Grocery Whinge

Grocery Whinge

Being in the high-risk-for-complications category in this pandemic, we have been doing the online shopping thing. Our area has no grocery store delivery to home or vehicle, but they do offer grocery store pick up. It is very popular, and to get a slot I have to get up very early in the morning, as that is when the one day of available slots opens, and the slots fill completely, very quickly. Then we wait weeks for our allotted slot to come around. Products come and products go on the list of what is available, it like a carnival game, aiming at a moving target. So I have been choosing a product, and an alternative product, for everything that we really need, in hopes that one of them will be available.

But what we miss the most, is the ability to take advantage of sales. We have always enhanced the variety and quality of what we could eat by shopping sales. There are several problems with attempting to shop sales when one shops online at our local NoFrills store, rather than in the store. One is that by the time our delivery day rolls around, and the order is being plucked from the shelves, all of the sale items are gone, and if we unwittingly ordered those products, we get no product. This has happened to us on both pick up orders so far. We try to compensate for that by ordering a far more expensive alternative item as well. Our edit-the-order date expires before the date that the sale takes effect. The next time I try for a slot I will be aiming for a weekday that is at the beginning of a sale period, then order the sale item, and the expensive alternative if it is a needed item, one of them might make it into the cart. Since the orders are three weeks apart, getting a strategy figured out is going to take months.

Then there is the risk of pick up. When Attila picked up our order last week, he was the only person wearing a mask. That means if there is community spread, the asymptomatic community spreaders are out doing their worst, not protecting others. I wish the grocery store would deliver to the vehicle, how much more difficult could that be? They are only allowing one pick up every hour, surely someone could be spared to run it out to a waiting vehicle, instead of taking it out of the cart and putting it in cupboards!

And then, there are the unimaginable substitutions. For instance, we ordered frozen orange juice, paid for frozen orange juice, and received Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, which are full of sodium and chemicals, and are something we would not have put in our cart in a million years. I am going to have to try for the orange juice again. I did call the NoFrills customer service about this, and after 1 1/2 hours on the telephone I was awarded a voucher as compensation, but the voucher will not work with our present order, and may not work with our next order, we will have to wait for more than a month to find out. If the voucher doesn’t work, I’ll be spending a lot more time attempting to speak with NoFrills customer service, and even more if similar substitutions come our way. It is all very stressful. I feel helpless, not being able to obtain food in a reliable manner. I suppose we will get used to this, there do not seem to be any improvements being considered for independently living seniors and vulnerable people.

Add to this that we clean some of our groceries now, before they come into the house, and quarantine the rest of the items in the basement when washing won’t work. There are no sanitizers available for sale here, but soap we have, so far. I hear that sanitizers appear on the shelves occasionally, but our distant-future order hasn’t happened on a day when they were on the shelves.

Grocery shopping has taken on a nightmarish quality, it is something to dread.

There are no delivery services here for seniors and vulnerable people, or any other kind of helping services. Almost no masks are worn in public, no assistance offered with no-contact shopping unless one pays for it, I shudder to think how badly our quality of life is going to erode as we ride out this pandemic.

There is one community in Ontario that I am familiar with, that is stellar, and that is the community of Parry Sound, Ontario. Their humanity has coloured my opinions of our local lack of response, their example is hard to live up to. The Rotary Club in Parry Sound has stepped up to the plate and assists vulnerable people with no-contact shopping services, just a phone call away. One of the most community minded communities in Ontario!!



Date: 3:00 PM EDT Thursday 23 April 2020
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: -12.8°C
Humidity: 28%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950


  1. Sandy

    I have more frequent time slots where I live but often get substitutions or no product at all. I also can’t order TP, disinfectants, paper towels. You have to go to the store for those items. There’s no yeast to be had, but I do have baking powder and baking soda. I try to take it in stride but it’s very frustrating. Good luck with your voucher!

  2. I’m so sorry you’re having such a rough time grocery shopping. Julia and I are still going in person to shop, each in our masks, but we’ve been only doing it every other week or more spaced than that. I’m so picky, and I have gluten sensitivities and I’d be really upset to get something I couldn’t eat. (Perhaps I’m not taking the care I should, but it’s the best I can do, under the circumstances…)

  3. Sandy, you are right of course, taking this in our stride is something to strive for. My winge is self-indulgent, but I think I needed to record the frustrations, and describe how few supports there are for independently living seniors and other vulnerable people. I see other communities implementing local non-governmental measures, and it is heart warming. Both our rural properties are in communities that have taken measures to protect the most vulnerable populations, the cities around us are taking measures, but not here. Attila feels it is because the people here feel insulated from the pandemic, and are not taking it seriously, so haven’t seen any need to assist the most vulnerable, and he might be right.

    The online shopping system was never meant to carry the load it now must shoulder, I sure hope they get better at it!!

    Wishing you success in finding the items you need to live safely, and comfortably!

    Stay safe dear friend!

  4. Joan, one of us may need to shop for ourselves at some point, you have to do what you have to do to survive, everyone faces unique challenges and contexts. I need to stay out of hospital to survive this, it is a dangerous place for me, so we are erring on the side of caution, way over on the side of caution.
    Yes, needing to follow special diets makes shopping online particularly difficult!
    Stay safe dear friend!

  5. “There are no delivery services here for seniors and vulnerable people, or any other kind of helping services. Almost no masks are worn in public, no assistance offered with no-contact shopping unless one pays for it, I shudder to think how badly our quality of life is going to erode as we ride out this pandemic.”

    This surprised me a lot. According to Paul (who does all the shopping and goes into the stores himself but WITH his mask ON)… those services started a few weeks ago of aligning the store for maximum traffic flow (one-way aisles) and cleaning of carts each time one is put away, etc. The cashiers are separated by plexiglass boxes so there is no chance of contact virus and he uses cr.card and never touches anyone. So it’s pretty decent here. That said, shopping day is my worst day as I always worry he’ll bring the CRUD home to me and I have so many things now wrong with this body that I don’t need one more!

  6. Bex, our grocery store has implemented the safeguards you describe, I still regard going to the grocery store as contact shopping.
    I am whinging about the lack of no-contact shopping options, which involve not having to move about in enclosed spaces with other people, not all of whom are wearing masks, so they may be shedding the virus all over the place while they shop. We know the customers where we live aren’t wearing masks, and I saw the attendant, letting people into the store in the lineup, standing within a few feet of people talking to them. People just are not taking it seriously, but they are primarily younger people who feel they aren’t much at risk, so they are doing the bare minimum of compliance with what is required for social distancing.
    In my opinion, this makes the grocery store here a dangerous place to be. There is clear evidence from adjudicated studies, that the virus can hang about briefly from breath, talking, coughing, and sneezing. Briefly in that you might walk through a “cloud” of droplets that could be contaminated with the virus. This is minimized when people wear masks. Masks are not worn here by customers, except by one or two people, so once an asymptomatic person enters the store without a mask, they are shedding virus all over the store as they walk through, touching things, breathing on things…
    The vague term “community spread” doesn’t go into detail, because they just don’t know how that is actually working.
    I was mentioning to Attila yesterday that the official comment, when not related to a specific scientific study, “there is no evidence”, quite likely means there have been no studies done, so they really mean “we don’t know” and/or “that hasn’t been researched”.
    We err on the side of caution, because I feel that the parameters of required social distancing here are too lax for my liking. The stores do OK as far as in-store shopping is concerned, but the customers are making it dangerous, in my opinion, and the grocery stores cannot control that.
    I share your feelings about shopping day, it is a worry.
    That is why I am washing everything that comes into the house with soap and water, and rinsing, and quarantining the other items for the amount of time recommended, shorter times for cardboard, much longer times for plastics. Frozen items are washed with soap and wter, because those little demon viruses go dormant in the freezer.
    After spending time researching and deciding on what measures we will take, we implement them and put it out of our minds, because we have done everything within our power to prevent infection. This whinging entry is about the grocery stores not having done everything within their power to aid seniors and vulnerable people with no-contact shopping options. No-contact is the key concept.
    Stay safe dear friend!

  7. Teri

    So, after doing a little reading I signed up at Instacart. I’m not sure If we’ll ever use it, but if things felt really unhealthy here I think we would give it a try. We’d still have to quarantine items or wash them but at least we wouldn’t be going into the stores. Yeah, we’d probably be paying a premium on most things – especially since there’s a delivery charge – but when things turn deadly it would be more than worth it.

  8. Teri, good to know about Instacart.
    Higher prices and charges for delivery, since Attila has been laid off higher prices may be worth it, but we will be in trouble because as the prices go up, our income is half of what it was, temporarily, and who knows if there will be a job to go back to.

  9. Sandy

    Maggie, I totally understand the frustration. I wish there were better shopping options for seniors. I’ve used Instacart here and they provide pretty good service.

  10. Sandy, good to know about your Instacart experience. I am wondering if better infrastructural measures will be taken for the vulnerable, as the corporations and governments keep lauding that they will “take care of our most vulnerable members of society”. This seems ironic here since our seniors in homes are dying in great numbers, and the no-contact infrastructure needed for independently living seniors and vulnerable people are not being developed.
    Stay safe dear friend!

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