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Opinion – Comparing grocery store to-go options

One year ago, I took it upon myself to write a review of our local Walmart’s online ordering and pickup to help others decide if it was worth a try. Although there were some mishaps, I utilized Walmart’s to go services many times in the last year, and while the system certainly has its faults, I’ve overall found it to be very useful to save time and money.

One year ago, I also promised should our local Food Lion also begin online ordering that I would also perform an honest review as well. Well, what do you know? It sure took them a while, but the Food Lions in both Farmville and Dillwyn have begun participating in the Food Lion To Go program.

While Walmart rarely has same-day time slots available for grocery pickup, I made my Food Lion order Friday morning and was able to schedule a pickup time between 2 and 3 p.m. Just like last time, I tried to purchase a variety of things, including items I predicted might stump the grocery store. My grocery list included salmon, extra firm tofu, shrimp, a variety of veggies, fruits and herbs, eggs, cheese, a box of the dear boyfriend’s favorite, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, some drinks, soap and body wash, paper towels, aluminum foil and — because I just knew it was too good to be true — a small pot of tulips, my favorite flower.

The Food Lion To Go app is a tad trickier to navigate than the Walmart app, and typing in items in the search bar at the top yielded much more mixed results. Typing in “green apple” did not yield a single apple but rather several pages of green apple candies and soaps. The app also logs you out after only a few minutes of inactivity.

When shopping with Walmart, the app will present you with a list of substitutions a few hours before your pickup and give you the option to OK the substitutions or decline and get your money refunded for those items. What I found interesting about Food Lion was the “shopper” picking out my food would text me to tell me what wasn’t available and offer up pictures of possible substitutions instead. My tofu was unavailable, and both my shrimp and my salmon had to be subbed out for different sizes. The strawberry body wash I ordered was going to be subbed for an orchid-scented one (a slap in the face to my strawberry-obsessed self) but I easily subbed it out for coconut body wash.

As expected, the tulips were unavailable when the shopper got to them, but they did ask if I wanted to sub them for a pretty potted sunflower. It is a good thing I decided against it, because my boyfriend walked through the door later that day with — you guessed it — a sunflower he saw at Food Lion and couldn’t resist. It was admittedly quite pretty, as was the one the shopper asked if I wanted.

While getting to yea or nay products in real time was fun, I only had a few minutes to respond to my personal shopper, so most of the switches I didn’t see until they had decided for me.

Walmart gives you the option to notify them when you are on your way to pick up your order, and even then it can take anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes before a worker comes out with your groceries.

Food Lion only gave me the option to tell them once I had arrived in one of the designated To Go parking spots, but a sales associate was out in less than two minutes to load groceries into the back of the car. The difference in time was night and day.

After I got home, all groceries were accounted for. And I must say, while Walmart tends to give me the worst looking produce of the bunch because I’m not there to pick it out myself, all of my Food Lion fruits and veggies were ripe and crisp, and the perishable items I purchased were far from their expiration date. And unlike Walmart, I did not end up with anybody else’s groceries.

Of course, we all want to get the best bang for our buck, and we all know Food Lion is typically more expensive than Walmart. After the deductions for items they did not have, and even with some MVP deals, my Food Lion order came out to $84.63. I made the same cart in the Walmart app for $76.14, so that’s an approximate savings of $8.49.

Is that extra nine bucks worth it? It’s up to you to decide. The process was quick and my groceries looked just as nice as if I had picked them out myself.

Many people have criticized Food Lion for even coming out with a To Go option now that things are opening back up and COVID-19 cases are slowing to a crawl. While they were slow to the draw, I think to go grocery ordering is great to save a few hours of your time, especially if you have limited mobility or just don’t want to put on real people clothes and go inside the store. Try it for yourself and see what you think. Be sure to let me know how it went.

ALEXA MASSEY is a staff reporter for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Alexa.Massey@ FarmvilleHerald.com.