Going to the grocery store is a pain.
A trip to the store means losing an hour or more of time better spent doing, well, anything else.
And don’t forget about the hassle of dragging heavy bags around town when you don’t have a car. There’s a reason that city dwellers love their takeout.
Why spend time standing in line when you can just buy your groceries online? What was once a luxury has become a relatively affordable convenience option—and some services even offer same-day delivery and high-end items—more than canned goods and snack items.
Below, we’ve included a list of home grocery delivery options that can help you free up your time and in some cases, help you save some cash while you’re at it.
Pros and cons of grocery delivery
Advantages of ordering groceries online
Obviously, the convenience factor is the most attractive selling point when it comes to buying food online. People don’t always have the time to make it to the store — and city folk can especially benefit from skipping walks to the store or train rides with brown bags in tow.
Many digital shoppers also like that ordering online makes it easy to stick to a budget and reduces the number of impulse buys made during a trip to the store.
So if you’re prone to picking up junky magazines at the checkout or junky foods in the middle aisles of your local market, shopping online can keep you on track.
Additionally, ordering food online is great for those people who feel rushed at the supermarket. Instead, you’ll get the chance to kick back, browse the virtual aisles at your leisure and create a meal plan based on what’s on sale and in season.
While delivery fees and higher per-item costs are associated with the service, there are a lot of deals out there that may make this process relatively affordable.
Of course, everything has a downside.
If you don’t pay for a delivery service membership, chances are, you’ll be paying delivery fees each time you buy. Over time, fees can add up. In some cases, delivery services don’t offer everything that the IRL store has on the shelves. Nonperishables are always easy to find, though you might have trouble finding fresh foods on a reliable basis.
Finally, the main disadvantage of online grocery shopping is you don’t get to feel and smell the food up close. A successful produce haul often depends on a sensory evaluation — something you lose when ordering through a site — underripe, bruised, or overripe items can put a damper on even the best-planned meals.
Best options for grocery delivery
Amazon Fresh is the food delivery service for Amazon Prime members. In general, pricing is better than some of the other options out there—Whole Foods brands are offered at lower rates than in store, and members have access to meal kits, and the option for same-day delivery.
Oh, and there’s the added benefit of ordering through Alexa.
Getting started with an account requires a $14.99 monthly fee and from there, delivery is free for orders over $40.
Deals range considerably when compared to what you’ll pay at a conventional grocery store. For example, you might find your favorite chips are cheaper through Amazon Fresh, while fresh foods can cost a bit more than what you’d find in person.
For example, a bundle of scallions is $1.29 and a bunch of organic broccoli goes for $4.48. Non-perishables tend to be a better deal.
That said, the delivery costs are minimal, especially if you order a good chunk of your meals through the site. And while you might spend more on your scallion fix, the produce prices aren’t that much higher than IRL grocery.
Instacart’s key benefit is that they source products from several stores such as Costco, Aldi, and even drug stores, but compile all of the items into one interface.
Groceries can be delivered within an hour, so this option is best suited for those who need food in a hurry.
That said, costs tend to be higher than you’ll find with other food delivery services. You’re paying for the personal shopper who can communicate with you via text, as well as the fast turnaround time. We don’t really see this being a sustainable alternative to traditional grocery shopping, but it’s a nice convenience on occasion.
The company has recently introduced a subscription fee for frequent shoppers — $149 annually for free deliveries over $35.
FreshDirect is another great option for those who can’t make it to the market or let’s face it, don’t want to venture out to buy their refrigerator staples.
We’ll say this outright, this company has a relatively small list of delivery areas — catering to NYC, and parts of New Jersey, DC, Delaware, and Philadelphia.
Delivery fees range by metropolitan area, though you can pay for a DeliveryPass, which covers six months or a year of delivery fees for $79 and $129, respectively.
The site offers a ton of discounts and provides food sourced from local farms. Unlike Amazon Fresh — which runs the gamut from junk food to organics and everything in between, FreshDirect has a focus on gourmet items, sustainable proteins, and specialty foods that cater to the vegan, paleo, and gluten-free crowds.
Thrive Market falls into a slightly different category than the options mentioned above. Thrive delivers healthy options like antibiotic-free meats and sustainable seafood, and makes it easy to shop for specialty items — think Paleo, Vegan, or Keto foods — without breaking the bank. Membership is $59.95 per year and orders over $49 ship for free.
Unfortunately, you can’t find fresh produce on the site. However, discounts on higher-end items like oils, energy bars, and more make the membership worthwhile — discounts average about 25 to 50 percent off retail — so this is a good place to stock up on organic soups, bone broth, and matcha tea that costs an arm and a leg at the local Whole Foods.
Looking for a prepared meal instead? Check out our article on the best takeout delivery apps.