Thursday, February 5, 2009

Greenling - Organic Food Delivery

I have a new love in my life. I recently signed up for a grocery delivery service — They bill themselves as “a home delivery service of local and organic food”. While it is not an exclusive arrangement, I am pleased to say I have made a firm commitment to this new grocer in my life. What follows is our story, thus far.

I have been increasingly dissatisfied and desired something new in my grocery life. Because I eat almost exclusively sustainable, organic, and/or local foods I shop at the local high-end natural food market. When I lived in Minneapolis that meant Whole Foods. Now that I’m in Austin, TX it means Central Market. Ironic I suppose since Whole Foods is an Austin based company, but Central Market is closer to home. I like Central Market. It has nice selection, and the people are friendly. But it’s also expensive and huge, and they make my meat buying difficult. I sought change.

I had fantasies of saving money on my monthly grocery bill. Let’s be honest shopping at a high-end natural food mega-mart isn’t cheap. I admit that some items on Greenling are also expensive, and perhaps slightly more expensive. However, I theorized that by limiting my choices to those available at Greenling, and staying away from the store I could avoid the temptation, which is sometimes strong, to buy the impulse items — the plethora goodies that aren’t on the list, but look delicious nonetheless. I could avoid the prepared foods as well, which while convenient are both very expensive and not all that good for a person.

My more-than-once-weekly trips to the giant grocery store take a ton of time, time that I covet, and never seem to have enough of. In the past I didn’t think about it much, I would just begrudgingly cruise every aisle of the market. Then I started paying attention to just how much time it was really taking me to shop, and was stunned to discover I was spending on average 3-5 hours grocery shopping every week. That’s practically a part-time job. And it wasn’t a fun part-time job. These grocery errands were repetitive and getting rather dull — trip after trip of the same old staples, aisle after aisle of the same old same old. A change of scenery was what I needed and I was hopeful that Greenling could be just such a change. I also believed that by leaving my grocery runs behind I would be reducing my carbon footprint. Although I admit I have not done the necessary research to determine by exactly how much, though I assume that every bit helps.

Finally, I sought new kind of meat — cleaner, greener meat. While I abstain from eating meat, and have for 20 plus years, I cook meat, and I serve meat to my loved ones. I was seeking a source of local, organic, and most importantly pastured animal products. Not just “grass-fed”. All animals are “grass-fed” until sent to the feedlot. Not just “free-range” which requires only that the hens have access to the outdoors, but does nothing to enforce how much time they spend there. (I’ve always pictured something like a doggie door on the side of the hen house and the hens having no real idea of how to use it.) No I wanted animal products that were truly pastured and local. Animals that were being humanely raised and eating the diets they had evolved to eat.

These were the things my current market left me wanting. I had to face facts, Central Market just couldn’t satisfy me, just couldn’t be everything I wanted it to be.

Then I met Greenling. We met on the Internet, and at first glance it seemed to be just the thing I was looking for. I flirted with the idea of making a change for several months before I made my move. I was reticent. I approached with caution. I admit I feared that something would be missing from my grocery life; there was something sensual about the time I spent at Central Market. For all it’s faults shopping at Central Market was a sensory experience. There seemed to be something very impersonal and detached about shopping on-line. Would I miss the opportunity to weigh pomegranates in my hand, as if able to tell which will taste best by its heft in my hand? Would I miss pinching the grapes? Would I yearn to smell each hunk of plastic wrapped cheese, deciding which to buy based on a stinky-ness scale I had invented for my self and developed to a finely tuned sixth sense? If you can’t smell the cheese through the plastic, it won’t taste good.

And besides I don’t do well with change, neurotically clinging to the familiar.

But alas, I was smitten. Greenling had caught my eye. I was attracted by the time saving convenience, and the hope of saving a few pennies, and the meat. The thrill seeker in me was also attracted to the element of surprise. Greenling offered a certain sense of mystery and the unknown that I found thrilling and knew could be satisfying. I would replace the thrill of smelling cheese with the thrill of mystery and intrigue.

Ultimately I decided it would be worth it, I was ready to make my move. I created an account; I set my log in and my password, and filled my first virtual basket. I even included the “Surprise Me” item, which promised to be “…super fresh…and impressive”. I set the delivery date.

Then came the anticipation, a close second to mystery and intrigue on the thrilling scale in my world. I found myself looking forward to my delivery, like I look forward to the mail everyday. I was like a schoolgirl, waiting for the prom. I anxiously, and with enthusiasm, waited for the goods to arrive.

And when they did I could not have been more pleased. There on my doorstep, left by the friendly delivery guy, were my Greenling Tubs. And what they held within was beautiful. Inside my tubs was a bounty of organic, and local foodstuffs that I could feel good about spending money on, and even better about eating. It was more than I had hoped for.

The cheese arrived wrapped in paper instead of plastic. It was a sharp, fragrant, and crumbly cheddar made from the raw milk of pastured cows on a local farm by artisan cheese makers. It swept me off my feet.

The local, and organic mushrooms were packed in a paper bag, which is how it should be, allowing the fungi to breath keeps them fresher longer. As a bonus the bag was printed with recipes, a little quaint yes, but I appreciated the gesture. I found it charming.

The eggs were also a real treat. Some were tiny, and some were huge, and they ranged in color from a deep terra cotta to a light latte and just a few were the soft bluish green of turquoise. I haven’t seen eggs like these since I visited my Auntie’s farm as a kid.

I’d have my sensory experience after all.

I also had the smallest grocery bill I have had in some time. And I didn’t even have to leave the house.

I knew right off this wasn’t just any grocer. This was special. I wanted to make it a steady thing, and signed up for delivery dates on a weekly basis. I’m still friendly with my other market, and I’ll still visit for my frozen fruit, and my bulk dry goods. After all, I still need the stability of a well-stocked pantry. But I have traded the temptation of prepared foods for something more wholesome. I now have full access to cleaner, happier meat. I have left behind the daunting hours of cruising aisle after aisle for something fresh and new. I look forward to a long, loving relationship with my new local and organic grocery delivery service.


  1. Those eggs are beautiful and colorful. Now I want my own lovely basket.

  2. This is fabulous! I can't wait for recipes. And the ones about wine.........