Someone recently asked me how you shop for groceries on a bike. It struck me as a question lots of people have probably never thought about, so why not write something about it?
I think the first thing to keep in mind is that you’re probably going to have to shop for groceries more than once a week. To me, that’s a feature not a bug, as I mostly try to eat fresh produce, some of which doesn’t keep all that well for a week anyway. Shopping more frequently means I only have to plan meals for a few days at a time. It’s also not that much of a burden, if you shop closer to home, which is easier if you live closer to stuff.
It was probably an easier change for me as well because I actually transitioned to bike shopping from shopping on foot. When we lived downtown, there was a grocery store two blocks away and a mass market retailer between the office and home. It was no big deal to make a stop and grab what I needed.
Shopping by bike is similar in concept, as long as you have some cargo capacity. Rule number one is you don’t want to try to get around with shopping bags hanging from your handle bars. You’re going to need a place to put stuff. A basket out front. A cargo rack and panniers in the back. Or go really crazy and get yourself a cargo bike. Get the right tool for the job.
The main challenge to shopping without a car is buying stuff that’s heavy or bulky. For most of that stuff, we’ve signed up with your friendly (or is it?) online retailer to bring it every month, or however often makes sense. Toilet paper, facial tissues, baby wipes, and dog food have all moved off my shopping list and into regular subscriptions. The quantity of cardboard involved does make me worried about how green that choice actually is, but it’s convenient and it removes a barrier to not driving so I go with it.
But also I do drive for groceries. Awhile ago we were out of diapers, Amazon wasn’t cooperating, and it was raining, so I drove to the Richfield Target (only a couple of miles from our house). Since I was there, I picked up some groceries too. But Target isn’t my preferred grocery spot (although it’s not bad), so I also stopped in at the Seward Coop on Sunday as part of one of my weekend morning rides to get some specialty stuff. Then I had to pop over SuperValu on the walk back from the playground because I had forgotten milk. Three grocery stops in two days, only one by bike.
I’ve also been know to make a larger weekend shopping trip in the car, especially if I’m in a hurry or would rather shop at a store that’s a bit farther away. I make excuses about the relative level of quality of the closer stores, but I’ve got to try to make myself use the cargo bike instead. Nobody’s perfect.