My family is fairly frugal when it comes to groceries. We don’t clip coupons or always shop sales, but we do come in well under the USDA’s moderate-cost food plan. However, a couple of years ago, we ran into a super-busy patch. We were renovating a home, both working full-time, and raising a preschooler.
We just kept running out of time to get to the grocery store. And when we did, our local Aldi (which is usually our favorite) would be out of several of the major components of our weekly menu. This meant a second or even third grocery store run over an already-packed weekend.
Or if we just didn’t get around to shopping on the weekend, we’d wind up scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel for food for a couple of days. After that, we’d just get take-out for dinner, and we’d both eat out for lunch. For a couple of months, we spend way too much on dining out.
Instead of beating ourselves up about our ultra-busy season of life, we decided to turn to grocery delivery services. Yes, the groceries aren’t as cheap (and sometimes aren’t as high-quality) as what we’d find at Aldi. And, yes, we pay a delivery fee. However, having groceries delivered on a regular basis wound up saving us significant money because we didn’t have to eat out nearly as much.
And since I first published this article in 2016, more and more grocery delivery and shopping services have come on board. Some of them are even cheaper than the originals. Read on for ideas of ways to save with grocery delivery services.
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Our Grocery Delivery Experience
When we started looking at grocery delivery services, a couple of major local options popped up: Green Bean Delivery and Peapod.
Green Bean is great in that they offer mainly organic, locally-sourced foods. They're not so great in that their prices are quite a bit more than what we normally pay. Plus, you have to set up a standing delivery date and a box of produce that comes with each delivery. It's a little like a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, but year-round.
Peapod offers a wider variety of foods, including organics but also traditional and packaged foods. Their produce quality is okay, though not the highest we’ve ever seen. But their prices are reasonable. Since they offer many items in their own off-brand name, we wound up paying only a small premium for the privilege of not setting foot in Aldi for weeks at a time. Plus, I could put in an order on a Monday and have it delivered on a Tuesday if I needed to. There was no need for a standing delivery day.
For a while, we used Peapod for more weeks than not. Sometimes we’d end up with leftovers to spare for the next week. Then we’d just make a quick grocery run for a few basics and skip the Peapod delivery.
But once we had our groceries delivered, our "let's just get pizza tonight" blues largely went away. We still didn't like to cook every single night, so we ate out occasionally. But we no longer defaulted to eating out because the only thing in the fridge was a head of wilted lettuce and a half-empty carton of almond milk.
With our experience with Peapod, we'd spend about $100 more on groceries each month, including delivery fees. But we also didn't come home with random grocery store purchases we didn't need. And we ate more healthy foods and ate out much less frequently.
And, of course, those dollar amounts didn't necessarily capture the time we save, either. Grocery shopping usually took my husband two or three hours on the weekend, by the time he'd get to the store, get through the list, and drive to a second store to finish up. Now, we have that time back to get projects done on our home, hang out with our kids, or simply relax. And that is priceless.
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Is it for You?
I've talked to lots of friends about grocery delivery. Some would like to try but others prefer to shop once a month at Sam's Club or nearly every day for fresh meat and produce at the local market. So grocery delivery definitely isn't for everyone.
However, if you’re a single parent or a two-income household, I’d highly recommend checking out delivery services. It’s even great for moms of tinies since everyone knows weekly grocery shopping trips with a fussy baby and grabby toddler are basically a form of torture for parents everywhere.
When considering whether or not a grocery delivery service is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- How important are bargains to me? You’ll find that delivery services do offer some sales, but they may not match what you can get at your local store. To find out, you can just create an account and make up a cart of things you’d normally buy. See what the cost differential is, and go from there.
- How much will I pay for delivery? Below you’ll find a list of larger grocery delivery services and their delivery fees. You’ll often find that the more you spend on groceries, the less you’ll spend on delivery. Or you may be able to save by having your groceries delivered at off-peak times, like certain weeknights or late on weekends.
- How much time will this save me? Even if a delivery service won’t save you much money, think about how much time you spend grocery shopping in a week. Then figure out what that time is worth to you. If you’re squeezing shopping into an already packed schedule, freeing up just two or three hours a week can make a huge difference.
- Will this save me money in other areas? Even if you’ll wind up paying a premium for your groceries, will a delivery service keep you (like it did me!) from eating out for lunch and dinner on a regular basis? Look at your dining out spending for the last couple of months if you need a reality check here.
Related: Best Food Delivery Apps
If you decide to try a delivery service and are in the market for one, ask yourself these questions as you find the right delivery service for your needs:
- Which grocery items do I need to access? If you’re always running out of basics like bread and milk, you can probably get those anywhere. But think about other particulars, like organic or local foods. Many services specialize in these types of items, and those may be a better fit if that’s important to you.
- How often do I want a delivery? Check out the options for standing deliveries vs. ad hoc deliveries. As I said, we prefer to wing it, as our needs change from week to week. But standing services could offer a discount on basics (like Amazon’s Prime Pantry service can do) and could be a better fit for you.
- Can I be home to take the delivery? Some services, such as Peapod, will leave your groceries on your porch or at another location if you can’t be home. This can be helpful if you work a crazy schedule. Just beware! Peapod delivers their groceries in iced-down coolers packed in cardboard boxes. They can take up a lot of space in your home, and you have to keep them around until your next delivery driver can pick them up. We found this a pain and now only schedule deliveries when we’ll be home to meet the driver.
10 Large and Cheapest Grocery Delivery Services to Consider
Consider this list a jumping-off point, as most localities have smaller services that may be a better fit for your needs. Before you land on one of these larger services, run a Google search for grocery delivery in your area. You might be surprised what pops up!
Since this is the service I use, we'll start here. Peapod currently delivers in Chicagoland, Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin, Indianapolis, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Philadelphia, and southeastern and central Pennsylvania. They carry a variety of foods, from organic produce to pre-packaged and frozen meals.
Delivery Fees: $9.95 to $6.95, with discounts frequently offered
Minimum Order: $60.00
This delivery service operates in 42 states and Washington, D.C. You can find their complete list of states and cities here.
Delivery Fees: Free+ - Instacart doesn't list set pricing, but says that certain deliveries can be free, while others may be charged extra for busy times. Fees are listed at checkout.
Minimum Order: $10.00
These popular grocery stores offer delivery in Arizona, California, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and D.C.
Delivery Fees: $9.95 to $12.95, with a possible fuel surcharge. (Free for first-time customers.)
Minimum Order: $49
This is another service that offers delivery to many locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. You can find out here if they offer delivery services in your area. This service actually relies on local providers and can take advantage of your local grocery store. In fact, you can specify where your shopper should shop for your groceries, including warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club.
Delivery Fees: Variable
Minimum Order: Variable.
5. Google Express
As of late 2016, Google Express was available throughout most of the United States. It was piloted in only a few areas, but now serves more states than not. It’s partnering with a variety of grocery and non-grocery retailers, including Kohl’s and Walgreens. So you can actually get more delivered than just groceries with this convenient service.
Delivery Fees: $95 per year or $4.99 to $7.99 per order
Minimum Order: $25 to $35, depending on the store
6. Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh hit the market around the same time as Google Express, but rather than expanding, it actually contracted services in 2017. But it may still be available in your area. Just visit the website to find out.
Delivery Fees: Amazon Prime Fresh is an add-on to your $99/year Amazon Prime membership, and it costs $14.99 per month
Minimum Order: None Listed
Have you used a grocery delivery service? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!
This is a growing service, but it delivers to many U.S. ZIP codes on the east coast. The website is robust and gives you loads of options. It boasts that it has proprietary software that gets your food from the closest possible source.
Delivery Fees:$5.00 to $15.99, depending on location
Minimum Order:$30 to $99, depending on location
8. Costco Same Day
If warehouse stores are your jam when it comes to grocery and household shopping, check out Costco's Same Day delivery service. You can shop online, schedule your delivery, and get them right to your door. This service is being rolled out in more areas of the country, so check to see if you qualify.
Delivery Fees: Varies
Minimum Order:$35 for same-day
This service uses your favorite local grocery stores to get your groceries. They say you can expect to spend about $5 more per $35 of groceries, so it's a relatively small premium. But you can get your groceries in as little as an hour after you order. Right now, they offer services in 16 states. Instead of charging flat delivery fees, they charge a small premium on each item you buy.
Delivery Fees: Free to $7
Minimum Order: No minimum, but $35 to get free shipping.
Instead of offering delivery services, Walmart now offers free same-day pickup. It's nearly as convenient and may save you money. They'll even put the bags in your car for you.
Delivery Fees: None
Minimum Order: None
Besides these stores, you might also check your local stores. One of our favorite local grocery stores now does free pickup orders like Walmart. And smaller grocery delivery and subscription services are kicking off all over the United States. Either way, you can probably find a convenient, affordable service that will save you time and, ultimately, money.
Related: Meal Delivery Comparison