Going to the grocery store can be time-consuming, frustrating, and stressful. With online grocery shopping, you might never have to go to the grocery store again!
But can online grocery shopping really replace the in-store visit? How do costs and product quality compare to the grocery store? Read on for answers to these questions, plus a list of pros and cons of online grocery shopping.
What is Online Grocery Shopping?
Shopping for groceries online works similar to shopping for clothes online. You search or browse through the store’s offerings, select the size and quantity you want, and pay for your items online.
Grocery Delivery and Pick-Up
There are usually two different options to get your groceries. The first option is to have the groceries delivered to you. The second option is to pick-up your pre-bagged groceries at a nearby location, like a grocery store or food warehouse. Some online grocery services offer both options. Other services will just offer one of the options.
With either option, you’re able to choose the day and time of delivery or pick-up. After you select the day of your choice, you’ll get to choose the time of day. Time of day options are usually in one or two hour increments.
When you choose to have your items delivered, they’ll be delivered sometime during the time window you selected. With pick-up, you can pick-up the groceries any time during the time window you selected.
Order Cut-Off Times
Most online grocery services have order cut-off times. That means some days and times will be blocked off based on when you submit your order. In my experience, the cut-off times vary quite a bit from one service to the next. You’ll be able to see the cut-off times for the service when you schedule your delivery or pick-up.
With both delivery and pick-up, the food will be stored in insulated boxes or bags with ice to keep the food fresh. This means that there’s more packaging than with in-store grocery shopping. Plan to make extra trips to the recycle bin.
When I tell people I shop for groceries online, the most frequent question I get is about the produce quality. In my experience using AmazonFresh and Peapod, I’ve gotten great quality produce. Greens are fresh and leafy. Fruits are plump and not bruised. The produce tends to be on the earlier side of ripe, so you might have to wait a couple days for items like bananas and avocados to ripen enough to eat.
You’re typically charged some sort of fee for using the service.
Some online grocery services will charge you a monthly or annual fee. For example, to subscribe to AmazonFresh, you have to be a Prime member ($10.99 per month) plus subscribe to the AmazonFresh add-on ($14.99 per month), or $25.98 per month total.
Other online grocery services will charge you per delivery or pick-up. For example, Peapod charges $8.95 per delivery or $2.95 per pick-up at a local store.
If you’d like to tip the delivery driver or pick-up assistant, that’s another fee to consider. I usually tip $5, but this optional.
- Most online grocery services offer promotional codes when you first enroll. The discount is usually a waiver of the service fee or a credit for your first order. For example:
- Some services will offer a discount on deliveries if you have your groceries delivered during non-peak hours. If you happen to be home during one of those times, you can take advantage of this discount.
Some online grocery services require a minimum order amount. AmazonFresh has a minimum order requirement of $40 and will charge you a fee of $9.99 if you don’t meet the minimum, but will still process your order. Peapod has a minimum order requirement of $60 and won’t process your order until you meet the minimum.
Cost Comparison to Stores
I compared the costs of eight different grocery items between two online grocery services (AmazonFresh and Peapod) and my local grocery store (Giant). Peapod is affiliated with Giant in my area, but as you can see below, not all the prices were the same between Peapod and Giant.
About $4 separated the least expensive (Giant) and the most expensive (Peapod). It’s possible there will be a larger difference with a bigger shopping list. It looks like shopping at the grocery store has an edge over online shopping when it comes to costs (even before considering service fees).
What are the Overall Pros?
- You don’t have to go inside the grocery store! No more crowded aisles and long checkout lines! Even if you choose to pick-up your groceries at a local store, there are usually reserved areas and someone will come out to load your pre-bagged items into your car for you.
- You can instantly find what you’re looking for using the online search function. There are certain things I can never, ever find in the grocery store. With online grocery shopping, I just enter the item into the search function and it happily appears.
- The running tally will help you stick to your budget. When I’m shopping in the store, I’m not good at keeping a running tally of the cost of everything in my cart. With online grocery shopping, you can see your purchase tally increase as you add items to your online cart. This can help you keep your purchase within your grocery budget for the week or month.
- No more lost shopping lists. When you think of something you need to buy during the week, you can just add it to your online cart. The item will stay saved in your online cart until you remove it or purchase it. When you’re ready to order, you just click purchase.
- Quick access to past purchases and frequently purchased items. Many of the online grocery services keep a running list of your past purchases and the things you purchase the most, so you can quickly add repeat items to your cart. This helps reduce the likelihood of forgetting something.
- You can plan your delivery and pick-up times in advance. That means you can easily fit the delivery or pick-up time into your schedule so no time is wasted getting your groceries.
What are the Overall Cons?
- There are fees for using online grocery services. You’re paying someone to collect, bag, and deliver the groceries for you. Based on my cost comparison between AmazonFresh, Peapod, and Giant, it looks like product costs are slightly less in-store, too. You’ll have to consider if the additional costs are outweighed by the benefits of shopping for groceries online.
- There’s usually a minimum purchase amount. So if you need something right away and haven’t met the minimum purchase amount, you’ll have to pay a fee, purchase more items you don’t need to make the minimum, or you’ll have to go to the grocery store.
- You have to plan ahead. Some services offer same-day pick-up and delivery, but you still have to submit your order before the cut-off time.
- Most services don’t carry every size, flavor, or brand you find in the grocery store. While the services do provide a huge selection, there’s a chance that they won’t carry that favorite item that you just have to have every week.
- The items are pre-bagged for you in insulated containers. That means extra packaging and more trips to the recycle bin.
Should You Try Online Grocery Shopping?
I’m a huge fan of online grocery shopping. I love saving time by skipping the grocery store. Plus, the running tally of costs in the online app helps me stick to my weekly food budget.
If you’re not sure whether it would be right for you – try it out. You can search for a promotional code for your first order to waive the fees, so it’s FREE to give it a chance!
What Retailers Provide Online Grocery Shopping?
There are lots of great options for online grocery shopping.
It’s possible your local grocery store offers online shopping. You can look on your local grocery store’s website to see if it provides this service.
Or you can use one of the many regional or nationwide services. I’ve used and recommend both AmazonFresh and Peapod. For any of the services below, you can enter your zip code into their website to see if they serve your area.
Want more ways to save time and skip the grocery store? Checkout Why You Should Try Meal Kit Services.