Category Archives: living

How to: Enjoy a car free lifestyle

I’m going to do a series on how to get things done while car-free. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am going by my own experiences and what other car-free friends do to live and enjoy life while car-free. I’d love to hear your comments about how you get things done, or suggestions on what I should cover during this series. – Myra

Enjoying a car free lifestyle is more difficult in some places than others. I’ve lived in a lot of those places. However, even in more rural places we can still get around without a car with a little imagination. I’m going to talk more about car free in a medium to large city that has a public transit system, since that is the target audience of this blog. Some tips may apply to my public transit deficient friends, so keep reading!

1. I love, love, love combining trips. This is the easiest way to enjoy a car free lifestyle. I mean doing a bit of grocery shopping, stopping by the drug store, visiting a park THEN heading home. People in cars do this, too, but it is doable via transit and saves a WHOLE lot of time! Not only are you minimizing the number of trips you have to make, but you are also probably shopping at places near each other, so that’s less travel time for you!

2. Get out and walk. You’ll find interesting places along your route that you may have never found otherwise. When we are whizzing along in a car or bus, we miss so many things. Take the train or lightrail to an unexplored neighborhood and get out and walk 10 blocks in each direction. Did you find a bookshop? A shoe repair shop? A hole in the wall taco joint? This goes into #3.

3. Map the places you find. When you have visitors or just have some extra time on your hands, bring out your hand drawn maps of interesting neighborhoods. Let your friends or kids choose where the next adventure should be and go!

4. Be reasonable. Everyone can’t or won’t be car free. Instead of bashing people over the head with your feelings about living car free, how they are killing the world and how horrible a person they are, try to empathize and come up with gentle suggestions. Are they dealing with an elderly family member? Do they live in a residential area where they are little or few transportation options other than driving? Are there sidewalks and bike lanes along their route to work? Do they work non-traditional hours where public transport isn’t an option? Are they knowledgeable about the transit options available to them?Are they afraid of transit? If so, take them for a ride! Be an example, not a judge, and you might gain some converts to the car free lifestyle!

5. Make yourself knowledgeable about the alternative transit options near you. Where do the local bus routes go? What are the schedules for local commuter rail? About how much time is between subway trains at 3pm? Can you rent a car in your neighborhood? If not, where’s the nearest Zipcar or car rental agency? Is it easy to catch a cab in your neighborhood, or do you have to use a car service? Does the bus have equipment to carry bikes? Are there bike lanes along your route?

Do you have any tips to add? Let’s hear it in the comments!


How to: Get Groceries while car-free

I’m going to do a series on how to get things done while car-free. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am going by my own experiences and what other car-free friends do to live and enjoy life while car-free. I’d love to hear your comments about how you get things done, or suggestions on what I should cover during this series. – Myra

One benefit of living in a large city like New York is the plethora of great places to eat. I have friends who haven’t bought groceries in years, because they eat out every day. While that might be good for many city dwellers, some of us with limited budgets or finiky tastes prefer to cook at home.

Getting groceries from the grocery store to your walk-up apartment can be, as my grandmother would say, “more than a notion.” It requires careful planning of how much you can reasonably carry and how long to you can make the groceries last before another visit to the store.

The first problem is easily solvable – you can either go to the grocery store several times a week and only get what you can reasonably carry home. This might mean taking an extra half hour to an hour out of your day 3 or 4 times a week. If you’re not fortunate enough to live within a few blocks of a supermarket, you’ll need to locate a market that sells the foods you like and take into consideration if anything will melt or be damaged on the subway, bus or bike home. Having resusable and insulated grocery totes are a must.

Making sure to get the highest quality meats and produce might mean a longer-distance trip, so biking or walking might not be feasible. Timing trips with the bus schedule in hand is often necessary. See if you can carpool with friends who drive or use a taxi service to get home if you want to buy everything at one time. Be creative!

Be sure to ask yourself – If I use a grocery cart, will I have to take my groceries out of it to get on the bus? How will I get the groceries upstairs once you get home? Can I carry 4 or 5 bags of groceries 10 blocks home? How many groceries will my bike’s basket hold? Can I fit my groceries into a tote bag? How much will a taxi cost? Do I have friends who have cars who can help me? Is Zipcar an option?

Speaking of grocery carts, most grocery stores will not let you take their carts home – and where would you store it, anyway? So, I’ve found metal grocery/shopping/utility carts (as shown in the photo to the right) at hardware and variety stores throughout the northeast. They range in price from $20-50. I prefer the more expensive ones because they tend to last longer and have warranties. It might be more difficult to find grocery/shopping carts in other places, but you can also order them online at stores like, which offer free shipping. These carts are foldable, or you can use them for alternative storage when you aren’t using them for groceries. I also use my cart when lugging my laundry to the laundromat!

An alternative to shopping in person is to try ordering your groceries online through an online store or brick and mortar store. I use FreshDirect in New York City, and used Peapod by Stop and Shop when living in New Jersey.  Both services deliver to your door between hours you specify. Your cold items will be cold and both stores offer items in bulk and homegoods like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. FreshDirect doesn’t have the breadth of options of canned goods that you might get at your local Pathmark or grocer, but their meats and produce are right on target. My neighborhood doesn’t have a butcher and the local stores (there are 3 within walking distance of my apartment) do not offer a wide variety of meats (I live in a food desert.). FreshDirect and Stop and Shop both employ butchers, so I can rest assured that I’m getting high-quality meats. For fresh produce, I visit one of the many produce markets in the neighborhood near my job daily the freshest produce. Transporting vegetables and fruit from work to home is a little tricky, but I’ve learned how to pack my food amongst my gym clothes or sweater to make sure everything arrives home safely!

Also, check with your local grocer and see if they offer deliveries. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the $5-10 delivery fee and/or minimum order is worth it to you. So, the next time you’re at your local grocery store, find out if they offer a delivery service. I’ve seen local grocery delivery work two ways – either you go to the store, buy what you need and go home and wait on the delivery, or you call the store with your order and they’ll deliver to your home. Either way, you won’t be stuck lugging your groceries up a few flights of stairs or several blocks home. Or, use a search engine to search for “grocery delivery” and your zip code. There are options such as NetGrocer and Amazon that deliver groceries nationwide. If you have the storage space, Amazon is a great place to buy dry good groceries like cereal in bulk. Publix grocery stores in the southeast is offering trial a grocery pick-up service at select locations. No word if you can use your bike for picking up, but I don’t see why not. Use their website to order your groceries online and schedule a 30 minute pickup window.

If you bike, getting groceries home is a bit easier. You can use your bike’s basket to put in groceries, plus you have pedal power to help you get home! I’ve seen some creative bike baskets and carts, including the one shown here. You can attach a bike trailer to the back of your bike (detachable, of course) or use regular baskets to store your groceries for the ride home. My sister’s setup includes a handlebar basket and a back basket. She can easily carry a week’s worth of groceries home using those two baskets and a messenger bag. If I were shopping for a family, I’d definitely buy a detachable cargo bike trailer. Check online retailers and your local bike shop for options!

What are your suggestions for getting groceries home? If  you live in an area with delivery, let us know your favorites. Or if you have tricks for how to minimize the stress of shopping while car-free, let us know in the comments!