Saturday, October 12, 2013

Relay Foods... All the Best, in One Place

I may never go specialty shopping again... at least not without checking online grocer Relay Foods first. A healthy and extravagant alternative to Giant and Safeway without the long lines of Trader Joe's, Relay Foods offers busy Washingtonians a brand new way to grab some of the finer foods around, online and with delivery to your home or nearby, free pick-up hot spot. What more could a 9 to niner ask for?

I've tried online grocery shopping before, but the only thing I remember was a less than 50% success rate in finding my first choice, reducing my order to several bags of substitutes (chosen by someone other than myself. Yikes.) Relay Foods warns you ahead of time about the chance for an out-of-stock item; but goes one step further (much further) by providing raw numbers (percentile chances, 40%, 80%, 100%, etc.) This alone, put my mind at ease (BTW, my order of 13 completely random items arrived as promised... 100%!)

Pickup Location outside MINT Gym in Adams Morgan

But that doesn't begin to explain how easy it is to order on Relay Food's intuitive website. To order an item, all you have to do is click the + sign on the photo of the item you want. Need more than one? Click it again (and again, if necessary.) How simple is that? Best of all, you get a running tally of your order instantly at the top of the screen (Very handy, especially if you're using a coupon that requires a minimum amount.)

As for variety, you've come to the right place. Relay Foods sells just about everything (fresh produce, grass fed beef, Kimchi, oysters (fresh caught, never frozen) even 400+ cleaning supplies & vitamins. No house brands here however: Count on top quality across the board, which is the #1 reason I'll continue to shop here.

After browsing for a little more than 10 minutes, I found a new go-to salame (Olli Salumeria, best I've ever had in the States) a line of impossible-to-find, albeit pricey sodas by Capital Kombucha, a six-pack of frozen, All-Natural doughnuts that microwave in 30 seconds and eight different dips & spreads from Cava Mezze (I bought Crazy Feta & Harissa... Yum.) Pop in a coupon code (see below) and a credit card number, and I arrived at my choice of pickup locations. Home delivery isn't always convenient for me (Relay does offer delivery however, click here for info) so I chose from dozens of nearby pickup locations, settling on the Mint Gym in Adams Morgan. You get to choose the day and time (4-hour window) of your pickup, which I found especially helpful given my crazy schedule. I selected a time three days away (I told you, my schedule was crazy) and received an email with a detailed invoice, complete with photos seconds later.

Good luck finding all this at Giant or Safeway

Pick-up was scheduled between 3:00 PM and 7 in the evening. Mint is easily accessible, and I almost made the mistake of walking into the gym directly. Not so fast. Parked outside was a Relay Foods delivery truck, back open and friendly associate front and center. So much for explaining my situation to a gym employee: Seriously, how easy can this be? I gave him my name, and he brought out a tote with all my groceries inside (frozen and non.) Frozen items were carefully packed inside a freezer bag (filled with extra plastic bags of ice... just in case) and everything else in a nice, BIG, reusable tote bag with handles. Color me impressed at a thorough inspection of each and every item, initiated by the driver. The whole process took two minutes tops (less than half the time it takes to watch a grocer clerk scan, pause and bag.)

I had friends over the next night, and they were wowed by the drinks, grass fed burgers, Gourmet MJ's Hot Mama Catsup (you've never had ketchup like this) and honey whole wheat burger rolls. No donuts for dessert however... they're all mine. With weekend pick-up available, you could conceivably collect an order, get back in your car and tailgate at the football game (before you ask, I checked... they don't sell portable grills: Bring your own.)

If your idea of grocery shopping is milk, eggs and bread with a box of cereal to "mix things up," then Relay Foods may not be for you. On the other hand, if market fresh fish, fancy sauces and healthy staples sound good to you, point your mouse in the direction of, sign up for a free account and let them take care of the rest. To help you get started, use the code 1Relay6 to get $10 off your first order. Bon app├ętit!