To Fresh, or Not To Fresh?

More often these days while snooping up and down my street, I see that distinctive light-green Amazon Fresh truck parked in front of someone’s house delivering groceries.  Which sets off speculation about what I’m missing out on.

I happen to be one of those oddballs who goes to the grocery store every day, on foot (okay, sometimes more than once).  I only buy the ingredients for the next meal or from a small list of essentials that need restocking.  Does this behavior make me a chump living in the world’s most high-tech town?  Should I summon that attractive light-green truck with my keyboard to stop at my house and delivery groceries?

To answer this I did a little snooping around some home-grocery delivery service websites and would like to share my findings.  And then open a discussion of your experiences using these services versus old-fashioned physically getting your body down to the grocery store and walking down the aisles.  How does the convenience compare with the psycho-socio-economic experience of grocery shopping?

The Home Grocery-Delivery Contenders

Amazon Fresh – selling anything and everything online, now including food!, “locally-owned and taking over the world”

  • Availability:  Only a limited number of Seattle neighborhoods.  Yes, that’s right, you are living in the only place in the whole country that has it.
  • Minimum Order:  $30 (way more than my average shopping trip)
  • Delivery Fee:  $5.99, free if your order is over $75.  Also free if you become a “Big Radish” (spend $250 a month – becoming a “Big Radish” doesn’t sound that attractive, though)
  • How Fast?:  Order by midnight, get it before 6 AM.  Before 3 AM (for hungry insomniacs), get it between 7 AM and 1 PM.  Before 1 PM, get it between 3 PM and 9 PM.  Pretty darn fast, but not as fast as getting it yourself.

Safeway.com – brick-and-mortar grocery store venturing online, “old-school corporate behemoth”

  • Availability:  Most of Northern California, Portland, Seattle and scattered Other Cities.
  • Minimum Order:  $50.  Even higher than Amazon.
  • Delivery Fee:  $6.95-12.95 depending on size of order and time of delivery.  No mention of becoming a “Big Radish”.
  • How Fast?:  Order by 3:30 AM for delivery between 10 AM and 3 PM.  By 8:30 AM for delivery after 4 PM.  Delivery availability is first-come, first serve.  Also pretty darn fast, but still not as fast as getting it yourself.

Spud – greatly expanded CSA, “repeat after me:  local, organic and carbon-neutral”

  • Availability:  Seattle, Portland, SF, LA, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Calgary.  Apparently, people on the West Coast like having groceries delivered.
  • Minimum Order:  None.  Yep, that’s right, None.
  • Delivery Fee:  Varies with zip code, but in 98103 delivery is free if your order is $33 or more.  Below that, fee varies depending on size of order.  You also pay 22 cents per order for a carbon offset fee to be a good person.
  • How Fast?:  In North Seattle delivery day is Thursday.  Yes, Thursday only.  And no fancy business about ordering the night before and getting it before 6 AM, mister.  It comes between 9 AM and 9 PM and you can only order up to 2 days before.
  • Selection:  I didn’t browse Amazon or Safeway since I assumed their selection was huge.  But Spud’s is quite a bit more limited (repeat: local and organic).  We’ve actually been getting them as a CSA for quite a while with a standing order of produce. But I haven’t tried the other food offerings.  (Full Circle Farms and New Roots Organics are other CSA’s that deliver to Wallingford, among others.  But besides the produce box, these only offer a handful of other groceries, in the case of New Roots, only coffee.)

My bottom line?:  I like leaving my house and walking through the neighborhood and being in the store and looking my groceries in the eye before choosing them.  And only buying what I need when I need it.  The whole thing is, well, . . . fresher.

  1. Sparky said,

    I vote for New Roots Organics (not a CSA actually, more like a procurer from mostly local, always organic sources) and get a weekly delivery of fruits, vegetables and coffee (and add in extra treats for the spoiled chickens). The quality is incredible and getting it delivered doesn’t mean not walking! A lot of value in a little bin and no glut of anything like with some CSAs. One may also customize their order from the weekly offerings. What shows up drives the weekly menus, my kind of fun. (A one-time bin makes a great gift.)

    Thu, August 19 at 9:50 am
  2. Morgan said,

    One of the main reasons I use Amazon Fresh is that you can get some pretty amazing discounts if you buy stuff in bulk. There’s usually a 15% discount on cases of things – it’s just as cheap if not cheaper than Costco, and doesn’t involve driving to a giant warehouse far away. I still end up going to QFC several times a week, but for staples, it makes a lot of sense to buy them in bulk from Amazon.

    Thu, August 19 at 10:19 am
  3. ssm said,

    Yes, what Morgan said.

    Plus, I have two little ones that a) eat a lot of food, and b) don’t like to go to the grocery store with me EVER, much less every single day. I used to shop at Fred Meyer for its prices, even though every single time I went there my little one would knock items off the shelf and/or have a tantrum in the check out line. Amazon is a very nice alternative. FYI, I buy almost all my fruits and veg through our CSA and the Farmers’ Market, and use Amazon for big staples like juice, milk, flours, and kid items. (This places us easily in the 250 a month for a family of five (including the dog)). We still frequent QFC and Whole Paycheck and Bartell’s, but yes, most of our non-veg grocery cash goes to Amazon, and I’m fine with it.

    We used to use Safeway online, but their website took longer to place an order than me going to the store and back. AND did I mention how the groceries end up on my doorstep with amazon instead of, oh, in my car, a block and two staircases away? It’s nice to not schlep two kids plus bags of groceries back and forth from the car. When they’re older and in school, I’ll probably revert to going to the store, but until then, I swooooon over Amazon Fresh and thank my lucky stars!

    Thu, August 19 at 10:44 am
  4. Olivier said,

    SSM account reminds of this French not PC commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_0bhT98g9Y. I love how the internet helps us address tantrums too!

    On a serious note, I was with Spud when they were still called Pioneer Organics and dropped the service when Spud bought them, just because I realized that for a weekly delivery, I could still go to the farmers market, and get almost the same items (the local and organic at least).

    Thu, August 19 at 12:59 pm
  5. latonamom said,

    I too love AmazonFresh for staples. Great for bulk purchases of diapers, wipes, toilet paper and the like that are awkward to buy on a walking trip to the grocery store. They also have a great local baby food product that I can’t find anywhere else “World Baby Foods”. Great flavors like Baby Dahl and Baby Borscht.
    I also like that I can see which time slots already have a truck in the area, which makes me feel like my groceries are carpooling. And then for daily items and fresh produce and I walk to QFC and Whole Foods and the Meridian Market.

    Thu, August 19 at 1:41 pm
  6. Chris W. said,

    I don’t own a car, and the hike back to my place from QFC prohibits carrying too much at once. So I order staples from Safeway (cat litter, dry goods, etc) and then pick up the fresh stuff at QFC or PCC or Farmer’s Markets.

    One could say that grocery service/delivery makes it possible to keep one more car off the road!

    Thu, August 19 at 1:58 pm
  7. Dave F. said,

    If you have kids or a job or both, AmazonFresh will improve your quality of life. You can even get a subset of Amazon.com stuff delivered in the bins with your groceries. So, the night before a 6-year-old classmate’s birthday party when you remember you haven’t bought a gift at 11PM you log on, place an order for a few books/toys, and, voila, it is sitting in a bin on your porch alongside the triscuits and organic apples. I know this sounds like a commercial, but in terms of timesaving devices I would give up my clothes dryer before I gave up Amazonfresh!

    Thu, August 19 at 2:43 pm
  8. Wallingford Mom said,

    I wonder what the environmental impact is of having even more trucks (=bad gas mileage, big, noisy) driving our residential streets to deliver groceries to people’s houses several (?) times a week. We try to limit our grocery shopping to one car trip a week. And like Helen, we like walking/biking to QFC for the rest. However, if there is something good to be said for those trucks (e.g. efficient routes), I would consider ordering as well.

    Thu, August 19 at 3:52 pm
  9. TT said,

    Well, we have kids and don’t own a car, so Amazon Fresh makes it much easier to get the shopping done.

    I do sometimes pick up groceries on the way home from work, but we have a standing order for all the heavy, bulky stuff. Fetching that stuff on foot with preschoolers in tow is non-trivial.

    We could instead buy a car and clog up the neighborhood with yet another unnecessary vehicle, but we go Fresh instead, so from our perspective environmental impact of Fresh = -1 car.

    Thu, August 19 at 4:11 pm
  10. SJM said,

    Great reasons to use Fresh:
    - produce hasn’t been handled by grocery store customers who squeeze it, drop it, juggle it, who knows what else with it before you buy it.

    - you can place an order before you go out of town and arrange for it to be on your porch when you get home

    - you can order in advance for the night when you are hosting company, then if the event gets cancelled, just go to the website and cancel the order. no waste!

    - in terms of environmental impact, think of the lighting, cooling, computers, etc. it takes to run the QFC. eliminate all of that by having the truck, that is already in the neighborhood, just make one more stop at your house. remember, QFC brings trucks into the neighborhood, too, they just stop at 45th & Wall instead of at your house. Then they lead to huge electricity needs to run the store….

    - Fresh’s customer service is amazing.

    Thu, August 19 at 8:30 pm
  11. Domenic said,

    I used to buy groceries from Spud and have been disappointed when a couple items weren’t included. Either they forgot to pack something or they ran out of stock. If I wanted to make chili and ordered meat, corn, beans, etc., but would receive everything except the meat… I’d have to go to a store anyways.

    Thu, August 19 at 9:32 pm
  12. Lori said,

    Oh man! Everyone’s so on top of this! I thought I’d be the first to advocate highly under the new(er) mom/buy big staples only/groceries carpooling/super fast/friendly/convenient/cheaper than Sam’s or CostCo guise.

    Apparently, I’m not so original.

    We used to live in San Francisco, and would get Safeway delivery every once in awhile. It was fine, but not necessary.

    I like Amazon Fresh more than a friend. They truly make my life much easier (and more cost effective). I’m continually amazed at their prices, selection, promptness, and overall ease of doing business. We still love the Farmer’s markets and QFC for daily items, but rely on Amazon Fresh above all else to keep our babies in diapers. :)

    Thu, August 19 at 11:41 pm
  13. Herman said,

    Not to be the only naysayer here, but there is a negative impact of Amazon Fresh that no one is mentioning. When you purchase from a company like Amazon you inherently take money, business, and even jobs out of our neighborhood.

    There have been a ton of times when it would have been easier or cheaper for me to buy a book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. But then I think about how bummed I’d be if Half Price Books, Third Place Books, Elliot Bay or our own Wide World Books went out of business.

    The same goes for grocery. We just had a story last week that Meridian Market is going out of business. Did competition from Amazon Fresh contribute to that? It can’t help.

    Amazon can have such great prices because they have low overhead. Part of that is inventory and not having the costs of leased space. But another big part of that is fewer employees. The employees QFC, PCC, and the independent grocers in (and near) our neighborhood are part of our community. And I would just hate to see them lose work because of this.

    That being said, I totally get the whole buying in bulk when you have kids thing, I don’t have kids, but that makes sense to me.

    I Don’t mean to come off as too preachy. Sorry if I did.

    Fri, August 20 at 8:08 am
  14. SeattleAlan said,

    Herman, you have a point.
    Well, everyone has a point. Our kids are out of the house, but it sure would have been handy if the home delivery was around 25 years ago. The shopping at the market does get one out and in the community – and that might have saved a business like Meridian Market.
    btw – that commercial, Oliver, was great. A swat on the butt and duct tape would do the job, though, wouldn’t it??

    Fri, August 20 at 8:21 am
  15. Helen said,

    A big factor for me is enjoyment. It’s fun to browse the aisles of the store and see what’s on special; I like the smells, the sounds, the ambiance, chatting with the employees (who are usually very sweet), considering stuff I might never buy but might some day. I do have a wheeled cart which makes heavy items much easier to get home. But it’s totally easier with small kids to get delivery, no one wants to walk down 45th St. with a jumbo pack of diapers! We used to schlep up to Costco for them, also toilet paper, etc. Maybe the problem is irrational guilt. It seems way too easy to have someone else bring groceries. :-)

    Fri, August 20 at 8:36 am
  16. Sparky said,

    A huge thing for me is enjoyment and the time spent sorting out my weekly New Roots Organic delivery (from their small van, deliveries clumped by neighborhood efficiently).

    On another note (ignoring butt swatting for the moment and assuming it was a JOKE), was I the last parent to walk to a local store to buy cloth diapers, wash them at home and hang them out on the line to dry? Or in the basement?

    Fri, August 20 at 9:02 am
  17. Sparky said,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/opinion/20budiansky.html
    As i was writing about cloth diapers just now, this newspaper article got handed to me; it spells out energy costs with respect to transporting food.

    Fri, August 20 at 9:11 am
  18. Helen said,

    We go to the Farmers Market and get a CSA too. Going to the Farmers Market is way more fun than unpacking a CSA box. It might be a primitive hunter-gatherer instinct to go out and collect your food. The grocery store is a public, social space where you interact with people. Going there makes my life feel less individualistic and impersonal. Everywhere in the neighborhood, we go on foot.

    Fri, August 20 at 9:59 am
  19. Sparky said,

    New Roots Organics is not a CSA . . . her produce comes washed, sorted, gorgeous. NRO is not a CSA. NRO is not a CSA.

    Fri, August 20 at 10:06 am
  20. iyqtoo said,

    @ Sparky. Lots of us used cloth diapers back in the day & more folks are using them now than 10 years ago, but only those with the money to do it! Have you priced those things lately! The ones you’d leave with a caregiver-as in low barrier-run $16 to $20. EACH! Then there’s the cost of the machines you’ll need to make the cloth vs plastic decision pencil out energy-wise in favor of the cloth ones?

    Love the link, but seems to be pretty much a waste of energy trying to sway tunnel-visioned greenies with facts. Facts only confuse them.

    My thoughts about home delivery in general–We’re aging boomers who chose urban living to avoid being isolated when we can’t drive any more. Carrying home anything beyond the smallest items will eventually be out of the question. With any luck, by that time Amazon Fresh will be delivering every damned thing, from wine to potting soil! (If they don’t do that now, haven’t looked yet)

    If local retailers really want to compete for my business, they’d establish a neighborhood kiosk to arrange delivery of the stuff too big for me to carry home when I’ve walked up to shop. Just sayin…

    Fri, August 20 at 10:33 am
  21. latonamom said,

    Sounds like Costco is really the company that should be nervous. As everyone seems to have shifted their Costco runs to AmazonFresh and still hits the local markets for produce and the like.

    Fri, August 20 at 2:31 pm
  22. ER said,

    I would like to preface this post with the fact that I am not a parent.

    As a kid, I remember learning very important life lessons thanks to grocery shopping trips with my parents. As a tot, not to touch things, run, talk loudly and to remember to respect other people’s space. Things that take consistency, right?

    As I grew older, grocery shopping trips consisted of learning how to make healthy and economical food decisions. Following a list, thinking about the big meal picture, staying in a budget, etc.

    How do your kids learn this sort of stuff if your shopping online?

    Fri, August 20 at 4:14 pm
  23. Rachelle Mee-Chapman said,

    We are a car-free family of 4. I stop by PCC most days by bike, and I shop at the Wallingford Farmers Market when I can. But I also use Amazon Fresh for heavier items or big shopping trips — like when we are throwing a party or having overnight guests. You find a lot of the same local, organic products that you can get at PCC. Also, you can choose a time slot when a truck is already in your ‘hood (grocery carpool!) and/or choose from thier eco trucks.

    I could order from Amazon Fresh once in awhile, or I could drive a car all the time.

    Fri, August 20 at 4:30 pm
  24. SeattleAlan said,

    On the diaper topic, we used Baby Diaper service for both kids, who are 28 & 31 now. So, it has been a while (26+ years). Cleaned and sanitized diapers delivered and soiled ones picked up twice a week. We took them every everywhere and it made us feel much more environmentally friendly to not have more garbage going in the landfill. Didn’t even think of washing them ourselves – the service could clean them much better. Don’t even know if the company still exists – was over on Leary in Fremont.

    Fri, August 20 at 5:25 pm
  25. TT said,

    Not to be the only naysayer here, but there is a negative impact of Amazon Fresh that no one is mentioning. When you purchase from a company like Amazon you inherently take money, business, and even jobs out of our neighborhood.

    Uh, you know Kroger owns QFC, right? They’re based out of Ohio. Amazon, on the other hand, is local.

    Any idea how many of your good neighbors in the ‘hood work for Amazon? Answer: Honestly, I don’t know, but I can think of at least a dozen folks just off the top of my head, and I don’t really get around the neighborhood that much. It’s *highly* likely that Amazon is putting more money in your neighbors’ pockets than any of the local markets.

    There have been a ton of times when it would have been easier or cheaper for me to buy a book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. But then I think about how bummed I’d be if Half Price Books, Third Place Books, Elliot Bay or our own Wide World Books went out of business.

    I love the local bookstores, but, at this point, as a heavy book buyer, I gotta say, I’d be *way* more bummed if Amazon went out business than if my local bookstore went under. It’s great to have that personal and physical connection with the local store, but Amazon just vastly more informative, useful and comprehensive. I like ‘em both, but as a bibliophile and oldster, I can remember the pre-Amazon days, and I have to say it was not really a better time, especially if you lived out of the city, like many, many people, with nothing but a mall-based Walden Books to keep you supplied.

    The same goes for grocery. We just had a story last week that Meridian Market is going out of business. Did competition from Amazon Fresh contribute to that?

    Speaking just for myself, yeah, that’s dead on right. Sorry about that one. :(

    Sat, August 21 at 2:11 am
  26. TT said,

    I would like to preface this post with the fact that I am not a parent.

    As a kid, I remember learning very important life lessons thanks to grocery shopping trips with my parents. As a tot, not to touch things, run, talk loudly and to remember to respect other people’s space. Things that take consistency, right?

    How do your kids learn this sort of stuff if your shopping online?

    Prefacing this with the fact that I am a parent…

    Trust me. There is *plenty* of opportunity to learn these things outside of a grocery store.

    Sometimes it seems like my kids lives are nothing but this kind of “life lesson” — or at least, I’m willing to bet, that’s how it seems to them. :)

    Sat, August 21 at 2:19 am
  27. TT said,

    Maybe Meridian Market should have offered delivery?

    Sat, August 21 at 2:21 am
  28. Herman said,

    TT:

    Yeah, I do know that Kroger owns QFC (Fred Meyer too), and Supervalu owns Albertsons, and Safeway owns Safeway. My point was less about ownership and more about the workers. A lot of grocery workers are already working poor.

    Overall, I think your post speaks to what is great about a free-market. We all get to vote with our dollars. We all get to build our community the way that we want through how we spend our money. If you value the existence of Amazon over local bookstores you can do your part to make that happen. And I can do my part to promote the things that I value.

    I think the important thing is that people recognize that when they spend money they are making a choice and they are impacting the future direction of the neighborhood.

    Sat, August 21 at 7:51 am

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