Have you ever thought about the energy we waste doing grocery shopping? Once a week or more we get in our cars, spend gas to get to a big box grocery store, where huge coolers and freezers blast cold air out into the open. We pick up a few things, plop them down at the checkout aisle, drive everything home, and then do it all over again the next week.
Now multiply that by the millions of people who are doing the same thing. The energy wasted is enormous, not to mention the time you spend repeating the ritual week after week.
How about getting your groceries online through a grocery delivery service? These services are spreading rapidly ever since the inception (and demise) of Webvan during the dot-com bubble. You get on a web site, browse through a tremendous selection of products (from fresh vegetables to meat to dairy products), add them to a virtual shopping cart, and then schedule a delivery time–usually a day in advance–as you check out. The delivery fee is usually minimal.
I have used Peapod, a grocery delivery service available in the DC area. I found it to be very effective in getting products easily to my doorstep. Products with expiration dates (like milk and meat) had dates well enough in advance that it was never a problem. The delivery was weather-sensitive as they would use climate-controlled trucks and dry ice in boxes to keep your groceries cold during the hot summer months. Most items I wanted were in stock and delivered, but in cases where they are not Peapod offered me the choice of either delivering a suitable substitute or not delivering the unavailable product and giving me a credit on my bill.
There are drawbacks. Obviously you can’t handle produce beforehand–while the service’s pickers are very competent in selecting good or acceptable meat, fruits and vegetables, you may feel you’d do a better job yourself. Trucks would on rare occasion run a bit later than the advertised time.
Overall, though, the benefits in terms of time and energy saved outweighed the drawbacks. Imagine if everyone were to use such as a service. Instead of everyone wasting gas flocking to wasteful stores, delivery trucks could efficiently coordinate mass grocery deliveries to many people in different neighborhoods and on different schedules. Freezers and coolers could be centralized in certain locations and used far more effectively than in the typical grocery store. The entire distribution channel would be far more efficient, so the benefits to the environment would be huge.
If you simply don’t think you can use an online grocery service, then at least consider getting a membership to a warehouse-style grocery store like Costco, where you can buy in bulk at a discount and save gas and time by not having to go to the store as often. You’re also helping the environment by reducing the amount of packaging used by the bulk products you buy.
In any case, here are some of the online grocery shopping services available in the U.S. that you might want to consider:
Peapod works with Giant and Stop & Shop to serve the Chicago, Boston/Cape Cod, Milwaukee, Southern Connecticut, Long Island, Baltimore, and Washington DC metropolitan areas as well as other areas in New Jersey and Rhode Island
Safeway.com has online groceries in California, Arizona, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington DC.
Vons.com has an online grocery shopping service available in Southern California (Los Angeles, San Diego) and Las Vegas.
Genuardis.com does grocery delivery in the Philadelphia and Washington DC metro areas.
Hy-vee has an online groceries service in Des Moines.
Freshdirect.com has an excellent grocery delivery service in the New York City metropolitan area.
Groceries-express.com serves Detroit.
Coborn’s has a new service providing groceries online to the Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Cloud, Minnesota metropolitan areas.
Netgrocer.com has an interesting model–they serve the entire US and will send you groceries via Fedex. They have mostly non-perishable products as well as some meats and dairy products, but no produce.
Wegoshop.com is also interesting, in that it works with independent local associates to provide grocery delivery to their communities. The only way to know if you qualify is to look your location up on their website to see if any associate is available there.
Did I miss one? Let me know!