We’ve all seen the flyers that give students survival tips for school—one of the suggestions listed is usually a healthy diet. But how does one accomplish a healthy diet with the little time afforded to the student lifestyle, especially if you don’t drive? Luckily, thanks to the Internet, online grocery shopping is now a thing and can make it all a little easier. But if you’re anything like me, trying out new services can be intimidating and confusing. So, I thought I would conquer my fears and check out the leading grocery delivery services in town, so that you don’t have to.
When I started the 2019 school year in September, I decided that I was going to start ordering groceries instead of takeout. If I was going to spend all that money on a service, I should get more food for $30 than a couple of pizzas.
At five dollars, the delivery fee at Save-On-Foods seemed the most reasonable, so I chose to start there. I found the website to be confusing at first because there were so many menus to navigate, but I finally found the “Shop Departments” section, and it was organized just like the aisles in the actual grocery store. I appreciated that I could write a note to specify how I would like my food to be picked out, because I don’t know about you, but I like my avocados a certain way. In fact, all of the services I will write about have that option. Then I chose my date and time for the food to be delivered and off to the checkout I went. When I received my order, the driver called me about 10 minutes before he arrived and when he did, he was super friendly. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a chocolate bar and a cloth Save-On-Foods bag in my order and a lovely note from my personal shopper amongst the food. I have ordered from them a few times now since, and they have been consistently fantastic with their service.
The second place I ordered from was Thrifty Foods. I wasn’t going to at first because their fee is eight dollars, and when my cart is full it’s usually around $125 as compared to the $80 that I spent at Save-On. But then my parents got me hooked on this Okanagan salad dressing that I could only find at Thrifty’s, and I decided if I was going to spend the money on delivery, now was my chance. I found the online bit of the process to be similar to Save-On, but when I received the food, Thrifty’s was not at the same level. The herbs that I ordered had dead leaves and a cucumber I received was rotten in the middle. To give Thrifty’s the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t call back to rectify the problem, so do what you will with that information. But I think for how much I spent there, I shouldn’t be worried about the quality of the produce.
Since I was on a roll, I figured why not give Quality Foods a go, too? The ordering process was similar; however, their website was not on par with their competition. Many of the images were missing, and some of them were misleading. On the other websites, if you want a bag of onions, they show an image of a bag of onions. If you want one onion, they show three separate onions; but apparently, that’s how Quality Foods expresses a bag. I didn’t realize this and ordered four bags of onions! I would suggest if you order from Quality Foods to be careful and read the descriptions closely. On the upside, while my order was $135, and with a delivery fee of $10, the food I received was of good quality.
After using those three stores I thought I’d completed my mission. But then good ol’ Facebook started pushing a service called SPUD onto my feed. SPUD is marketed as a sustainable solution to grocery delivery. They offer free delivery to Nanaimo on Mondays and Wednesdays. The trade-off is that you don’t get to choose what time your delivery comes as they use a rideshare system.
SPUD works directly with farmers and other producers to offer the best organic and local foods. Because their only service is grocery delivery, I found that their online ordering system was better thought out; more extensive, with accurate images for everything, and smoother navigation. At the time of order, they also offered two free proteins and $10 off my first delivery after signing up for their newsletter. They also have a referral program that offers you and whoever you refer $20 off, and sometimes they will include random samples in your order. When you get your order, it will come in a Rubbermaid container that they simply leave outside a door of your choosing and then text you when it has arrived. You can send the container back to them, as well as some of the food packaging to be recycled.
Out of these four grocery services, I found SPUD to be the clear winner. Not only am I spending less money, which as a student is important to me, I also feel better about my carbon footprint when I order from them.
Save-On-Foods is a close second. If you need your groceries delivered on a certain day, I would choose Save-On because they cost less and you won’t have to worry about the quality of food.
Third would be Quality Foods. While their website could use some updating, at least the food I ordered was of acceptable quality.
Fourth would be Thrifty Foods because they were the only service I used where I was disappointed in the food I received.
Beyond the chain grocery stores, there are also a couple of options for students on campus that are worth knowing about:
The VIU Grocery Shuttle will take students in residence to Superstore; students can sign up for it at the VIU Student Residence Cedar Centre. The shuttle departs from the same place at 6:25 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays from September to April, and Mondays from May to August.
The other service is Good Food Box, which offers a box of fresh produce for only $10 and can be ordered through the Residence Cedar Centre. During October and November, VIU’s WEST Program helps with the Good Food Box and brings the boxes to the WEST Café, Building 205, Room 215. They cost $12, and $2 goes toward supporting students who are or aspire to be in the WEST Program. Alternatively, you can order a box online at nanaimofoodshare.ca/campaign/good-food-box/ or by calling 250-753-9393, and pick up at the Salvation Army, 505 Eighth St.
Wherever you get your food, I hope this helps clear up any questions you might have about grocery delivery, and I wish you well on your studies and shopping!