Parenting hack: Save time with online grocery shopping

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As I’m writing this, our week has been a doozie. My family’s afternoons and evenings have been double- and triple-booked with soccer-playoff tournaments, basketball and baseball practices, Girl Scout meetings, a third-grade musical program and a school fundraiser. At one point, we had to call our personal Uber driver (a.k.a Grandpa) to transport kiddos from one parent to the other.

Weeks like this are inevitable, so I’ll take any and all help I can get. That’s why I decided to try online grocery shopping. To be honest, I’ve always liked the brick-and mortar, face-to-face, immediate-gratification kind of shopping. I typically grocery shop when my kiddos are in school, but this week, I needed it done early and fast.

My one goal was to feed my kids real food and not dine out. With that in mind, I made a quick meal plan, sat on my couch and opened my laptop.

Fry’s ClickList

First up: Fry’s Food Stores. It made sense to start here, because I’m most familiar with Fry’s products, prices and — most important — in-store coupons. With Fry’s online service ClickList, you simply add items to your online cart, reserve a pickup time and place your order. (That’s right, I would eventually have to leave my couch.)

When I signed onto my Fry’s account, I was surprised to see all the products I had purchased from my last (in-store) shopping trip on the screen. I could easily restock by adding any of them to my cart. My new meal plan meant I had to put in a tad more effort. Each product I searched for quickly appeared on the screen. I even ordered deli meat, noting how I like it sliced. After about eight minutes, I was ready to check out. Here are six things  I learned:

• Don’t expect your order to be ready at a moment’s notice. You must order before midnight for next-day pickup.

• Not all Fry’s stores offer the service, so make sure the location is worth the drive.

• Because you can’t use paper coupons for this service, you need to scroll the weekly ads and add digital coupons to your rewards card.

• You need to pay with a debit or credit card; cash, checks and gift cards are not accepted. You don’t pay online when you order, but when you pick up your groceries in the store parking lot. (This is in case the store is out of any of the items you ordered or if you’re not satisfied with any items.)

• The first three ClickList orders are free, then a $4.95 service fee applies.

• You can add/modify your list until midnight. After I placed my order, I remembered I needed cooking spray and added it to my list.

Finally, it was time to pick up my groceries during the one-hour window I selected. ClickList signs at Fry’s clearly directed me to a designated parking space and instructed me to dial a phone number. Within two minutes, a sales associate was rolling groceries toward my car.

We reviewed my order and discussed items that were substituted from my original list (Cheetos showed up in the bag, instead of the organic snacks I had ordered, but my kids were thrilled, so I let it slide this time). They adjusted my total, scanned my debit card and I was on my way.

All in all, I really liked this service, largely because of my familiarity with the store. I found ClickList easy to use and helpful.

Amazon Prime Now

Man in the kitchen searching for recipes on his laptop with food ingredients and fresh vegetables on the left, top view
Online grocery shopping can ultimately be a time saver for busy parents, but it requires some meal planning and preparation. iStock.

After I placed my online order with ClickList, I realized I was out of laundry detergent. I felt stuck. Heading to the grocery store sort of defeated the purpose of online ordering, so it was back to my couch, laptop and Amazon Prime Now, which offers household items delivered in two hours.

My only disappointment was that product brands were limited, and prices were a tad more than I would pay at a grocery store. And there’s a $20 minimum total for the delivery service. But I was paying for convenience, so in this case, it was worth it.

Checkout was a bit of a pain. Because this was my first time using this Amazon feature, I had to re-enter a lot of information/preferences that I assumed were already stored in my account profile. Nonetheless, I placed my order with instructions to leave my purchase at the door. And just like that, two hours later, I had a load of laundry in the washing machine. Considering I had previously missed the window for next-day pickup with Fry’s, Amazon Prime Now had my back!

Safeway Grocery Delivery

My last online grocery-shopping experience came at the end of our busy week. I’m not as familiar with Safeway, but its service combines the best of both worlds: online ordering and delivery! After the week we’d just had, this was a welcome option.

I hopped online about 8:35 a.m. and again realized I was five minutes past the same-day delivery deadline. Pressing forward (and with a quick menu change for that night’s dinner) I ordered anyway, choosing my one-hour delivery window for the following day.

Selecting and ordering from Safeway’s Grocery Delivery was similar to both my previous online experiences. Finding grocery items was easy. Items on sale were clearly marked, so if there were options, it was easy to see values and savings. Another time-saving treat: I didn’t have to worry about uploading digital coupons because sale prices are automatically calculated.

Speaking of savings, I used a free-delivery promo code that included $5 off my total purchase! I quickly learned Safeway offers daily promo-code deals. This is helpful, because there is a regular delivery fee of $9.95 on orders $150 or more and $12.95 on orders less than $150. Safeway also allows a window of time to make additions or changes to an order.

The following day, my groceries were delivered a half-hour early. I checked my order and sent the associate on his way. As I unloaded the bags, I realized my epic mistake on produce. The produce selected for me was fine, but rather than selecting “by the pound,” I had selected “by the unit,” so my family ended up with exactly one apple, one pear and one sweet potato. Lesson learned.

Pulling up to my driveway and seeing the Safeway delivery truck waiting for me gave me a big sense of satisfaction and calm. I certainly could have benefitted from these services years ago when I was at home with my kids and my husband traveled a lot, or when I was working 40 hours a week in an office. Having groceries delivered as I was getting home from work would have been life-changing. Although it does take a bit of advance planning, the convenience is worth it.

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