This is How We Do It: Running Errands from My Couch


One of the Fundamentals of Less Doing is to stop running errands. I thought it might help to go into more detail about how I use three, that’s right only three, websites to replace 90% of typical errands and ensure that I almost never run out of anything.

Three of My Favorite Websites

If you don’t know what Amazon is, then I’m not sure how you figured out how to get here. I love Amazon because they offer virtually everything under the sun that isn᾿t perishable. (If you live in Seattle, you can buy perishable goods from them as well.) It doesn’t hurt that they are consistently the cheapest place to buy things on the web (I don’t even price check anymore) and have an amazing turn-around time.

There are two services that Amazon offers that are key weapons in my arsenal:

  • Amazon Prime - For $79 a year you (and the rest of your family) get unlimited free two-day shipping and $3.99 per item one-day shipping on any items that are sold or fulfilled by Amazon.
  • Amazon Subscribe & Save - Amazon sells many products that you buy on a regular basis (think toilet paper, soap and even snack bars). To help you out (and to ensure your future business), Amazon lets you subscribe to many of these items for delivery every one, two, three, or six months. They also throw in a nice discount (typically 15%) for doing so and allow you to cancel or pause a subscription at any time.

Amazon sells virtually everything, and with these two services, I have little reason to go out. Why go out of my way to buy something when I can have it at my front door in two days with free shipping? If I’m really impatient, I can just pay the $3.99 and have it there tomorrow. They even offer same day delivery for many items in major cities.

I buy light bulbs, hair products, socks, ketchup, trash bags, trash cans, video games and books on Amazon. That’s not all. I subscribe to multivitamins, paper towels, almonds, snack bars, beef jerky and toothbrushes.

You really can get almost anything from Amazon quickly and cheaply.

Alice describes herself very well, “Alice provides you a better way to manage all of your household essentials online. You tell Alice what you buy—choosing from great deals on 1000’s of products—and Alice goes to work. We organize all of your products, find coupons and deals for you, remind you when you might be running low, and help you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store. And all this convenience comes direct to your door with free shipping included.”

My favorite part about Alice is the virtual shelf. Alice let’s me add all of the consumable products that I need for my house to this shelf and even let’s me organize them by room. When you first set up an account, Alice will ask you questions about your house and family in order to suggest products and how frequently you need to order them. Alice will also send me reminders when she thinks I am running out of something.

Alice carries more brands than Amazon, and I prefer to buy most of non-food household essentials from Alice because I tend to run out of them at less than exact intervals, making Subscribe & Save a poor option. The prices are just as competitive as Amazon. More importantly, Alice was designed from the ground up to make it easy to keep track of and find the stuff you need to keep your house in order. The one downside is that the shipping is not as quick.

Harvest Local Foods

Harvest is a wonderful, Philadelphia-area grocery delivery service with a focus on organic and local foods. Every week, Harvest updates the food on their website, and lets people order online order up until 8am the day of delivery. I don’t even have to be home as I can give Harvest my key and let them drop it off inside the front door in coolers with ice packs. (Their insurance protects both them and you in case there are any problems.)

But what if you’re not in Philadelphia? There’s good news. Most major metropolitan areas have similar delivery services, and major grocery chains such as Genaurdi’s offer grocery delivery. Those of you in the New York City area are lucky enough to have Fresh Direct.

Our virtual assistants at Fancy Hands are hard at work researching grocery delivery services around the country, and we’ll post an article about that soon, but in the mean time, a little bit of clever Googling will probably help you find a delivery service in your area.

Tips & Tricks

  • Make sure to enable 1-Click Ordering on Amazon so you can buy stuff faster!
  • Keep a spreadsheet of items that you buy regularly but are not subscribed to on Amazon or do not have on your Alice shelf.
  • If you live in a place where you don’t want packages sitting on your doorstep, keep a list of items you need to buy and order them all at once. With Amazon Prime, you can order items and have them delivered on a day you know you will be home (even a Saturday).
  • You can end up with a lot of deliveries if you do all your shopping online. There are two very good options for keeping track of all your deliveries:
    • OtherInbox - Once you give OtherInbox permission to access your email (Gmail, Google Apps or Yahoo), it will help organize your inbox in many helpful ways, but one of the great things it does is monitor your email for shipments. OtherInbox provides a calendar feed that can be added to any calendar program which adds the delivery date of your packages to your calendar.
    • Delivery Status - This suite of iPhone/iPad apps and a Mac Dashboard widget is my favorite way to keep track of packages. Simply enter a tracking number (or even Amazon order number) onto the dashboard widget or the iPhone or iPad app, and it will sync across all of your devices and send you a push notification if the delivery info changes or if a package is to be delivered today.

Unexpected Benefits

I save money by purchasing from Amazon and Alice. Not only are their products cheaper, I’m only ordering what I need. (Keep in mind that Amazon often requires you to order more than one of an item, just like Costco or BJ’s.) Amazon’s Subscribe & Save and Alice’s reminders help me ensure that I never run out of anything.

If you use a food delivery service, there will likely be a premium and/or fee (especially for services that deliver organic and local) but in the case of Harvest Local Foods, it is higher quality than even the food at Whole Foods. Plus, Harvest delivers all meat vacuum-sealed and frozen. (I prefer meat to be frozen as long as it’s done so professionally. It’s always fresher.) I also don’t mind supporting local farmers.

I do make up for the delivery fees by never having to drive to pick up groceries which is is more expensive than you think when you do the math.

The last, and most hilarious, benefit is the look on the UPS guy’s face every time he brings a huge box of toilet paper to my front door.