Header photo: @cramptonsmarket

At the best of times, grocery shopping can be stressful – weaving in and out of aisles, desperately searching for that one thing you could have sworn was in aisle 2 last time you were here, having to double-back to get something you left off your list, and leaving with way more than you intended to buy. Maybe that's just me. But I can say with certainty that grocery shopping has gotten more stressful for everyone since social distancing was put in place. 

Social distancing regulations are so important right now; they keep our incredible essential workers and customers safe. But, if you're looking to avoid waiting in a line outside a big chain grocery store for an hour and a half to get your weekly groceries, here are a few ways you can get easy curb-side pickup or direct delivery of all your basic grocery items. And you get to support local businesses, minimize shopping stress, and in some cases not even leave the house! 

Local ingredients are the best ingredients

Non-controversial opinion: veggies are better when they're fresh. And the more local they are, the fresher they are. So get your daily greens from a local market or direct from a farm for the tastiest veggies. There are a number of small farms in Manitoba that run Community Supported Agriculture programs where you can get a goodie bag of veggies, dependent on what's being harvested, for pick-up or delivery every week. You sign up for summer-long weekly subscription and your commitment allows the farms to provide veggies to folks in our province who may not be able to pay for a weekly veggie subscription themselves. So this is really a triple bonus: you get the freshest veggies, support a local farm and help people in need. 

If you're not willing to commit to a veggie subscription box, there are other fresh options in Manitoba. A lot of the same farms who run CSA programs and many other small businesses sell their wares at local markets. Crampton's Market is a great example, they sell locally grown veggies as well as locally produced milk, butter, eggs, cheese, meat and bread. Right now they offer easy online shopping with curb-side pickup at their location in Headingley. 

A seasonal favourite is also St. Norbert Farmers' Market. They have their entire market online so you can order through their website and pick up all your summer market favourites (meat, veggies, sauces, baked goods, coffee and more) every Saturday.

Diversity Food Services, normally a catering and restaurant service that creates all the delicious meals at FortWhyte's Buffalo Stone Café, has adapted to these trying times by opening up an online delivery service. They have all the grocery essentials, from fruits to snacks to the coveted baking essentials – flour and yeast. They also offer a small selection of frozen meals. They really do have it all, except for smoked Goldeye. But that's where Gimli Fish Market comes in. If you want high quality fresh fish and seafood, Gimli Fish Market is offering curb-side pick up at its three Winnipeg locations or you can have your order delivered to your door (within city limits) in just two hours.

All the extras

So we've got our main courses covered. But if you're like me, you might want a little something to start off the meal and something sweet to finish it off. 

I recommend starting with cheese from The Cheesemongers Fromagerie. Live on the wild side and get a mystery grab bag of two, four or six pieces of cheese. Of course no cheese board is complete without a vessel to hold the cheese. Place an order for a baguette or crackers from Tall Grass Prairie Bakery or get a delicious loaf or sourdough from Eadha Bread. Round out the platter with meats, hummus and pickles from the good folks at King + Bannatyne, who are now offering curb-side pick up of some of their signature sandwich ingredients. And finally Flora & Farmer has you covered for side sauces, dips, and pickled or fermented goodies to go on the side.

As for dessert, Black Market Provisions has a lovely selection of sweets (among many other savoury treats!), including mini chocolate cakes, oreo rice krispie squares and their semi-famous dark chocolate sea salt cookies. They offer next-day pick up for all their sweets, made-in-house soups and salads, and other local food products. 

Outside of Winnipeg, Chez Angela is still serving up their breads, pastries and pies for your sweet tooth. And you can grab locally made pantry essentials like honey, olive oil, coffee beans, local cheese, butter and more. It's a little market-in-a-bakeshop in the heart of Brandon.

Just like at the restaurant, except you're the cook

For those days when the ingredients just aren't inspiring you, there are easier local options. While restaurants have had to shut their doors to customers eating in, many have adapted and are offering ready-to-cook meals. So you can take them home, in some cases freeze them, and pull them out on a day when all you have the energy for is turning on the oven. 

Mottola Grocery, on the first floor of Hargrave St. Market, was set to open up right around the time shopping restrictions were put in place. They still haven't opened the doors to the public, but they are serving up ready-to-cook meals including lasagna, Korean fried chicken, empanadas and a build-your-own Yard Burger kit. 

In beautiful Clear Lake Country, Lakehouse is serving up similar meals. With bake-at-home quiche, lasagna, mac 'n' cheese and from scratch soups, their family meals are a great easy meal option. 

East of Winnipeg, Blue Haze Barbecue in Beausejour, New B's Café in New Bothwell and Pineridge Hollow in Birds Hill are all doing specialty take home meals. Blue Haze BBQ has dubbed some of their to-go orders "family isolation packs". They come with meat, veggies and the easiest instructions: just boil it all in the bag it comes in. If you're in search for a hearty home cooked heat-and-serve meal, then New B's Café is the best option. They're selling lasagnas, perogy dinners, meatballs and homemade pizza. If you're really craving a fancy dinner out, having a meal at home from Pineridge Hollow may be the best option right now. They are delivering heat and serve meals (and grocery items) to homes from Selkirk to Winnipeg to Lorette. The options include a range of meals like decadent lemon ricotta pancakes, Thai peanut stirfry and chicken enchiladas. 

King's Head Pub is also preparing some flavourful dishes as part of their new "Heat Up, Eat Up" program. You can order curries, rotis and Cajun pasta along with full grocery deliveries if you're looking for both an easy meal to prepare and food for the rest of the week. 

One final easy meal is ordering from Pizza Hotline. They have locations across the province and are offering their regular pizza delivery as well as make-your-own-pizza kits. They supply you with the dough, sauce and toppings and you get to make a night out of crafting your own pizza. 

These are just a few of the great local options we have for buying fresh ingredients and easy make-at-home meals right now. There's no need to line up at a chain grocery store when you can get nearly everything from local vendors in Manitoba.