What You Should Know About Online Grocery Shopping

By Ashley Paskill on May 22, 2020

Grocery shopping is an essential skill to have as a student and as an adult in the world. Whether you are busy with school or your internship or you are attempting to stay safe from the Coronavirus, this task can be difficult to squeeze into your busy life and do so safely. Luckily, the online shopping craze has grown to include online grocery shopping. Knowing key facts as well as where to shop is important to ensure that you are able to get what you need in a timely manner.

What to Know

When you are deciding whether or not to have your groceries delivered, there are certainly a lot of things to keep in mind. These should be considered, especially if you are on a budget and if you have other errands to run.

Consider the cost

When you order from sites like Instacart, they often tack on service fees to help cover the cost of delivery and the service itself. While you do get the added convenience of your groceries being delivered to you, keep in mind that this will also increase the price. As a college student on an already tight budget, keep the price increase in mind, and weigh the pros and cons. If you are swamped with a million things to get done and/or you are worried about illnesses that are going around, it might be worth it for you. However, if you are unable to justify the cost or are doing it just out of laziness, you may want to reconsider.

In times of high demand, there may be a minimum amount that you must meet in order to get grocery delivery, even from companies such as Instacart. If you only need a few items, this minimum may tempt you to add even more to your cart than you actually need, which will make you spend more than necessary. In this case, if you only need a few items, it may be easier to just go to the store yourself so that you are not tempted to buy more than you need. There may be additional service fees tacked onto your total as well, especially during busy times. These fees can be up to $10 in addition to the cost of your items.

Different stores have different services

While some stores have delivery, others only have pickup since grocery delivery is still a relatively new service. This will determine whether you use a third party such as Shipt or Instacart or shop through the store directly. Check on the store’s website or give them a call to see what services they offer. Even if you decide to use a third-party site, they may not offer all of the stores near you. You will definitely have to check around to see what stores have delivery and how their process works.

Again, third-party sites might seem like the better options, especially if the store delivery service is swamped, but these sites may tack on a higher service fee during busier times.

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You will have to be home

It might be obvious, but you will have to be home when your groceries arrive since you may have perishable items. This can factor into running other errands. If possible, consider scheduling your groceries to be delivered during a timeframe when you can be sure that you will be home. Also, consider that some delivery services can take between a few hours to a day or more. Factor this in and be sure to make note of when you schedule the delivery. That way, you can be sure that you will be home. If you are planning on getting things done around the house, there should not be any issues. Be sure to include any information the delivery person may need, like coming to a specific door or ringing the doorbell to make sure you are able to receive the order.

On the flip side, if you are out running other errands, it would save on gas and emissions if you just made a pit stop to pick up groceries, especially if you only need a few things.

Location, location, location

Where you live determines whether a store can deliver to you or not, even if you use a third-party store. Stores farther away from you may be able to ship non-grocery items like office supplies, but these take longer. Also, keep in mind that if you are buying items such as ice cream or refrigerated, you will want the distance it travels between the store and your house to be minimal to avoid melting and to keep the freshness. When looking for a store to order groceries from, look for the stores closest to you.

Also, keep in mind that third-party sites might have delivery people take multiple orders and they may deliver other people’s items to them before delivering to you. This makes it super important to focus on distance so that your groceries stay fresh.

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Delivery adds convenience

Grocery delivery can be great, especially if you rely on public transportation or walking to get around. Having your groceries delivered right to you saves you from having to carry all of your items onto public transportation or through the streets. This also saves you the struggle of arranging a time to go grocery shopping with a friend, which means coordinating schedules. Being able to order groceries also saves you from having to go out, which is beneficial if you just want a day to relax and take some time off.

Be on the lookout for quantities

Some stores that deliver have a minimum number of items that you need to order for the item to be delivered to you. For instance, you may only want five apples, but the minimum packaging is ten apples. Again, this may also apply to the total price, meaning that you need to purchase a minimum dollar amount to qualify for delivery

Also, be careful that you check the units. You may be able to buy five apples, but be careful that you do not accidentally buy five pounds of apples. Always check and double-check to be sure that you are getting your desired amount.

Time is king

Even if you shop directly through the store for delivery, they may experience busy times and might not be able to get your order to you the same day. In this case, try to avoid waiting until you run completely out of something before ordering groceries. You may also decide that you want to order your groceries and schedule a time in the future for them to be delivered. Just make sure to make a note of this information so that you can be home when the groceries arrive. Also, service fees tend to be more expensive during busy times, especially on third-party sites, so keep this in mind.

Grocery delivery eliminates impulse shopping

You know how it goes. You make your list, check it twice, and are convinced that you are absolutely going to stick to it. However, once you get to the store and you are looking in the aisles for the items on your list, you see other things and think that you should get them while you are out or that you are running low on something. This often leads to a small total cost skyrocketing. Shopping online eliminates this. While it is fun to browse, if you have a tight budget, impulse buying can be costly. Make your list and make sure you follow it closely when ordering grocery delivery.

Membership vs. service fee

Some grocery delivery services charge a service fee depending on when you place an order and how busy the service is. There are some sites that allow you to purchase a membership and may give you either a lower service fee or may waive it altogether. When deciding which to do, think about how often you will be using the service as well as the service fee compared to the cost of the membership. Some sites may also offer a monthly or annual membership price. Annual memberships tend to cost less per month than the monthly membership, but you are often locked in for the full year and have to pay upfront.

Where to Shop

As mentioned above, the location of the store is key to where you shop so that frozen and refrigerated items stay fresh. It is crucial to know your options and compare them so that you can get the best deal. Whether you decide on going to a store directly or through a third-party site, there are plenty of options for where to get your groceries delivered.  Some of these require either a monthly or annual membership while others allow you to shop for delivery with a delivery fee.

Third-Party Sites

Third-party websites offer delivery from a variety of stores near you, from chain stores to local staples. Some chain stores partner with these sites to offer delivery services they would not otherwise be able to do themselves. Examples of these sites include Shipt, Instacart, Postmates, and Delivery.com.

Some of these stores either have the option for you to pay a service fee for each delivery or buy a membership that includes no service fee. Decide how frequently you plan on using the services as well as the price of service compared to the price of service. These factors can help you determine which option will save you the most money.

Chain stores

Many chain stores offer delivery of their groceries. Stores that offer these services include Walmart, Giant’s Peapod, and Aldi. These stores often use their own employees to pick out and deliver the groceries you want. However, even if you have a store that offers delivery, not every location of the store may have the delivery option. When you go on the website, you will have the option to put in your address to see if your local store of the chain offers delivery to your address.

Other Websites

Boxed is an online, membership-free wholesale retailer. Many in-person wholesale clubs require a yearly membership that is charged annually plus the cost of groceries, but Boxed does not. Buying in bulk can help you save money in the end, especially on things you use a lot and things that will not go bad before you use them. If you are not able to use the items before they go bad, consider only purchasing things in bulk that are non-perishable.

Amazon has grocery delivery with a partnership with Whole Foods exclusively for those with Amazon Prime. The service is free, so all you do is pay for your Prime and your groceries.

Thrive Market is a grocery delivery site that specializes in foods for those with special dietary needs including gluten-free, keto, vegan, and vegetarian. It is a membership-based site, so you will need to purchase a membership, either monthly or annually, in addition to the cost of your groceries. However, it may be worth it if you tend to have issues finding items that fit your dietary needs.

Meal Services

Meal prep services like Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, and Hello Fresh have become super popular over the past few years. These services allow you to pick out meals for you and your family and they will send you all of the ingredients you need, pre-measured. This kind of service can help you save time by having everything already prepared for you and allows you to try a variety of things you may not have before. The ingredients come with the instructions you need to make the meal, so it is basically fool-proof. This also helps you skip the grocery store and helps you avoid the hassle that comes with trying to decide what to eat. If you tend to be indecisive, you can choose to have a few of your meals with a meal prep service and have other things on hand for the other days.

There are a lot of options for grocery delivery, and these options will continue to grow in terms of type and store. When navigating this relatively new thing, be careful, and pay attention to location restrictions and costs.

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