Grocery Getter

In high school I drove the family station wagon, which we’d dubbed The Grocery Getter. I’ve never owned a car of my own, but I have to admit cars really do make good grocery getters. Especially when you’re doing back to school shopping. For the weekly trip to the farmers’ market my bike is a great option, but when bulk buying it’s great to have a car. This time around I decided to do my back to school shopping with Car2Go. Typically I would have done this with Getaround and in the future I probably will since it’s cheaper, but I like giving a little notice with Getaround and this was a fairly spontaneous trip. As I noted in Smart Phone + Smart Car = Smart Errands, Car2Go is great for opportunistic autoing.

I just stocked up on cat food at the pet store and realized that if I had a car I could pick up plenty of tasty, healthy food to get me through Winter Term, too. I found the nearest Car2Go just a couple blocks away and drove it to Grocery Outlet. I parked on a quiet street and decided to take my chances with someone else snagging the car while I was in the store. I ended my trip on the Car2Go menu and headed into the store with my bag o’ cat food. Now, Portland is a strange enough place that people don’t really think you’re weird walking into a grocery store with a bag of cat food, so if you have qualms about this, sorry, but golly I am grateful for our practical quirkiness!

Have I ever told you how much I love Grocery Outlet? There’s a great natural and organic section. Some of my staple foods (almond milk, Franz bread, local tortillas, Tillamook cheese, butter, and yogurt) are available for a fraction of regular price. I often think of Grocery Outlet (which my friends and I affectionately refer to as the Groc Out pronounced “Gross Out”) as a thrift store for food. (Remember, thrift stores are cool here, so this is a good thing!) You never know quite what you’ll find (why hello, chocolate hazelnut spread, agave syrup, dolmas, smoked salmon, artichoke dip, etc.) but it’s always a good deal. Of course, you might never be able to find your new favorite flavor again. Yup, turns out I’m the only one who is obsessed with Ben & Jerry’s Mission to Marzipan Ice Cream. That’s why they’re discontinuing it and why I’m getting such a good deal. What’s wrong with you people?! This stuff is delicious! Maybe if I buy all of it they’ll reconsider. Wait, no, now I have a mini fridge. It was a nice thought… Oh, oh, they also have my favorite vitamins. Kids chewables, how I love thee. Hey, don’t judge! Years ago when I was complaining to a friend that I HATE swallowing giant multivitamins, she simply said, “So don’t. You’re little like me and I still take kids vitamins.” This was utter brilliance. I LOVED taking my vitamins as a kid. I would beg for them. “Minimum! Minimum!” I would shriek before I could say the word properly. I wanted to gobble them up. But I was limited to one a day. Now that I’m a grown up I figure I can eat two of them every day. Ta da! I win!

Mama always said not to shop on an empty stomach. And she was right, of course. I wanted to eat ALL the delicious food! But a hearty appetite is a good thing when stocking up. It’s hard to do a big shopping trip during crunch time so I love filling my pantry before school starts back up and doing weekly trips for fresh stuff like produce, yogurt, and bread. As my cart filled up I realized that if someone had snagged MY Car2Go I was going to have a hard time getting my groceries home by bus. I checked the handy app on my phone and was relieved that MY Car2Go was still there. So I reserved it for myself, picked a few more groceries and then checked out. The checker had no problem at all with me having a bag of already-paid-for-somewhere-else cat food there, too.

I had way more than I could comfortably carry at this point so I loaded up my Car2Go and headed over to Trader Joes. This time on the Car2Go menu I made a stopover rather than ending my trip. I picked up a bunch of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and some produce and loaded that into the car, too. While I was packing up I explained the Car2Go concept to people, one right after the other. I told them that most people who have cars don’t find Car2Go very useful but those of us who don’t have cars love it!

Smart Car + Smart Phone = Smart Errands

The hose I borrowed temporarily had such a rubbery taste that Raffi wouldn't drink the water. Getting a drinking quality hose was a priority today, so I decided to try out Portland's newest public-private transportation option. Car2Go is a car rental program utilizing a collection of blue and white Smart cars that are perpetually scattered across the city by one-way trips. Here's how it worked for me:

  • I became a member a couple weeks ago during the trial period while the memberships were free. Yay!  I downloaded the app for my android phone.
  • I woke up this morning and decided to see where the closest car was. (I hadn't even gotten out of bed at this point. Thank you smart phone!)
  • I made breakfast, tended to my chicken, put on my shoes, grabbed my bag and my shopping list, and walked the eight blocks to the closest Car2Go.
  • I held my membership card over the little panel on the windshield and the car unlocked.
  • I hopped in, answered a few questions about the vehicle's condition, set my destination on the GPS, and headed out.
  • When I got there, I selected the "Stopover" option so that I could extend my reservation while I was in the store and the car would still be there when I returned.
  • When I was done I parked the car, answered a few more questions, held my membership card over the panel at the windshield, and went about my day.

My downfall was this: I didn't make sure the store had everything I needed before setting out. Since Car2Go charges by the minute, my first trip ended up being a total waste of time and money. I've decided that Car2Go is a great option for spur of the moment trips since you don't have to make a reservation like you do with ZipCar and Getaround. You also don't have to return the car to the place you found it, which can save lots of time and hassle. But it's worthwhile to use your smart phone prior to hopping into that smart car to make sure that your errand isn't a wild goose chase.

I was after a drinking quality hose and a hose splitter for my water supply and coconut coir for my compost toilet. I'd already been to a couple little garden shops in search of coconut coir blocks and they didn't have them. I'd purchased coconut coir at a big yucky corporate hardware store in the past so I decided to go ahead and go there since they'd have everything I needed. They didn't. I shouldn't have been surprised since I don't think I've ever left that place satisfied! Nevertheless, I had another good reason to support my local hardware store, which I knew carried the recycled rubber drinking quality hoses. Unfortunately, they didn't open for another hour and I didn't want to pay for the car that whole time. So I parked it on my street and finished my reservation. (Couldn't resist pulling the car into my driveway first though for a photo.) Fortunately, no one else got the bright idea to use that particular car so the car was waiting for me an hour later. I was able to get the hose and splitter from my local hardware store and be home again in no time.

I imagine I'll still use my bike for most of my trips, even errands that involve some hauling. But it's nice to know that Car2Go is a convenient option for opportunistic auto-ing.