I haven’t been inside a grocery store in weeks

My personal shopper calls me to tell me she substituted galas for pink ladys. That she gave me 18 for the same price as the 12 I ordered, since they were out of a dozen eggs in that particular brand.

If I thought I loved Harris Teeter before, I love it even more now that I never have to step inside its doors.

Over the years, I’ve used online shopping before – a few times at Lowe’s Foods. I thought of online shopping as a great tool for when I was hosting a party – I didn’t have time to clean, shop, and cook. So online shopping helped with that. But I viewed it more as a luxury than as something I would need regularly.

But then I started cooking a lot more at home – and the nutritional meals I’m making require a lot of perishables. This means more frequent trips are necessary.

Additionally, Colleen showed me the light that is coupons a few months ago, so I’ve renewed my Charlotte Observer subscription and I spend time weekly cutting coupons and organizing them into my binder. The negative to this is that at the grocery store, this requires math – now I’m comparing prices, looking at the coupons I have for different brands, comparing them with what is already on sale at Harris Teeter.

During triple coupon week, I was in the motorized cart because of my stress fracture. So I was super comfortable as I perused the aisles, breaking out my coupons and watching the savings add up (I saved $80 on that trip.) Jeff was with me but was on foot, reaching all the items that were above my head and walking super slow at the pace of my cart. After I got done with the inner aisles, I only had produce left to buy. This typically takes the most time (on non-coupon weeks), and it only took one look at Jeff’s face to realized I’d majorly overstayed my welcome at the store that day. So I told him I’d get produce another day. As we left, I realized I had kept him there for two hours. Oops.

Anil had suggested online shopping for my hurt foot, and I discounted it since they had the motorized carts. But I wondered if it might not be a bad idea to try again. I was able to spend as much time as I needed that next day shopping online (which really wasn’t much at all; it’s so much faster than “regular” shopping), and then I told Jeff to pick it up on his way home. Easy.

He walked in the door that night and said he never wanted me to email him a grocery list again.

So, it’s $17 a month and that includes unlimited trips to the store. The first trip was free, so I signed up for the monthy rate during the second trip. I’ve probably used it 5 times already and I’ve still got about two weeks left on the month. I tend to do one big trip a week, then I’ll squeeze in a small trip or two as needed – if I forgot something, ran out of something, decided to make something last minute that needs a few ingredients.

At the Harris Teeter at Ardrey Kell, Erin is the person I’ve heard from the most (which typically consists of a voice mail telling me of any substitutions.) She’s super nice and I’ve never been unhappy with her substitutions – she typically picks anything I would pick myself, if not better (such as the 18 eggs that she gave me the price for a dozen – enough of those type substitutions, and that $17 fee trickles away …)

And I have to talk about the produce. I noticed this at both Harris Teeter and the few times I did it in the past at Lowe’s foods. The produce I get through online shopping is some of the best I’ve ever seen. I ordered strawberries last week and there was not one strawberry that was too soft. It was as if they’d been hand-picked. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m wondering if she does the shopping among the items that have not been put out for sale yet – it would make sense. Saves on stocking time and she’s not in the way of the customers shopping in the store, and in turn I get what is the freshest.

Kevin gave me a ride to pick up some groceries a couple of weeks ago, when I’d just started doing this, and the car in front of us only had one bag of groceries. We discussed the value to stopping by the store just for one bag (of course, I’ve since had trips as small as two bags). The car in front of us was a minivan. Kevin noted that it’s possible that minivan contained a child or three. How nice for the parent, to be able to just pull up and have their items brought out to them, instead of having to unload all the kids from the car and drag them around the store.

And yes, they take coupons. To save time, if you hand them your coupons at pickup, they’ll apply it to your next order. You can request they apply it to the current order if you’d like, but they just have to go inside the store and ring them all in. I’ve let them do their thing on the next order, and it works really well.

So, in conclusion, if you shop for produce, you should try online shopping. If you have kids, you should try online shopping. If you use coupons, you should try online shopping. If you’re hosting a party and don’t have time to shop, you should try online shopping. If you’ve ever spent too much time at the store and felt like you wasted an afternoon, you should try online … ok, you get my point. Give it a try. First trip’s free anyway.