The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Groceries

One in an occasional series, entitled The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Saving the Planet.


            You know what I do not like doing?  Shopping.  It is all so darned complicated, what with the parking and the walking and the searching and the never-finding.  I do not so much mind the crowds and the noise, if only each store would have a little display laid out in a discreet corner of the store labeled “Items Emily Is Shopping for Today.” 

            As you can probably surmise, online shopping suits me just fine.  For groceries, however, even that can get stressful, because I unfailingly manage to forget some essential item until three minutes before the truck pulls up outside my front door, at which time it is a bit too late to log back on and request a half-gallon of milk.  And, given the fact that we use three different kinds of milk around here (at least until Benjamin turns two), that’s a lot of kinds of milk for me to forget.

            Fortunately, here in London, there is someone who will remember to order milk for me.  He will then bring it to my front door, leaving it on the step, so that when we get up in the morning, there are little bottles of milk sitting out front.  And he will do this three times a week.

            Yes, it is true.  We have a milkman.

            He drives up in his little electric truck sometime in the middle of the night.  I suspect he arrives shortly after the Tooth Fairy and shortly before the sun.  He checks his little hand-held computer.  And then, he leaves me bottles of milk.  Actually, before he leaves my milk, he picks up my empties, provided I remembered to leave them out the night before.  Because the milkman deals in glass, reusable bottles.

            The only waste created is the tiny little foil circle on the top, which I put into the recycling.  He is delivering to other families on my block, and he is driving an electric truck, so the delivery is certainly less emissions-producing than my running out to the grocery store would be.  And, there are no plastic bottles to recycle.

            I did not realize how many plastic milk bottles we were going through in a week until I signed on with the milkman.  Suddenly, my recycling has been cut in half, if not more.  Here, around the Rosenbaum household, we are saving the planet by cutting back on our recycling.

            You may not live somewhere that has a milkman, in which case you are left with the options of either a) getting up at dawn to milk your cow, or b) buying your milk from the Super Fresh.  You know which option I would go for.  However, you may be surprised to find that there is a milk delivery service in your area.  Spend ten minutes online and do a little research.

            Just think, next week, there could be pints of milk, cream clumping at the top, waiting on your front step.  It is like having your own little corner of the dairy section.


            Also nice are the fruits and vegetables that are delivered to our door.  They come in these nifty reusable cardboard boxes that we leave out the next week for the driver to collect.   No plastic grocery bags, no extra packaging, and the driver is already delivering to the neighborhood, so there is an economy of scale in the petrol usage.  The produce is organic and mostly local.

            But, the best part is that I am free.  You know all that time that you spend in the grocery store, squeezing melons and searching through apples?  I never do that.  I get to use that time for other important things, like taking naps and reading Please, Baby, Please forty-eight times. 

            This service I know exists other places, and if you are in the U.S., you can go here to figure out who does it in your area.  Think of all the naps you could be earning.

41 responses to “The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Groceries

  1. I love our milk delivery! (Oberweis, for anyone in the Chicagoland area). Glass bottles rule!

    And I am totally signing up for a CSA this summer and I can’t wait.

    You are just good at all kinds of writing, did ya know?

  2. Love the idea. The only problem here in the US is that it is typically as much as 50% more expensive to shop this way. In the area that I live in, the best produce is generally to be found at WholeFoods. There are a couple of decent farmer’s markets here but they are difficult to get to in the best of circumstances and considering the schedule I keep, they are effectively impossible. Even with the high cost of WholeFoods, delivery is still more expensive for inferior product.

    I’ve tried to do the grocery delivery service thing, but unfortunately between the price, the low quality of the produce and the fact that the choice of products included in the service is extremely limiting, I still find that the best solution for me is to hit the grocery store. I’m a very efficient shopper and can generally get a complete order of groceries put together inside of about 35 minutes from when I hit the parking lot to when I load up the car. If my wife comes along, that time is at least doubled for some reason (and this isn’t because I don’t remember what she wants).

    I loathe shopping, grocery shopping in particular. To minimize the annoyance and to maximize shopping efficiency, I recommend the following:

    1.) Shop at specific stores. Find one or two stores that have everything you need and only shop there. be willing to pay a little bit more (in the 3-5% range) for this.
    2.) Learn the layout of your stores. This is easier than it sounds. Next time you shop, as you hit each aisle take extra care to look at the layout of product. Stores very rarely change their layouts.
    3.) Plan out meals. Rather than simply buying ingredients and hoping this will translate to a week’s worth of meals, actually decide what you want to eat for the week ahead of time. Include going out or ordering takeout in your planning as desired.
    4.) Really think about how much you actually eat. When ordering cold cuts, think about how much you ended up throwing out from the last time you ordered. Think about how you needed to run out to buy more of product X because you didn’t buy enough.
    5.) Bring your own shopping bags and bag your own groceries. Not only do you help environmentally, but you also don’t risk having counter schmuck crush the bread and you will be a LOT faster than they are.
    6.) Plan your route. I drive to Stop & Shop first to pick up most items other than produce, then on to WholeFoods for the produce, then to Salem Wine Imports, then home. If I went to the stores in a different order I would have to backtrack.

    You should see me take my wife clothes shopping. She finds this to be a very strange affair. It’s a knack, I notice current fashion trends pretty well so when I walk into a store with my wife I can scan the racks, pick out 3-4 items see if the fabric is nice, the item is well-made and the price is something she’ll agree to (she does the budgeting and I have expensive tastes), hand them to her and say try these on (I know her sizes as well). She’ll then wander the whole store while I stand around and eventually determine that the items I picked out are the only ones that match her taste and coloring and are remotely attractive. This can occasionally annoy the hell out of her because she just can’t do it. What took me 5 minutes to find would have taken her an hour. I have no idea why this is.

  3. You brought back memories of me visiting my grandpa. It was the telling of the foil cap that made it rush in.

  4. Wow, I didn’t even know milkmen still existed!! I highly doubt that they deliver in Hong Kong, but when I get back to the States, it will be worth checking out!! Thanks

  5. My sister and I used to squabble over who got to lick the cream from the little foil top. I also have a vague memory of a neighborhood bird who liked to nip open the bottle and take a sip. I would LOVE to find a milk/grocery delivery option but in my city, sadly, it’s simply not on.

  6. I’d love a milkman!

    Hmm. I’ll look into milk service. I assumed it wasn’t available. But then again, with time, I found our CSA.

    I’ve begun halving my delivery with my friend’s family (we also use the cooler or cardboard box), so this food intended for a family of four is instead feeding two families (9 people total). We’ve gone practically vegetarian with it.

    Last night we had kale and butternut squash over whole wheat penne pasta with vegetable broth, garlic and wine sauce.

    Umm wow, was that apropos of nothing?

  7. Sadly – I live in a small rural town.

    I’m just lucky I don’t have to have an encounter with a cow for our milk.

  8. Emily, can you remind me of the name of your milk delivery company? I wanted to see if they deliver to our part of London.

    Chris M: your suggestions are excellent. At one point, I had a little shopping list program on my wife’s Palm Pilot. You could even enter in which aisles had which food products at specific stores. That was a pain to set up, but once you had done so, you could tell it which store you were in, and it would automatically sort your list by aisle for maximum shopping efficiency!

    Now I just order my groceries online, and get a weekly organic vegetable delivery, so it’s a moot point. But if you have a PDA and you are still shopping in a bricks and mortar store, it’s worth getting a similar program.

  9. We use a delivery service here. It doesn’t eliminate the need for the store, but it does cut us down from weekly trips to once or twice per month.

  10. Ok. I’m jealous now. Fruit and milk delivered to your door? I would LOVE that. The boys would freak! They eat SO MUCH fruit. That would really come in handy.

  11. We have the produce option, but we are such a tiny family and end up wasting so much it seems silly. And truth? I love perusing the aisles of the grocery. Especially while hungry. LOVE IT.

  12. I absolutely loathe grocery shopping. I would love to have a Milkman and a produce man. I would even gladly pay more for it.

  13. We have a milkman and I love it a lot : ) Helping the local economy, buying local food and milk that actually tastes like it should!

  14. Thanks for posting this! I signed up for their updates, although, sadly, couldn’t find local delivery. I’m excited that they will be sending me reminders about local farm events. Locally grown produce is one of the true joys of living in the Midwest…

  15. I remember the milkman. I wish I still had the milk box. I love milk in glass bottles. What a treat it was if your parents allowed 1 bottle of chocolate milk. If we had milk delivered it would be in plastic bottles. Which I abhor. (i checked)

  16. I remember my grandparents were so remote that they’d either 1) buy cows or 2) go to the local dairy and buy it straight from the pail. Raw, whole milk tastes SO different from what you can get from the supermarket.

    Anyway I don’t do dairy anymore unless it’s organic! Every milk drinker (in the US and maybe Europe/UK, don’t know) needs to watch this (seriously). It’s two FoxNews reporters telling the world about their experiences with Monsanto and HGH:

    Believe it or not, the prices for small cases of organic foods (US) are almost the same price (sometimes cheaper) than buying retail. And shipping is FREE! I don’t know about non-organic but something tells me it’s definitely cheaper by the case. I buy canned chili and mandarin orange segments by the case because we eat so much of the here. And real maple syrup in huge jugs!

  17. We have a milk door on the side of our house, but alas, no milkman. Emily–I really LOVE these posts that you do. And? I think you should be writing a book by this title as well. Or perhaps you’ve already thought of that…hehe.

  18. I think we’re going to start with Oberweis, too. It’s a good idea for us.

    Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  19. I think we’re going to start with Oberweis, too. It’s a good idea for us.

    Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  20. The milk delivery intrigues me, as we go through a ridiculous amount of plastic bottles for milk here.

  21. Hi,

    There are great tips here already but in case you’d like more, you can visit my blog to find out how people who work in a professional test kitchen approach grocery shopping:

    I think our tips work in any country. : )

  22. Milk in glass bottles are not popular in Hong Kong. We don’t get that kind of delivery service here, unfortunately.

  23. So cool! We don’t have milk delivery here, but we do have a dairy that is on my husband’s way to work. The only problem is remembering to take the glass bottles back in….

  24. I just so wish I could grow my own food.

  25. If only it were that easy. My region thrives on truck farming, but home delivery is a foreign concept.

    At least there are a few farm-owned produce markets. Fresh is better than not.

  26. Thanks for your comment on Home Visits in America, it meant a lot!

    I loved reading this post! Not only did it bring back great memories of growing up, when we did get these things delievered, but it made me want to revisit the issue. I HATE shopping. The plastic milk jugs in my bin are crazy! If I can get my dairy delivered and produce, even better! I am going to google it right now. Thanks for the great idea!

  27. We had a milkman in London, too. Loved it. Since I am going to be trapped here all summer, I am going to join our local food coop – you get local, organic produce delivered. I’m also going to sign up for milk and yogurt delivery – being in the middle of farm country has it’s advantages, it turns out.

  28. I WANT A MILKMAN! And, I want a HOTT milkman!!! 😉

  29. I loathe grocery shopping. I’ve considered delivery, and don’t mind the delivery charge, but just haven’t organized myself well enough. I’ll have to check out the milk delivery. Great post!

  30. Fresh fruit delivered to my door . . .now that is the life . ..

    The only think better would be, to be able to harvest it straight from my yard! 🙂

  31. Emily, did you know this week is National Pancake Week? Was the timing intentional?

  32. Hmmm…I need to look into that.

    (And I was delighted when the kid turned two and we could stop buying multiple kinds of milk!)

  33. I think I’m actually the only freak who LIKES going to the grocery. maybe it’s because we have a great local co-op which is huuge and has everything. and we have about 3-4 farmer’s markets every week. Oh, and Monkey is still young enough to not be much of a hassle. She likes going out and checking out the people, food and goings on. Ask me in a year when she’s running all over the place knocking things over and I may have a very different story 😉 (and if I lived in a big city I would most definitely have a different story even now)

  34. Aww – a milkman! My grandparents had one and this brought back all kinds of memories of staying with them and listening for his little truck. =)

    Fruit/veggie delivery would rock! But then I’d miss taking the kids to the farm market on Saturdays in the spring/summer. I totally (heart) the farm market.

    I’m so totally jealous of your glass bottles…

  35. Ah, bliss. A milkman. If only they delivered organic milk…I feel so lucky that we have Farmer’s Markets pretty much every day of the week around here.

  36. That is wonderful! I had no idea milkmen still existed! I’ll have to check out that link to see if anything like this available near me. Thank you 🙂

  37. I have no idea if you can get milk and fruits and veggies delivered around here. It sounds fantastic – I must look into it…

  38. There ARE advantages to living in the city…I am jealous, although there is something nice in driving directly to the farm to get our milk, and occassionally cathcing glimpses of the cows or goats from whom it originated. If only it were in walking distance…or they delivered.

  39. we used to have a milkman, back when i lived in a different town in michigan…but, we moved a few towns over and…no more milkman!! i loved the convenience. i loved seeing the truck come to the house, i would pick up what i had ordered (he was all dairy products) and give him my list for the following week! it was a tad bit more expensive but…i figured i was saving money on gas and hassle!
    i love your blog! it’s awesome…i have no idea how i’ve never come across it!!

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