Welcome Relayers!

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions for BYOBB lunches that you wrote in the comments on my last post and sent via twitter. I really enjoyed getting some fresh ideas for my brown bag lunch dates.

Speaking of fresh ideas, check out the Relay Living Blog today, where the good people of Relay Foods have featured my recipe for Engagement Tofu as a Valentine’s Day special. And I would like to add that you don’t have to have a special someone in your life to enjoy this delicious vegetarian dish. The most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves. Show your self a little love and whip up this tofu sometime soon!

If tofu doesn’t quite do it for you, I have a new recipe for cupcakes that will satisfy your sweet tooth. If you’re a chocolate lover, look out for this post in the next few days. This cupcake was by far the most beloved confection I have ever brought into my workplace. And I have brought quite a few cakes, cookies, and scones into that office in the past. None have compared.

And hey, if you found me through the Relay Living blog today, welcome! You can find out more about vegology by clicking on the About link at the top of the page. If you like what you see, you can subscribe by clicking on Sounds Delicious on the right hand side of the page. Check out my review of Relay Foods here!

Welcome to Paradise

I have been spending a lot of time in the Blue Ridge Mountains lately. So much that I kind of want to rent a cabin up there for the weekends. The scenery is beautiful, the hikes are challenging, and the food and beer is all that I could ask for and more. It’s no surprise that Kyle and I have chosen to get married out there. With all of the meetings and planning we have to do, I am sure that by October we will feel like locals.

Of course we always try to hit our favorite spots while we are in the area, and because I have spent extra time there lately I have even discovered a few new favorites. I used to think that my best-ever Blue Ridge discovery was Blue Mountain Brewery, or perhaps Shenandoah Joe. However a new-to-me local establishment is vying for the top spot: The Cheese Shop. This place is a bulk food wonderland! The shop itself is smallish, larger than a convenience store but much smaller than a grocery store, and it is packed with aisle after aisle of pre-portioned bulk foods. I went in with twenty dollars – check out how far that got me!

This might not seem like much, but when you see the prices on these items which would usually be splurges for me, you’ll see what I mean about how far I stretched my twenty dollars. I feel like I made out like a bandit.

  • Dried Tomatoes – 0.61 lb for $3.00
  • Organic Amaranth – 0.84 lb for $1.82
  • Buckwheat Flour – 1.67 lb for $3.11 (X2 – one for me and one for a friend!)
  • Golden Flax Seed – 1.36 lb for $1.75

 

  • Carob Chips – 1.3 lb for $2.94
  • Crystallized Ginger – 0.64 lb for $2.86
  • Chia Seeds – 0.17 lb for $1.47

I think I did pretty well. Now I just have to figure out what to do with all this stuff! Several of these ingredients are new to me, so all suggestions are welcome. What’s your favorite way to use amaranth? Buckwheat flour? Carob? Chia?

Next time you’re in Augusta County, VA, I recommend that you make a trip over to the Cheese Shop. Since receiving this suggestion from a customer, I have collected a few more tips on great bulk food stores in the same area, so I may have more favorites to report soon.

The Cheese Shop is at 2366 Tinkling Spring Road in Stuart’s Draft, VA. Open Mon-Fri 9-5:30 and Sat 9-5. Closed Sunday. Visit them on the web at thecheeseshopva.com.

 

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!

Source: RelayFoods.com

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.