Relay Foods

Folks who do their best to buy local foods as often as possible often face a quandry this time of year.  Lots of farmers’ markets are wrapping up for the season.  Where is one to get local meat, veggies and dairy in the Winter months?  If you’re lucky you have a co-op nearby that can provide some of those things, but you may still need to do a lot of shopping elsewhere, either for variety or cost reasons.  Maybe your local grocery store carries some local items throughout the year.  In Virginia we do have the Virginia’s Finest program that identifies products local to the state that you can get in a regular grocery store so that helps.  There will also be a farmers’ market or two that will go all year.  That’s terrific, except that it means you have to do that shopping only on the one or two days a week that the market is open.  So, the void in all this is a place where I can get local foods, organic foods and grocery staples on any day of the week.  Enter Relay Foods to fill the void.

Several months ago I bought a $25 Groupon that allowed me to order $50 from Relay Foods and today I picked up my first order.  This process is a dream, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  First let’s tackle the obvious question:  what the heck is Relay Foods?  It’s an online grocery service.  You can shop local, or not; speciality stores, or not; farm products; restaurant products; bakery goods, etc.  The searching is really easy.  You can shop by vendor, food category, a favorites list that you create, new items, etc.  All you have to do is select your items, pay for them and choose how you want to get them.  There’s a home delivery service if you’re short on time or want to send a pre-paid delivery to someone.  There’s a fee for that.  Or there’s a pick up service.  The pick up locations vary by day of the week, but they’re all over town every day.  SO convenient.  And since it’s pre-paid it’s really quick.  So, that’s the set up.  How did it really work for me?

It worked great.  I did my shopping late on Sunday night.  I picked a combination of farmers’ market type things and grocery store type things.  The only issue I had is that the produce from local farms is only available if you choose a pickup day T-Th.  I had to remove a butternut squash and some turnips from my cart, but even that was easy.  I got some pasta from a local place that’s far from my house so that was terrific.  I got some ground pork and some salami from a local farm.  I got some milk and a clamshell of organic spinach too to save me an extra trip to the grocery store.  Easy peasy.

Check out has a little registration process the first time.  No big deal.  You pay by credit or debit card.  You pick a pickup day and location.  Done!  I went to pick up today and got my order from a friendly soul in about 5 minutes.  Seriously, this rocks.

So, what’s the fine print?  The sad truth is that currently Relay Foods is only in Charlottesville, VA and Richmond, VA.  Something else to know is that in Charlottesville there’s a $50 minimum order. No such minimum in Richmond.  Of course, sometimes items may be unavailable.  You can set your preferences so that Relay Foods can choose substitutions or not. And you provide a phone number so they can call if there’s an issue with your order.  It’s a good system.

What would we like to see from Relay?  More cities to be sure, though if you’re in reasonable driving distance I really encourage you to check it out.  Also, we’d really like to see these folks take EBT and/or food stamps.  What an amazing way to get fresh, local foods into neighborhoods that often lack good sources for them.  According to the FAQ on the site their looking into this.  I hope they’re looking hard.

I have to admit that I’m kind of a grocery nerd so I kind of like going to the store.  I won’t use this all the time.  But my schedule being what it’s been recently it’s a Godsend.

Check out Relay Foods!

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