1. Keep a running grocery list
Just because you’re not going to the store yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a list. If you just go onto a store’s site and start picking things out, you’ll end up impulse-buying after all.
2. Do an inventory of what you have on hand
Before you place a grocery order, double-check your freezer and your pantry cupboards, and make sure you’re not reordering things you’ve already got in sufficient quantity. (If you’re ordering food that needs to be frozen, it’s also important to make sure you’ll have room in the freezer.)
3. Be specific
To help your surrogate shopper pick out exactly what you want, be as specific as possible. Don’t just say “a head of lettuce” if you specifically want iceberg or romaine. And speaking of romaine, “a bag of romaine” could mean whole baby romaine leaves, chopped larger leaves, or one of those hearts-of-romaine bags holding three heads.
4. Attach a photo to your order
This won’t be possible if you’re using Instacart or some other online service or ordering directly from a grocery store. If an independent surrogate shopper is fulfilling your order, however, and you want a specific brand or flavor of some packaged food or some uncommon variety of produce, it’s useful to attach an image of exactly what you want.
5. Consider substitutions
If there are no more blocks of Swiss cheese in the dairy case, will Jarlsberg do? If the chicken noodle soup is all gone, how about chicken rice? Supermarket sites usually give you the option to accept substitutes if your exact order isn’t available. If you’re using an individual surrogate shopper, let him or her know whether or not alternatives are okay — and if so, what the parameters are (“any flavor except habanero”).