Friday, January 19, 2018
Cooking

From the food editor: I got groceries delivered to my house with Instacart

I am not someone who likes to shop online. As Sex and the City's wise newspaper columnist Carrie Bradshaw once said, shopping is a form of cardio.

I also just like going out, being around people, perusing the shelves, being swayed by a sale.

But when I heard that a new grocery delivery service was going to be expanding further in the Tampa Bay area, part of me was very into the idea of not having to stop at the store on my way home.

Instacart, a grocery delivery service that first launched in the Tampa Bay area back in October, expanded to Sarasota and its surrounding cities (Bradenton, North Port, Longboat Key, Parrish, Holmes Beach and Palmetto) in March.

It's a website and smartphone app from which customers can order groceries, from stores including Publix, Costco, Total Wine, Whole Foods, Petco and more. The service is one of many on the market now, including Shipt and Amazon Prime Now.

I grocery shop a lot, especially for the job-related cooking I do weekly. Sometimes I really enjoy perusing the aisles; sometimes I resent it. (Sometimes I go when I am starving and it is dangerous.) I imagine many of you can relate. So on a recent Sunday, I parked it on my back patio, opened my laptop, and ordered about two dozen grocery items. Here's how it went.

First, you put in your address to see which stores are within your delivery range. I wanted to shop at Publix, which was on my list of stores. Victory.

Second, you shop, browsing from a list of products listed with a photo and a price, clicking on items to add them to your cart. Prices are set by the retailers, and overall the trend seemed to be that they were higher than in-store prices. According to Instacart, some retailers offer the same in-store prices, and some have small markups. (That said, it was easier to narrow down sale items and Publix BOGOs.)

Strangely, it was also both easier and more difficult to make compulsive shopping decisions. I wasn't distracted by the aimless wandering that happens in an actual store. But without seeing the product right there in front of me, I found myself putting more in my cart overall. The service was most useful for buying large or heavy products that I did not have to carry myself, things like laundry detergent or a case of bottled water.

After you're done shopping, you select a delivery time, which can be as close as an hour from the time you're ordering or as far out as a week. You can also edit your order up until a few hours before it's delivered, which is useful if like me you always forget to put milk in your cart even though you always just used the last drop.

I opted to have the groceries delivered during an hour window I was set to get home one Monday evening, and they were indeed sitting on the front porch when I walked up, in plastic Publix bags as if I had bought them myself.

I got everything I ordered, except for a bottle of orange juice; I placed one brand in my cart and got a different but very similar brand delivered. Instacart said this happens when stores are out of stock; shoppers make a judgement call on getting a good replacement for those items. If the replaced item isn't something you want, Instacart will offer a refund.

There is a fee for the service — for $14.99 per month (or $99 per year) you become an Instacart Express and are not subject to any delivery fees — and a $10 order minimum that would probably prevent me from using it all the time, but I did feel very efficient and fancy obtaining my groceries in this way.

Now I just have to figure out how to make up for that day's cardio.

Comments
Healthful eating is just a one-pan fish dish away

Healthful eating is just a one-pan fish dish away

By Ellie KriegerI recoil at the repentant food chatter that crops up this time of year, dominated by words such as "cleanse" and "detox," which, from what I can tell, are just modern code for "extreme diet." But part of cultivating a healthy, balanc...
Published: 01/17/18
We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

I sat at my desk eating chunked pineapple straight out of the can, reading about how much fruit and vegetables we should all be eating every day: 1 1/2 to two cups of fruit, 2 1/2 to three cups of vegetables, at a minimum, per the United States Depar...
Published: 01/17/18
Taste test: pot stickers

Taste test: pot stickers

Whenever I order meals at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant I always look for pot stickers on the menu. The tasty Asian dumplings are filled with pork or chicken and veggies and cooked with a perfect balance of steaming and frying. The reason I order ...
Published: 01/16/18
From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

When I first made this soup, Florida was in the grips of a cold weather snap, the likes of which rarely happens in this part of the state. We’re talking a whole week of lows in the 30s. The 30s! It was everything I ever wanted and more — the rare win...
Published: 01/16/18
Will you be drinking mushroom coffee in 2018? Here are some predicted food trends

Will you be drinking mushroom coffee in 2018? Here are some predicted food trends

By Drew JacksonBleeding veggie burgers, edible flowers and tree-based sparkling waters could be the most popular foods of the year.Whole Foods, the organics pioneer and Jeff Bezos-backed supermarket, peered into its crystal milk jug and unveiled what...
Published: 01/10/18
Tampa’s JoAnne Tucker takes a win in Pillsbury Bake-Off

Tampa’s JoAnne Tucker takes a win in Pillsbury Bake-Off

The Pillsbury Bake-Off is serious business and big bucks. Since 1949, the country’s most competitive home cooks put their thinking caps on: How can I use one of the designated Pillsbury products in a new, original — and here’s the tricky part — outra...
Published: 01/09/18
For something different, embrace the country-style pork rib

For something different, embrace the country-style pork rib

When it comes to pork, most home cooks know the chop, the tenderloin, the loin roast, even the Boston butt. But because I am a sucker for the underdog and the oddball, I have a new favorite cut of pork: the country-style rib.Why oddball? First, it su...
Published: 01/09/18
From the food editor: Turkey meatloaf and potatoes cook together in this one-pan recipe

From the food editor: Turkey meatloaf and potatoes cook together in this one-pan recipe

January brings a weird dichotomy. I’m often exhausted from December, a month packed with lots of travel and merriment and comfort food. But I also feel energized for the new year, fresh planner in hand and lots of lofty goals ready to be set.It’s the...
Published: 01/09/18
Dependable lentils are the star in this Thai Red Curry With Lentils and Tofu recipe

Dependable lentils are the star in this Thai Red Curry With Lentils and Tofu recipe

I take lentils for granted. I’ve had bursts of creativity using them, but for the most part they sit in my pantry while I reach for bigger, more tempting members of the legume family week in and week out. Until one day, I’m out of cans of chickpeas, ...
Published: 01/09/18
‘Fit Foodie’ Mareya Ibrahim talks health, fitness trends for 2018

‘Fit Foodie’ Mareya Ibrahim talks health, fitness trends for 2018

She didn’t have time to shower, fresh from the gym and tucking into an egg white omelet crowded with veggies in the dining room of the Hollander Hotel in St. Petersburg. But still, Mareya Ibrahim, known as "the Fit Foodie," was a vivacious dynamo, gi...
Updated: 1 hour ago