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How I order groceries online in NY under social distancing

Originally posted on WeChat Official Account (link) in March 2020.

More and more New Yorkers started working from home under the COVID-19 social distancing orders. When I posted about my self quarantine life on social media, many of my friends in the city don't seem to have a well-thought execution plan on ordering groceries online. I would like to share some my tips from my past three weeks experience and hopefully it's helpful.

Why so much thoughts?

There are three reasons for which I started practicing social distancing and planning for online grocery shopping much earlier than many people:

1. my employer allows me to;

2. I heard first-hand stories from ERs in China when I was leading an effort to donate PPEs to hospitals there 2 months ago;

3. I've been living by myself without much social safety net for most of my life thus I am extra sensitive to potential threats.

When my business conference in the Bay Area was canceled on March 2nd, I changed my flight and flew back to NY by Tuesday midnight. There was a guy two rows back constantly coughing on the plane, so I covered myself all up. My self quarantine started officially when I got home that night.

No more subway rides. No more grocery shopping. No more friend outings.

Since then, I've been using below grocery delivery services to feed myself at home, which I find very effective.

Services I Use

1. Amazon Fresh: 2-day delivery with free 2-h delivery windows to select; order in the same Amazon app but check out in different cart; come in medium brown bags with Amazon's smiley face

Pros: free delivery for $50+ orders with reasonable tips. Great selection

Cons: not as fast as the same day. In some areas, it takes some effort/luck to reserve a delivery time window due to its high volume (a tip is to refresh a few times if no time slots are available; it's easier to find slots at midnight). Some popular items may be out of stock

2. Whole Foods (yes, it's different from Amazon Fresh): same day delivery with free 2-h delivery windows; same Amazon app but different selections/different checkout cart; come in Whole Foods' medium brown bags

Pros: fastest! Great fruit and organic selections. Plenty of stock and time slots to pick. Free delivery for $50+ orders with reasonable tips

Cons: higher price tag than Amazon Fresh (same bag of organic rice is $5.99 at Whole Foods aisle and $4.99 at Amazon Fresh). Often unavailable for Queens

3. FreshGogo: Chinese grocery delivery service with headquarter in Flushing, Queens; usually takes 2 weeks for delivery with decent cool bags due to high volume

Pros: yay to great selection of Chinese groceries! Online customer service chat available. Very delicate packaging

Cons: really slow due to the high demand. Orders can be canceled if you are not lucky. Fixed $10 service fee on top of the delivery fee (exempt when ordering $50+), which is quite expensive

4. Yamibuy: an international e-commerce corporation for Asian snacks and daily necessities with headquarter in the Bay Area (est. 2013).

Pros: yay to great Asian snack selection!

Cons: shipping is slow (just to be fair, I meant the average slowness for domestic shipping)

5. Amazon: you all know this one. Prime membership is awesome!

Pros: great selection of almost everything at a good price

Cons: shiping could be slow if you are not a Prime member

Some friends shared their experience with Costco Same Day: needs membership (and I don't have it). They do ship to Queens and Brooklyn (while Whole Foods barely does) but it takes two days, instead of the same day. The delivery can be very slow. Sometimes they even couldn't arrive on the scheduled day.

Some friends mentioned inscart and Chowbus services. However I've never used it and don't have enough information to share.

Now connect the dots

Based on my personal preference on groceries and how fast I consume them, I established an online ordering routine as below:

1. Freshness. Plan meals 3 days ahead. Order fresh vegetables and protein (seafood or meat) on Sundays and/or Wednesday (as needed) via Amazon Fresh

2. Quality. Order dairy/fruit/eggs once a week via Whole Foods

3. Specialty. Plan on stocking/Chinese groceries 2 weeks ahead and order via FreshGogo

Above three orders should complement each other in regards to nutritional balance and grocery storage time, as well as your fridge's capacity.

4. Cheerfulness. List the snacks and beverages that I've always wanted to try but haven't and order them on Yamibuy ASAP (they run out fast due to high demand)

5. Thoughtfulness. Plan on stocking household necessities as well as protein/vitamins that can be stored for a few months and order them from Amazon


The top 3 success metrics of the above planning are timing, food quality, and balance of nutrition. Delivery cost is a lower priority. I didn't factor their app/service user experience, although I am a Product Manager, LOL.

I hope my shopping plan makes some sense to you. Please comment and share your grocery shopping techniques. I can also attach my detailed shopping list in the comment area if anyone is interested.

Social distancing is not pleasant but we are doing this together for the greater good. Stay home. Stay strong. This is a tough time for everyone. But life always goes on.

We are in this together. Happy social distancing!

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