Some groceries kindly delivered
When I was short on groceries after a foot injury left me temporarily unable to drive, I had my first experience of ordering groceries online! The two suppliers I used are rated below.
At first a friend brought me much appreciated supplies, but I didn’t want to trouble her as she suffers from chronic pain. I’d seen delivery vans at my usual grocery store, but their online registration process required so much personal information, I was concerned about privacy. What to do?
Then I recalled a television program about the challenges of getting groceries in Canada’s far north. Prices there are much higher than what we pay in the south owing to transportation costs, but many residents were saving money by ordering from Amazon. I could do that!
It was fun discovering what food was offered. Amazon doesn’t sell fresh or frozen food—yet— but offers dried, bottled and canned products. I decided to try some new dried foods: a package of mixed dried mushrooms, and Simply Organic Minced Onion. Some other staples I ordered were coconut milk, flax seeds, chia seeds, canned pumpkin, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and non-GMO sunflower oil. New for me was a jar of flame roasted sweet bell peppers. I prefer unprocessed foods, but had to get my veggies somehow!
The wait time was the main issue. I liked to take advantage of Amazon’s free delivery for orders over $25. Recent packages had arrived as soon as two days later, but this order took the slow road. The estimated delivery was four to eight days’ wait; except for the dried mushrooms arriving much later from a supplier in the UK.
My order of only 16 products was curiously split into five packages! I received partial shipments on Nov. 9, 10, 12 and 14. The bottle of vanilla extract seemed dwarfed arriving on its own in a box filled with air. The number of boxes and trucks coming to the door didn't seem like the greenest approach.
The dried mushrooms never arrived. They were expected between Nov. 27 and Dec. 18. Curiously, on Nov. 18, Amazon refunded the purchase price with no explanation other than "account adjustment." When the order was split into multiple deliveries, it was hard to follow the accounting. I still hoped that the order would arrive, but after the busy holiday season was over with no mushrooms in sight, I contacted the seller. Their reply was non-responsive. I won't go through that again!
For some items that seemed pricey, I found better rates online at Walmart. That led me to learn that they also do home delivery for a small fee. The posted fee was $5.97, although when I completed my order, the fee was $9.97 for my location, with a minimum order of $50. But they didn’t require much personal information, and had fresh and frozen produce that I needed. I ordered ingredients for borscht, but there was no daikon or turnip that gives the soup zestiness. When scrolling through the veggies, I found a rutabaga, which I learned is a cross between a cabbage and turnip. That worked! The delivery times were excellent, less than 24 hours. When I forgot to order fresh dill, I was able to easily add to the order by shopping as usual after signing in. Unfortunately a couple of hours later, that feature was no longer available.
I didn’t mind that the delivery was about an hour early the next morning. The quality of most of the produce was very good. I managed with the problematic ones. I had to compost about 75% of the fresh dill, but there was enough for borscht. The rutabaga had some rotting bits, but the huge root vegetable was more than enough. Several outer leaves of the green cabbage were wilted, but there was still enough to eventually make four separate batches of borscht. After chopping a quarter of the cabbage, I noticed that the texture left the impression that it had been partially frozen. However, I recalled a recipe for cabbage rolls where the cabbage was frozen overnight to soften it before baking. I wasn't sure if the remaining raw cabbage would keep as long as usual in the fridge, but four batches of borscht all turned out great!
A package of frozen peas arrived in a special insulated bag with an ice pack inside, keeping it cooler than had I shopped myself. Almond milk was in a similar cool pack. Fresh produce wasn’t bagged or kept cool, but stacked in boxes. I used my own reused bags to store raw veggies needing refrigeration.
At least three requests were replaced with substitutions: free range eggs instead of organic; regular almond milk instead of organic, and sugar snap peas instead of fresh green beans. A surprise, but I could live with that! Later I realized that a giant bag of flour wasn't unbleached, which was likely another substitution.
I also ordered a Pyrex baking dish, which was less than half the price at Walmart. That wasn’t considered part of my grocery order, but was shipped separately for no charge. Unfortunately the dish was shaped differently than I expected, narrower with wider rims. I found a more suitable dish in a thrift store with lovely blue glass that just needed some scrubbing.
It's one of the hazards of ordering anything online that you can't see the item up close. There may be surprises. A can of diced tomatoes was enormous, while its companion can of tomato sauce was miniscule. I learned to look at weight more closely than proportions for the future. The dried mushroom order would have probably been disappointing in this regard. It weighed less than the small spice jar of dried onion.
I wondered what other locals do when they need help getting groceries. The Seniors Come Share Society shows many food delivery options on their website. For people with mobility or health issues, volunteers with Sources will take orders to be filled by a local grocery store once a week. Several of the larger grocery chains also deliver. One includes an extra service charge of 7.5% of the order’s total before taxes, but delivery fees are lower.
People without mobility issues might also enjoy the convenience of home delivery. If time pressure is your only challenge, another alternative is to order online for pick up. It means more time online, and less time wandering store isles and possibly meeting people. Better? Maybe not always, but for me, ordering online was a lifeline!
- Irene Plett
Topics: Food, groceries, shopping, online stores, Amazon
Note: The above ratings are based on my experience in November 2019 using regular delivery. Subscribers to Amazon Prime will find delivery much improved. Amazon orders from private suppliers can take longer or may not arrive at all.
Irene Plett is a writer, poet and animal lover living in South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.