Grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic

A/N: No, this blog hasn’t been hacked! I’m trying to write *something, anything* and this is a place I can post things I’ve written. Here is a thing, albeit nonfiction, I’ve written for no particular reason except to muse about an adulting thing most of you have probably figured out long ago.

In some ways, it feels like this pandemic has put so much of life as I knew it has paused. And yet, time continues to flow in this little pocket of uncertainty. To continue existing within, I still have to work, study, pay rent, do my laundry, feed myself…. Finding time to get everything done can be a tad overwhelming. Especially during these winter months, I struggle with completing all of my outdoor errands (on foot, I might add) while there’s still daylight (with its relative safety). Plus, I would prefer to minimize my time outside among large crowds of people, some of whom still think it’s okay to stand very close to you, barefaced, and cough…. Though it has enabled some questionable retail therapy decisions on my part, Amazon Prime was my gateway to convenient online grocery shopping during this COVID-19 pandemic.

As a college student, I’ve been eligible for a six-month free trial followed by 50%-off monthly membership dues for the remainder of my academic career. (Amazon Prime membership is also similarly discounted for recipients of certain government assistance, and a large variety of food items are eligible for purchase using SNAP EBT cards.) This grants access to Amazon Fresh, Prime’s grocery delivery service, as well as Whole Foods delivery. You can also find plenty of nonperishable foodstuff in regular Amazon’s catalog that ships free with Prime. A decent amount of Amazon-brand (i.e. Fresh, Happy Belly) food products are affordably priced, decent in quality, and certified kosher (a plus for me). There are of course items that are priced much higher than they would be at my local, in-person grocery store, but I’m willing to splurge a little for the convenience of having it delivered to my doorstep.

One thing I’m not so crazy about is the way they’ve pitched their “Two-hour delivery” service. The wording is such a gimmick. One does not simply place an order and receive it in two hours through the magic of Prime delivery slave labor; in actuality, you place an order, and you’re given the opportunity to schedule your delivery during some two-hour timeframe between now and never. You get a limited set of choices for this two-hour timeframe, sometimes with the earliest possible slot being several days later. (The first time I’d purchased from Amazon Fresh, I barely had any food left and I was really hoping to get some real food in the fridge by the end of the day. I have since rethought this strategy, because popcorn is only fun when you can choose between it and steamed broccoli.)

Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods each offer free delivery for orders over $35, but you can’t combine items from both sources towards a single $35 purchase. Whole Foods isn’t nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for nothing, though; most of their items tend to be higher-priced than I am generally comfortable paying on a regular basis, but I would have been more inclined if it was all counted towards the same $35+ purchase. Below the $35 threshold, the so-called two-hour delivery fee is priced at $4.99, which can be quite reasonable.

A resource that isn’t as widely available, but definitely a tremendous help for me, is Anycart. Anycart seems to be a social business startup which currently offers free grocery delivery from select vendors. In my area, that’s limited specifically to … Amazon Fresh and Whole foods! (Anycart and the Amazon conglomerate seem to have a startup-sponsor relationship.) The free delivery — with or without a Prime membership, I might add — is a very significant point in their favor for me, compared to competitors in grocery like InstaCart or Shipt! This allows me to enjoy the occasional Whole Foods mini-splurge! Startups come and go, and I really ope that behind the scenes, people at Anycart are being treated fairly; for as long as Anycart is around, I highly recommend taking advantage of this resource if they operate in your area.

Before I jumped headfirst into the harsh world of adulting, the idea of buying fresh groceries online would have seemed both fantastical and consistent with unfortunate “lazy millennial” stereotyping at the same time. Back in the days when the highlight of my week was taking a break from homeschool to accompany mom to the grocery store, I probably would have LO’ed incredibly L-ly (and been promptly shushed by my dad) if you told me people could and would shop for groceries online in the near future. As much as I enjoy shopping the old-fashioned way, I’m very grateful to have this safer alternative during these uncertain times; and in general, schlepping to and from a grocery store is one less thing for which I have to budget time when things get busy.

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