Solving a Small Slice of the Relocation Puzzle by Ellen Harris, GMS, International Product Director at Living Abroad, LLC

Families moving to a new host country have a hundred things vying for attention. Errands that were simple – even mindless – back home now require some thought, choice, and planning.

For example, where do you shop for groceries?

In a familiar neighborhood, hopping out to the supermarket for a few items is so commonplace that you may have found yourself back home with little recollection of the trip. It doesn’t register as remarkable because it takes so little thought.

But newcomers in a foreign land spend a lot of time getting to know how to fulfill daily needs like putting dinner on the table. What stores are close by? Which has the best selection? The best prices? How will they manage a grocery shopping trip with three small children and limited time?

Enter the Internet.

Grocery store websites, food delivery, and “click and collect” options make it easier for consumers to comparison shop and save time.

In years past, grocery delivery was viewed with skepticism and consumers’ high standards for quality and ease were not often met. Those standards remain high, but today’s shoppers are very comfortable with Internet shopping – for all sorts of goods – and service is better. Successful merchants in the online grocery business must make shopping simple, with clear website design, quality products, and reliable, convenient delivery.

In the UK, major grocers like Tesco , ASDA , Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons all deliver food. They also offer wine and, depending on the store, everything from household goods and electronics to tires and baby furniture. A minimum order is usually required (e.g. £25), with free delivery for orders over a certain amount. Delivery charges may vary, with higher fees for high-traffic times and lower fees for quieter times or days of the week.

Grocers that deliver let customers select a time slot, a window of a few hours that suits the buyer’s schedule and allows the driver some leeway. Orders typically are placed the day before the requested delivery date, often as late as midnight. For busy dates, like public holidays, stores suggest early ordering; some allow up to three weeks in advance.

Some customers find it easier to pick up their grocery order at a store. Where online ordering allows for “click and collect”, this option saves time by having store employees select and pack the order, which is ready for the customer on arrival.

Discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl don’t offer web order/delivery, but their websites display what they carry, and both offer mobile apps for sale notifications, shopping lists, and recipes.

Among these stores and others, chances are that newcomers to the UK will find the products they are looking for, and will find it easy to get food on the table.

In other parts of the world, the Internet similarly helps people fill their pantries conveniently. Those new to Qatar, for example, may find themselves trying to sort out grocery options, and worrying about carting it home in the very warm climate. While Internet grocery delivery has less of a foothold in Qatar, some new services are worth mentioning.

FreshQatar delivers food, health and beauty items, and household products to 15 areas around Doha. A minimum order of 100 QAR (about US$27 or £16) is required. Delivery costs 50 QAR, but it is free for orders over 500 QAR. Customers sign up to receive their orders sometime between 3:00pm and 9:30pm daily.

The Green Box also delivers in Doha, offering fresh fruits, vegetables, deli items, and other food and non-food items. Fresh seasonal items are delivered according to a set schedule. For example, a box of fruits or vegetables arrives on Sunday, and hormone-free poultry on Thursday. Orders of 150 QAR qualify for free delivery. Payment can be made online or upon delivery, and an app is available for Android.

In addition, traditional grocery store websites make it easy to comparison shop or to search for a specific item. Carrefour , Spinneys , and LuLu give shoppers a good idea, online, of their Qatar store offerings. Expatriates in Qatar have cautioned that inventory and prices can change, so if you see an item you like at a good price, buy as much as you can or need. You may return to the store later and find it is unavailable or is priced differently.

With expanding choice and delivery options, grocery shopping may just become one of the easier things to figure out in a new home!

Published in ACS International Schools Newsletter.