Look! Santa Brought Me Groceries! Loving that Pickup Service

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl. This morning, coughing and feeling like multiple blades were slicing through my head, I was out in the dark before dawn in my bathrobe loading my garbage cart and pulling it to the curb. I’m not about to whine “I’m sick and can’t do it myself.”

Why not put it out the night before? Bears. We’ve got bears who love to snack on our trash.

But COVID put a real crimp in my schedule, and I needed groceries. If I wore my mask and stayed sealed in the isolation chamber of my car, couldn’t I use their pickup service? Stores have been offering drive-through groceries since the pandemic started, but I insisted on picking out my own food, squeezing the grapefruit, grabbing whatever appealed from the sale racks, and buying those things I forgot to put on the list. Now that I was Typhoid Susie, that was not an option.

I ordered my groceries from Fred Meyer on Friday night, clicking the picture of each item as the price added up on the side. Would I accept substitutions if needed? Yes. I paid with my debit card and chose an 11 a.m. Saturday pickup time. All I had to do was go get my stuff—or ask someone else to get it for me.

The Fred Meyer app on my phone had a box to click when I was on my way. Sort of like when you tell a loved one you’re on your way home or to their house. Like someone cares, you know.

The pickup parking spaces are near the garden department at the far end of the parking lot. Ten numbered spaces. You park behind a blue sign, click “I’m here” and tell them what number you’re at. Then you wait.

How would the food come? Would there be fancy bags? Would a team arrive to heft them into my car? Would I need to come out and show them my debit card? It was a little like waiting for Santa Claus. Or a blind date. 

A young woman with a blue FM vest came pulling a flatbed cart loaded with blue bins full of brown paper bags. It must be terribly heavy, I thought. But she was all smiles as she transferred bags into one car after another until she got to me. I got out. She didn’t need my card, or me. So many bags! She said there was just one substitution, bigger grapefruit than I’d ordered, a two-cent difference.

I felt guilty just standing there while she loaded, but I didn’t want to get in her way or share any germs that might escape my N-95 mask. When I retested on Sunday, the result was negative so maybe I wasn’t contagious anymore anyway.

In a few minutes, I was loaded and on my way home, feeling elated. I got my groceries, didn’t have to beg anyone or do without, didn’t have to fight the crowds or stand in line to check out. Plus all my choices were pre-made and I could not be tempted by the goodies in the pastry section or grossed out by the dead animal smell in the meat section. 

I forgot a couple things, but I had bread and mayonnaise again. I got all the things I ordered. Well, the chicken was huge, and they gave me far more mushrooms than I expected, but boy, Santa Claus/Fred Meyer delivered. I even got light bulbs and printer paper for the office. 

This system is brilliant. It feels like having a personal shopper. Is it lazy? I don’t know. Maybe it’s more like the olden days when you took your list to the counter and the grocer got your stuff for you. 

Even if there were no COVID, think about people who are sick, who can’t walk, who have bad backs, who suffer from social anxiety, or parents wrangling a herd of kids. It could even help middle-aged people taking their elderly parents shopping. My father was horrible to shop with, blocking the aisles while we debated every little thing. Imagine if we could have picked everything out at home and then arrived to have it placed in the trunk, wow.

I feel empowered. Look at me taking care of myself. And God bless the blue-vested elves grabbing my goodies off the shelves.

Fred Meyer is not the only local store offering this service. Walmart and Safeway do it, too. Ray’s in Waldport has curbside pickup. I hope they keep it up when COVID is just a distant memory. It’s a big help for many people and kind of fun, too.

What about you? Have you done drive-through/curbside pickup shopping for groceries or other things? Did it work out all right?

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Maybe I’ll See You at the Grocery Store

Grocery shopping conceptLet’s talk about grocery shopping. That was the subject of a workshop at the Newport 60+ Center on Saturday. Dropping in between playing piano for a funeral and a regular Mass, I was a little overdressed in velvet and jewels. But can you be too overdressed to talk about strawberries and broccoli?

Mike Stephenson, who spent many years as a produce manager at Safeway and Savemart stores, shared some of the backroom secrets grocery store owners may not want us to know.

Do you know why the meat and dairy are usually in the back? That’s so shoppers have to walk past all the other items and be tempted to buy things they hadn’t planned to buy. That’s also why you often find the bakery next to the produce. You’re loading up on healthy greens and fruits, but the smell of fresh bread or donuts is driving you crazy. Right? That’s what they’re hoping.

The stores are like a giant Monopoly game. Some aisles are big-ticket spots like Boardwalk and Park Place while others are the lowly Baltic Avenue. Stephenson estimated stores make 30 to 40 percent profit off produce, 20 to 25 off meat, and 45-60 percent off non-food items.

Did you know that companies like Pepsi and Starbucks pay for the shelf space where their items appear? Double profits.

Have you noticed the security cameras everywhere? Theft is a big problem at grocery stores. It’s hard to catch the culprits and they cannot be legally apprehended until they leave the store.

Being a produce expert, Stephenson had lots of advice about buying and storing fruits and vegetables.

For example:

  • Buy what’s in season. Right now, it’s things like grapefruit, avocados, kiwi, oranges, pears, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and yams. You might find peaches and strawberries in the stores, but they won’t be as good, especially here on the Oregon coast where all the produce comes from other places.
  • Buy organic berries grown without pesticides. It’s nearly impossible to wash the regular ones well enough to be safe.
  • Wash everything before you eat it, even fruits like oranges that seem to be safe in their heavy peels. As soon as you cut into them, whatever is on the outside goes in.
  • Take your berries out of the container and spread them out. Otherwise, if one gets furry in the middle, they’ll all go bad.
  • Those bags of mixed greens (like the one in my refrigerator) are already on their way out when we buy them because they’ve been cut up and separated from the nutrient-giving base that holds the leaves together. Make your own salad. The ingredients will last longer.
  • If you shop when you’re hungry, you will buy more. Eat first and stick to your list. But you knew that, right?

For years, I hated shopping because I didn’t have enough money. Now the challenge is buying enough but not too much for just one person. Package of six pork chops? Why would I need that? One crab? That just sounds sad. I want some cake but not a whole one. God bless the stores that offer single slices and smaller servings.

Do you use coupons? I don’t. They’re never for what I want to buy. I do try to time things so I get the J.C. Market’s Tuesday senior discount, 10 percent off the entire bill. Fred Meyer stores offer a senior discount too, but only on their own Kroger brand merchandise.

My mom and now my dad were strictly once a week shoppers. Always in the morning. For the most part, I shop weekly, too. When Fred was alive, he loved to do the grocery shopping. I made him an aisle-by-aisle checkoff list. How often do you shop? Do you use a list or decide as you go along?

What’s the biggest challenge for you at the grocery store? Can you find everything you want at the same store or do you have to shop around? Do you stock up at Costco or stick to local stores? Do you love grocery shopping or hate it?

Let’s talk about groceries. And then let’s have a snack.

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The clever photo is from pixelbliss via 123rt.com stock photos

 

 

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