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Is an Online Grocery Delivery Service Worth It? – Pros & Cons

By Jacqueline Curtis

grocery delivery serviceLet’s face it – going to the grocery store is a major time drain. When you add it all up, a trip to the store can easily take an hour or two out of your day. But we all need to eat, right?

Have you ever thought about using a grocery delivery service like Peapod? It may sound like a perfect solution and time-saver: You do your shopping online, pay with your credit card, and voila! Your groceries appear at your door. But before you start filling up your virtual grocery cart, make sure you know the true costs of the service as opposed to shopping yourself. When compared side-by-side, you might be surprised at the results.

Advantages

1. It Saves Time
If you’re pressed for time, visiting a grocery store is not an ideal chore. Going with a grocery delivery service means you never have to set foot in a store, leaving you more time to work, enjoy your family, and even take a few minutes for yourself.

2. It Reduces Impulse Buys
Whether it’s a gossip rag set up in the checkout aisle or a sale item hanging out on an end-cap, impulse buys can easily damage even the most bulletproof grocery budget. But by using a delivery service, you can make your choices efficiently, without being tempted by the items you buy because you’re bored or hungry. This includes junk food – when shopping online for your delivery service, you can avoid the shelves of cookies and chips, helping you keep the unhealthy stuff out of your home.

3. Delivery Fees Are Generally Reasonable
Most delivery services charge higher delivery fees for smaller orders. For instance, a common delivery service (Giant) charges a $6.95 delivery fee for orders over $100, but $1 more for shipping if you spend less than that – and even more if you spend less than $50. This system means you get more groceries for less, making it simpler and more cost-effective to shop for your whole family.

4. Online Specials Are Available
By shopping online, you miss out on the perks of grocery store shopping, like using coupons, comparison shopping, and ad matching. However, you can score great deals with online specials that store shoppers can’t get. The best part is that instead of driving all over town to snag sale items at various supermarkets, it only takes a single click of a button to take advantage of the best online deals.

shopping online

Disadvantages

1. It Can Be Expensive
Buying groceries online is super convenient, but you pay a premium price for that benefit. Sometimes items are simply priced higher via a delivery service than at a supermarket, and without the ability to compare prices or search for bargains, you might be stuck with a high price. The delivery fees, while reasonable, can also take a bite out of your grocery budget as well.

Furthermore, trucking your groceries around your area costs money, and delivery services often make up for that cost by charging an additional fuel surcharge. It’s a cost that usually depends on your home’s proximity to the delivery center. However, you can sometimes get a discount if you choose delivery dates when the truck is already scheduled to be in your area.

2. You Can’t Handpick Each Item
When you walk down a produce aisle, you likely search for the ripest, best-looking fruits and vegetables. When you purchase groceries online, you’re trusting another shopper to select items for your family. While most services guarantee freshness, you might be less than impressed when the food is delivered.

3. Delivery Can Take Time
You or someone in your family needs to be around to sign for your groceries. While it usually doesn’t matter who signs for your items, if you’re receiving alcohol or cigarettes, someone 18 years or older must be home to sign.

Some services allow for drop-off delivery without a signature, but then your groceries must be left in coolers on your porch. If left out long enough, there could be some food safety concerns, especially if you’re having meat delivered.

4. You Might Still Need to Go to the Supermarket
If you only use delivery services in lieu of your regular weekly or bi-weekly trip to the supermarket, you may find that you still end up needing to make trips to the store for perishables, such as milk and bread. If so, you may spend needlessly on impulse buys, or ultimately not save yourself any time. Delivery services often complement regular grocery store trips, rather than replace them. Unless you’re set on just buying the staples at the supermarket, you could spend more by using a delivery service.

grocery shopping from home

Calculating the Expenses

If you usually spend $100 at the grocery store each week, you can estimate about $10 is spent on impulse purchases. If you nix the impulse buys altogether, you’d spend about $90 through a delivery service. Of course, then you need to add a delivery fee, which ranges from $5 to $10. Some delivery services also accept tips, so factor in another $5 for that. Ultimately, your regular shopping trips would cost about $5,200 per year, while a delivery service would add up to about $5,300 per year.

Therefore, you can estimate that you’d save $100 annually by simply forgoing the delivery service and just buying from the supermarket. However, there are other factors to consider, such as the cost of gas to drive to the grocery store and whether you need to make midweek shopping trips. If you take frequent trips to the store regardless of your delivery service, or if you have to travel a significant distance to your nearest supermarket, the cost difference may be negligible.

Shopping Tips

If you have extremely limited free time, the extra expense of grocery delivery may be well worth it. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to save money wherever possible. Here are some tips to get the most bang for your buck if you want to try a delivery service:

  1. Shop Around. If you’re lucky enough to have several delivery services available in your area, it doesn’t hurt to shop around and make sure you’re getting the best prices and the lowest delivery fees. You should also call the company to find out if tipping is expected – some don’t even allow tips. The biggest names in grocery delivery include Amazon Food, Peapod, Safeway, NetGrocer, and FoodEx, but smaller local companies do exist.
  2. Keep Track of Ads. Check out the grocery ads in your paper to make sure that the prices you’re paying for delivery are in line with those at the store. You could be getting more for your money by trekking to the store yourself, so it pays to stay in the know with the prices.
  3. Put Money Aside for Midweek Purchases. If going cyber with your grocery list makes sense to you, just be sure to put aside money from your grocery budget for midweek purchases of perishables.

virtual shopping cart

Final Word

Having your groceries delivered is often more expensive than shopping at the supermarket. However, you might be surprised, as it could save you money, time, and calories. The best approach is to give it a shot for a week – paying the $7 delivery fee once is worth it to see if it’s right for you.

If you decide to utilize a delivery service, create a routine that makes sense for you -  for instance, receive one delivery per month with basic and non-perishable items, and then do your grocery shopping at the supermarket for the rest of the month. However you choose to go about it, grocery delivery services can certainly help you make sensible choices for your family.

Have you ever used a grocery delivery service? Would you recommend it to others?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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  • Kayla

    Thanks for laying out the pros and cons. We used to have groceries delivered, but stopped, though I’m not exactly sure why we stopped. But this is very helpful in case we ever consider doing it again. Thanks!

  • Heidi @HotCouponWorld.com

    In this day and age, I cannot justify the extra expense for the convenience. Plus I actually like grocery shopping. And no coupons? I gotta use my coupons!

  • Ofdusa

    Shopping at online grocery stores will enable you the convenience that you require while allowing you more time to do other things in your life that was formerly taken up with grocery shopping.

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