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Grocery shopping in the 21st century

There seem to be two camps in the world of grocery shopping - lovers and haters. For the most part, I'm a lover. There are just a few things that can make or break the experience for me: crowded stores, inflated prices, and impatient co-shoppers are factors that could result in an abandoned cart or basket.

Anyone on a budget (and these days, that means most people) will probably echo the sentiment that shopping locally for groceries can get pretty pricey. But you've gotta eat, right? That doesn't mean we have to trudge through the stores in search of specials. As it turns out, we can do that from the comfort of our living room, using online grocery shopping offerings, even here in Whistler. Let the car-less and injured rejoice! (Hey, I've never tried it, but I can't imagine that its much fun to hobble on and off of a bus and around a grocery store with a leg cast on.)

During a Community Kitchens session I attended a few weeks back, Karen Kay of Kaytering Whistler, turned me on to a brand-new way to get healthy, affordable groceries with a simple click of the mouse: spud.ca.

Here, you can enter your postal code to find out when you need to submit orders. (In Whistler, the deadline is 9 a.m. Sunday to make the Tuesday delivery time.) Then, you can browse the grocery offerings, which include fresh produce, dairy, meats and much more, before deciding to set up a standing order and have it delivered on a regular basis, or just order as needed.

For Whistlerites, delivery is free on all orders over $70, while orders between $35 and $70 will cost $3.50, and anything below $35 costs $7 to have delivered.

Personally, I'm a bit intrigued by spud!'s fresh harvest box, which offers a range of organic fruits and vegetables that are tailored to personal produce preferences. You can set the price point to $15 and up, and stipulate whether or not you want just local produce (from within 800 kilometres) or just local when it's available. Not only are the items guaranteed to be fresh (they provide cold packs and freezer jackets, and have a 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee), aspiring cooks can have culinary challenges delivered to their doorstep on a regular basis.

For example, this week, a $35 harvest box would include bananas, basil, beets, carrots, cauliflower, chard, oranges, pears, sprouts, tomatoes and turnips. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, I don't know about you, but I don't usually cook with chard, and while I know I could tweak the contents of the box to something a bit more generic, I'd rather look up a new recipe and try to whip up a chard-filled creation.

There are also some sweet deals to be had on this site - they offer grocery case lot, multi-buy offers and produce specials to make the entire process a bit lighter on the pocketbook. They even include a savings calculator that allows potential customers an opportunity to see how much money they could save by eliminating trips to the store, taking into account your personal transportation and time costs.

The Vancouver-based business was launched in March 1998, focusing on providing local, organic, minimally-packaged and eco-friendly products to customers, delivering orders to neighbourhoods throughout the Lower Mainland (including Whistler), Vancouver Island and Victoria, serving over 19,000 consumers in the process.

But if buying groceries from a Vancouver-based business doesn't quite appeal to you, there are also some local options for getting your groceries on the Internet.

Whistler's Nesters Food Market offers an online option for grocery shopping, complete with delivery service for a $25 fee. Browsing their online aisles is a user-friendly experience, allowing shoppers to visit the virtual bakery, dairy, deli and other sections.

The Grocery Store offers an online shop, as well, where you can either order groceries for pickup or have them delivered for $10.

A quick glance at both businesses' online weekly flyers will tell you where you can save a few bucks.

Similarly, Whistler's Creekside Market allows customers to e-mail grocery orders - though they don't have a catalog on their website - to be delivered for $20 or picked up for free.

Even Marketplace IGA has an online shopping link, though it appears that you can only order entertainment platters, gift baskets and party trays, rather than individual items.

Now, even grocery haters can shop in peace.

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