How and where we source our food has is changing on an almost daily basis.

Online ordering from the major grocery outlets has quickly become unreliable. This is being realized by the Major Grocery chains and they are in the process of providing priority online and phone ordering for Seniors and those who are vulnerable

Based on how the food supply chain currently works and the state of online ordering design, this is not "fixable" in the next couple of months. What you can order varies from day-to-day. What is actually in your order when you pick up or have it delivered is unpredictable. In some cases, your order will be delayed without notice or even cancelled.

We suggest you consider leaving online ordering and delivery to those who need it most.

In-store shopping was chaotic in the days after "stay at home" was declared, but has been improving steadily.

If you take appropriate sanitation precautions and pick your day/time, in many cases, there are short line ups and few customers in-store. There are also tools to help you with wait times: COVID-19 - Supermarket Waiting Times

While store shelves are relatively full today, there are coming disruptions, such as meatpacking plants suspending operations due to COVID-19 infections in their workforce.

So be prepared.

There are increasing  options for food sources that should be considered, including direct from individual farms, food distributors, restaurant supply distributors and even restaurants - [coming article "Food Source Options in Kanata"]

Ordering Food Online or by Phone - new priority services for the vulnerable and seniors

Farmboy and Metro are rolling out (in next several days) online/phone ordering priority for those over 60 and for anyone who is vulnerable. Expect to see the other major grocers (Loblaws, Costco, Walmart, Sobeys) following in coming days

Metro, other grocers give priority e-commerce access to seniors, other vulnerable shoppers | Globe & Mail

Ordering Food Online for the rest of us - not ready for prime time

My family has been an occasional user of online food ordering in the last 2 years for pick-up from local grocery stores. In mid-March, we decided to become more regular users, ordering/pick-up from the online Loblaws website (which is PC-Express "under the hood"). The goal for our family was to minimize in-store shopping.

Booking pick-up/delivery time slots - not enough capacity

While it was easy to book a time slot in mid-March for pick-up 3 days later, by the following week, that had changed to 12+ days. Recently, Loblaws/PC Express has capped the number of days in advance that are available for booking time slots to 14 days, and new free slots disappear faster than online ticket sales for a rock concert.

It's clear that online food shopping from the major chains and from independent delivery (Instacart, inabuggy...) and the in-store capacity to fill online or phone orders are overwhelmed, as confirmed in recent articles:

 What you can order vs what is in stock - not easy to use and unreliable

Using PC Express as an example:

  • What is offered online is a fraction of what is available in-store. Finding specific items is difficult and time-consuming
  • What you can buy when ordering online appears to be limited what is in-stock at that time. For our order over the Easter weekend, they had no whole fresh chickens available, but several sizes of fresh and frozen turkeys, which I had not seen in prior weeks
  • Selecting an item shown in your online order does guarantee it on pick-up/delivery day
  • Independent Delivery organizations like Instacard, Inabuggy & HireMyHusband are all putting their own food pickers in-store, competing with in-store shoppers and the store's pickers
  • Items in your order available on the day of pick-up/delivery appear to be lower priority vs.stocking store shelves for in-store customers

As an example, with our latest order (April 17, 2020), we had several items dropped as unavailable. As a test, after pick-up in the store parking lot, I went immediately into the store:

  • I found 3 of the "unavailable" items on the shelf
  • Loblaws item substitution is limited on online orders, particularly on meat, fish and poultry
    • No substitute was offered for the "unavailable" fresh turkey I ordered. However, in-store they had a variety of fresh chickens.
    • They offered no substitute for the "unavailable" pork tenderloins, yet they had multiple pork loin roasts in-store available at $1.99/lb


If you are not "vulnerable" to infection, consider leaving online grocery shopping in the major grocery stores to the vulnerable who need home delivery and do in-store shopping once a week or more

Beware the potentially higher costs and no better order/delivery reliability than the store service for the independent delivery services

If you are buying for more than just your immediate family, explore other online/phone food sources. There are increasing options for pick-up and delivery for large orders for comparable cost and higher reliability [coming article "Food Source Options in Kanata"].

In-Store Shopping - Improving each Week

The first week or so after the official "Stay Home" message, in-store shopping was crowded, plus grocery stores and shoppers were not practicing safe distancing or sanitation.

For most of the major grocery chains, that has improved substantially. This includes:

  • Limiting the number of consumers in the store at the same time, with lines with distance markings of 2 m
  • In-store distancing marks when lining up for checkout
  • Wipe down of self-serve checkout regularly
  • Disinfecting carts for you or providing do-it-yourself disinfecting
  • One way arrows, particularly in narrow sections
  • Shields between you and the cashier

We've also tried different times of the day/week. It's relatively easy to find times where there are short wait times and responsible consumers in the store. Some recent examples:

  • Sunday about 3 pm
  • Monday through Wednesday, particularly from 6:30 pm to 8 pm

Then there are times which will be predictably busy, such as:

  • 11:20 am any day
  • 4 pm this past Friday, where the line went from 20 to 50 people in minutes

While there appeared to be "non-vulnerable" people using the "seniors and vulnerable" hour before general opening initially, we're hearing that has improved substantially.


  • Go when you know the store will be relatively empty. There are now store wait time tools such as COVID-19 - Supermarket Waiting Times, which does cover Ottawa & Kanata
  • Stay away from the largest stores. for example:
    • On April 21, 2020, @ 3 pm, the Walmart on Fernbank in Kanata/Stittsville had a 35-minute wait, while Loblaws Centrum had a 10-minute wait time
  • If you are uncomfortable with relying on physical distancing and washing hands, use a face mask, gloves and disinfectant wipes (take in a ziplock) and know how to use them
  • If you find the store or the consumer behaviour in-store is not safe for you, then leave your basket/cart and walk out

Other useful links

<online order/pickup/delivery options>

<stores and hours page>