One of the first questions that people usually ask us when they discover we don't own a car is how we do groceries. The answer is "similar to how we did when we had a car. We make a list, buy our goods and bring them home." The simplest way to do this is weekly and with four panniers. We'll sometimes do a mini-shop mid-week to top up on our cravings, and we'll definitely do a huge "Costco-size" trip every 5-6 weeks.
This week there's a Case Lot Sale at my favorite grocery store. In an effort to be frugal and food-smart, I made a list and tallied up what I was going to buy. It seems my wallet was bigger than my bike! I admit that this was quite a large purchase to make with only one bike. I was confident that I could get this $233 purchase to our place solo, without problem. JahJ had his (pannier-less) bike and Nae-J would hold on to the bags that the bungee cords couldn't get to.
As I was Tetris-ing the largest items in first (a 50 pound bag of oats on the Hooptie, two boxes of a dozen almond milk tetra packs), a stranger stopped to congratulate me. "I've only got 2.5 kilometers to get home, I can do this" I reassured him and myself. Another stranger stopped and stared. "Are you okay?" she asked. I was beginning to worry that my purchase may have been way too large. Jose was at his Jiu-Jitsu class and my favorite neighbour was at work. I didn't have a back-up plan. The lady offered to drive my groceries home if I didn't have too far to go. I accepted the offer without thinking of what could go wrong. We loaded the oats and produce in her van, I gave her my address and directions and off she went.
The skeptic in me showed up just in time to get her license plate number. JahJ and I biked home leisurely with my panniers over full of staples. Nae-J only had to hold on the the bag containing our library books. She was worried that the van would get home before us with the kiwis that she now had a craving for. I pedaled a little faster. I got home before the van and set up an unpacking location in the driveway. Three minutes later, the van showed up and I could breathe easy again. Rebecca hadn't run off with half my grocery haul and she was more than happy to help us unload. She mentioned that she sometimes feels that as a single person in a van she should be helping people by offering them or their groceries a ride home. I was her first and it worked out beautifully. The only thing that would have eased my cynic would have been a phone number to track her down if something had come up.
If you're looking to replace a grocery-hauling car trip with an empowering grocery-hauling bike trip, be sure to do it with at least two panniers per hundred dollars. Or, you know, find a gracious stranger who will bail you out!