THE HELP DESK
Five Apps for Running Errands From Home
by Sophia Guevara
Note: This article appears in the May 2021 print edition of Information Today under the title "Running Errands From Home."
This column looks at a few apps that will help you make the most of your time, whether you need to get your shopping done, figure out what’s for dinner, mail packages, or buy a bus pass.
Time to stock up the fridge? With Instacart, you can grocery shop from home. I especially like this app because I used it to get groceries delivered to a family member who lived several states away and didn’t have transportation to the store.
Instacart does charge a fee for the service, and you may find the prices for items to be higher than what you might see in the store. It might be most cost-effective to buy items in bulk from membership-based wholesale stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club, which are available via Instacart depending on your location. (You’ll need to enter your membership number for the store.) For those who don’t want to invest in a club membership, you can still use Instacart to get access to wholesale store products, but there may be an upcharge.
goPuff is a great way to get snacks, drinks, cleaning supplies, pet essentials, over-the-counter medications, and other daily needs delivered to your door quickly. If the items and amount of them you need are similar to what you would get from a convenience store, this is the app for you. It really comes in handy when the last of the chips are gone but you don’t want to commit to a whole cart full of groceries. Once you place your order, goPuff will provide you with updates that let you know when it is being put together, when it is on the road, and when it finally hits your door.
DoorDash is a great app for those who are looking to order takeout from a favorite restaurant but can’t head out to get it themselves. You’ll get updates via email and/or text, and you can determine when you should expect to receive your order by following your delivery on the in-app map. You can take a break from cooking and treat yourself or the family to a special meal, whether from a local mainstay or a national chain.
The USPS Mobile website from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) impressed me with its ease of use—just visit usps.com on your mobile device. A word of warning: If you intend to use it to ship a package from home, you need to have a printer and a scale. (I found a new scale on eBay, with batteries, for less than $15, shipping included.) Sending a package with USPS Mobile will require you to enter its measurements and weight. Then you can print and affix the postage to the package. Next, you can schedule a pickup. You’ll be asked to round up the weight of the package and indicate where the package can be found (on your porch, in the mailbox, etc.). You’ll receive an email that confirms the pickup. This might be most useful for those whose work hours extend past the post office’s—or for those who don’t want to wait in line to mail Christmas presents.
If you make use of public transportation, you should check out EZfare. I recently used this app because my transit system had been advertising it, and I was looking for a way to purchase a multiple-use bus pass. All you have to do is input your payment information, and the app will offer options to buy a single-ride bus fare all the way up to a monthly pass. The process was quite easy, and when it came time to use the pass, I showed my phone with my electronic ticket on it. There are currently 13 transit systems that riders can buy fares from, so see if yours is available.