Online Grocery Shopping

This weekend I fell victim to a big bad cold. I was driving to my friend’s house for Spa Night, chatting with my passenger, when all of a sudden I sneezed. We were driving through the country on a dangerously windy road, and I panicked a little because I hate sneezing while driving, especially on windy roads. Little did I know that blinking my eyes for a second and potentially careening off the road was the least of my problems. In the remaining twenty minutes of our drive, the sneeze turned into a sniffle, and the sniffle into a mental fogginess. By the time I arrived at Carissa‘s house, I had a nasty cold. That cold has been ruining my life for the last five days.

On Saturday I had to limit my alcohol consumption to 1.5 drinks –  on girls night! Wahh. On Sunday I missed my first soccer game of the season. On Monday I couldn’t make it to work. All I could do was move between the bed and couch, take naps, and catch up on Academy Award nominated films from 2010 (I’m dreading the Comcast bill next month). We had barely any food and I couldn’t go to the grocery store.

Enter Relay Foods!


Thanks to Relay Foods, I was able to do my grocery shopping from the comfort of my own home…

While suffering from the world’s worst cold.

Allow me to explain…

Relay Foods is an online grocer serving Charlottesville and Richmond, VA. Relay allows you to order your groceries via their website, which features a wide selection of items from several local grocery and specialty stores. All you have to do is complete your order by midnight the day before your pickup day, and Relay Foods will do all of your shopping for you and have your items ready to pick up that afternoon. There are several pickup locations every day of the week and I easily found one less than a mile from my apartment on the day I needed to arrange pickup.

I first heard about Relay Foods when Brittany used their service last summer. I had heard great things from my friends in NYC about FreshDirect and this seemed like a similar concept. I was hesitant to try Relay because I really enjoy grocery shopping and I didn’t really trust someone else to choose my produce for me.  My friend Sarah was raving about them this weekend and told me that she had been really pleased with their service and had always received good quality produce. I thought I would pay a premium for the service, but it turns out that Relay doesn’t charge a markup. The prices were really fair. Visit their website to read about how they make money.

So I got my order submitted on Monday night and returned to work on Tuesday. The plan was to pick up my groceries after work. Then I received an email around lunch time notifying me that my order had been assembled. It included a list of all of the items on my order and listed any changes that had been made. I specified in the order that it was OK to make substitutions if an item was not available. Relay gives you the option to accept substitutes or not, line by line, in your online shopping cart when you order. The email also listed weight adjustments for the produce. All of my produce was unit priced by the pound and I was able to order “about one pound” or more; the total price for the item was adjusted once the order was picked. I was very impressed by the extra effort that Relay put into sending me this second confirmation email.

The work day ended, and I drove (sick and tired) to the pickup site. It was right on my way home. I saw the truck and perked up. I had seen the trucks before at my gym and always wondered what they were doing there. Now I’m in on it!

I approached the open back of the truck and was greeted by a friendly young woman who asked if it was my first time picking up (was it that obvious?). I replied “yes” and, to my surprise, she said “you must be Lauren!” How nice is that?

She gathered my bags from the various totes on the truck (some for refrigerated and frozen foods, some for dry goods) and explained my receipt and the return policy. I even got a coupon for 10% off my next order. At this point I was thinking, there will definitely be a next order. My receipt spelled everything out again for me. Click to enlarge and notice how the substitutions actually saved me money.

When I got home, I pulled everything out of the bags to inspect it. I intentionally ordered a variety of things so I could test how they performed in different areas. Did they pick good produce? Was the ice cream still frozen? Is everything well before its expiration date?

Yes, yes, and yes!

I loved using this service and I plan to use it again. I’ve thought a lot about this in the last few days, so here’s the deal. I love shopping for food, especially at the farmers’ market. But sometimes getting to the grocery store is a drag, and on those days Relay Foods will save me time so I can do all the other things I love to do. As the warmer months approach and I reintroduce sunlight to my life (joy!), I’m going to want to spend more time outside, hanging out with friends, and doing things other than comparing boxes of whole grain pasta. I will faithfully visit that farmers’ market every Saturday morning, but maybe I’ll leave everything else to Relay a few weeks out of the month.

After all, their wide selection all in one place could save me hours of running around. Check out all of the places I could cross off my list by sending my business through Relay:

Plus I can discover even more local businesses to support through Relay. Is this starting to sound like an infomercial? Sorry, but I am passionate, people! I am excited about the possibilities. If you are too, check them out here.

Now I’m off to take more cold medicine and dream about my beautiful grocery-filled future.

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