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Save trips to town by scheduling deliveries

Just about everything you buy at the store can be delivered to your door, even when your door is in the middle of nowhere.

How many times have you run to town, shopped for groceries, tackled other errands, and come home only to discover you forgot the one thing you actually went to town for?

All those trips waste precious time and money. A lot of money. In fact, the USDA estimates that rural households spend 38% more on vehicle fuel than their urban counterparts, and that doesn’t include gas for the tractor.

Taking advantage of delivery and pick-up options can really help rural families cut down on extra trips to town. It just takes a little research and planning.

The first step is to take an honest look at your driving and spending habits. Think about the things that cause the most stress.

Do you love buying groceries from the local mom-and-pop store, but hate having to drive to the next town for the few items they don’t carry? Keep shopping locally, but have those other items delivered. Is it hard for you to wrestle a 50-pound bag of dog food into the back of the truck while also wrangling a toddler? Have that dog food delivered.

Join the club

Shopping clubs and subscriptions are all the rage these days, from stylist-selected clothing to meal kits. Clubs that specialize in razorblades, vitamins, or toothbrushes can save money and help you avoid running out.

Rather than driving to multiple specialty stores, Stephanie Metz of rural Lacona, Iowa, says, “I get all of my household cleaning supplies, sports nutrition supplements, and personal care items like shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant delivered from my shop club.”

Julene Ripperger of rural Milo, Iowa, orders bulky items like cases of water, packs of toilet paper, and bags of dog food online at Walmart, and uses Amazon Pantry for things like personal care items and some foods. “Amazon delivers here every Wednesday,” she says. “They save all my pantry orders and ship them once a week.” Amazon also offers 15% savings when Prime members sign up to automatically receive a specific product every month, and they can skip or cancel anytime. That savings goes up to 20% with five or more baby items like diapers, formula, and baby food.

Kay Winn of rural Dinwiddie, Virginia, orders cleaning and paper supplies and office items from Sam’s Club and gets free shipping with her Plus membership. “That cuts that trip from weekly to roughly every other month,” she says.

This type of arrangement can also work well for regular prescriptions. Some pharmacies-—even local ones—will package pills in daily packs and ship them at no extra cost. No more pill sorting and no more trips to the pharmacy.

Getting groceries

While meal kit subscriptions are popular, they aren’t always practical or affordable, especially for large families. Still, don’t rule out buying food online.

Winn has a subscription to Misfits Market, which says it provides, “misfit produce delivered directly to you for up to 40% less than grocery store prices.” Each week, she gets a box of produce that may be an odd size or shape or have cosmetic blemishes, or that may need a few days to ripen.

“I like to touch my produce, but Misfits is getting me used to what for us is still a surprise supply. Customization has not come to our region yet,” she says. “Once I have things unpacked and refrigerated, I start Google searching for recipes. This has really increased our plant foods intake and the diversity of our diet overall.”

Besides saving money and broadening her produce horizons, the Misfits subscription is keeping what would otherwise be considered food waste out of landfills.

Many grocery stores—even local and regional chains—are now offering online ordering. Some will deliver in town for a fee, but there are big advantages even to ordering online and driving up, especially if you can combine pick-up with another reason for going to town. You won’t have to spend an hour shopping, there's no need to wake that sleeping baby in the back seat, and impulse purchases are eliminated.

Planning ahead is key to success with this type of shopping. You’ll need to figure out everything you need and order several hours to a day in advance.

For Metz, who commutes about an hour each way to her job in Des Moines, the last thing she wants to do on her way home is stop and shop for groceries. She says, “I usually order groceries for pickup on my way through town from work to save time and trips.”

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