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vegiesAs 2012 came to a close I found myself house/wheel chair bound due to a freak accident that resulted in hip repair surgery. I have good friends as well as clients who offered to help me if I needed it – I live alone. Not wanting to burden them, and being stubbornly independent by nature, I decided I would only ask for help if I truly couldn’t get something accomplished in any other way. This led me to try online grocery shopping.

Here in Boston online grocery shopping is done through Peapod which is associated with Stop & Shop. And so albeit reluctantly, I went to the website and established an account. I’ve always preferred to do my own grocery shopping, picking out my produce, browsing the aisles for new and interesting products/brands, bagging my groceries in recyclable bags making sure the tomatoes and other fragile items don’t end up getting crushed on the way home.

My first foray into online grocery shopping was a pleasant surprise. The website was responsive, I found everything I wanted, it was really easy to compare prices, and there were no mishaps with the delivery. I also had occasion to call customer support with a question and found then pleasant to talk to. Unfortunately my second time ordering groceries wasn’t as successful. Maybe it was a timing issue -between Christmas and New Years – but still.

My second effort at online grocery shopping started the evening after Christmas. The web site was so slow I gave up in frustration. When I returned a few days later the site wasn’t as slow, but wasn’t especially speedy either. In general it takes longer to “browse the aisles” online than it does to browse them in-store. In addition, the selection is smaller online and prices even for sale items are not always the same when ordering from Peapod as they are when going to your local Stop & Shop. The difference in selection is due to the fact that when Peapod shops for you they aren’t going to Stop & Shop, they’re shopping in their own warehouse. As far as the price differences go, I’m not sure what accounts for this.porkchops

Instead of selling fruit by the pound, they sell it by the piece. The exception to this is is bagged fruit. Pre-packaged navel oranges will be sold by the pound, while loose oranges, apples, etc. will be sold by the piece. Is this so they can save time by not having to weigh the produce? I didn’t order a lot of produce partially for this reason and partially because I wasn’t sure what the quality would be like. Pictured above is most of the produce I did order and the quality was excellent. I was also uncertain about what size I would be getting of each item. I ordered an eggplant and didn’t know if it would be large enough for the recipe I planned to make. Fortunately it was this time, but will I always get what I need since I can’t specify the weight I want? There was also a price difference for the Weight Watchers Smart Ones frozen meals. Stop & Shop had them on sale at 6/$10 with the stipulation that shoppers needed to buy 6 otherwise they would pay $2/box if the quantity was under six or additional boxes were purchased. On the Peapod site the price defaulted to $2/box and even though I ordered 6, I was still charged $2/box.

When I grocery shop for myself I usually buy the family packs of chicken breasts, pork chops, ribs, etc. I’m careful about what I eat and how much I eat. When buying a large package of chicken breasts it can sometimes be hard to get a package where all the breasts are similar in size, making all my portions similar in size. In-store I can pick and choose. Online I can only specify how many packages I want. Peapod indicates the weight range that the package will be, but can’t tell me how big each breast will be. There’s nothing they can do about this, but for me its another negative to shopping online for food.

kashiboxTwo other big negatives are not getting what I ordered because they’re out of stock, and receiving damaged goods. Several of the items I ordered were out of stock – cherry tomatoes, chicken quarters, brussel sprouts, chicken sausages, and one of the Weight Watcher meals. For the latter they substituted a similar Lean Cuisine meal and gave me the Weight Watchers sale price; Nice! For the chicken sausages I ordered they substituted a flavor I didn’t want and the delivery person took it back. However for the chicken, tomatoes and brussel sprouts they offered no substitutes and I was out of luck. I could’ve looked at my order online prior to delivery, but when you’re busy this just adds to the time it takes to order online, and I’m not sure I could add to my order at that point anyway. When sale items are out of stock in-store you can request a rain check so that you can purchase the item at a later date for the sale price, Peapod did not offer me a rain check for any of the out-of-stock items. Of course had this happened in-store I would have substituted another kind of tomato for the cherry tomatoes, another vegetable for the brussel sprouts, etc.

All of my groceries came packaged in single plastic bags. These are bad for the environment and bad for the groceries. They have no structure, are flimsy and don’t hold very much. When I forget my recycling bags or buy more than my bags hold, I put a brown bag into a plastic one when packing boxed, canned and bottled purchases. This gives the bag structure, makes it more sturdy and enables me to pack more into the bag. Produce goes into doubled plastic bags. My groceries then come home in one piece. My first Peapod delivery came to me as it should have, but my second one had several problems: dented cans, a crumpled cereal box, smooshed pork chops. The worst were the pork chops which leaked resulting in a messy package that I had to handle and unwrap. Bottom line – When I’m well again I will shop for myself. Until then Peapod provides a much needed service that I can supplement by going to my neighborhood market.

Have you shopped for groceries online? If so, what’s been your experience?