Editor's note: This story was last updated on April 6
If you're like us, procuring your regular groceries inspires more dread than usual these days.
Inventory is limited (good luck if you're on your last roll of toilet paper), and social distancing guidelines make us want to stay far away from any place people are gathering.
But at some point, we all have to eat.
Beyond the major grocery store retailers, Tucson has some great local options for sourcing your veggies, coffee and more. It's a win-win. You avoid braving a grocery store and you support a small business.
If you do choose to venture into a grocery store, try to go when it's not crowded, wipe your cart and basket handles down, tackle the store with a plan and wash your hands when you leave. Many stores also have delivery and pickup options, which, obviously, are in high demand right now.
You might have to get creative when planning your grocery list, as grocery stores implement quantity limits not just on individual items but kinds of items.
We're all learning how to do this — this shopping during a global pandemic thing. Trust us, we never imagined we'd be writing a guide to grocery shopping in Tucson. But, here we are.
Note: If you have grocery shopping tips to share, please email us at email@example.com.
Here’s what to know:
Most major retailers offer curbside pick-up, home delivery, shipping or some combination of the three. But curbside pick-up and home delivery are in such high demand, that spots are not available for several days out, if at all. Anecdotally, we have heard that you just have to keep checking back for available spots.
If you haven’t used one of these services before, they all basically work the same way, but things are rapidly changing so be sure to read the latest updates on your store’s website about changes to their operations. Here are some general things to know:
• Major retailers that have some version of delivery or curbside pick-up include Frys Food Stores, Bashas', AJ's Fine Foods, Food City, Sprouts, Safeway, Albertsons, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, Costco and Merit Foods Arizona. Check with individual stores for details.
• To use one of these services you place your order and pay online on the store’s website.
• You should check to see if there are any slots available before you start adding items to your cart.
• Inventory is constantly changing so even if you place an order for items, there is no guarantee that everything you order will be available. In some cases substitutions will be made, but in others you just won’t receive that item.
• Some in-demand items can’t be purchased online at all. These things include toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, other hard-to-find items. Note that grocery stores are also placing limits on how much of certain items you can purchase.
• Home delivery orders are fulfilled either by the store’s employees or a third-party shopping service like Instacart.
• Some stores charge a flat fee for home delivery and some charge a fee based on the total bill.
• Some stores also charge a flat fee for curbside pick-up, but may be offering this as a free service at this time.
• There may also be minimum orders for delivery or pick-up services.
• Shipping is available for many non-perishable items and home goods. Look to the big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club for good options there.
• Check with the individual business or service for rules on tipping. Generally, if you’re shopping through a grocery store that uses Instacart, you should tip the shopper, which you can do through the ordering process.
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Other delivery services
Aside from what retailers offer directly from their stores, there are also a few different online services where you can hire someone to do your grocery shopping for you and deliver to your door.
• The most well known service is Instacart which allows you to shop online from your choice of retailers in your area for a fee, dependent on the time you order and your order size. Instacart is also experiencing a huge demand for its services and orders can take several days to be filled and delivered. Earlier this week some Instacart and Amazon shoppers throughout the country staged a strike to call for safer working conditions, better pay and expansion of sick leave. Instacart has tried to address some of those concerns with recent changes.
• GoPuff delivers convenience store items, snacks, essentials, cleaning products, pet supplies and home goods from its facility to your door for a flat fee of $1.95. You can also choose how much you want to tip your delivery person. This service may not be available in all areas of town.
• Shipt offers same-day delivery from major retailers in your area and free delivery for orders more than $35. There is a membership fee required for this service that costs $99 annually or $14 per month. Shipt is also seeing an increase in demand which may affect delivery times and item availability.
• Schwan’s delivers a variety of frozen foods, including pre-made meals to your home. The delivery fee ranges from $1.75-$3.99 depending on your total bill.
Local produce available for pickup and delivery
• Tucson CSA provides a different box of local produce every week for $24, according to their website. Sign up for six or 12 weeks at a time and pick up your groceries in the courtyard of the Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd., on Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. or at the Watershed Management Group, 1137 N. Dodge Blvd., Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. More info here.
• The Community Food Bank’s popular Santa Cruz River Farmer's Market is now operating as a drive up market at Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento. They are now located across the street from the Mercado, and accept bikers, walkers and people in their cars. Just pull up to a designated space and they will greet you at your car, offering a list of pre-bagged items. You can pay with credit or debit, as well as cash or SNAP food stamps. Check their Facebook page for more info.
• Café Botanica at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, just introduced a prepared foods and grocery delivery service where you can purchase local produce, eggs and meats from E&R Pork, Barrio Bread products, Merchant’s Garden lettuce and more. It’s run by Tucson caterer Kristine Jensen of the Gallery of Food. Delivery fees are based on your zip code. View the menu and order online at galleryoffood.square.site
• Merchant's Garden has organized a drive-up produce stand where you can pick up freshly-harvested hydroponic greens including butter, green leaf and red leaf lettuces. The produce stand is open Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located at 555 S. Tucson Blvd. Only debit or credit cards are accepted. A 25 percent discount is available for military, health professionals, students at TUSD, University of Arizona and Pima Community College and individuals who use food stamps. Go here for more information.
How to source other local products
Local and sustainable meat 🥩
• Forbes Meat Company just created a website and online store where you can get local sustainable meat delivered to your house. You can order small like a pound of bacon or a single ribeye steak, but they also have larger meat boxes with steaks, sausage, a whole chicken and more. You can also purchase bottles from Revel wine bar. Services charges are based on the items ordered. Check it out here.
• Charro Steak is putting together a wide range of butcher’s boxes with premium grass-fed steaks, sustainable seafood and more. You can get cookout grill kits with tortillas and limes, or order individual steaks, salmon, chicken and more to cook at home. Available for carryout and delivery. (Also, each Charro restaurant in the family has its own selection of meal kits.) View the Charro Steak takeout menu here.
Craft beer and wine 🍷
• Most restaurants are offering beer and wine for takeout, often at retail prices. But if you’d like to choose from a larger selection, here are some ideas: Plaza Liquors, 2642 N. Campbell Ave., has opened up its drive-thru window and is converting to a drive-up liquor store. Revel wine bar, 416 E. Ninth St., is open daily from 4 to 8 p.m. for takeout wine bottles. Discounts on larger orders. Both locations of Tap & Bottle are doing pick-up, to-go orders and delivery within a five-mile radius. 1702 is selling kegs and growlers, as well as six-packs of craft beer to-go.
And for a full list of breweries offering takeout, check out our guide!
Spirits and cocktail kits 🍸
• Cocktail bars across town are putting together drink kits for take-home mixing. Some are also selling whole bottles of liquor to-go. Here are some ideas: Good Oak Bar, 316 E. Congress St., is offering Lockdown Survival Boxes with bottles of whiskey, gin, mezcal and Tequila, which come with mixers and fresh fruit. Sidecar, 139 S. Eastbourne Ave., is doing a “high-class rummage sale” on their liquor collection, and also preparing cocktails to-go. Batch, 118 E. Congress St., has transformed itself into an online liquor store, and has a large selection of rare and approachable whiskeys for takeout and delivery.
• Starbucks will survive, but these local cafes and roasters need your help. In addition to doing takeout, Caffè Lucé is offering free delivery on whole beans and half gallons of cold brew, which keep for up to two weeks on your fridge. Yellow Brick Coffee is open for pickup at 3220 S. Dodge Blvd., but they also have an extensive online selection of bags and subscription boxes available for delivery. Exo Roast Co. also has an extensive online store with coffee subscriptions, and Presta Coffee is offering free delivery on bag purchases when you type in the word “LOCAL.”
Groceries from local restaurants 🍏
• Similar to how they’ve been doing it in Los Angeles, several Tucson restaurants have turned into makeshift markets, offering produce and pantry items for takeout and delivery. Hotel Congress has one of the most extensive selections, including hard-to-find items like toilet paper. Prices have been modified to make them more affordable. Pickups are Mondays and Thursdays between 3 and 6 p.m. at 311 Congress St.
• Ghini’s French Caffe has a full bakery and is selling select pantry items like eggs, flour, rice, sugar, latex gloves and more. The pantry items are available for takeout and curbside at 1803 E. Prince Road. Dante’s Fire is one of several restaurants preparing takeout and delivery meal kits like a meatball dinner, West Texas smoked ribs and New York strip steak dinner.
• Merit Foods Arizona, a locally-owned food distribution company, is doing curbside pick up for foods like meats, seafood, produce, beans and canned goods at its warehouse, 1471 W. Commerce Court. You can place your order by phone by calling 520-884-8232 or show up in person to place your order and have it brought out to your car, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. A catalog of items can be found here. The distributor also has a bulk program for large groups, communities, organizations and group homes to place larger orders. For bulk orders you’ll work with a sales representative and may be able to receive free delivery. Go here for bulk ordering.
• LemonShark Poke has several food staples and household items for sale including flour, sugar, white rice, spaghetti noodles and sauce, fajita chicken, shredded cheese and bleach. Items can be picked up at the restaurant at 2501 E. Grant Road, or they can be delivered to your home. You can also pre-pay for items over the phone so they can be set aside for you by calling 520-771-6681. The restaurant is also offering a free roll of toilet paper to anyone over 60 years old with no purchase necessary, and a free roll of toilet paper with every poke bowl purchase upon request.