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Grocery shopping in the time of COVID-19

Locations: Opinion Published

My wife and I are both “senior citizens,” and while that status does have its perks — free rides on RFTA, discounted Skico season passes — it also has apparently become a liability in this age of the coronavirus pandemic. We are in one of the at-risk categories.

While self-isolation and following social distancing have been relatively painless, shopping for essentials, notably groceries, has become an issue. City Market in Carbondale and El Jebel and Whole Foods in Willits have implemented early morning shopping slots for seniors age 60 and older and other at-risk individuals (Monday, Wednesday and Friday at City Market; daily at Whole Foods). This has been a welcome and helpful gesture on their part, as it reduces the number of customers in the store at one time.

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Both of us have taken advantage of the senior hours at the Carbondale store. But even following all of the precautions, it still puts us and others at some risk of exposure to coronavirus. So, what to do?

Fortunately, we learned about City Market’s online shopping program, which allows you to order groceries on the store’s website and gives you the option of pickup (at the El Jebel store) or delivery. (Whole Foods is not offering either option at this time.)

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In order to utilize the service, you must have an account with City Market (if you don’t, the URL for creating one is citymarket.com/account/create). 

Once you are signed up, you’re ready to shop. The first thing to determine is how you want to receive your order, which you do by putting your zip code into a drop-down box on the homepage. There you can choose between pickup (free for the first three orders; $4.95 per order after that) or delivery ($9.95 per order). Pickup orders require a lead time of several days, whereas deliveries can be scheduled for the same day. We have only done pickups, so the following discussion is just on that option.

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There are several ways you can get shopping, including the “Start My Cart” option (citymarket.com/products/start-my-cart). If you have been using your Value Card/Alt ID, you will probably have items listed from previous shopping trips, which can help with recurring purchases (e.g., milk or bread). Otherwise, begin searching for items and adding them to your cart. A note below each item indicates if it is available for pickup or delivery; articles such as toilet paper, however, remain in-store only purchases.

At checkout, you will be notified of the earliest day for your pickup and given a choice on the time to come from a drop-down menu. Although you will get email messages on your order, you will also be given the option to receive text message updates on your order. This is recommended, as there most likely will be substitutions (see below). You can modify your order after it has been placed up until midnight the day before pickup.

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Our first experience with online grocery shopping involved a bit of a learning curve, but once we got the hang of it things went smoothly. On pickup day, we received a text a couple of hours before our allotted time informing us that some items we had ordered were unavailable. It directed us to a link from which we could choose either substitute products (e.g., one brand of canned tomatoes for another) or cancellation of that item.

Our pickup also went smoothly. After arriving at the pickup lane along Valley Road, we called the phone number listed on a curbside sign and waited a short time for a store employee to bring our order and load it into our car. While unpacking at home we did find that a few items were not in the order, though we weren’t charged for then.

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On a related note, we found that Sopris Liquor & Wine is offering curbside pickup and free delivery for online orders. I took advantage of that service recently.

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