Grocery shopping in a big city can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Beyond fighting with the hundreds of other shoppers at the supermarkets (and sometimes at the tiny local shops, too), there’s the issue of getting everything from the store back to your house/flat. Without a car, this transfer of goods from one location to another is a daunting prospect. Sure, public transportation works, but I can’t even begin to describe the sweaty, stressful, back-breaking process of riding a London bus or (even worse) descending into the Tube after a serious, fill-the-cupboards style grocery shopping experience.
Or well, I can… Before anything else, you have to get out of the store with all your bags – thinking carefully about dividing the weight evenly on each side. Once you’ve stumbled to the bus stop or down the stairs into the Tube, there’s the issue of pulling your Oyster card (for non-Londoners, that’s the Tube pass) out of your bag or pocket and touching in/out with bags dangling from your arms. Then you have to negotiate your way through the crowds with bags at your side that at least double your normal width and make moving/sliding between people next to impossible. If it’s the summer (and it’s actually warm), you’ve already been sweating from the moment you stepped out of the shop. If it’s winter, you’re starting to suffocate from your many layers. All you want to do is open your coat or remove your scarf, but to do so would mean stopping and putting down all the bags that you have strategically balanced on your forearms and wound through your fingers. Finally you’ll make it on to the bus/tube and find a spot that you can squeeze into with bags around your feet. If you’ve found a seat, you can’t get comfortable because an elderly person or a pregnant woman will be sure to board shortly after you, and you’ll be shamed into standing up for them. If you’ve taken the bus, inevitably someone with a stroller will need to get on and use the space in which you’re standing with bags bunched around your feet. When you eventually get to your stop, you’re more than likely still a five to ten minute walk from your actual home, so you have to stumble along for a while longer as your arms start to ache and burn before you reach your door and can drop everything in order to search for your keys which are definitely buried in the bottom of one of the bags. If you’re lucky, your milk or some other liquid has started to leak and caused a huge mess. It’s a really fun process.
For this reason, online grocery shopping is big business in London. The convenience cannot be overstated – order everything online, choose a delivery time, and for a small fee, someone else packs it all up and delivers it right to your doorstep. Amazing!
Still, before moving to my current flat, I had only taken advantage of online shopping a few times. As a single person, I’m not typically buying enough to really warrant an online shop. I can handle the one or two bags I need on an average shopping trip.
But since moving to my current flat at the beginning of this year, online grocery purchases have become a more regular occurrence in my life.
I live on the third floor of a walk-up block of flats – meaning three flights of stairs. You would think that having lived in this flat for almost a year now, I would have gotten used to the climb; that I would feel fine and dandy when I get to the top of the third flight, since I do it everyday. This is not the case. I am out of breath every time I get to the top. The fact that this is really sad and says a lot about my fitness levels is a discussion for another post.
Anyways, my flatmate Louise is a big fan of online shopping. Shortly after I moved in, she started an online shop and told me to add what I thought we needed to it. Flicking through Lou’s “favorites”, I started to wonder if she had a bit of a problem. It was basically all cleaning products:
I had already noticed the stockpiles of toilet paper, dishwasher tablets, laundry detergent, Fairy Liquid and more around the flat. Faced with these favorites, I started to panic a little about my standards of cleanliness. But when I mentioned it to her (read: made fun of her), Louise explained she was just a strategic shopper. She bought the heavy, bulky items (yes, mostly cleaning products) online because they are the most annoying things to carry back from the shop and up the stairs. Not to mention, then you can freely take advantage of the 2-for-1 (and other) offers knowing that someone else will have to haul it all up the stairs – hence, the stockpiles around the flat (can’t pass up those deals!).
Now that I’ve started contributing to the online shopping, the cleaning products aren’t so dominant. Now large blocks of butter, bags of flour and various sugars all feature prominently in the favorites list. All those annoyingly heavy baking-related items that I’d rather make someone else carry.
So I’m definitely a full-on convert to the online shopping experience now. Sure, we only place an order once every two or three months. The rest of the time we can pick up our weekly/daily groceries at the local shop. But it’s a great pleasure to order all those bulky/heavy items knowing I won’t have a near coronary carrying them up to the flat.
And online shopping is even more convenient when you’re hosting 13 people for Thanksgiving dinner, but you actually buy/cook enough food to feed 20. I definitely felt bad for the delivery dude who had to make two trips with several bags, but I was unbelievably grateful that it wasn’t me!
P.S. – Stay tuned for more about my Thanksgiving feast in a future post.
What about you? Are you an online grocery shopper? Or do you prefer to roam the aisles of your local supermarket?