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Grocery Shopping Without Leaving Home

posted Aug 27, 2015, 12:21 PM by Julia Quam

Earlier this month, we wrote about how apps can save you time by streamlining your meal planning process, but these apps won’t do your grocery shopping for you. If you hate shopping for food or can never seem to find the time to go to the grocery store, there are plenty of companies that will do your shopping for you. Whether they're worth it depends on which type of grocery shopper you are. 

Grocery delivery services are typically either run by large grocery store chains in like Safeway or Giant or by companies like Instacart that shop at local grocery stores for you. You log into their web site, select the specific products you want to buy, then submit your order and pay for it online. Your groceries are delivered to your home. These services might be right for you if:

  • You dislike grocery shopping or don’t feel like you have enough time to shop for food regularly. Since you don’t have to go to the store, using these services saves you travel time to and from the store and the time you would spend in the store. Time savings can be significant if you live far from the grocery store or if you can only shop on weekends when stores are super crowded.
  • You tend to buy the same food items week after week. Most grocery delivery web sites track your past orders and make it easy to reorder the same items, so if you use these services regularly and typically buy the same things, you can get your online shopping done in a flash.
  • You’re inclined to buy less healthy or more expensive products on impulse. You may have the best of intentions, but then you get to the grocery store and your favorite snack food is featured in a pleasing display, making it hard to turn down. You can avoid tempting foods more easily when shopping online simply by not searching for those items. Additionally, most sites keep a running total of your grocery bill as you add items to your cart, helping you to stick to your budget.  
  • You get frustrated when your store is out of a key ingredient you need for a specific recipe. While grocery delivery services won’t always have everything you need, at least you’ll know ahead of time what they’re out of and you can re-configure your meal plan based on what’s available.
  • You love comparison shopping and finding a good deal. It’s easier to compare prices between different grocery delivery services or different products online than it is to traipse from store to store or compare price tags for lots of products.

On the other hand, these services might not be for you if:

  • You like to get inspired by what’s fresh or on sale at the store. You can certainly search for items that are on sale on these sites, but finding sale items might take more work than happening upon a sale display in a store. You also won’t be able to tell what’s fresh as easily.
  • When you need food, you need it now. Most services have a lag time between when you place your order and when it’s delivered. You’ll have to wait at least one day for your order from Giant’s Peapod and several hours for your Safeway order to be delivered, and you may have to wait longer if you need your food delivered during a busy time. Instacart will deliver your order within one hour, but they charge extra for the quick turnaround and even more if you need delivery during a busy time. 
  • You’re on a tight budget and don’t want to spend money on delivery fees. Giant and Safeway typically charge between $8-10 for delivery (prices often vary based on how much you spend), while Instacart charges between $4-6 for delivery (not including surcharges for busy times) depending on how soon you need your groceries. If you want to save some cash, picking up your groceries yourself may be a good compromise. The store will still shop and pack your groceries for you, but you’ll still need to drive to the store. Some stores offer pick-up for free, and others charge $2-3.
  • You’re picky about your produce. You can’t look at, touch, or smell the produce before you buy it if you shop online.
  • You don’t like searching for recipes or meal planning. Grocery delivery services only deliver groceries—they don’t provide recipes or meal plans. If you want a more comprehensive service, you may consider a recipe and ingredient delivery service like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated. We'll write about who these options may be good for next week, so stay tuned!

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