Whether the coronavirus pandemic increased your supermarket bills or not, you might be wondering about the cheapest grocery delivery options are.
Fortunately, doing your grocery shopping online and having your purchases delivered to your doorstep has never been easier. Still, you’ll need to find the best and cheapest grocery delivery service specifically for your busy lifestyle and your budget.
We surveyed the costs, pros and cons of five of the top delivery services to help you find the right fit.
Comprehensive grocery selection
Prime members and Whole Foods customers
Communication with your personal shopper
Shopping local grocery stores
Eastern U.S. customers who want to support farms
1. Instacart: a comprehensive selection Instacart costs Cost: $99 annual Instacart Express membership to avoid delivery fees on $35 or more, plus a 5% service fee on orders (not including alcohol) Delivery fee: Same-day delivery starts at $3.99 Availability: Cities across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Instacart pros
One of the fastest food delivery services on this list, Instacart lives up to its name. Same-day delivery is standard, with the option for one-hour delivery for an additional fee. Instacart can deliver any item you want from stores such as BevMo!, Costco and Petco to your door.
Instacart also has some neat features, including a shopping list tool and a coupon section. It also has a relatively wide service area, so chances are good it includes your home address.
Marcey Rader is a busy life and productivity coach based in Raleigh, and Instacart is her go-to for frozen and fresh produce alike. “The shoppers pick even better produce than I do,” she said. Plus, “it’s so convenient to carry over the same list from week to week with a few edits here and there.”
Rader acknowledged that the service does add a bit to your bill. “But it saves you that in time, gas and getting those items that you really didn’t want, but got sucked in due to advertising or the display.” She also likes that Instacart will alert her via the app when they’ve started the shopping and send her a text message when they have to make a substitution.
The big thing to watch for with Instacart is the pricing, which can be higher on certain items or stores. You don’t need a Costco membership to order through Instacart, for instance — but you’ll also pay more for items ordered there. A pack of diapers that may usually cost $35.50 at Costco, for instance, was priced at $52.50 on Instacart, plus the $6 delivery fee.
There are a couple of other charges to watch for, too. Service fees on your order (5%) and alcohol purchases (about $2 per $35 of alcohol) can add up quickly. These fees don’t go to your deliverer, so there’s still the option to tip them on top of this fee.
Bottom line: When you want to get everything on your list without leaving the house, Instacart will do the trick. While it might not always be the cheapest grocery delivery choice, Instacart makes up for that with convenience and fast delivery.
2. Amazon Fresh, Amazon Pantry: perfect for Prime members AmazonFresh cost Cost: The price of your Amazon Prime membership Delivery fee: If your order is less than $35, your fee could be as low as $5.99 Availability: Log into Amazon or enter your ZIP code on its website to check services AmazonFresh pros
With same- or next-day delivery (depending on when you order), AmazonFresh can be a fast way to get the items you need.
“Since having a baby last year, my husband and I have been getting a lot of use out of AmazonFresh,” said Stephanie Kibler, founder of personal finance blog Poorer Than You, where she has reviewed AmazonFresh. “Being a one-car household, it really helps to be able to get groceries without needing the car, and without having to load an infant into a car seat and then a shopping cart, too.”
You also have the convenience of setting a specific two-hour delivery window, so you can be home to make sure groceries get directly from your door to your fridge. If not, Amazon will package perishable items with appropriate coolants and insulated containers to keep them fresh.
Speaking of fresh groceries, the now-Amazon-owned Whole Foods chain also offers free delivery to Prime members placing orders of at least $35. You’ll also receive an additional 10% discount on sale items.
If you’re buying snacks, beverages or household supplies (that don’t necessarily require immediate refrigeration), you could also check out Amazon Pantry. Unlike Fresh and Whole Foods via Amazon online delivery, Pantry is accessible for non-Prime members. You could pay the $5.99 delivery fee as a non-member or, if you spring for a Prime membership, all orders over $35 will be free of charge.
If you have an Amazon Echo connected to your account, you can also ask Alexa to place AmazonFresh orders for you or add items to your cart. Plus, “the ‘Past Purchases’ feature and Dash Wand save us even more time,” Kibler said.
Additionally, AmazonFresh has a wide variety of items and makes it easy to compare prices and shop around. “The time savings alone pays for the monthly fee, but I ran the math and realized that we can actually save a bit of money versus our usual grocery store,” Kibler added. “The ‘Fresh Deals’ and my 5% cashback Amazon credit card save us even more money.”
Unfortunately, AmazonFresh isn’t available everywhere, though you can visit the website and enter your ZIP code to see if it services your neighborhood.
The costs of Amazon Fresh, if you include a Prime membership, aren’t the cheapest, either.
Bottom line: For those who value convenience and relatively fast arrival, AmazonFresh can be a smart fit. The cost isn’t as steep as it once was (as Amazon has done away with grocery delivery memberships beyond its Prime subscription fee), but it could be well worth it if you’re already a Prime member and order frequently, or if you’re a dedicated Whole Foods shopper.
3. Shipt: customization and control Shipt costs Cost: $99 annual fee, or $14 per month for unlimited delivery of orders over $35 Delivery fee: $7 delivery fee for orders under $35 for members, $10 for non-members Availability: Over 260 cities Shipt pros
If you’re looking for a subscription-based but cheap grocery delivery service, Shipt is worth considering. Its $99 annual fee is competitively priced.
A standout feature is that you can set delivery times within an hour or more of placing your order — without adding on an extra fee. You can use Shipt to shop your usual list at several major grocers, including Target, Costco, Meijer, and Harris Teeter.
If you want to make sure your order is correct, you can add notes to your order for your shopper. Plus, Shipt allows you to set substitute preferences in case the store doesn’t have a particular item you request. You also have the option to edit your order within the first hour of placing it. And your Shipt shopper will text you while in the store to let you know they’ve started putting your order together, and to check in if they have any questions about your order.
Heather Johnson, founder of the blog Food Hussy, said she’s tried many grocery delivery services and Shipt is her favorite. The Shipt shoppers are what won her over: “They’re very thoughtful in their selection of produce, communicative when there’s a substitution to be made, and just all-around friendly.”
Johnson added that if she wants an item she knows is in the store but not listed in the Shipt app, she can add a note to her shopper and still get it added to the order.
“Since I started using Shipt, I haven’t been to the store,” Johnson said. “Plus — the shoppers bring the groceries into my kitchen for me. It’s the best.”
Shipt currently only serves communities across 260-plus cities — so it won’t be an option for everyone.
Shipt also charges a bit more for products on top of its membership fees: “Our members can expect to pay about $5 more using Shipt than they would on a $35 order purchased in the store themselves,” according to the service’s FAQ section. That equates to about a 15% price increase.
Bottom line: A big concern with grocery delivery services is the quality of your items when someone else picks them out. With the option to change your order after placement, send notes to your shopper, or select substitution preferences, Shipt gives you way more control over the process. These features and the built-in line of communication with your shopper make it easier to ensure your items are up to par. That could make it worthwhile to pay for its relatively high delivery fees.
4. Postmates: shopping local grocery stores Postmates costs Cost: Postmates Unlimited subscription runs $99.99 a year and wipes away delivery fees on orders of at least $12, though you’ll still face percentage-based service fees (varies) and “small cart fees” ($1.99) Delivery fee: $0.99 to $9.99 depending on the merchant (unless you’re an Unlimited member) Availability: Postmates claims to serve 80% of households nationwide Postmates pros
The highlight of Postmates is that it’s a national company that allows you to shop small. Like when ordering from restaurants online, Postmates lets you search and compare local grocery stores. If you have favorite stores within delivery distance, this app could be the most seamless way to place orders without having to visit the store yourself.
Like with other service providers above, you can also schedule your delivery for a later day or time. You can choose from 30-minute time slots up to seven days ahead of time.
Postmates could also be convenient as your one-stop-shop. Acquired by rideshare company Uber in July 2020, Postmates also delivers non-grocery orders, including prepared food and alcohol.
Grocery store “menus” on Postmates aren’t as user-friendly as others among the cheapest grocery stores that deliver. Some supermarkets, for example, only make their deli options available within the app.
Even if there are good, Postmates-approved grocery merchants near you, you’re not able to reschedule an order once it’s placed. Although a funky workaround, you could cancel the order and replace it on your preferred schedule.
Bottom line: If you frequently order takeout via Postmates, it could make sense to also do grocery shopping via the app. Just don’t expect to do it all one “trip.” Postmates grocery merchants don’t have nearly the same inventory as competitors like those listed above. Its not-so-transparent service fee calculation is also a turnoff.
5. FreshDirect: for Eastern U.S. foodies FreshDirect costs Cost: A DeliveryPass membership runs $79 for six months and includes free delivery (and the ability to reserve delivery timeslots) Delivery fee: $5.99 to $15.99 depending on your location (with a minimum order of $30) Availability: Eastern U.S. FreshDirect pros
While not exactly like navigating the grocery store on foot, FreshDirect stands out for its easy-to-scan — and expansive — menu of grocery departments. It features gluten-free, organic and kosher selections in case your diet is tailored.
The website’s search-bar functionality also makes finding niche items much easier than it would be if you were physically in the store (while pushing a cart).
FreshDirect also promises many other perks associated with the cheapest grocery deliverers:
Fresh meat, fish and produce sourced directly from farmers and fishermen “Fresh Deals” calls out discounted items Flexible delivery windows Alcohol, plus kitchen or household supplies
Its pricing is also more transparent than certain other grocery delivery services.
Its $158 annual membership cost is steeper than other delivery services.
And even if you’re willing to fork that sum over, unfortunately, Fresh Direct is only available for home delivery in select counties in the following states:
New York New Jersey Connecticut Pennsylvania Delaware Washington, D.C.
Bottom line: If you live in the Eastern U.S. and order groceries online often enough to make up for the high biannual membership fee, FreshDirect could be worth your while. It’s a great option for consumers who prioritize farm-to-home food of the organic variety.
Other food and grocery delivery services worth checking out
These are just some of the cheapest grocery delivery services out there, and some offer a completely different approach.
Many grocery stores are jumping on the train with options to order online and pickup in-store.
Regional grocery stores: Whether you shop at a chain like Safeway or Albertson’s or a smaller market, it’s likely to offer online ordering, pick-up and possibly delivery. Check with your favorite supermarkets about their options. Then you can compare pricing with the cheapest online grocery services. Wholesalers: Big-box stores like Costco and Walmart (which previously acquired delivery expert Jet.com) have joined the grocery delivery business. If you shop with these outlets, see if their service meets your needs at an equal or lower cost. Community-supported agriculture (CSA): If you want truly fresh produce, joining a CSA co-op can be a great choice. You typically buy a “share” or pay an ongoing subscription fee, and get to pick up a basket of freshly-picked fruits and veggies every week or two. Many CSAs also offer delivery. Meal kit delivery services: This is a trendy way to simplify cooking at home. Popular options like Blue Apron and HelloFresh deliver all the ingredients you need to make a complete meal, right to your door. You don’t need a shopping list, you’ll waste less food, and you’re sure to expand your palate and pick up some new cooking techniques.
So which is the best or cheapest grocery delivery option for you? Only you know the right balance between cost versus convenience in your life.
In most cases, getting your groceries through a service will cost more than going yourself. But if a grocery delivery service can free up more sanity or time, they can be worth every penny.
Money might not buy happiness, but if you use money to save time and limit stress, that’s almost the same thing.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
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