Advantages of online grocery shopping

As someone who doesn't like to shop for groceries (or lug them all from my car to the house), the thought of finding a service that helps me avoid the check-out line altogether is very appealing. A service that would put my groceries away would be even more amazing, but I won't get carried away. Even without that added bonus, though, the advantages start to stack up.

Advantages of Online Grocery Shopping

1. Save on transportation costs. Back when I was working away from home, I simply scheduled my time to swing by the grocery store on the way home from work. I still had to carry everything into the house, but I wasn't making an extra trip. Since May last year, I have been a strictly work-from-home kind of gal, so any trip for food is, at minimum, 28 miles round-trip. I try not to make the trip unless I have to, or unless I have some other errands I can run too. If I am feeling particularly hermit-like, I can talk my husband into picking up groceries on his way to or from work, so at least that's an option.

2. Save time. A 28-mile round trip, plus whatever time it takes to shop can easily burn up an hour or more of my day. That's an entire hour I could spend working and earning money, or cleaning. I could always clean. While my lifestyle is not really busy, I can see how this would be a great benefit for those with busy households.

3. Save pain. While taking my seven-month-old baby out in zero-degree weather isn't actually painful, it is rather unappealing. But there are people who do find grocery shopping painful. Imagine navigating a parking lot, a cart through aisles, lifting heavy food items, reaching up or bending down if you're in pain. Having the groceries delivered to your door would be an amazing luxury.

4. Stay organized. I am in the middle of creating a standardized grocery shopping list for our household. As you can imagine, getting a standardized grocery list together is a bit clunky as I review old receipts and calculate how often we buy apples and how many pounds of bananas we purchase in a month. Most of these online grocery shopping services keep track of your orders. You can also schedule when your groceries get delivered so you can be there when they arrive. Plus, it's just easier to compare prices.

Are There Disadvantages?

Despite how appealing online grocery shopping sounds, I had questions:

  • Since we're trying to beef up our savings account before we buy a new car, we don't want to spend any more on groceries than necessary. Even if the price is higher on the items, would I still be able to save overall by decreasing my transportation costs?
  • Is there a difference in quality?
  • Is the convenience factor worth it?

If you've been happy shopping at your grocery store, you may not have thought about ways to order groceries online. But if you needed to use this service for some reason, exactly where would you start to look? First, check with your current grocery store to see if they offer this service. Although my usual grocery store offers a wide range of products, it is in a small town and probably could not support online grocery shopping. And when I asked, I found that they don't offer it. But that news didn't stall me completely.

Even though my grocery store of choice doesn't offer it, I do have an Amazon Prime membership. That means that I first go to Amazon when I need to order something online. While I have purchased snacks a few times from Amazon, I never looked to them to meet many of my food needs.

1. What Kinds of Food Do They Have and How Much Does It Cost?

At least when I searched Amazon, they didn't have any produce at all. In addition, they did not offer any of the dairy products that I am used to purchasing. (Well, some seller did offer a gallon of milk for $75, calling it “aged” and warned it would be sent without refrigeration. Funny people.) Instead, they had powdered milk or shelf-stable milk available. Breakfast cereals were more expensive via Amazon than at my store too. I assume this is because breakfast cereals are often a loss leader at the store where I shop.

Another online grocery service I found that does have more produce available is Netgrocer. They ship to the lower 48 states; however, the shipping is not free. And this service is more expensive. Way more expensive. While I can buy a three-pound bag of apples for $2.50 at my standard store, one apple was over $2 at Netgrocer. (Whoa.)

Vitacost is another online service I have used. This company specializes in health food items that can also be found at traditional stores, but I have found their prices to be excellent. They also frequently run sales AND have free shipping once your order reaches a certain amount.

2. How is the Quality?

Shipping techniques allow perishable items to be shipped to your door. While I usually don't order refrigerated or frozen items, I occasionally order ice cream from a company two states away. It always arrives frozen and delicious. Any item that I have ordered online has been just as (or even more) tasty as anything I have purchased from my conventional grocer. (Maybe this is where the convenience part becomes the worth-it part!)

3. Is the Price Right?

As I did a little (super) market online research on items that I would normally buy in a brick-and-mortar grocery store, I discovered something that didn't really surprise me.

Despite its convenience, doing all my household grocery shopping online is more expensive than I would like. However, there are a few obvious good deals that I have purchased online before that I will continue to purchase online because of the free shipping. But for everything else? I think I'll try to sweet talk my husband into doing most of the household food shopping instead. If he were not available, though, I would seriously consider online grocery shopping, especially during the bitter-cold temps in the winter months.

How about you? If you buy any of your food online, what do you see as advantages? How is the quality with the service you use, and is it more expensive than shopping at your local grocer?

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Mrs. Frugalwoods
Mrs. Frugalwoods
5 years ago

We live quite close to our grocery store and so the transit costs and time aren’t too great. Plus, it’s a discount grocery chain that doesn’t offer home delivery. But, a few years ago when I was working full-time and going to grad school full-time, and my husband’s work schedule was crazy too, we used a grocery delivery service and it was awesome!

I think if you’re extremely pressed for time, or live far away from a grocery store, it can be a wonderful system. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s worth the extra expense.

erica
erica
5 years ago

I live in NYC and swear by freshdirect for produce. It’s very good quality, ripe, fresh and hasn’t been handled by half of NYC. I find them to be hit or miss price-wise for things like meat and household supplies like detergent and toilet paper. Freshdirect’s canned goods are ridiculously overpriced so I visit a nearby grocery store that’s at the edge of a large public housing project and very affordable. I’m also blessed with a large partner who was career UPS and doesn’t mind shlepping as we live car-free.

imelda
imelda
5 years ago
Reply to  erica

Another New Yorker here…I had to laugh at Lisa’s dread of “lug[ging] them all from car to the house.”

Try lugging 10 blocks and up 4 flights of stairs….

AMW
AMW
5 years ago

I have a grocery service…my teenager…she does the shopping (uses the coupons I cut) AND puts it away. It is the price she pays for using our car. In a few months when she has her own car and moves out, I will go back to doing the shopping myself because it close by and I can save more money than using a service.

Somebody
Somebody
5 years ago
Reply to  AMW

That’s an interesting trade-off. It also teaches a life skill. Now, to get that teenager to transform the groceries into cooked meals – that’s the ticket!

Productivity Guinea Pig
Productivity Guinea Pig
5 years ago

I’ve looked at prices on Amazon, but they’re definitely more expensive than my local options. Last year, I bought a year’s supply of toilet paper and paper towels from Amazon. Between my credit card rewards (5% for Amazon during that quarter) and Swagbucks, I got a 10% rebate on what I spent and now I don’t have to worry about buying those items for months.

Carol
Carol
5 years ago

I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that you may spend less with on-line shopping because you don’t have the impulse buys. Of course you also miss out on noticing that items you buy are on sale.

Amy
Amy
5 years ago
Reply to  Carol

This was my experience. When the kids were smaller, I had weekly delivery of milk from a local farm with a delivery service. Not having to drag 2 kids to the local grocery store for twice-weekly inevitable need for milk meant no impulse buys for me or nag-buys from the kids. I am sure that paid for the modest delivery fees.

Rebecca@TheFamilyFinder
5 years ago

I would love to have a grocery service or do online shopping for groceries. Since we do an Aldi/Walmart combo trip when we go, and we have to go to another town it takes two hours. Blah! We keep a VERY tight food budget and I am not sure I would save money.

SAHMama
SAHMama
5 years ago

I actually enjoy grocery shopping. I live in a large city with a lot of independent as well as chain stores. Every week I do great with coupons (print and electronic), sales and finding clearance items. Sometimes I’ve found dairy products marked as low as 90% off because the expiration date is near. I also like to select my own produce because I’m picky about bruising and ripeness. I have ordered a few things via amazon’s subscribe & save. I just got my shipment, actually. I got organic honey, tea tree oil, vitamin D and a few other items that… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
5 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys grocery shopping, although I do not enjoy taking my children with me!
There are several stores close to me also and I will frequently go and only purchase sale items.

DarcC
DarcC
5 years ago

I used to use Peapod, Stop n Shop’s service here in New England. Although there is a delivery fee, I found I saved money because I did not impulse buy the way I would if I was at the store myself. Quality and price were fine, I never had to reject produce, and if there was a damaged item (one time I got a damaged yogurt container, probably happened in transit) getting credit for it was easily done online. While I have since moved out of Peapod’s delivery area, I still order a lot of non-perishables from Amazon. I abhor… Read more »

JoeM
JoeM
5 years ago

When I was living in Chicago, I definitely enjoyed using Peapod a half dozen or so times. I only used it during the trial period where delivery was cheap/free basically. Being able to order stuff and get it next day at a set time was amazing. Peapod had pretty much everything you could want – produce, dairy, meat, basics. The only reason I didn’t use it more was that the promo period ended and my grocery store was literally right across the street, two storefronts down. It was a 2 minute walk door to door. Things like that make me… Read more »

Jacquie
Jacquie
5 years ago

We use a delivery service provided by our local grocery store chain. It’s hugely popular in my area (Md). My branch is actually less than a mile away, but it’s not just about the distance for me. It’s the time -no waiting in lines or wandering around the store selecting items. I’m also avoiding impulse purchases (even with a list I sometimes cave!), and there’s no lugging the stuff home. I’m able to organize my lists online, shop their weekly sales, meal plan, and we can even use coupons. We eat better and there’s less waste. Even with their small… Read more »

Erin
Erin
5 years ago
Reply to  Jacquie

Your point on impulse purchases is an important one–if shopping online keeps things lean (both financially and calorically), that could be a tipping point for a lot of people.

BE Pennypacker
BE Pennypacker
5 years ago

A grocery service sounds like a great idea, especially if you live far from the store and only shop at one place. There is also a great case to be made for the time and hassle it would save. That savings might make up for the higher cost. I could definitely see using it when the weather is bad.

Somebody
Somebody
5 years ago

I could see how grocery delivery could be very beneficial for the elderly or disabled. It might even allow them to live independently for a longer period of time, as well as enable them to continue to eat fresh foods, which could decrease their costs in the long run.

I know of a mom for twins and a toddler who switched to a delivery service for groceries and household goods. The convenience was worth it for her, because otherwise it would be next to impossible to get the shopping done with all of the kids in tow.

Beard Better
Beard Better
5 years ago

Part of what motivated me to live where I do is the close proximity to a grocery store. I’m only about 30 minutes away by public transportation, which is free thanks to my student ID, or 35 minutes away if I want to be healthy and walk there. It does take a bit longer than if I owned a car, but the savings on insurance and parking fees alone makes it well worth it. Doing a simple calculation, if my parking and insurance added up to $1,000 a year (probably on the low end) and I spend an hour getting… Read more »

Sophie
Sophie
5 years ago

When I was at university, I grocery shopped for the family (out of my own pocket) instead of paying rent. My parents saved the time and hassle of doing the lists and schlepping through the stores, and I got a deal on my rent (feeding four people was cheaper than renting a room elsewhere, though not by a lot) and input into our menus. Now that I live in Europe, I hardly ever make it into an actual supermarket – almost all the grocery stores deliver here for the same price (or better) that you get in the store. Once… Read more »

Brian @ Luke1428
Brian @ Luke1428
5 years ago

I don’t mind grocery shopping. But I’ve always been intrigued by this idea, not so much from the cost saving angle as from a time saving angle. What do they say, “Time is money?” If I lived further away from a grocery store I might bite on doing this.

Ren
Ren
5 years ago

I wish my area had grocery services available. We have enough grocery stores within a 10-mile radius, but my husband and I both work ridiculous schedules. It’s hard enough to get a meal prepped and cooked let alone shopped for!

I work near a large metro area, and *could* get Peapod delivered to my workplace. I’ve checked into it a few times, but have yet to pull the trigger. The higher cost even before delivery charges gives me pause!

clara
clara
5 years ago

Dont forget to check out local CSAS! Many do provide home delivery and give fresh produce (and other stuff) every week.

Cat
Cat
5 years ago

I live in Chicago without a car and I absolutely swear by Peapod, particularly in the winter. I’ve priced checked them against the six grocery stores I have easy access and they typically come in at the same or a slightly lower price on the items I buy most frequently. I typically do a big order from them once every six weeks of my shelf-stable items and then supplement with stops at my local bodega for fresh produce and meat as needed. The delivery fee on my typical order typically works out to 1/3 higher than what I’d pay to… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
5 years ago

Making your own granola would be way cheaper and more nutritious than buying cereal. Conventional cereals have next to no nutritional value, so in the long run, in terms of your family’s health, probably not worth it. Also, buying a lot of produce in advance is usually not healthy, unless it is flash-frozen. It sounds like you are too far from town to shop regularly for fresh produce, but a garden would be a good alternative.

Jenna
Jenna
5 years ago

We live on an island where groceries can be pricey. I use a local farm (klesickfamilyfarm.com) to deliver organic produce weekly to our house and I order all of our meat monthly from a different organic grass-fed farm (raincrowranch.com). The local farm also offers some grocery-type items like tortillas, salsa, and honey… It is a bit more expensive (but not much!) but totally worth it to save me time in the grocery store and to make meal planning easier. I still have to take a trip to the grocery store every so often for products that aren’t available for delivery… Read more »

Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
5 years ago

We live next to a discount grocery store and the deliver services just can’t compete on cost. That being said, I would consider paying more for the convenience if it was hard to get to the store. (if we all had the flu, if we have another baby, etc. etc)

Laura
Laura
5 years ago

Same here; much more cost effective to do the shopping in person. I’d use a grocery service if I couldn’t get to the store for medical reasons etc. but that’s about it. A typical shopping trip is about 90 minutes if the lines are long so time isn’t really an issue, and I like the time to myself. Also, I can argue that since I’m out getting the groceries, somebody else can shovel the snow.

Kim
Kim
5 years ago

I would probably consider it if distance was an issue, but I enjoy shopping. My husband says he never knew how much fun it could be until we got together. I wish there were thing I could have delivered from Trader Joe’s, which is 45 minutes away.

akoilady
akoilady
5 years ago

We have a local grocery chain that allows you to shop online, and they will pull the items from the shelves and deliver them to your car when you drive up. You pay then, although you will already know the cost from your online order. You can see the weekly deals and use coupons as well. Your first use is free, and after that it’s $2.95. This isn’t the store I like to use, but I have been tempted to try the service out at times when I’m dog tired after work or the weather is unpleasant. I know a… Read more »

akoilady
akoilady
5 years ago

PS to the above post…you never leave your car for the whole process. I like the fact that you bypass the lines.

Abigail @ipickuppennies
Abigail @ipickuppennies
5 years ago

I’ll happily buy groceries online whenever it’s a better price (or about the same since convenience is a major factor).

We have two different stores that are about three miles away, so it’s not as big a deal for us. But we have health problems, so anything that makes life easier is definitely worth considering.

stellamarina
stellamarina
5 years ago

Memories……as a kid many years ago, during school vacation, I would go with my father to deliver groceries from the local general country store to all the farms in the area. They were ordered by phone. My job would be to open the farm gates. He would carry the goods into the kitchen in a huge wicker basket and I helped to unload the basket. It was very educational….seeing inside many kinds of homes. Now days I can walk to my local supermarket in a few minutes. I know of some people who order grocery items from the mainland on… Read more »

Grace @ Total Investment
Grace @ Total Investment
5 years ago

Grocery shopping online can save us time. But for me it is not advisable. Look, why don’t we go to grocery store, take a walk. Going to a grocery store can gave us health benefits (by means of simple exercise).

You can save money and get health benefits if you will shop offline. Plus, you can spend quality tie with your kids, why not go to grocery with your kids and spouse ^_^

You can save time if you shop online. Just choose whichever you want. But, I prefer offline.

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
5 years ago

Keep in mind that you may need to tip the drivers if you get groceries delivered. That may not be an obvious cost, but you will want to budget for it.

Jacquie
Jacquie
5 years ago
Reply to  CalLadyQED

Good point. I do tip the driver, but luckily the service allows me to add it before I checkout, so it’s included in the order. I also spend around the same amount each “trip”, which means the tips are always about the same.

Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
5 years ago

I’m based in the UK and I use a service called mysupermarket which compares the groceries at the leading grocery superstores such as Tesco, Aldi, Asda, and Sainsbury. This service allows me to compare prices, take advantage of special offers and find which supermarket is offering the lowest price for my groceries. I can then with a click of a button have my groceries delivered to me at a convenient time. This saves me money and time. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Stephanie
Stephanie
5 years ago

Last winter I was living in Boston without a car so I would walk to the grocery store. I tried a grocery delivery service with an introductory free delivery offer and paid what I would have paid at the store without leaving my apartment! It was very convenient but I would be hesitant to pay delivery fees regularly.

cvanz
cvanz
5 years ago

I live round trip 70 miles from a grocery store, so whatever we don’t have canned up from the garden or in the freezer usually comes by ups. I order freeze dried foods from Thrivelife.com and I order toiletry and hygiene products from epantry.com. Thrive foods are not cheap but they are ready to eat or you rehydrate them. Love their fruits, crunchy pineapple, go figure. They have basics, grains, meats, veggies, fruits and dairy. Epantry sends toilet paper, cleaning supplies, shampoo and what not. I get one or the other every other month. You can stay on budget this… Read more »

Credaholic
Credaholic
5 years ago

Did you seriously just write an article about online grocery shopping and not know about the existence of Amazon FRESH?? The possibility of being in pain while grocery shopping gets a bullet point, but Amazon’s actual online grocery store isn’t even mentioned. This article hurts my brain.

superbien
superbien
5 years ago

I have used Peapod, and Safeway delivery. My experience was that it was fairly comparable, but things got more expensive in the produce world (understandably: if that arrives bruised you get it free, so more packaging costs, and they have to have someone evaluate before they pick – both cost more) and you miss out on savings from large items. Often you can get a small bottle of liquids, but not the 1-2 gallons (too heavy/bulky), which is where savings often can be found. Otherwise, prices are pretty comparable, compared to big chains. I find that smaller leaner chains (Aldi,… Read more »

Harry
Harry
4 years ago

Nice Share..

I haven’t ordered shopping online for a while – although I am planning on starting again soon but my memory of it was that they told you what had been substituted and you had the chance to accept or reject it.

I generally had at least one substitution per shop and sometimes accepted the alternatives. They were always reasonably sensible though a different flavour bagel or something.

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