Since we got married, David and I have generally done our grocery shopping together. Sure, sometimes one or the other of us will swing by the store on the way home from work for some salad or something, but we have mostly braved the actual trip to the store together. It’s kind of nice to spend the time together and use some teamwork skills to divide and conquer. But…it’s still going to the grocery store. There are usually a billion people, seemingly all with a cart parked in the middle of the aisle, right in your way as you try to get by them while they stare for 20 minutes at the diced tomatoes.
So I was excited about a year ago when I heard about this service called Retail Relay. They were advertising that they went to all sorts of stores all over Charlottesville and did your shopping for you, and then you could pick up your order at one of their drop spots. It didn’t cost customers any more than the regular store prices, which was cool…but I went to their website, and it felt disorganized and hard-to-use to me, so I never really tried it out. Well, now they have totally re-branded themselves under a new name – Relay Foods – and have a completely new website and everything. I checked out the new website and really wanted to try it. I talked to David, and he was intrigued, too. The closest pick-up spot to us is on Thursdays, which meant we had to order everything online by midnight on Wednesday. So last Wednesday, we spent some time making a menu for the next week and choosing our food from the Relay website. Our first try!
What We Liked
- Not going to the store. Holy cow, that was awesome. Shopping in your PJs on the couch, and then picking it all up the next day in one fell swoop was great.
- Access to all kinds of local farms, pasta makers, bakeries, cheese shops, grocery stores, etc. without actually having to drive to them all separately to get their stuff. We bought kale from one local farm, apples from another, chicken from another, ground beef from another, plus bananas and cereal and stuff from Whole Foods and a locally-owned grocery store.
- You can shop by searching on a term, by browsing aisles, by looking at specials or what’s popular, etc., and you can sort by best match, name, price, best selling, coolness, and random.
- When you order, if you feel really particular about something you’ve picked out (brand loyalty or whatnot), you can choose for that item that you don’t want them to substitute anything else if it’s out of stock. But if you just want black beans and you don’t care if they’re Goya or something else, you can tell them that a substitution is OK.
- If they do substitute something, they will tell you about it in an email before you do your pick-up, and the pick-up person will point it out to you to make sure it’s OK. If it’s not OK, they’ll refund you.
- They can deliver to your house for an extra fee, if you’re willing to pay for the convenience or if you just have a really busy week and need it that one time. Or if you’re house-bound or agoraphobic. Any excuse, really.
- You can order beer and wine. And potentially have it delivered to your house. SWEET. They do ID you when you pick up (or they drop off), though.
- Their logo is adorable. It’s hard not to love them for that.
- The staff person I met when I picked up my food was super-friendly and helpful, and everything was separated into shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen containers. He even carried all my stuff to my car and put it in the trunk for me.
- They support the local food bank. ‘Nuff said.
Things That Weren’t Our Favorite
- In some ways, they don’t have as much variety on their site as you would have going to a store. For example, you can get chicken from about 6 different sources, but say you want our favorite cereal in the world, the Kashi Go Lean Crisp Toasted Berry Crumble. They have a couple of Kashi Go Lean cereals, but not that one. You can request that they carry it in the future, but who knows if/when they will or how many people have to ask for them to add it or how long it takes to add it. It can be frustrating if you really love a very particular thing, because they may not have exactly that.
- We think they should have a text box with the substitution drop-down options. We ordered a marinade for some chicken because it sounded yummy, but we would have been happy with just about any marinade – and we said “please subsitute” if it was out of stock. But I guess because it was a mango marinade and they didn’t see any other mango marinades, they just didn’t get anything. It would have been nice to say in a text box, “any marinade will do as a substitute if they’re out of this one.”
- Bananas. Oh, bananas. We eat a LOT of bananas in our house – David and I each usually have one a day. So we don’t have to get them several times a week, we usually get some green ones and some ripe or almost-ripe ones. You can’t choose that here – you just order bananas, and they bring you whatever they can get.
Overall, I’d say the pros outweight the cons, and we definitely have more options in some areas (like meat, produce, baked goods, etc.) than we did just at our usual grocery store. But there’s still room for improvement. We liked it though – I think we’ll do it again. Saving the hassle of fighting people at the grocery is fantastic. AND – friends in Richmond, they expanded to Richmond a few months ago. You should check it out, srsly.