try canceling at your 3-week mark, instead of waiting till the last minute.

Okay, so for my Target Shipt delivery
Target has pretty good prices on their store-brands, for both non-food and food items. And the quality for those brands is very good. Our Target stores get a lot of business over the weekends and shelves can be quite bare of the basics by the end of Sunday. For that reason, I scheduled my delivery for late Tuesday afternoon. (If I do it again, I'll choose Wednesday mid-morning.) The other advantage to selecting a mid-week delivery is you're much more likely to get a time-slot. I was just checking weekend time slots this past weekend and they were all booked up, here.

My delivery person said she'd shopped for someone's order on Monday afternoon and said the milk had been completely cleaned out. By Tuesday afternoon, the milk had been restocked. However, the frozen orange juice that I'd wanted was completely wiped out by Tuesday afternoon.

When my shopper experienced no or not enough stock of one of my items, she texted me and asked if I'd like a substitute (giving me alternatives at the same time). The substitutes were not always the same price. So you may want to ask about the price difference on substitutions, if that isn't offered.

I was informed via text when my shopper was finished and would be leaving for my house. I readied my end by finding gloves, disinfecting wipes, and opening the garage. When my deliverer arrived, I took delivery in an open area of the garage. She put everything on the floor and I handed her a tip. Shipt does allow for an in-app tip, and in the future I will do that. I stood 6 to 10 feet away from her while she was bringing the items in, but did have to get within close proximity to give a tip. If I were sick, this would be too close for her safety and if she were sick, it could potentially risk infection for me.

After she drove off, while wearing heavy duty latex gloves, I wiped down every package with homemade bleach wipes. I placed items that needed refrigeration or freezing in the garage fridge and freezer. nothing came into the house at that point. I allowed the rest to sit in the garage for several hours, so the bleach could do its thing. After several hours, I brought the items inside (if you remember, we had a bit of a mouse problem last year, including in the garage), but I placed them all in a spot in the house where we don't go often. We just left those items in this spot for several days. When I did finally need to use some of the delivered items, I washed plastic packaging under running water before opening and produce with a bit of liquid dish soap and lots of water before using. After the fact, my son and DIL told me they had done something very similar after using delivery for groceries -- disinfecting, then washing well. My DIL is very conscious of household cleanliness, so I knew I was on the right track for safety, here.

For my Instacart experience
The other delivery service I used was instacart. Instacart serves many grocery stores in my area, but also Cash & Carry SmartFood Service (the restaurant supply). Instacart has a first-time free trial, nothing to cancel later. There is a service fee that is not waived. It looks like it's about 5%. In addition, a small amount is added to the price of each item compared to the store's usual price. Still, for many items, it was still less expensive for me to use Instacart for Cash & Carry than any other delivery option, because Cash & Carry's price per unit is so outstanding for institutional sizes on many items. The default for tipping on Instacart is in-app, so unless you waive the tip, you will be charged a tip of about 5%. For the service of having someone shop for my groceries and take the risk of being in public for me, a tip is an expense that is well-worth it to me.

My experience with the Instacart shopper is much like the one with Target's shipt. I used Instacart on a Wednesday morning. The shopper texted me as he shopped. I also received in-app chat messages. I had the app open on my laptop the entire time he was shopping and I could "see" when he picked up an item. In the case of needing substitutions, I was notified of possibilities by the app, which I could then approve. For the one item that I had not selected a substitution, the shopper messaged me with a photo of a possibility, along with price. I was able to approve that substitution via chat message.

Again, I took delivery in my garage and mentioned to the driver that I'd tipped in-app. I followed my disinfecting  and storage procedure for all of the items.

For both services, my receipts were emailed to me.

The one-time service charge for Shipt is about $10 (if I recall correctly). According to the Shipt website, you can also subscribe for just one month, for $14, unlimited deliveries in that one month. Shipt also marks up the cost of each item. Their website indicates that this mark-up ends up being about $5 for every $35 spent.

Is the shopping fees for someone else to do my shopping worth the expense? For certain circumstances, the expense is worth it. In my region, people over 60 and/or with medical vulnerabilities (or members of their household with the same conditions) are being asked to stay at home as much as possible. Having groceries delivered is another way to minimize exposure to coronavirus.

There are ways to minimize the service and delivery fees. There are coupon codes and/or offers for free trials. Bundling your shopping into one trip for a month reduces flat rates that may be assessed, such as Instacart's regular delivery fee (I think that's a $3.99 flat rate). 

If you schedule well in advance, you can avoid extra "busy delivery times" fees. Instacart does have a surcharge for extra busy periods. However, the customer is notified of this surcharge during the order placement. 

In addition, you can reduce service and delivery fees by just buying basic food items or ingredients for scratch cooking. As your overall grocery budget will be lowered by shopping this way, so will your percentage-based delivery fees. Buy only the foods or supplies that you cannot buy through a place like Amazon or other web store, such as fresh produce, meat, or frozen items. By making a minimum purchase through a web store, you can often get the shipping charge waived.

Key points on using grocery delivery services

  • Disinfect as if these items could have been exposed to the virus. The Target items were delivered in plastic bags. I threw those bags out immediately. Cash & Carry doesn't have bags, as many items are extra large. I wore heavy duty gloves when going through all of our items and I used homemade bleach wipes to wipe absolutely everything down. I, then, left it all in the garage for several hours before bringing items into the house.
  • Maintain distance from the delivery person, or opt for contactless delivery. Instacart offers contactless delivery as an option. With other delivery services, you can request the delivery be left at your door in the comment/special request section when placing the order.
  • The shopper gets paid for their service. However, under our current circumstances, a 5% tip was greatly appreciated by the personal shoppers I used. Tip in-app to eliminate physical contact between yourself and your shopper.
  • If you order from a web store and receive delivery via UPS, USPS, or FedEx, obviously there is no tipping, and in many cases, no shipping charge with a minimum purchase. Bonus -- with most deliveries through these organizations, it seems to be standard practice to leave packages at the door with no interaction between the driver/delivery person and resident. 
  • Just like regular grocery shopping, comparing prices between stores and services can save a lot of money.
  • Amazon Prime subscribers can use Amazon's grocery delivery (which includes both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods), depending on area.

Have you used grocery delivery services before? What have been your experiences?


  1. I've been curious about using these services--thanks for the thorough breakdown. I'm glad to see the shipping companies are using social distancing both for the customers as well as for the employees. I hadn't thought about cleaning items I had shopped for--I'm realizing different things every day that need to be sanitized. We just don't realize how often we touch things! My kids and I have talked about how our world will look different when this starts to slow down--we think hand shaking will be a quaint relic from the past.

    Our area news is talking about a movement locally to raise people's spirits--people are putting their outdoor Christmas lights back up. I thought about a conversation we had here what, a month ago, about how some of us put up twinkle lights or keep our Christmas lights up on our homes long after the holiday season. We were ahead of our time! I like to see how people are finding opportunity in the face of challenges.

  2. Lili, I have heard of Instacart, but not Shipt. I'm not sure these are available in my area, and living 30 miles from the nearest grocery store, I'm not sure they would deliver to my home.

    Our Walmart prepared their parking lot for grocery pickup, and put up signs that it is coming soon. I'll have to see when that will be available. I know there are some fees, I'll have to look into that. I could order online, pay, pull up to the pickup area, and have my groceries loaded in my trunk. Then I could go home and wipe all of the packages before taking them out of my trunk. Like Kris, I hadn't actually thought of doing that, but it's a good idea.

    Kris, I saw something about putting up Christmas lights on our local news too. Everyone I'm in contact with is so stressed, we all need a little cheer.

    In situations like these, people always find ways to make a difference. I've been touched by that lately. With all of the schools closed, a friend of my son's posted that she, as a teacher, would be happy to help kids in her classes age group with assignments via the internet. We may feel alone, but are all in this together.

    My youngest son is a senior, I feel so bad for him. We had just received his cap and gown, and graduation announcements. Now, who knows? He's been in good spirits though.

    Take care.

  3. It's a very tedious process trying to minimize our contact with people and things. We have had several discussions at our house about the risk vs. effort statistics at our house and have differing opinions. What all of us have agreed on is none of us want to be sick, no matter what the severity, and we will practice reasonable precautions. Now agreeing on what is reasonable is still under discussion. But basically, we won't go out unless needed and do a lot of hand washing and some wiping down.

    Thanks for your information on ordering groceries. We may use it in the future.

  4. I looked online and our Walmart grocery pickup starts on 3/24. I'll try it.


  5. Hi Kris,
    I saw the holiday lights in the news yesterday. How cheery and I'm guessing very appreciated, like a movement toward solidarity in fighting this virus.

    I believe you're right about the handshaking. I hope also that this changes how we behave when we're sick or our kids are sick. I hope that paid sick leave is enhanced for all levels of employees and that schools will allow more absences for illness and work with families to get school work home to kids, as needed. Officials say that nursing home that had so many deaths in my state had staff/employees that came to work while sick. I don't fault the individual staff members, because they were just following what our society expects from employees, to come into work unless you simply cannot physically get there. This is something that has to change, whether it's the need for more sick leave for employees or less pressure from employers to show up even while sick.

    My mother-in-law always washed cans of food before opening them. She said that in her day, rats were known to be a problem in factories and distribution locations for canned goods. This pandemic may have changed how I'll deal with food packages going forward.

  6. Hi Angie,
    Yes, living a distance from grocery stores does limit the services to your area. I've done grocery pick-up once at our Kroger affiliate (Fred Meyer). Fred Meyer had an offer with the first 3 pick-ups for free . I don't know if Walmart has any similar offers, but worth checking into. Anyways, the pick-up went smoothly. I parked in the special slot and phoned that I'd arrived. They came to my car and loaded the trunk. This was before the virus, so I wasn't concerned about interaction (I was using the pick-up service to get a special price on pick-up ordered items). However, if I were to do this again, I'd park and open my trunk for them and motion for them to put the items in my trunk while I stayed in the car. I don't recall having to sign anything, so they could just leave the invoice/receipt with the packages.
    If you go this route, good luck with it, Angie!

  7. Hi Live and Learn,
    It was a discussion process for our family. Not everyone was on board to the same degree at first. As the severity for my area became more and more apparent, I think we all united in how we all want to approach this. The most sobering thing has been looking at our county's health department website and seeing that we have so many cases in our small city and the tiny city that is adjacent to ours. Our county breaks the cases down by city and town, so we can see how bad it is where we live. While I really don't want to be sick to any degree, I am most motivated by wanting to spare some of our church friends who would fall into the most at risk category, many elderly friends and many cancer survivors and other immunocompromised friends from our church.

  8. Lili, my mom always told me to wash cans of food before opening them, as well, citing the same reasons. I honestly had forgotten that. This will definitely change how we all do some things.


  9. I like the pick up service that brings items to the car. Is a tip expected? I've been thinking that driving around is unsafe, even if we don't shop, because we could get into an accident just being out. I have never done a grocery delivery service, but that seems the safest option.
    Now our state is saying no community spread, that all 16 cases are travel related. I am leery of that claim. I also don't think this virus will disappear in a few months. I am hoping our country will find an appropriate antiviral treatment before a vaccine is found, and be able to administer the treatment at the onset of infection, since the lungs suffer damage early on as exhibited by a dry cough. This requires extensive testing and scanning, which is impossible en masse. We are not set up to provide this level of care. I wonder if countries that have universal health care will do better. On the other hand, we may have more innovation and breakthroughs because of our for profit system. Just musing.


  10. Hi Angie,
    until my mother-in-law told me about rodents and canned goods, I would wipe the tops off because of dust, but I'd never heard of rats as a problem. Interesting that your mom also told you what my MIL told me. That must have been a real concern. I hope its not now!

  11. Hi YHF,
    I don't think a tip is expected at all with pick-up grocery service. The time that I used Fred Meyer's pick-up, the gal who brought my groceries out to my car didn't linger or hesitate, as one does when expecting a tip. It seemed much like drive-through pharmacy experiences to me (although someone had to go through store and grab my items). The employees who bring your groceries to the car are paid like other store employees, so I don't believe that any of their pay is expected to come from tips.

    I am counting on our capitalist system to really motivate researchers and pharmaceuticals to race for a cure/treatment, then produce that treatment at record speed, combined with people just staying home so we can extend the infection period long enough for some treatment to spill forward. I am frustrated beyond measure at the people not taking this seriously enough. My thought is when it looks like we're over-reacting, in retrospect, it will look like we just barely did enough. This is what the experts say is how Italy got so bad, by not doing enough, soon enough.

    Keep yourself safe.

  12. Thanks Lili for your input and help. My children are so laid back about the virus. My son and his family have a Japan trip planned for end of May, which they booked nearly a year ago. Last we spoke, they were not sure what to do, and were waiting for the State department to raise the Level to 4, which has happened. I told them last month we wouldn't be watching our grands this spring break or watch their dog during the trip to protect ourselves and hopefully shake some sense in them. This is hitting everyone hard.

    My mom wiped her canned goods too. Must be a holdover of that era.



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