Everybody’s gotta eat. For most people, the process of grocery shopping is straightforward, if a bit time-consuming. You take stock of your fridge and pantry, scribble out a list of items you need, hop in your car, and hit up the local grocery store for some food. You browse the shelves, price and brand compare, navigate the aisles with ease, and cruise your way to checkout. Mission accomplished. Fridge and pantry filled.
When you are visually impaired, it looks just a little different. You follow the steps above, but add your own way of doing things. You dictate your grocery list or type it up and email it to yourself so you can read it on your phone or braille it out on a piece of paper. You plan to buy only what you can carry in a tote, backpack, or load up your one arm while using your cane or guide dog. Then you schedule transportation in the form of Lyft, Uber, a friend, or check when the bus is running. If you’re lucky, you may be able to walk to your grocery store. Either way, it takes more time and planning.
At the grocery store, you have a couple of options. You can request a personal shopper who will guide you through the store and hopefully help you find exactly what you’re looking for. You could be more adventurous and use an app like Aira to get paid assistance to direct you through the store, but again, so much time is spent just finding what you want. Here comes a far more convenient and accessible way of shopping for groceries. I use an app called Instacart, not to be confused with Instagram.
It functions much like Uber Eats, but you are ordering right from grocery stores local to you instead of fast food and restaurants. The app is highly accessible on a smartphone with clearly labeled buttons and tabs. I can’t speak for the website, but my fiancé reports that it is also a satisfactory way to browse the shop aisles online.
Once you download the app, you can create an account and select your membership type. As a household that grocery shops roughly every three or four weeks, we did the annual membership, which saves on delivery and service fees. When I was in college, I chose the monthly membership since I wasn’t ordering regularly. Either way, it’s a small price to pay for the convenience of having someone else shop for you and deliver your groceries right to your door. Besides the obvious, there are a few reasons why I love Instacart and haven’t done a lot of in-person shopping since even before the pandemic. It’s convenient and fairly inexpensive. The money I would spend on transportation is almost the same as the delivery and service fees together. I can schedule my delivery in between my other errands. I finally get to price and brand compare and make sure I’m getting the best deals. Word to the wise, it isn’t always the store brand. The app also tells you the unit price on most items, so I can see that it’s ten cents per ounce for one brand and eighteen for another. Virtually browsing the shelves means that you also get to see new things to try. You can shop by department or use the search feature to find what you’re looking for.
Now, before you ditch this post to go shop to your heart’s content, here are some disclaimers. More stores are being added all the time, but which stores are available depends on your location. Bigger cities get more options. If you are a small-town resident, your choices are likely to be limited. Instant, in this case, means within a few hours. Scheduling your delivery is such a beautiful thing that I appreciated so much when I fitted in deliveries between classes and meetings. But if you need a cup of sugar right away, I would check with your neighbor or be prepared to wait an hour or two for the whole bag to arrive. Certain days and times are much busier than others, just like how everyone likes to shop the crowded aisles on a Sunday afternoon. Weekday mornings are probably the best for quick deliveries.
Sometimes, the store is out of the exact item you want, and your shopper will offer you a replacement. I have been using this app for almost four years now, and I’ve gotten good replacements and bad ones. Don’t be discouraged; just be alert. There is a chat feature in the app that allows you to communicate with your shopper while they are hunting the shelves for your groceries which is very helpful. They will often message you if changes to your order need to be made. Sidenote: Shoppers love to send pictures of possible replacements, so a quick message about being blind lets them know that the photo thing just won’t help you. You can always rate your shopping, delivery, and replacements at the end to give them your valuable feedback.
As there are not too many accessible apps for shopping out there, and you don't want to spend hours planning, you can give Instacart a try; oh and a quick reminder, you can always scan your groceries with Supersense and create your own database whenever you get a product that you don't regularly shop or not on the database yet.
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