Public Health Topics

Virtual groceries? How food distributors are meeting busy Americans halfway.

Have you ever noticed that, when you ask someone how they are doing or how they have been, the response is often some rendition of how busy they are? {Not to pin that only on whoever “them” is — I am guilty of this myself}. It’s like “busy” is the new blanket response for what used to be “good”.


There is no doubt that the American lifestyle has gotten packed with more stuff, and less time. We work long hours, sometimes far away from the home, and often on a non-traditional schedule (weeknights, weekends).  According to Pew Research Center, approximately half of U.S. households have two full-time working parents, and around one-third of families are single-parent households. This type of family and work structure understandably cuts into the amount of leisure time available to us.


With kids, exercise, sleep, household chores, and yardwork all vying for our attention outside of the 40-hour work week, when are we supposed to make healthy meals too?


I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer for all situations, but I will say that making sure that healthy meals are available for your family is done by making it a priority. Period. That, and some good planning skills- for instance, making some bulk meals on the weekend that can be frozen (i.e. casserole, soup, enchiladas, pizza dough) or cutting up fruits and veggies to pre-bag for an easy grab-and-go snack in the fridge.


Some good news is that more and more grocery distributors are actually adapting to the “busy American lifestyle” to meet us halfway in this obstacle.


Online grocery shopping for home delivery and curbside pickup have been gaining popularity over the last several years. According to Statista, Americans spent $7 billion in 2015 on online groceries, with an expected rise to $18 billion in 2020; not really surprisingly, many of these shoppers fall into the Millennial category.


Think about it: it takes longer to grocery shop than it does to write a quick meal plan for the week or actually prepare most meals (at least, it should if you’ve established some effective time-saving habits). This is especially true if you have kids in tow, or have to plan your grocery outing around the schedules of others.


Did you know that many mainstream grocery chains now offer online ordering, with home delivery and/or store pickup? Some may have a monthly subscription fee, but many of them have free store pickup and just a local delivery fee per order.



Kroger (Click List)


King Soopers (HomeShop)



Stop & Shop




Whole Foods

Harris Teeter



Don’t see your favorite store on the list? Not to worry. Instacart and Shipt are apps that connect consumers with local personal shoppers, who will do all of your grocery shopping for you and deliver the goods to your home.


Another growing market is that of doorfront delivery of organic foods, often for a monthly subscription that comes with access to recipe databases. Some of these services actually help you meal plan for the week, delivering all of the ingredients (in pre-measured amounts!) so all you have to do is follow the recipes.


Door to Door Organics


Blue Apron

Green Grocer

Green Chef

Green Bean Delivery

Full Circle




Interestingly, there is an even more virtual option now available in some cities in the United States. Similar to what South Korea has done in its subway systems, cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia have enabled consumers to use Peapod to shop virtually via billboards on the walls of commuter rail stations. Talk about multi-tasking.

“Getting your groceries on the way home from work just got a whole new meaning,” said Mike Brennan, COO, Peapod.  “With schedules that are more demanding than ever and people spending 200+ hours a year in transit+, our hope is that consumers will take advantage of our virtual stores and mobile app while they’re on the go and enjoy the time saved when they’re at home.”

Some may call the virtual grocery trend “laziness”. I call it genius. No longer do we have to actually walk the aisles of the grocery store, fighting Sunday afternoon crowds (for people like myself, who usually procrastinate grocery shopping until the busiest time). Instead, we can create a personalized grocery list online, have someone else collect the items for us, and use our newly acquired time to make healthy meals from the ingredients instead. I’d say that’s a pretty nice trade off. 


What do you think: is the grocery shopping, meal planning, or actual cooking part what takes you the longest? More to come on ideas to make the latter two easier, too.

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