Quarantine Day 20: Curb-Side Grocery Pick-up

Grocery Shopping
As an alternative to shopping at home, many stores offer personal shopper, curbside pickup and even home delivery. These services can reduce your exposure to potential sources of coronavirus. Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Curb-Side grocery pick-up today was a much more positive experience than we had on our prior online grocery order.  I attribute the better outcome to changing stores.  Our prior experience was with a grocery store chain that used InstaCart.  This time we went with a chain owned by The Kroger Company.  I don’t know if they have their own in-house service or use a third party, but it was superior service and items on the web site more accurately matched in-store availability.

As we reported back on Day 6 of quarantine, the last time we shopped online, we ordered 36 items and received only half of them.  This time, we ordered 45 items and received 44.  Considering what we had heard from friends and seen in the news, we were gratified to get all but one item we ordered.  My wife made up the list, and she ordered lots of fresh vegetables and nothing that came in a can.  None of the recent panic items – like toilet paper and hand sanitizer – were on our list, so that might explain why we got such a high availability rate. 

The shopper did make substitutions, which we had said in our profile was fine.  Six or seven times the brand we ordered was out of stock so she substituted a similar product.  For example, they were sold out of the store brand of sour cream, so they gave us Breakstone’s.  They were sold out of some wide egg noodles we ordered, so they sent regular egg noodles.  My only disappointment was that I had ordered three of the 18-egg cartons and they were sold out, so they substituted the 12-egg carton.  That means we got 36 eggs instead of 54.  I would have been happier if they had given us 48 — four dozen. 

High Demand

I spoke to the shopper as she loaded the items into the back of our vehicle.  She said she had 150 orders on her list and that all available pick-up slots for the next 6 days are full.  Some cashiers were helping out, but they really needed to add more people.  This shouldn’t be all that difficult. 

I’m betting that if you hired someone reasonably intelligent who did the grocery shopping for their household, you could get them fully trained and up to speed in one shift.  Stores need to do this so that people who are sheltering in place can avoid going to the store.

The store allows pick up between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., but you have to sign up for your time slot when you place your order.  Right now, all those slots have been taken.  If you cannot get groceries delivered or schedule a pick-up time, here is some safety advice for shopping in grocery and other stores.

Am I still a bit worried about food supplies if this crisis lasts for months and months or during the economic collapse it is precipitating?  Yes.  But my short-term worry has been relieved by this one very positive experience.

Also, we’ve had reports from a resident in Western Pennsylvania that stores there are well stocked with food, including fresh meat.  Toilet paper and Tylenol were still sold out, but many day-to-day items were available.  This is in contrast to prior reports we had from Long Island and Virginia. 

Eating our Survival Supplies

Despite having received an order of fresh food, we are continuing to eat down some of our supplies, using this emergency as an excuse to consume our oldest storage foods.  It also allows us to test our supplies, ensuring they are still viable, and that they meet our needs.

While we had a salad with our fresh food, our main dish at dinner was channa masala over a bed of rice.  The channa masala was from Tasty Bites and was purchased several years ago at Costco.  Despite being more than two years past its best by date, it tasted just fine.  It was nowhere near as good as channa masala from an Indian restaurant, but expecting it to be that good would be like expecting a pouch of creamy garlic shells from Knorr to be as good as pasta from an Italian restaurant.  My main reaction was that it could have been spicier.

The Tasty Bites people sell Indian and Thai main and side dishes in pouches that are similar to an MRE pouch, but perhaps not as tough.  I think they are a nice addition to our medium-term survival supplies.  We have a buckets of rice in our storage pantry, and we’ll need something to go with it.  These main dishes are a good option.  I’m pretty certain we have a couple pouches in our bug out bags.

Baking Bread

I baked our second loaf of bread, and it was improved, but not yet perfect.  The dough looked much better, meaning I had the correct water-to-flour ratio, but I believe that our flour is old and outdated. We have a newer bag and I am tempted to open that one for the next loaf.  Let me assure you that our loaf looked far better than the one in this story, which says that we are not the only people baking our own bread. 

The article mentions that sales of baking yeast soared 647 percent in the week that ended March 21.  We had a 2-pound block of yeast that was vacuum packed and well within its best-by period in our storage pantry.  Thank you Costco!

You might be asking why we are baking bread with white flour when we have all sorts of wheat ready to be ground into fresh whole-wheat flour.   The reason is that I wanted to refresh my skills and my recipe for baking bread before I moved to whole wheat, which makes a tougher, denser loaf unless you have gluten or some other dough enhancer to add to it.  I don’t.  I know one of the other members in our prepping group does store dough enhancer.  I may have to emulate her in the future.

Don’t be afraid to eat your older preps. One of our fellow preppers has cases of MREs that are well beyond their expiration date. I told him to eat a few and test them before it’s too late. I’ve seen the YouTube videos where they open old MREs and some of them are pretty gross. Don’t be counting on old food to save you life if you haven’t tested it.

Road Conditions

I’ve seen videos shot by drones during this crisis that show empty streets.  I’ve seen photo of major cities that look like ghost towns.  All I can tell you is that isn’t happening here.

I had to drive a bit further than normal to get to this specific grocery store, so it gave me an opportunity to see things closer to town than I have been lately.  Traffic volume is definitely down, but is far from dead.  In our neck of the woods, traffic on the country or back roads is scarce.  Once you get into town, however, there are enough cars to back up several deep at red lights, and more on the primary roads.  The grocery store parking lot had scores of cars and plenty of foot traffic.  Unlike last time i did curb-side grocery pick-up, I didn’t see any shoppers in masks, gloves, or other protective gear.  There was one young fellow who was wiping down carts and handing them off, but that was the only visible sign of coronavirus precautions.

This store had one armed security guard that was visible from the outside, and he looked nowhere near as professional and buttoned up as the two guards at the last store I visited.  There was a sheriff’s car in the parking lot, but I didn’t see the deputy.  He or she could have been well inside the store, of course, but it is also not unusual to park a law enforcement vehicle in a parking lot unattended as a visible deterrent.  I did see a number of police cars and deputies on the road, however.  Looks like they are maintaining a high level of visibility, which I think is a good thing. 

I don’t know whether to be pleased that people are working and shopping to sustain our economy or worried that they are not adhering to good quarantine procedures.  Hopefully everyone is being safe and practicing good social distancing and hygiene.  We’re doing our best to do so and grocery pick up is a good way to achieve that extra layer of protection while continuing to eat fresh foods and preserve the bulk of our survival stash for when we really need it.

Check out this page to get caught up on prior entries in our Quarantine Diary.