A Guide to Grocery Delivery
The convenience of ordering your groceries online and having them delivered to your door comes at a cost—which might be absolutely worth it for you, or it might end up putting you over budget. You’ll only be able to decide how you value this popular service if you carefully weigh your options.
- Saves time you could spend doing other things: working (i.e. making money), enjoying family, recovering if you’re feeling sick, doing chores, running other errands, exercising, etc.
- Saves on gas or other transportation costs
- Reduces impulse buys and temptation to overspend
- Gives you access to online-only coupons
- Allows you to check your home inventory for ingredients to prevent buying duplicates (which saves you money, or a second trip out if you thought you already had something but didn’t)
- Promotes meal planning
- Allows you to see your balance while you shop so you won’t be surprised at check-out
- Limits social interactions during a pandemic
- Eliminates the chance to buy needed items not on your list that you’re reminded of at the store
- Delivery and/or membership fees, fuel charge, tips
- Upcharge on products (e.g. paying an extra $.30 for a loaf of bread), depending on the company
- May not be able to take advantage of printed coupons, comparison shopping, and/or ad matching, depending on delivery service
- Not getting to pick your own fresh produce
- Usually someone must be home to sign for the groceries—for alcohol or cigarettes, that person must be 18 years or older; some services offer delivery without a signature, but you’ll need to leave coolers on your porch for food safety
- You may still need to make trips to the store for perishables or forgotten items, which could negate the pros of the delivery service if you still make impulse buys
Instacart might be one of the most popular grocery delivery service providers out there—and for good reason!
Cost: A $99 annual Instacart Express membership (avoids delivery fee on orders of $35 or more), plus a 5% service fee on orders (not including alcohol). Express service exempts you from peak pricing when Instacart is busy.
Delivery fee: Between $5.99 and $7.99 per order for nonmembers. Additional fee for alcohol, about $2 per $35 of alcohol. Option to tip driver on top of these fees.
Delivery window: Same-day delivery is standard for Express members and starts at $3.99 for nonmembers with the option for one-hour delivery for an additional fee.
Availability: Cities in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Coupon policy: Does not honor sales prices nor manufacturer’s coupons but has in-platform promotions.
The Instacart platform has a shopping list tool that allows you to carry over items from week to week, so you’re not always starting from scratch. The app will alert you when your driver has started shopping and you’ll be notified if they have to make a substitution. And while it’s a bonus that Instacart can shop at Costco for you, even if you don’t have a Costco membership, you’ll pay more for items ordered there.
AmazonFresh & Amazon Pantry
If you already pay for Amazon Prime, AmazonFresh will probably make a lot of sense for you.
Cost: Included in Amazon Prime membership ($119/year).
Delivery fee: For orders over $35 there’s no fee; under $35 and the fee could be as low as $5.99. Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon) also offers free delivery to Prime members on orders of at least $35, and you’ll receive an additional 10% discount on sale items.
Delivery window: Same- or next-day delivery depending on order time. You can set a two-hour delivery window so you can plan to be home to take delivery of your groceries. Or Amazon will put perishable items inside insulated containers.
Availability: Enter your zip code to see if you’re within a service area.
Coupon policy: Allows you to compare prices and shop around applicable stores. ‘Fresh Deals’ offer limited time discounts, and if you use your Amazon credit card you’ll receive 5% cashback.
Amazon Pantry is accessible for non-Prime members.
If you have an Amazon Echo connected to your account, you can ask Alexa to add items to your cart and place AmazonFresh orders.
Shipt gives you the option to edit your order within the first hour of placing it, which can be a lifesaver for items that skipped your mind when you were making your list.
Cost: A $99 annual fee or $14 per month for unlimited delivery of orders over $35. In addition, there is about a 15% price increase across products.
Delivery fee: A $7 delivery fee for orders under $35 for members or $10 for non-members.
Availability: Over 260 cities.
Delivery window: Set delivery times within an hour or more of placing your order.
Coupon policy: In-app specials on items but doesn’t allow for manufacturer nor store coupons.
In addition to setting substitute preferences, you can add other notes for your shopper. They will also text you when they begin your order and if they have any questions.
Postmates was acquired by Uber in July 2020 and also delivers non-grocery orders like prepared food and alcohol.
Cost: An Unlimited subscription costs $99.99 a year, which eliminates delivery fees on orders of at least $12. There is still a percentage-based service fee (varies) and “small cart fees” ($1.99).
Delivery fee: $0.99 to $9.99, depending on the merchant.
Delivery window: You can choose from 30-minute time slots up to seven days in advance.
Availability: Postmates says they serve 80% of households nationwide.
Postmates lets you search and compare local grocery stores so you can place orders without having to visit each location.
Google’s grocery delivery service is now part of Google Shopping. You can check out through Google or the retailer’s site, and the retailer will coordinate the delivery.
Cost: No membership fee, but you may have to be a member to buy from clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club.
Delivery fee: Depends on retailer—most offer free delivery with minimum purchase.
Delivery window: Depends on retailer.
Availability: Wide—if stores in your area have a delivery option, chances are you can use Google Shopping.
Coupon policy: Depends on retailer.
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