If you read Wee regularly, you know a few things about us. Like, you know that Ash is basically evangelical about ordering groceries via Fresh Direct. She loves it for a boatload of reasons. You likely also know that I am myself (generally) a pretty big fan of Blue Apron meal kit service — it just makes dinner-planning a whole bunch easier for me, and my husband (the primary shopper in our family) swears it saves us money on groceries. If you didn’t know those things, then you’ve still almost certainly picked up by that we’re both all about a good time-saving, sanity-preserving shortcut. (Duh. What mom isn’t?)
As it happens, there are about a million shortcut services out there right now that promise to make life easier/better for you. Beyond Blue Apron, I’ve tried several of them. (Truth: I have a lot of mixed feelings about the delivery economy, but in the end, I can’t help myself from trying. I’m only human.) I thought it might be helpful to share my (completely independent and un-sponsored) opinions about three of the most popular and/or intriguing delivery services out there: Instacart, Stitch Fix and Birchbox. Curious about any of those things? Here’s Wee’s two cents. (AND! If you’re interested in grocery delivery comparison, you should check out the grocery delivery comparison chart that Ashley put together for Philly Mag. It’s got all sorts of good info.)
What it is: A grocery (and booze!) delivery service.
How it works, in a nutshell: Instacart has partnered with a bunch of the local grocers (and wine/spirits stores!) that you regularly shop at, and some you don’t: Whole Foods, BJs, Green Aisle Grocery, Reading Terminal, Di Brunos, and Fine Wine & Spirits. You visit the site, pick any and all the places you want to “shop” from, use Instacart’s online shopping service, and then order your food. They’ll deliver your stuff (from multiple places) the same day — it’s $4 for two-hour delivery and $6 for one-hour delivery. (I also then tip the delivery person.) You can also pay $99 for a whole year of free delivery, good for deliveries worth $35 or more.
The pros: Groceries delivered to you, the same day, within an hour. (AND ALSO THERE’S BOOZE.) It’s basically groceries on demand, chosen by people who have been trained how to grocery shop. (Really!) If a store doesn’t have your brand or preferred item, then the site offers substitution options, and if any other issues should arrive while the shopper is at the store, then he/she calls to see what you’d like to do. It’s also pretty great that you can have someone run over to Reading Terminal for local produce, then stop by Whole Foods for your gluten-free what-have-you, and hit up BJs for your lifetime supply of turkey meatballs. Those trips would take you hours, altogether.
The cons: Instacart marks up some of the groceries (it varies by grocery, and by store), so you’ll be paying more than you would if you did the shopping yourself, although not necessarily a huge amount. (It sort of depends on what you’re getting.) I also find that scanning through the groceries online in order to chose a long list of specific things can take quite a long time– it could be quite time-consuming to put together a giant grocery run, just on the ordering side, at least until you get really used to it.
The most compelling reasons and times to use it: Personally, while I wouldn’t use it for massive trips, I do think Instacart is sort of a lifesaver when it comes to smallish grocery runs when you really just need a few things right then, or to help you stay on top of keeping some fresh food in the house. And then there’s my personal favorite: THEY BRING YOU WINE. And also, booze. In case you missed that.
So would I recommend it generally to Wee Nation? You betcha. Someone else can run to BJ’s for you, or fight the crowds at Whole Foods on a Tuesday night after the baby’s asleep. What a handy service to have in your back pocket.
What it is: A personal stylist chooses clothes exactly suited to your size/needs/preferences, and then ships ’em to your door.
How it works, in a nutshell: You take a very detailed online quiz about what sort of clothes, colors, styles and price-points you want, and a Stitch Fix stylist chooses five items based on your specifications. They ship them to you, along with a customized printout that shows you how to wear and style each of the items; you keep and pay for what you want, sending back the rest free of charge. You pay $20 upfront as a “styling fee”, but if you buy anything, S.F. actually takes that $20 OFF your bill for the clothes. (If you buy nothing, they keep that $20.) So, for instance, I recently chose to buy a couple of shirts that together cost about $100, but my final bill was only $80, because the $20 credit had been applied to my bill. (For the record, I liked all five items they sent me, but one was a pair of earrings, which I didn’t need enough to buy; one shirt fit a little too much like Shrink Wrap; and the jeans were awesome, but I didn’t need more dark-wash jeans.) The coolest part is that the whole process works off an algorithm based on your preferences and feedback, sort of like Pandora does with music. The longer you do Stitch Fix, and the more feedback you give them as to why you kept what you kept and sent back what you sent back, the more perfect the clothes get.
The pros: So many pros. You can set your schedule when it comes time to deliveries, so you can get regular boxes, or just ask for them when you need them. You can also request that they send you all dresses, or no dresses, or no pastels, or whatever. It’s utterly customizable, and — as clothing goes — relatively affordable. It’s pretty cool if you don’t feel like you have time to scour the brick-and-mortars for what you need, or if you really need the assistance of a personal shopper. They’ll send you things you might not have tried on yourself, but could end up loving. Price points vary, but you do have a chance to tell them what you expect to spend on your outwear and your tops and your jeans. AND: They now have maternity clothes!!
The cons: No shoes, and, I believe, no clothes above a size 14. So that’s a big drag. Also, if you like to shop (I do), it’s a little sad to give that joy up and try stuff on at home, but alas … that’s a function of using my time efficiently, I’m afraid.
The most compelling reasons and times to use it: So many reasons to try it: You hate shopping; you suck at picking out flattering clothes; you have no time to go actually hit the pavement. You could have stuff delivered on a regular basis, or just use it when you need a refresh.
So would I recommend it generally to Wee Nation? Yup. For all the aforementioned reasons, and especially because they allow you to order a box just whenever you need one, so the commitment is pretty minimal. Plus, you get a box of clothes in the mail! It’s like Christmas. (Though once the clothes are in your house, it’s pretty hard to resist just keeping them all. Be warned.)
What it is: Monthly beauty and grooming samples for men or women, delivered on a monthly basis. If you like some of the samples, you can buy them on the Birchbox site. If you review all your products on the site, you earn Birchbox points, which can be used to buy the products.
How it works, in a nutshell: I happened to get mine as a gift (great idea, by the way!), but you can also simply sign up for a subscription for $10 a month. You fill out a personal profile that helps them determine what products you’re most interested in (makeup? hair? lotions?) and beauty details (curly hair? trendy? dark skin?), and then they put together a box with five fun things, a little note that tells you all about each product. It’s fun, and can save you bunches on buying new products that you end up hating.
The pros: It is such a delight to get a new box every month, and the products are both high-quality and totally diverse. Since Christmas, I’ve found a new favorite lip stain, a great hair mask and a beach-hair texturizing spray that smells so good I’ve considered buying a bottle. Generally speaking, the samples are large enough that you can use something a few times to really get a grasp on whether or not you like it. And no kidding, it makes a really great gift. For $60, you can send someone a box a month for six months. And the boxes they come in are so pretty. I have them stacked up on a bookshelf, just as decoration.
The cons: I am not someone who usually spends much or goes shopping a lot for grooming products, so this is both good and bad — the con is that it’s just more reason to spend money on products that I didn’t even know existed. (Ignorance is bliss?) Seriously, though, of all the subscriptions and/or delivery services I’ve tried, this one is the least “necessary” and the most frivolous.
The most compelling reasons and times to use it: I will happily give this as a gift, especially because I just saw that Birchbox and BabyGap have paired up to make a little gift set that’s aimed at new mamas, complete with a good lip gloss, body butter and three little onesies. Even the regular subscription makes for a fun, frothy sort of indulgence, and it beats the guessing game and spending spree that happens every time you go to Sephora. Outside that, I’d say if you’re really into trying new beauty products, or if you’re just in a short-term mood to experiment a little, then this would be worth the $10 a month (minimum three months).
So would I recommend it generally to Wee Nation? Sure, although I still think it’s probably most reasonable in the above conditions. It’s not in the same lifesaving league as Instacart or even Stitch Fix, but then … hey, we all need to gloss up every once in awhile. (And that lip stain! It’s my new favorite thing, and I’d have never found it without Birchbox.)