a peek inside the fishbowl

28 Feb, 2021

University care packages in the age of Covid? Here’s an idea for you…

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|parenting

When our daughters went away to university I discovered I liked making care packages for them.

Here’s one package, and another, just to give you a sense of the kinds of things I sent.

Of course, these were created and sent in the Before Times. It was a process. Building a care package took time, dare I say, weeks. I’d pick things up here and there on my shopping travels, always in person, never online. I’d slowly accumulate a nice collection of stuff and then when I had enough, I’d pop everything in a box I’d saved (cereal boxes were pretty good), and run it down to the post office to have it weighed and shipped.

And then Covid came along and ruined everything. Suddenly, those care packages weren’t so easy for me to pull together. I supposed I COULD order a bunch of junk on Amazon, but that’s not quite the same as a package that developed over time with items sourced from local shops. For the most part, I’ve been avoiding bricks and mortar shops altogether. And when/if I am in a store, it’s likely a grocery store at a time when my brain is in a different gear altogether. Add to this, I haven’t been to the post office since before Christmas. I didn’t have a great experience when I was there and I’m not eager to return.

So what’s a mother to do when her youngest kid is having a rough week?

Sidebar: I won’t go into details about her particular situation but I will say that although many people are having a tough time, my heart really goes out to teens and young adults. They are supposed to be busy living their young lives, and instead, they are staying home and wearing masks and being responsible and afraid and also missing out on the typical milestones and experiences and shenanigans the rest of us older folks look back on with a mixture of fondness and abject horror.

ANYHOO. I wanted to cheer the kid up but my tried and true care package tradition wasn’t happening. And that’s when I remembered all the conversations I’ve seen this past year about Instacart. If you aren’t in the know, Instacart is a grocery ordering service that is available in larger metropolitan areas. I never used it because we’d been doing ok with curbside pickup at our usual store, but I suddenly saw a use for it. I could place an order and have it delivered to the kid, in Kingston.

And so I did! I ordered her usual grocery staples but also some treats (chocolate, ice-cream etc.), and a box of frozen chicken wings for her to share with her roommates.


It was very easy to download the app and place the order. I had the option to have it delivered that evening, which is what I did because I knew she was going to be home. Instacart is like a grocery store Uber, in that once I place my order, someone in Kingston is contracted to do the groceries and deliver them. Interestingly, like Uber, the shopper can send a message to me through the app. I wasn’t sure about this feature at first but it came in handy when a couple of the products I ordered weren’t available and last-minute substitutions had to be made.

I realized Instacart also solved a problem I’d always had with traditional care packages sent by mail: you can’t send perishable food. I mean, chips, chocolate, and homemade cookies are nice to send but sometimes a gal just really craves avocado toast, you know what I mean?:)

The price of my grocery order was comparable to what I’d normally pay. Delivery cost an extra six bucks (and I also  tipped). It’s worth pointing out that even though there is an extra cost associated with grocery delivery, it was still cheaper than sending a package by Canada Post.

I was very pleased by the whole process. And the kid? She was very surprised! I told her to expect a delivery of SOMETHING around 5 p.m. She had no idea what it was going to be, and was thrilled and cheered by it all, even the broccoli.

1 Response to "University care packages in the age of Covid? Here’s an idea for you…"

1 | Susan

March 1st, 2021 at 11:14 am


I discovered that Chef’s Plate delivers to Sudbury, so every once in a while (4-6 weeks, depending?) I send a box to my son. He LOVES it! He learns to cook something new and he doesn’t have to figure out all of the ingredients to do it.

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately
  • Christina Banuelos: Thank you for sharing Pipers life with us. Your posts of Piper brought me joy. Every time I see your post and see what kind of mischief Piper was gett
  • Carla Slocum: I am sitting here yet again crying at your loss. We have known that loss with Asta the WFT our first pup but now have the enormous gift of Stryker the

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

Still calling it Twitter