You’ve been there. You doubtfully scan the contents of the pantry and freezer for enough essentials to scrape together dinner. A glance at the time on your phone’s display confirms that baby will wake from her nap too late for you to avoid rush hour at the grocery store. You sigh and tap the restaurant delivery app on your home screen. Time for takeout. Again.
As a (fairly) new stay-at-home mom, my problem is not with cooking, but with shopping — when to find time, how to manage an infant and all her gear, and somehow stay sane while navigating busy stores. I, therefore, have taken a shortcut or two when it comes to getting food into my kitchen. What follows are a few of my favorite delivery and/or drive-through (or, I suppose, drive-up) methods. Try them like I did for a week — or four!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Membership
If you join a traditional CSA, you will essentially pay a local farm or collection of farms up front for a share of the season’s produce. These are usually sold in multi-week sessions four times per year and delivered to a regional pickup point — or rarely to your home. The quantity and offerings vary. Typical add-ons might include local honey, free-range eggs, fresh poultry, and grass-fed beef.
For awhile, I supported a CSA that assembled in-season, often organic produce and herbs from local farms every two weeks. Grocery shopping was as easy as driving up to the local coffee shop parking lot and grabbing the crate reserved for me. No lines, no registers, no hassle.
My “medium” share cost around $30 and typically included in the summer: a living head of lettuce (with roots intact for planting in the garden), a pint of blueberries, several pounds of green and yellow zucchini, a few pickling cucumbers, a big bag of cremini mushrooms, a dozen or so jalapeño peppers, potatoes, and some heirloom tomatoes. I usually traded at least one item for something in the swap bin and always came home with an unusual ingredient — like jicama or persimmon.
CSA members exchange the predictability of perfectly planned-out produce purchases for the challenge of cooking creatively with what’s in season. It’s ideal for supporting local farms and cooking frequent, plant-based meals (to minimize waste). The only drawback might be an inevitable run to the store for a weekly bushel of bananas, more table salt, or some toilet paper. For pretty much everything else, CSAs will have you covered.
Check out this handy resource on local CSAs.
Meal (Ingredient) Delivery
At least once, you must treat yourself to a week of meal delivery service. And not the pre-cooked, vacuum sealed, TV dinner variety. Several companies offer weekly subscriptions to gourmet, seasonal recipes that you prepare at home. Literally answer the door and “just add water” . . . and maybe a pinch of salt or pepper!
I reminisced about my childhood easy-bake oven kit as I unpacked our insulated box of premium ingredients — perfectly measured bottles of sauces and adorable little containers of spices, neatly labeled bags of fresh herbs, produce, grains, and meat. Recipe cards were easy to navigate and totally tailorable to my experience and available tools.
You can usually find a discount online for initial subscriptions. We scored a 50 percent off deal (cost us $30) — one week of three meals portioned for two. Vegetarian options are available as well as wine pairings for an additional fee. It’s a great service if you like to cook but don’t want to spend the time to meal-plan, or if you prefer to minimize waste and buy only ingredients you need.
This plan also creates the toilet-paper-and-banana conundrum, which is why I saved the most practical shortcut for last!
Some days the thought of hiking from one end of the store to another in search of those few critical items while keeping an infant content is enough to make my palms sweat. On those days, I skip the hassle, order online, and pick up everything without even stepping into the store.
It seems that all major neighborhood grocer chains now offer the service. Several will charge to deliver to your home (introductory deals on free home delivery are rare, but they do exist). As long as your order meets a minimum dollar threshold, shopping can be as easy as loading up a digital cart at any time of day or night, paying online, and then reserving a pickup time. No need to even leave your car. Call ahead, and an employee will load bagged groceries into your trunk.
This is the ultimate in convenient drive-through dining for the whole week!
Keep in mind that produce tends to be sold by weight — which might not always be sensible (if you need, for instance, a single serrano pepper that is priced and sold by the pound). And paying online might preclude the use of coupons (unless you bother to take your receipt inside to customer service for a refund).
Which of these shortcuts do you plan to try this week? Have I overlooked your favorite hassle-free way to shop?