Everyone is familiar with that sinking feeling that comes right at the end of an exhausting workday as you realize you have no groceries at home and no energy to go shopping. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, services have sprung up everywhere to solve that exact problem by providing grocery delivery to your home, sometimes in as little as an hour.
But with so many grocery delivery services to choose from, how do you know which is right for you? We’ve broken down five of the best online grocery sites to give you everything you need to know, from what they offer and how they work to — perhaps most importantly — what they’re going to cost you.
Best Services for Specific Needs
If you’re looking for a clear overall winner of the five services covered below, there isn’t one. Each service offers different advantages for people with different needs. Here’s a shortlist of the best services to suit specific needs:
Best on a Budget: FreshDirect
FreshDirect’s DeliveryPass is the most budget-friendly option on our list. However, you need to live in FreshDirect’s coverage area, sign up for a subscription, and be prepared to accept deliveries midweek to get their best price.
Best for Variety: Instacart or Shipt
If you have specific brand preferences and prefer a large selection to choose from when shopping, your best bets are Instacart or Shipt, depending on whether you want a subscription or pay-per-delivery option. The variety each service offers depends on what stores you have in your area, but since they draw from a larger selection of stores, they have more variety than FreshDirect, PeaPod, or Amazon.
Best for Same-Day Delivery: Amazon Fresh or Shipt
For reliable same-day delivery that doesn’t break the bank, Amazon Fresh or Shipt are the way to go. The other three services also have same-day options, but they require some planning ahead, come with fees that make them a less attractive option, or both.
Best Product Quality: Amazon Prime Now
Since Amazon Prime Now is a partnership between Amazon and Whole Foods, it’s the service you’ll want to use if you prioritize organic or otherwise premium grocery items. That’s not to say the other services on the list are low quality by any means; their offerings simply vary more and are dependent on local factors.
|BEST ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING SITES|
Amazon Prime Now
|- Service fee (5%)
- Time-based delivery fee
- Peak hours fee
|N/A|| - Time-based delivery fee
- Fuel surcharge
|Pricing (Subscription)||$9.99/month or $99/year|| - Anytime delivery: $129/year
- Limited delivery: $39/6 months
|$12.99/month or $119/year||$100/year||$14/month or $99/year|
|Areas Served||Nationwide||Northeast||International||Northeast & Midwest||Nationwide|
|Pickup Available||✓||Χ||Whole Foods orders via Amazon Prime Now only||✓||Χ|
|Soonest Available||Two hours after order placement (surcharge applies)||Same day if placed before a certain time (10am to 1pm depending on location)||One hour after placing order (surcharge applies) or two hours after placing order (no surcharge)||Same day in some areas only (surcharge applies)||Two hours after placing order (no surcharge)|
Best Online Grocery Delivery Services
Here we’ve broken down in detail the pros, cons, and processes for using each of these five online grocery services. For each service mentioned you’ll find pricing, availability, and subscription options as well as additional notes like whether you can request substitutions on items that run out, whether or not the service accepts coupons, and more.
App-based delivery service sends personal shoppers to grocery stores in your area to shop for delivery or pickup.
Instacart charges a 5% service fee, a variable delivery fee, a peak time charge, and gratuity. Frequent users can subscribe to Instacart Express for $99 yearly or $9.99 per month for free delivery, reduced service fees, and no peak time charges. Orders must be worth a minimum of $35 or you’ll be subject to a small order delivery fee.
How It Works
Depending on where you typically shop, you can use Instacart to get your groceries from the same stores delivered to your door or brought to your car for pickup. Once you download the app and create an account, you’ll be able to see what stores are available in your area.
As you’re adding items to your shopping list, the app will let you know if they’re on sale. It will also notify you when the store is low on something and ask you to choose a substitute in case your first choice isn’t available. If you’re looking for a particular type of something (an overripe banana or unripe avocado, for instance), you can add that to the notes for your shopper as well.
When your list is complete, you’ll select a delivery window, which can be in as little as two hours or scheduled several days in advance. Delivery fees vary depending on the popularity of a particular time slot. If you choose to pick up your order instead of having it delivered, you’ll get a text notifying you when it’s ready.
Instacart has one of the larger coverage areas of the services on our list. It’s available around major cities all over the country and regularly adds new locations.
In addition to fees, products may be priced differently on the app than in the store. Individual retailers determine their own prices. Some keep costs consistent in-store and on the app, while others set their Instacart prices slightly higher.
Coupons and discounts are automatically displayed in the app. You can’t apply paper coupons to in-app orders, but you may find that the same specials advertised in a store flyer are also in the app. Retailers can also offer different specials and discounts on Instacart than they do in-store, so depending on what you’re buying, you may find that in-app coupons offset additional costs.
Online grocery store with options to pay per delivery or subscribe for a flat rate, available in parts of the Northeast only.
FreshDirect’s pricing model is based on location rather than timing. Less-popular locations are subject to higher fees than well-populated places, like Philadelphia or Manhattan.
Frequent users can subscribe to FreshDirect’s DeliveryPass instead of paying delivery fees per order. The cost of the subscription varies depending on when you want your deliveries. A year of any-day deliveries costs $129, but if you’re willing to accept your deliveries midweek (Tuesday through Thursday), you can save over 40%.
Orders must be worth a minimum of $30, or you’ll be subject to a small order delivery fee.
How It Works
While Instacart is a grocery service, FreshDirect is an actual retailer that supplies all of its own items instead of working with stores in the area. As a result, FreshDirect offers slightly less product variety — you’ll typically find three or four different brands of an item instead of entire shelves of options.
Once you’re finished shopping, you’ll place your order and select a delivery window. While there’s no peak fee for busier delivery options, time slots do sell out, so it’s wise to plan ahead whenever possible.
FreshDirect has the most limited coverage available of the services on our list. Delivery is only available in New York City, Philadelphia, and parts of Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Delivery fees are more expensive the further you are from your shipment’s origin.
Because FreshDirect is a grocer in its own right, it sets its own prices, which are comparable to what you would find in your local supermarket. FreshDirect has a separate organic section that is more expensive. The platform also runs its own sales and special promotions, and there’s a coupon section on the site. You can’t use manufacturers’ coupons on the site.
3. Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now
Same-day grocery delivery from Whole Foods (Amazon Prime Now) or other brands (Amazon Fresh) for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Amazon Prime costs $119 annually or $12.99 per month, and both Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now are included in that cost. Delivery fees only apply if your order is under $35 total or if you want to receive your order within two hours of placing it.
How It Works
Amazon Fresh offers national brands, while Amazon Prime Now is specific to Whole Foods products. You can access both via Amazon or, for Amazon Prime Now, you can create your order via the Whole Foods website.
In both cases, you’ll be able to view sales and specials as well as special discounts for Prime members only. Once you’re ready to place your order, you can schedule a delivery time for the same day or a future date.
Amazon Fresh is available in many cities across the United States, as well as the U.K., Italy, and Japan. Amazon Prime Now is available in most cities with a Whole Foods.
Amazon Prime Now pricing is the same as in-store shelf pricing at Whole Foods, though discounts and specials for Amazon Prime members are available online and in-store. National brands available through Amazon Fresh are priced comparably to those same items available in-store.
Prime members who also have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card get 5% back on both services in addition to other Prime member discounts, which can be applied directly to your monthly bill.
Online grocer with a subscription option owned by the company that owns Stop & Shop, Food Lion, and Giant and operated out of those stores.
PeaPod charges a delivery fee that varies depending on how widely you set your delivery time window — the more flexible you are, the lower your price. The company also adds a fuel surcharge that can become steep if you’re located far from your shipment’s origin. Lastly, the service has a higher-than-average minimum order requirement of $60.
Frequent users can also subscribe to PodPass to waive delivery fees for a flat rate of $100 per year.
How It Works
Users can shop on Peapod online or via an app. Selecting and adding products to your cart works the same way it does on most shopping platforms. Peapod also gives you the option to leave instructions for your shopper in case an item isn’t available and you want to identify a substitute or if you want to specify a level of ripeness for your produce.
You’ll need to select pickup or delivery, then select a time frame. Pickup windows are in one-hour increments, and you can adjust the length of available delivery windows. You’ll see the delivery fees for each window, and you can save by choosing a longer window or ordering a few days in advance. Once you place your order, Peapod employees will gather your items and prepare them for pickup or delivery.
PeaPod is available wherever the companies with which it’s affiliated — primarily Stop & Shop, Food Lion, and Giant — are located. For the most part, these areas are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.
PeaPod prices its products the same they’re priced in their corresponding stores. Additionally, the platform makes specific weekly discounts available exclusively to PeaPod shoppers. It’s also fairly unique in that it accepts paper and digital manufacturer’s coupons. You’ll just need to hand them to the driver who delivers your order or the employee who facilitates your pickup, and you’ll be credited back the amount your coupons are worth.
Subscription-only service that delivers from a wide range of grocery stores as well as some pharmacies, department stores, and specialty stores.
Shipt is a subscription service, so you need to purchase a membership to use it. Monthly memberships are $14 per month or $99 for a year. However, orders still need to be worth a minimum of $35, or you’ll be subject to a small order delivery fee.
How It Works
Like many other delivery services, you can shop on Shipt online or with an app. The service is owned by Target, so you can shop from that store as well as HEB, Costco, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly, CVS, Office Depot, Petco, Publix, Safeway, and more, depending on your location.
The actual shopping process is fairly routine: You’ll add items to your cart until you’re ready to check out and choose a delivery time (pickup isn’t an option). Shipt also allows you to leave instructions for your shopper with regards to substitutions or selection preferences. Delivery windows are in one-hour blocks, and you can arrange for arrival as soon as two hours after you place the order. Since Shipt is a subscription, the price is the same regardless of when you choose.
Besides Amazon, Shipt has the widest delivery coverage of the selections on our list. It’s available in 260 cities “and counting,” according to the company’s website. To see if your area is covered, input your zip code on the site’s availability checker.
Shipt admits that its prices are higher than in-store prices, so you’re paying a small premium for convenience. That said, the prices for Target items through Shipt versus those at Target stores are often about the same, so you may find Shipt is only more expensive at certain stores or for certain items. If you’re a Target Circle member, you can apply savings offers from that membership to your Shipt order.
If you’re willing to pay a little extra for the convenience of having your food delivered, there are plenty of great options available with different product varieties, delivery options, and convenience levels.
If you’re looking to save money while getting your groceries, that might be a little more difficult. Those who live in the right areas and are willing to do the work of planning ahead, creating a price book, coordinating discounts, and keeping track of coupons can definitely make a dent in these services’ costs. But those who are in it for the convenience are likely to find that convenience costs a little more.