Tag Archives: shopping

Internet Grocery Shopping Experiment – Groceries Express Fail

Heat Wave

My car has been acting up lately. I know what it needs and already have the part (water pump).  Unfortunately, it has been lethally hot outside for the past few weeks. We’ve been under excessive heat advisory for over two weeks now, with 115-120 degree temperatures. I even saw a 122 degrees on my thermometer the other day. The heat has probably contributed to my recent lack of productivity here in the written world. Needless to say, it’s not conducive to being outside doing car repairs either. The car is not completely disabled; I can drive it 5-10 miles at a time without a problem, but I don’t trust it for a 50 mile round trip to the supermarket.

Shop Without Going Shopping

What better time, I thought, to try online grocery shopping. With gas prices continuing to rise, perhaps it might be a viable option, especially if I factor in the two hours it takes to go, shop, and return. Not to mention the temptation for impulse shopping. Internet grocery shopping would be a good exercise in discipline, too, forcing me to carefully make a list and stick to it without opportunity for cheating.

Out Of Service Area

Where could I do this internet shopping? If I lived in the Phoenix metro area, Safeway would deliver to me. Not out here, though. It seems most decent sized cities have at least one grocery store or service that offers home delivery. Heck, if I lived in the city, I’d probably be within a mile or two of a supermarket and quite possibly within easy walking distance. I wouldn’t need delivery.

A Few Options

The two biggest internet grocers, Peapod and Netgrocer, were of little help to me. Peapod only serves northeastern states. Netgrocer will ship anywhere, but unless you are very close (again, the northeast US) shipping rates become prohibitive.  And of course, no dairy, meat, or fresh produce, either, outside of their local service area. What other options?

Amazon has a pretty good selection of non-perishables, and the prices aren’t too bad, but it seems you have to buy everything in minimum quantities of six (or more). I don’t have room to store six of everything. And they don’t do meat, dairy, or produce.

Maybe I Found One?

I found another place — Groceries Express — with slightly better prices than Netgrocer, more reasonable shipping rates, and they even had some refrigerated items on their site. I decided to give it a try. I chose a small assortment of items that I needed: a bag of whole-bean coffee, hard salami, a couple of kinds of crackers, a jar of olives, and paper towels. I also wanted to see how they handled refrigerated items, so I ordered a couple different kinds of cheese as well as a jar of Claussen pickles.

I ordered on a Friday afternoon, expecting the order would be filled and shipped the following Monday. While my order’s status changed to “pulling from warehouse” on Monday, it didn’t actually ship until Tuesday evening. It arrived in Phoenix that Friday, where it sat in a warehouse over the weekend until it was delivered to me on Monday.

Epic Fail

The large red “refrigerate on arrival” label on the box was promising. I opened the box, and found the contents to be efficiently packed. One of the two glass jars was wrapped in a sheet of foam, and the other in some sort of paper-based pad. There was no broken glass, but there was a definite pickle odor. The paper-wrapped jar was the Claussen pickles. They apparently were leaking from around the lid seal. Luckily the paper padding had absorbed the relatively small bit of liquid, preventing damage to the other contents. More importantly, no attempt was made to keep the pickles cold (Claussen pickles are made cold, never boiled, and therefore must remain refrigerated for safety as well as quality). The cloudiness of the usually clear liquid told me they were spoiled and would be both undesirable and unsafe to eat. Two plastic pouches claiming to contain cheese enclosed two oily globs of matter — one yellow and the other orange.

Even the crackers were mostly broken (and the saltines tasted like cardboard — the manufacturer’s fault, not the vendor’s), so all I had left for my $80 and over a week’s wait was coffee, salami, paper towels, and a small jar of olives. Needless to say I was not pleased. Their mishandling of the refrigerated items, especially since their availability was the reason I chose this company, is inexcusable.

Back to the drawing board. I guess internet grocery shopping isn’t designed for those of us who could really benefit. Perhaps there is still a way I can do my grocery shopping with a minimum of driving. Maybe, using a combination of sources, I can meet my culinary needs without having to stray too far.

Shop Local

While the nearest real supermarket is 25 miles away, might there be a closer option? I have my choice of three convenience stores right up the street, all with an equally overpriced and virtually nonexistent selection of actual groceries. But there’s a small General Store about seven miles away that I recall had a slightly better selection and somewhat lower prices. Worth a look-see. It turns out that they have enough of a selection to survive on, if one isn’t too picky. Canned meats and fish, some basic fresh produce (I saw bell peppers, lettuce, cabbage, celery, onions, and potatoes, as well as common fruits), frozen veggies, basic dairy (milk, butter, eggs, and cheese), and plenty of boxed, canned, and jarred goods.

I can continue this minimal-driving grocery shopping experiment by purchasing as much as I can at this relatively close general store. It will let me reduce my driving while also allowing me to spend my money closer to home. Some of the slightly more exotic (at least by rural standards) items like whole-bean coffee, herbal teas, and “raw” sugar I’ll have to buy online and have shipped. I might even indulge myself with an occasional trip to the real supermarket. Schwan’s could be an option, too, for some items. In addition to the ice cream they are well-known for, they also deliver an assortment of frozen foods. Mostly ready-to-microwave entrées and meals, but they do have frozen meats, vegetables, and ready-to-bake bread too. And they even deliver here in my area.

What’s Your Experience?

If any of you have any experience with internet grocery shopping or other food delivery services, good or bad, I’d love to read about them in the comments.

Advertisements

Poorly Packed Shipments

Be forewarned. This will be a bit of a rant.

Is it just me? It seems anymore when I buy something online there’s a better than 50% chance the item will not be properly packed when it is shipped to me. This seems to be a growing trend.

How Not To Pack An Item For Shipment

I’m sure different people have different ideas of what constitutes secure packing, but I’m receiving packages where apparently no thought whatsoever went into the process. Surprisingly often I will find that a box significantly larger than the inner box is used, with absolutely no packing material whatsoever added to take up the space. No polystyrene peanuts. No bubble wrap. No shredded or crumpled paper. No plastic pillows. Nothing. The merchandise is free to rattle around in the box as it travels across the country or, in some cases, around the world.

They’re Not Amateurs

The most surprising thing is that it isn’t the amateurs, like first-time eBay sellers. I’ve actually had pretty good luck, overall, on eBay, with a rare exception or two. It is major mass retailers who should know better. Like Amazon. Not just the third-party sellers, but even shipments directly from the Amazon warehouse. In fact, more often than not Amazon shipments have no or insufficient packing and the product bouncing around inside.

But Why?

It seems everyone is doing it. Are they trying to save the nickel that the appropriate packing material (bubble wrap, peanuts, or paper) costs? Or the few seconds it would take to stuff it into the box? Maybe they should have an option on the checkout screen: “Please pack properly and securely (add $0.25).”

Recent Reminder (Rant Trigger?)

The latest example was received just yesterday. It was a lens for a DSLR camera purchased through Amazon from a third-party seller. The lens, in its flimsy manufacturer’s box (designed to sit on a store shelf, not to protect the lens) was stuffed into a box that was much too large in two dimensions, and too small in the third. And (as is not uncommon with photographic gear) the box was not secured closed from the factory, and the shipper had not secured it either. During shipping, the constant pressure from the wrong sized outer box, combined with the weight of the lens inside the inner box, and the lid had popped open. What I received was a large box containing a smaller squashed box plus a loose lens, now escaped from its own box, moving about freely inside the larger box. Of course there was no bubble wrap or stuffing of any kind in there. GRRRRRRRR. It managed to survive unscathed, somehow (miraculously?), as best I can determine.

How’s Your Luck Been?

Thanks for letting me vent. I feel a little better now — until next time. Feel free to use the comments to share your own horror story about improperly packed merchandise.

Right Sized Shopping

I’ve always been a frugal shopper.  I try to get the most for my money, especially when buying groceries and household supplies.  This can sometimes be a real challenge for those of us who are single and/or live in small spaces.  Often the best bargain is to be had in the larger sizes.

Big House, Carefree Shopping

When I lived in a great big house it was pretty simple.  My only concern was if I could use it up before it went bad.  I had plenty of cupboard space to stock up on dry and canned goods when they were on sale.  Same thing with paper products.  36-roll packs of toilet paper on a really good sale?  I’d take two or three.  I also had a great big fridge with a great big freezer.  The freezer was great when there was a sale on frozen stuff, or things that can be frozen, like meat.  The fridge, on the other hand, while it was nice to have plenty of room for cold drinks and such, was really too big for one person.  It encouraged over-buying of freshies as well as collecting leftovers that had to be thrown out once they became unrecognizable.

Little House, Careful Shopping

Now I live in about a hundred square feet.  No room to stock up on toilet paper now.  I have a really small fridge (in reality, at 4 cu. ft. it is probably just the right size for one person) with a tiny freezer compartment.  No more stocking up on meat and frozen foods.  And I’ve learned what really needs refrigeration and what can do without, as well as alternative items (like shelf-stable UHT milk).  My strategy now for many consumable items is to try to buy only enough to last until my next regular shopping trip.  I think the business sector refers to this as “just in time” inventory.  The supermarket has a lot more room than I do – I’ll let them keep my overstock.  I still try to get good deals, but I know I am not always able to get things as cheaply when I only buy what I need.   I can call the amount I overpay the price of being able to live comfortably in a small space.  And while I might be spending more buying right-sized items, I’m not wasting as much to spoilage.

How about you?

Do you practice right sized shopping?  How is it working out?  Any tips you’d care to share?

Good and cheap – mutually exclusive?

Sorry I haven’t written in a bit. Had a bit of whatever’s been going around and just wasn’t in much of a writing mood for a few weeks.

So where were we? Oh yeah – filling you in on a little history.  So I’d decided this was do-able.  I’d have basic shelter plus all the technological comforts of home.  Next step was to learn as much as I could about RVing in general and motorhomes in particular.  Where did I go?  Where I always go when I need to absorb information on anything – the internet.  There I found lots of info.  Blogs and websites about general RVing, full-time RV living, technical info about all the various systems (as a fully self-contained living unit, a typical RV needs its own electrical, water, and septic systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, and more).  Now I’m a very handy person and can fix almost anything, but there was still plenty to learn.  How the RV systems differ from conventional systems, for example.  And how they are similar.  What things are subject to more frequent failure and why.  A fantastic resource was (and continues to be) the RV.NET forums.  Full of people who’ve been there and done that.  Post a question and you’ll quickly have lots of good answers.

Now that I’ve educated myself a bit, it’s time to go shopping.  My budget?  As cheap as possible.  I hoped to find something a little older, maybe in need of a little TLC that I could do myself, but no major problems.  I posted on the forums about what I hoped to do, asking if I was being realistic or just dreaming.  As you can imagine, the replies ran the gamut.  Some folks wouldn’t feel safe (nor be caught dead driving) anything older than five years old.  Others were a bit more realistic, suggesting that I should be able to find something good in the 5-10 year old range.  All but a few seemed to think that trying to buy a motorhome for full-timing on a shoestring budget was more wishful thinking than reality, suggesting that in the long run it would be more trouble than the money saved would be worth.  Some went as far as to suggest that if I couldn’t afford to buy a nice, late-model rig, then perhaps I shouldn’t be contemplating the lifestyle.  But it’s all opinion.  Some folks, OTOH, were supportive, with the caveat that I’d need to be pretty handy and do my own repairs, and to try to buy something with no apparent defects because there will always be some hidden problem or another, and things will eventually break.  No need to complicate matters by starting out with known problems.

Time to hit the usual places for used vehicle buying.  Dealers tend to be more expensive than private sellers, but they are nice for being able to compare different units all in the same place and get an idea of what I like and dislike about different styles and different floorplans, get a feel for different sizes and features, etc.  Most of the stuff at the dealers was bigger and more expensive than I was interested in, but it was still educational.  Next stop, the private sellers. Craigslist, RV Trader, and a couple other sites that list RVs for sale by private individuals.  Looked at tons of ads.  Most of the cheap ones were obviously junk, and most of the nicer ones were either way too expensive or already sold.  Alot of them I just didn’t like the floorplan.  Still, I managed to find some that seemed promising enough to actually look at in person.  What did I say about the cheap ones being junk?  Oh well.  Then I found one that looked OK.  Even in person.  I liked the floorplan.  Everything seemed to work.  No evidence of major leaking or structural damage.  Ran well.  Tires were decent.  Despite being almost 30 years old, it was in better shape than alot of much younger coaches I’d looked at.  It seemed to have been well maintained.  Had just the right mix of replacement parts of various ages, indicating that things were serviced or repaired as needed (rather than a rush “let’s get it fixed so we can sell it” rehab project).  After a little haggling, I became the proud new owner of a 1979 Georgie Boy Cruise Master “Mini-Home”.

Next installment:  repair and customization