For years, we’ve all enjoyed shopping online for household essentials, clothes, and other things we need.
However, most of us have still been making the weekly pilgrimage to our local grocery store to buy food.
But that’s all changing. The good news is, after you try buying your groceries online, you might never want to go back to pushing a heavy cart around a grocery store.
It’s easier than ever to get groceries delivered right to your door or to stop by your store and pick them up, never setting foot inside.
WHO USES ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING?
Long a favorite of busy moms and urban professionals, online grocery shopping is becoming increasingly popular. In 2017, U.S. online grocery sales were about $14.2 billion and were expected to top to close to $30 billion by 2021 (source) (and that was *before* the self-quarantine times). That’s a lot of Americans opting out of in-store shopping!
You may be reluctant to try one of these services despite their convenience. If someone else shops for you, you might wonder if the produce is fresh and whether you’ll get the products you want.
However, the number one question most people ask is: Is it cheaper to buy groceries online? For my family, yes!
WHY SHOP FOR GROCERIES ONLINE?
We live in an age where our lives are digitally connected. We use our phones to take pictures, to connect with family and friends and even to work. It just makes sense that buying groceries online would be an option, too.
But if you are new to this type of shopping, you probably wonder if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. You need to weigh everything before you decide if it is a fit for you.
HOW DOES ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING WORK?
If you can click, you can shop online!
Crucial grocery budget tip: Before you start, make your shopping list, just as you would if you were shopping at the bricks-and-mortar store. That way, you won’t forget anything you need.
If you’ve never used your store’s website before, you’ll have to create an online account. Be sure to include any loyalty program information in your profile. That ensures you’ll get the same savings you would as if you were shopping in the store.
Once your account is set up, you can log into the website and begin using the online shopping cart feature.
Each store’s website is a little different, but you should be able to search for products by name or brand, or both.
Search for the groceries on your list and add them to your cart. If you like to read the nutritional labels, you can often see that info in the product details.
Add everything you want to your online cart. Make sure to include specific notes for your shopper such as “we like bananas a bit green” or “make sure the milk has an expiration date of at least two weeks.”
Pro tip: You can often add items to a list that gets saved, which saves time if you end up ordering staples like milk and eggs each time you shop. Some sites will also let you review past orders — another nice time-saver.
When you’re ready to check out (no lines!), you can choose a pickup or delivery time for your groceries. There may be a delivery fee or a fee for pick-up.
HOW TO PICK UP GROCERIES ORDERED ONLINE
This is the easiest part. Just swing by the store during your time slot (or once you get your text). Look for a designated loading area in the parking lot — it should be close to the store entrance. Most stores either have an employee waiting for you or a callbox you can buzz to let them know you’ve arrived. If not, go inside to customer service. Someone will bring your order out and load up your car, and you’re done!
GETTING GROCERY DELIVERY
If you ordered grocery delivery, your groceries will arrive within the time window you signed up for on the website.
Do you have to be home for the delivery? It depends on the store, but many will leave your order on your doorstep if you paid ahead online.
SHOULD YOU TIP FOR GROCERY DELIVERY?
A lot of people wonder if you should tip the delivery person. Of course it’s up to you. (Do you tip the driver when you order pizza?) A couple of dollars is a nice gesture if you can afford it, and the driver probably needs the money more than you do.
PROS TO ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING
Unless you like spending an hour, or more, at the grocery store each week, you will love the time it saves. No more loading the kids into the car and driving to the store. Instead, you get to spend that time doing what you love.
You can shop when you have the time. Add a few items to your cart and continue about your day. When you shop online, you have access to your cart 24/7.
Get everything you need
There is nothing worse than getting to the store and wondering if you need sugar. Just walk to your kitchen and look in your pantry to find out!
Shop when you want
You won’t have to carve time out of your schedule to get to the store. You can start your shopping list on Monday and continue adding items all week. (Just be sure to save it each time.) Then, on Friday afternoon, send off your order.
Saves you money
All too often, items that aren’t on our shopping list tend to find their way into our shopping cart. You can’t impulse-shop when buying online. Instead, you get only the things you need, which can save you a LOT of money.
Set up delivery or pickup when it works for you
If your grocery service delivers, you can choose a window of time when they will bring your order to you — and even put it right on your kitchen counter. If you choose to pick up, it’s on your terms. Groceries on your schedule!
No crowds or long lines
If you’ve grocery shopped on a Saturday morning (or a few hours before a big football game), you’ve probably been in some long shopping lines. When you use the Internet to buy groceries, you can avoid all of that!
You can do a quick search for the product you need and see the different brands and options, as well as prices. No more standing in the store trying to determine which is the best one that fits into your budget.
CONS TO GROCERY SHOPPING ONLINE
Someone else picks your produce
In most cases, stores send quality produce. But, there can be instances where they do not. To ensure you get the fruits and vegetables you like, include details in the notes section of your order. You can say you like green peppers with four bumps rather than three or bananas that are still on the green side. The more specific you can be with your veggie and fruit needs, the more likely you’ll be happy with the purchase.
Items may sell out
If you want something that’s in high demand, there’s a chance it may sell out before your personal shopper can pick it up for you. Some stores may offer you a replacement item and call/send a text letting you know so you can tell them yes or no. Other stores ask you if it is OK to replace items with another brand, to which you can answer yes or no.
Shopper might miss items
We are all human and mistakes can happen. The person shopping may overlook an item on your list, meaning it won’t be in your bag (but you also will not be charged for it, either).
You don’t get the store experience
Some people love to spend time browsing the aisles of the grocery store or lingering among the produce at the farmer’s market. Buying groceries may also be your weekly “getaway” from the kids. If you like the store experience, then online shopping may not work for you.
You may need to pay for convenience
Some stores charge fees for pickup or delivery. Others may waive the fee entirely if you meet a spending threshold. It’s usually cheaper to get pickup than delivery. These service fees can add up over time, so if you plan to shop for your groceries online frequently, see if your store offers yearly or monthly memberships, which are often a better deal than shelling out the fee with each order.
Not every product is available online
Some stores may not post every product they sell. That means you might need to make a trip to get a special item, or you might need to find a substitute product.
Can’t always use coupons
Because you’re paying online, you can’t redeem your paper coupons. If you want to use paper coupons, you have no choice but to shop in the store. The good news is that some retailers offer digital coupons right on their website or app. Simply click to apply. (As far as manufacturer’s coupons go, you won’t be able to apply those to your online order unless the store has loaded digital versions into its site.).
WHERE TO ORDER GROCERIES ONLINE
More and more grocers are offering online shopping and grocery delivery. You will need to check your local store’s website to know if they offer these services. You can also order though companies that specialize in grocery delivery, such as Instacart, Shipt, and Amazon. Here are your options.
Walmart lets you buy groceries online and pick them up at the store in most areas (check the website to see if your store is on the list). Delivery is also available in some cities.
When it’s time for you to get your order, just drive to the store and park in the designated area, and a Walmart employee will bring your groceries to you. One reason to love this option is that not only can you get Walmart’s everyday low prices on food and grocery items but you can also do also one-stop shopping. You can get paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent — everything you need in one place.
Pro tip: Once you sign up, you will have access to a referral code that you can share with family and friends. If they sign up using your link, you will get $10 off your next purchase!
Many grocery stores across the country have signed up with Instacart to offer online shopping and delivery services. There’s no membership fee to join, though you will pay delivery charges. (But when you sign up HERE, you’ll get free delivery on your very first order!!) If you end up using the service often, you might want to consider signing up for Instacart Express, the company’s membership program. There’s a monthly or annual fee to join, but then most delivery fees are waived for members. (Rush, same-day delivery incurs a fee.)
Instacart also offers a referral program. You can offer a $10 discount code to friends and family, and when they buy for the first time, you’ll be rewarded with $10 off of your next order as well.
One unique feature about the Instacart website is the ability to use coupons! They offer all sorts of digital coupons you can click to activate so you can save on your purchase. It is one of the few ways to use coupons when you grocery shop online.
Instacart has partnered with many stores to offer online grocery delivery, some of which include:
Price Chopper (Kansas/Missouri/Iowa)
Price Chopper (East Coast)
Keep in mind that Instacart delivery is not available in all locations for these retailers, so check with your local store to see if it’s an option for you.
(Sorry, Trader Joe’s fans; the store hasn’t worked with Instacart for a few years now. Try Postmates for door-to-door delivery.)
Peapod is another service that allows you to order groceries online and either do curbside pickup or have them delivered. It works with these regional retailers:
Stop & Shop
Minimum purchase? $60 for delivery and $30 for pick-up (pick-up has a $2.95 fee)
Delivery available? Yes. The fee depends on the dollar amount of your order, ranging from $7.95 to $9.95.
Many supermarkets have partnered with Shipt, such as Target, Meijer and more, and its services are available in more than 70 cities across the country.
Shipt is a membership site. Your membership covers delivery from all stores available in your delivery area. You can sign up for a free two-week trial and then will continue with the annual membership fee of $99. Delivery is free when you spend $35 or more (or $7 if your total is less than that amount).
Some of the stores currently offering Shipt include:
Amazon offers free delivery of fresh foods to Amazon Prime members who live in select cities. The Amazon Fresh program offers a wide selection of fresh groceries, so you can conveniently shop from home.
Prime members can choose from same-day delivery or overnight drop off. Best of all, because Amazon now owns Whole Foods, you can find natural and organic items on Amazon Fresh as well!
Minimum purchase? No.
Delivery available? Yes (included in Prime membership fee).
The dry-goods counterpart to Amazon Fresh, Pantry lets Prime members buy non-perishables and household items online.
Minimum purchase? No.
Delivery available? Yes (included in Prime membership fee).
Members of the warehouse club can order fresh groceries as well as non-perishable foods on Costco.com.
Same-day delivery of perishables is powered by Instacart and is offered in most cities.
Minimum purchase for perishables? $35
Delivery available? Yes, and an additional fee applies.
Costco also has two-day delivery of non-perishable foods and household items. (This is a wonderful, cheap way to get diapers!)
Minimum purchase? No.
Delivery available? Yes, and if you spend more than $75, you avoid an additional shipping fee.
The members-only store offers both delivery (through Instacart) and in-club pickup of groceries and other products. In-store pickup is free and there’s no minimum purchase. Non-perishables can be shipped, and Plus members get free shipping on most items.
HyVee also offers online shopping. You can specify a date and one-hour window for delivery of your items, or you can stop by the store to pick them up. There may be a delivery fee, depending on the amount you purchase.
Purchase minimum? No.
Delivery available? Yes, but there may be fees applied.
IS IT REALLY CHEAPER? HOW MY FAMILY SAVES MONEY ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING
Now that you understand the ins and outs of grocery shopping from home, I want to fill you in on what my family does. In the past, I have always shopped in-person at my local supermarket, and most weeks, I still do. The reason I shop at the store is that I always want to make sure I don’t forget anything that may not have been on my list. You know, when you walk by something and say “Oh — yeah! I forgot to put this on my list!”
But, I also use online shopping as well. I live near HyVee and Price Chopper. I’ve shopped both the HyVee aisles online and Price Chopper’s through Instacart. Most of the time, it is when I have a busy weekend lined up and can’t get to the store. No matter which store I’ve shopped at online, there is one thing I’ve noticed: I always spend less.
When I sit at home and click to add items to the cart, that is all I purchase. There are no impulse buys. It’s impossible! That alone easily helps me save money on groceries every time I shop. Even when I have to pay delivery charges, I spend less!! On average, I save $30 – $50 every week. That is more than $100 savings every month – just on food!
For our family, online grocery shopping savings can easily top more than $1,000 a year. That is money we can use to save for our next family vacation or add to our emergency fund. It just makes sense for us.
Online grocery shopping has changed the way I shop. But that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Only you can decide if it is better for you. If you give it a shot, I imagine that you, too, may quickly see significant savings as you cross things off your grocery list.