Online Shopping: The Faster, Cheaper and Easier Way to Buy Food

John Romaniello discusses his strategies for healthy food shopping online.

Food-for-Thought-and-Trust

I’ll be honest — this is a blog post I never thought I’d write; mainly, because the origin story is a bit embarrassing.

You see, I started doing my grocery shopping online for one simple reason: I’m lazy. Not because I wanted to save money, not because I’m “too busy.” I’m just too lazy.

As you probably know, I happen to like healthy, organic foods and high quality meats…which means I can’t shop at “just any” super market. To find the stuff that I feel necessary to fuel my body and keep me healthy, I would normally go to a health food store.

“Going to the store” in NYC basically means walking there.

Well, the closest Whole Foods is about 26 blocks away from my apartment. Or really, 23 blocks and 3 avenues (avenues are much longer). According to the AroundMe app on my iPhone, that places Whole Foods about 1.4 miles from my house.

Not a bad walk, and one that I’ve taken. Ha! My mistake.

The first time I walked to Whole Foods, I failed to realize that I’d have to WALK BACK — with 6 bags of groceries.

Well, I’ll never make that mistake again. It was just plain inconvenient.

Of course, there are other methods of transport. While there is no subway near my place, I could take a cab to the store which would basically mean I’d be spending about $8.00 each way — and I just refuse to do that.

And so my options were to either deal with the walk or find an alternative. And since I was definitely done with 3 miles of walking, half of which was laden with baggage, I did just that. And that alternative was to simply buy my groceries online.

As I said, I turned to online grocery shopping out of laziness. However, once I found the right sites, I basically fell in love.

For those who haven’t tried it, let me regale you with reasons why I love online grocery shopping (and trust me, there are A LOT).

First and foremost, there is the ease and the speed.

Without question, shopping online is about five times faster — and I can’t even tell you how much that means. Everyone knows that “time is money” but energy is also a hot commodity. Let me tell you, grocery shopping at a New York City supermarket can be like going into battle — it’s not just time consuming, it’s also exhausting. Chalk one up for online shopping: it’s much faster to navigate between aisles virtually than it is to deal with cart traffic in the stores.

Of course, there is also the convenience.

The “stores” are never closed, and I can shop in my underwear. That’s great. Not to mention I can get my shopping done from bed, at work, or in front of the television and relax while doing so. And the benefits keep going.

Speaking generally, you also it also makes you more organized by default. You never “run out” of things, because if you shop 1-2 times per week, you wind up ordering stuff that you’re not out of stock on.

In addition to other things, you have the benefit of technology.

That is, the site basically takes certain things out of your hands. If you shop at the same site consistently, not only are past orders saved (and easy to repeat with just one click), most sites allow you to mark favorites — which pretty much eliminated the need to keep a shopping list. I no longer wrack my brain trying to figure out what item I’m forgetting and I don’t randomly buy items to compensate for what I’ve forgotten.

Along these lines, shopping online helps me save money in all SORTS of ways.

Firstly, items on sale are highlighted and categorized. I can browse the sales category and the “buy one, get one free” offers before I do anything else.

Another benefit: I’ve found that it’s easier to identify and compare cost per unit online.

Most online retailers allow you to compare products against one another right in the store.

And with my handy-dandy calculator, I can figure out if it’s a better value to buy one or two units, or order a whole case of something.

Order totals are calculated as I go, helping me stick to my budget and avoid the embarrassment of asking the clerk to put items back in store.

This once happened to me in college — I was shopping with my roommate Nick, and when we were checking out, we realized we were short on cash. This was embarrassing for a number of reasons. Mainly, we had to figure out which items to return to the shelf. But, that’s a story for another day…

A final note on saving money: in keeping with the thought above, I don’t buy stuff I don’t need.

Impulse buying (which has ALWAYS been an issue for me) is a lot less prominent online.

Not only because you don’t have the temptation of actually seeing or smelling it, but also because you literally see the total in front of you at all times. In a supermarket, you only see the total when you’re getting rung up. Online, ever time you add something to your cart, you see the total increase — and not surprisingly, I wind up adding a lot less junk to my cart because, let’s face it, I don’t want to pay for crap I didn’t really want in the first place.

Now, we’ve got all the benefits for YOU covered.

But did you know that shopping online can also be beneficial for the environment?

Yea, like, for real. In fact, a study conducted by the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute in 2009 suggested that shopping online could reduce our environmental impact up to 66 percent.

Pretty crazy, right?

Yeah: save time, save cash, save the planet. Not bad.

Okay, okay, so WHERE do you do it?

Now, there are a lot of online shopping services, many of which may be specific to your local area. For example, on of the most popular here in NYC is Fresh Direct. It’s very good, but not available everywhere. For example, FD doesn’t deliver to Long Island, where Momma Roman lives. Figure out all the local issues is a pain.

And so, since I don’t want to make recommendations that are only applicable to just a few people or a few areas, I’ll just swing for the fences and give you the Big Boy.

For all around online grocery awesomeness, I’d say go with True Foods Market.

Firstly, they deliver just about anywhere, so right there they win. If you’re trying to eat healthy and organic, but you live in a small town, you can still have access to great food.

(Side note – it pisses me off that large chains like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods preach “local goodness” but won’t open up in a town with a small population. From a business perspective it makes sense, but it rankles me.)

Anyway, no matter where you live, True Foods will hook you up. Plus, they have the one of the largest selections of organic food that I’ve seen.

You can find just about anything there (deodorant, toothpaste, granola, almond flour) but some of the more delicate items (like eggs) are not there. I assume this is because they don’t ship well. Thankfully for me, you can get organic eggs just about anywhere (including 7-11).

I’ll say, though, that I usually buy my meat online at US Wellness Meats.

So, do I buy EVERYTHING online? No, of course not. I still walk to my local market (about 6 blocks away) and buy fresh produce  — I like to get my hands on that stuff right away. Also, I happen to be very, very picky about my fruit, so I like to pick them out by hand…and I am dynamite with my squeeze test.

Other than that, I buy it all online — usually at True Foods.

Okay guys, time for you to talk — what is your opinion of online grocery shopping? Do you do this?

Love the idea? Hate it? Do you shop online?

John Romaniello is a New York City based personal trainer, coach and author.

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