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Last Updated on July 12, 2020 by Stefanie Hutson
This post is a big departure from our usual content, but in talking to some of our readers (an older than average group), we've found that many people are worried about going out, especially those living in places hard-hit by the virus. So, while we usually stick to television and technical help, we wanted to put together this resource post for those looking for alternatives to braving the local shops.
As someone with parents and a grandmother in a rural area, I've spent quite a bit of time exploring the options for getting fresh food delivered in the absence of local delivery services. Hopefully, this can help someone else. Every single service below is one I've personally used. There are some others out there that are no doubt quite good, but I didn't want to recommend anything I didn't have personal experience with at one time or another.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, please note that where possible, we have used our own referral links below. That allows us to earn a small referral fee for some of the services mentioned – while not costing you anything more (and in some cases, using our referral links will give you a discount).
Local Resources for Getting Groceries & Necessities
In many cases, the easiest and simplest option will be to get a little help from a friend or neighbor. Many churches around the country have younger folks willing to shop for older community members, and plenty of neighbors will be more than happy to help out IF they know you need the help.
I know many people have a hard time asking for assistance, but please know that there are tons of people out there who want to do more and don't know who needs their help.
If money is a problem, many churches and food banks will be able to help out. You can use Google and Facebook to find options in your area.
If you can't find anything, I recommend looking for “yard sale” groups in your area on Facebook. Use the Facebook search box and enter things like the name of your town or county + “buy sell trade” or “yard sale”. Those groups are typically limited to people near the area in question, and you may be able to find a kind person willing to help.
Just be sensible about how you share your personal information. Never post details like your address, phone number or credit card information in a group (and don't share your credit card information with individuals – it's safer to use a service like PayPal to send money to their email address when they bring you groceries).
Another way to find local help is through the app NextDoor HERE. Not every town or neighborhood has an active NextDoor community, but they're often full of people who are looking for help or offering it.
Some grocery stores are still offering special hours for seniors, too. Call your local stores to find out if they're offering socially-distanced shopping hours for older members of the community (and you can also ask whether they're enforcing masks in-store so you can decide if you feel comfortable going).
Update: Over on our Facebook page, Jan V had another tip:
Also, join your local Buy Nothing group for your area. You can get (or give) food, supplies etc all free. If you need items to be delivered all you need to do is say so!
Online Grocery Delivery Services & Meal Kits
Maybe you can't find local help, or maybe you just feel uncomfortable asking and you'd rather buy your own supplies. In this section, we'll talk about different services you can use to get food delivered directly to your house. I've used almost all of them personally, and aside from the occasional service with a wait list or item damaged in shipping (always refunded), I've not had any trouble.
Local Grocery Delivery Services
Most of the services in this section will be limited to larger metro/suburban areas. We'll talk about services for more rural areas in a moment.
You can click on the name of a service below to get more details about what they offer and whether they serve your area.
- Amazon's Prime Now – As you might guess, this is a local grocery delivery service owned and operated by Amazon. In some areas, they offer two types of deliveries – service from their warehouse, and service from the nearest Whole Foods location. If you order from the “Amazon” side of Prime Now (orders from their warehouse), whatever is in your cart when you finish checkout is what will be delivered. If you order from the Whole Foods side, be aware that some items might be sold out by the time your shopper goes to grab your items – they will try to contact you about a substitution when possible. You have to be an Amazon Prime member to use Prime Now.
- Instacart – Instacart is a delivery service that works with local stores and shoppers to help you get items from grocery stores, general stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, office supply stores, and pet stores (though the actual options vary by your area). They also offer a $10/month membership option that allows you to get orders over $35 without a delivery fee, which is great if you order more than twice each month.
- Shipt – Shipt is much like InstaCart, offering home delivery from local shops. In many places, you can actually place your order on the Target website and have your Target order brought to your home via Shipt.
- Peapod – Peapod is an online grocery store that's primarily available in Eastern cities in the US (though they may have a few Midwestern locations).
Online Grocery Services
These are services that will ship groceries – including perishables – to your house in almost any part of the country (Hawaii and Alaska may not be available). Please note that many of these services work on a subscription model, so you WILL need to look at your account and skip deliveries (or cancel your account) as needed.
If you want to get occasional deliveries, we recommend using either Google Calendar or a free service like Follow Up Then to send yourself reminders a few days ahead of time so you can adjust your orders or cancel them.
- Hungry Root – This service focuses on healthy foods, and while they offer meal kit suggestions, you're also free to pick and choose items in whatever combinations you like. If you use our referral link, you'll get $15 off your first order. This one delivers to most places
- Imperfect Foods – Imperfect Foods is one of my favourite delivery services because they offer a lot of imperfect products and restaurant overstock – so you're helping to minimise food waste when you order from them. They ship to most of the US, aside from parts of the Great Plains and the Southeast. By using our referral link, you can get $10 off your first order. The way this one works is that you pick your plan, then a few days before your delivery, they let you log in and customise your order according to what they have available at the time.
- Amazon Prime Pantry – This service allows you to load up on pantry staples and nonperishable foods, then get them shipped free (or for $5.99, for orders under the $35 threshold) to your home. You won't be able to get milk and eggs, but you can definitely stock up on things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, crackers, pasta, and so on.
- Walmart – With Walmart, you have a few different options. In many locations, you can have your items delivered by one of their local shoppers. You can also arrange for local pickup (where they bring it to your car and you don't need to enter the store) or mail delivery. When you order for delivery by mail, many items become unavailable – but it's still a great option for many pantry and household items.
- Target – Like Walmart, the Target website allows you (depending on your zip code) to select local delivery, curbside pickup, or mail order. The mail order option won't help with perishables, but it's a good way to stock the pantry.
- Thrive Market – We have NOT tried this one personally, but since mail order, nationwide options are in short supply, we wanted to go ahead and mention it as an option.
- Misfits Market – We haven't personally used this one, but one of our readers on Facebook (Hi, Norma W.W.!) gave it a strong recommendation, saying, “I have used them for well over a year now. I love it. One of the great things is that sometimes you will get to try fruits & veggies that aren't seen in your local supermarkets. For instance, in this week's selections they had candy cane beets, lemon cucumbers and donut peaches. They are also the normal acorn squash, escarole, satsuma oranges, english peas, etc. But each week, there are always going to be odd offerings that I am always eager to try. Sometimes I like those & sometimes I don't. But I like that I get to experience new fruit & veggies that I have never had before.”
- Use code COOKWME-EV3UCZ to get 25% off your first order
- This one delivers to all zip codes in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts (minus Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket Island), Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Ohio, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Many large grocery chains also have their own online delivery services, so be sure to check the websites of any major grocery stores in your area.
Meal Kit Services
Sometimes – especially if you have just one or two people in your household – you just don't feel like buying tons of ingredients and making big meals. In those cases, meal kit services can be great.
There are two basic types of these services:
- Services that send you pre-measured ingredients with instructions for specific meals
- Services that send you pre-made meals to heat up (usually of a higher quality than frozen meals)
While there are tons of them out there, I'll focus on the ones I've used before with good luck:
- Freshly – This one offers pre-made meals you only need to heat up, and they typically have around 30 options to choose from each week. Each meal is a single portion, so this one is great for people who live alone and don't want to cook. Pricing is based on how many meals you order each week, and you can get $40 off your meals if you use our referral link HERE.
- EveryPlate – This is one of the most affordable options for meal kits, and my parents have greatly enjoyed all the meals I sent them from this service. With dinner for 2 and 4 recipes weekly (a total of 8 servings), the weekly cost is a little under $50. Servings get cheaper if you order more, and you can get $20 off your first order if you use our referral link HERE.
Premium/Restaurant Meal Delivery Services
These are the most expensive on a per-meal basis, but hey – sometimes we all want a good restaurant meal. Aside from Goldbelly, all the services below will have fairly limited availability outside of urban areas. Goldbelly delivers restaurant food via FedEx or similar overnight services, so they can ship to most places in the US.
- Goldbelly – This service is NOT cheap, but it can be great for special occasions. Goldbelly lets you order from a variety of restaurants and bakeries around the US. Craving clam chowder from when you lived in New England? They have authentic New England restaurants to send it to you. Looking for a real New York City bagel or a birthday cake from Carlo's Bakery (from Cake Boss)? They've got it. We recently used this site to send my mother birthday cake since we couldn't be there in person this year. This one delivers to MOST locations in the US.
- Postmates – Want a single restaurant meal delivered to your home? This service is available in most US urban areas, along with some suburban locations. You place your order through their website or app, and a delivery person will go collect it and leave it at your door (they offer contact-free delivery). Our referral link gives you up to $100 off delivery fees for orders over $15 for your first 7 days of membership. I believe the exact discount they offer may vary slightly by location.
- Caviar – This is another service available in many metro areas, and they function much the same as Postmates. You place the order, then someone goes to pick it up and bring it to your door. Our referral link will give you $10 off your first delivery order.
- DoorDash – This is another service like Caviar and Postmates, and our referral link will give you up to $15 off ($5 off each of your first 3 orders).
Any Others You'd Recommend?
Feel Free to Share Your Experiences in the Comments!