Online Grocery Shopping Tips and Warnings

In order to limit their contact with others during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have opted for online grocery shopping.

It was becoming a booming business even before the coronavirus struck the country. Online grocery sales grew 22 percent in 2019. This year, it is expected to grow about 40 percent.

Placing orders online for delivery or pickup accomplishes the goal of staying out of stores. Having all your groceries left at your front door or waiting for you outside a store is a great alternative.

But as we’ve learned, nothing is perfect. There are some challenges with online grocery shopping. Today I want to look at some of the pros and cons. And give you tips on how to avoid those cons.

Shoppers are only human

Among the most common complaints about online grocery shopping is human error. While most shoppers hired by Instacart, Shipt and other services are competent, others are not.

Some do very well at finding the items you’ve ordered. Others struggle with it. The best shoppers will communicate with you via text while they’re shopping. They’ll recommend a good alternative if an item you ordered is not available.

Other shoppers won’t do that. Or they’ll pick out what they think is an adequate alternative without asking you.

Some shoppers fill your orders in a timely fashion. Others seem to take too long. Most will contact you when they leave your groceries on the front porch. Others forget, resulting in perishables sitting outside to spoil or perhaps be stolen. 

Scheduling a delivery timeslot

For some stores, there is only one service available for a grocery delivery. For others, you can choose. Many people make that selection based on how quickly each service promises to make a delivery. 

You may have a wait on your hands, depending on various factors. Including where you live, how many people are placing online orders at that time and how many shoppers a service employs in your area.

In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to schedule a delivery timeslot. But as a general rule, if you refresh your page throughout the day, something will open up.

One trick some people use is placing their online orders after midnight. In addition to more timeslots opening up, stores are restocking their shelves.

Pickup is an option

As discussed, a shopper may tell you one or more of your requested items are unavailable. Then ask if you’d like a substitution.

Try to be available for contact with your shopper when they are searching for your items. That could very likely result in getting what you want.

Another option is ordering online for pickup. This could be a third-party shopper filling your order and waiting for you. Or it could be a store employee.

Either way, there are often more pickup time slots available than delivery time slots. You’ll still have a service fee, but the delivery fee will be waived.

Produce can be challenging

Presenting one of the biggest challenges to online grocery shopping is produce. A box of Cheerios is a box of Cheerios. But every bunch of bananas looks different.

Your tolerance for bruising on fruit will be different from someone else’s. A shopper won’t know what that tolerance level is.

An option for you with fruit and vegetables is using a produce delivery service. Not every item will look perfect. But everything should be relatively fresh.

In addition, food stands in your area might offer pre-packed produce boxes at set prices.

Tip your shoppers

Like all human beings, shoppers are imperfect people. They’re going to make mistakes. Don’t expect perfection when you shop for groceries online.

But even when mistakes are made, consider tipping generously. These shoppers are not millionaires doing this for fun. They may be unemployed due to COVID-19. Or they might be doing this as a second job to make ends meet and feed their kids.

Obviously you’re not going to over-tip when one of them does a poor job. Including failing to communicate with you regarding substitutions. But if they do an adequate or better job, let them know you appreciate them.

Shoppers are out there risking their health by visiting often-crowded stores so we can remain at home.   

Additional suggestions

Here are a few other tips for online grocery shopping.

  • Prepare your list before you log onto the site where you place your order.
  • If possible, list back-ups for items you think may be out of stock. That will save your shopper time and result in you receiving your groceries sooner.
  • Try to place your order a day or two ahead of time. That will increase the likelihood of receiving your groceries in a timely fashion.
  • Consider curbside pickup. In addition to saving money, you shouldn’t have to get out of your car.
  • Try different services. You may find you prefer one over others. It can become your default choice, assuming it services the stores in which you are interested.

4Patriots 4-Week Survival Food Kit

COVID-19 has made online grocery shopping much more attractive to many people than ever before.

And if you’re going to have food delivered to your home, why not make it food that will last for many years?

The 4Patriots 4-Week Survival Food Kit features a bunch of family-favorite recipes. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. All you need to do is add heat and water. You’ll be eating in about 15 minutes.

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