Americans keep spending more and more on dining out, and in 2016, spending on food away from home outstripped grocery spending for the first time, according to an analysis from Quartz. In fact, the average millennial spends $2,900 eating out each year — money you could save by cooking at home, instead.
If you learn to cook on a budget and eat at home more, grocery delivery services can be a smart investment. And a grocery delivery service can bring some of the convenience of eating out to cooking and dining at home.
But you’ll need to find the best grocery delivery service for your busy lifestyle, and your budget. We surveyed the costs, pros, and cons of top delivery services to help you quickly find the right fit.
1. Google Express: Free delivery, no membership needed
Google Express costs
- Free delivery when you meet each store’s minimum purchase amount of $25 to $35
- If your order amount is below the minimum, a $5 fee applies
Google Express pros
Google Express is one of the cheapest grocery delivery services out there. For most buyers, purchase and delivery fees are waived. I also liked that I could shop and compare prices across multiple stores including Target, Walmart, and Costco — all at once.
With a service area that includes 90 percent of zip codes in the U.S., Google Express might be your best bet for grocery delivery in smaller cities or underserved areas.
In her review of Google Express on La Jolla Mom, blogger Katie Dillon said that the service was a time- and money-saver. “I will save money because I tend to impulse buy random things at Costco (and elsewhere) when shopping in person,” she wrote. “I am more risk averse on the computer.”
Dillon noted that the service would let her use her own Costco membership to avoid a 15 percent surcharge. Google Express also beat online ordering; items she ordered from Target showed up faster than if she’d ordered through the store’s site.
Google Express cons
Unfortunately, Google Express doesn’t currently offer perishable foods — you won’t be able to get produce, dairy, eggs, or similar items through this service.
On top of this, Google Express delivery times vary widely. There’s no same-day delivery option. Some stores and items can be delivered next-day, while others might arrive in a week or longer.
Bottom line: Google Express is a low-cost, low-commitment option. You probably can’t use it to replace grocery trips altogether, due to the lack of perishable items. But it still offers a lot of convenience at the can’t-be-beat price of free.
2. Instacart: A comprehensive selection
- $6 per store on the delivery, for purchases of $35 or more
- Or free delivery for all orders over $35 with a $149 annual membership
- One-hour delivery for $8
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 just $2 more. Instacart can deliver any item you want from stores such as Smith’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, Costco, and Petco to your door.
Instacart has some neat features, including a shopping list tool and a coupons 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. “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 me via the app when they’ve started the shopping and text me when they have to make a substitution.”
The big thing to watch for with Instacart is the pricing, which can be higher for 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 usually costs me $35.50 at Costco, for example, was priced at $52.50 on Instacart, plus the $6 delivery fee.
There are a couple of other charges to watch for. There’s the “optional” 10 percent service fee that is added by default, for instance. You can lower the amount or skip the fee altogether, but you’ll have to remember to do so manually. This service fee doesn’t go to your deliverer, so there’s still the option (or obligation, as it were) to tip them on top of this fee. The costs here can quickly add up.
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 option, Instacart makes up for that with convenience and fast delivery.
3. AmazonFresh: Perfect for Prime members
- You must be an Amazon Prime member to enroll in AmazonFresh, so make sure you’re accounting for that $99 per year
- $15 a month gets you unlimited free deliveries on purchases of $40 or more
- For orders under $40, a $10 fee applies
- AmazonFresh pickups are free with a Prime membership: Place your order and then pick it up at a local Amazon pickup rather than have it delivered to your door
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 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- to three-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.
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.
AmazonFresh has a wide variety of items and makes it easy to price compare 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 — although you can visit their site 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 — $280 a year.
Bottom line: For those who value convenience and relatively fast arrival, AmazonFresh can be a smart fit. The $15 per month might seem a little steep, but it could be well worth it if you’re already a Prime member and order as frequently as once a week.
4. Peapod: Shopping list assistance
- $10 for orders of $60 to $100 (with a $60 minimum for delivery)
- $7 for orders $100 or higher
- $3 for pickup orders
- May add a fuel surcharge in certain service areas
If putting together your shopping list is your grocery store stressor, Peapod has some great features that make it a snap.
Peapod saves past purchases list you can easily refer to, and has a tool to build out and save a standard list of staples. It even has a tool, Order Genius, that will suggest items based on what you’ve bought in the past.
Lastly, its item sorting options are the best in the group, making it easy to price compare per-unit or view the most popular items.
Leah Ingram reviewed Peapod on her blog, and pointed out that shoppers can buy both alcohol and meal kits through the service, along with usual groceries. Peapod also has features to help savvy shoppers save more, such as a “buy more, save more” section, coupons, and emails with special coupon codes or other offers.
“In the end I’ve saved money and I’ve saved time,” Ingram wrote in her review. “Plus, I feel like I can do a better job of keeping my grocery spending in check by shopping via a website.”
The weak point of Peapod’s service might be the timeline of its deliveries. It offers next-day delivery only, and you must be at home to accept your order. Peapod states on its site, “we cannot leave your groceries on your doorstep for safety and freshness concerns.” In fact, if you are not home at that time and miss your order, you could face a re-delivery fee of $15.
Bottom line: Peapod’s shopping list-building tools and item filters are standout features that can save time and simplify purchase planning. Its fees are $3 to $5 higher than other grocery delivery services’ prices listed here, and the $60 and $100 order minimums are steep. However, a friendly and useful interface can still make it worth the cost.
5. Shipt: Customization and control
- $99 annual fee, or $14 per month for unlimited delivery of orders over $35
- $7 delivery fee for orders under $35
- Possible $7 delivery fee when ordering alcohol (Must be 21 or older and have valid ID to order and receive alcohol delivery)
If you’re looking for a subscription-based grocery delivery service, Shipt is the least expensive option. Its $99 annual fee beats Instacart’s by $40, and AmazonFresh by $81.
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 Kroger, H-E-B, 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 Food Hussy blog, said she has 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, and 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 certain communities — mainly in the Southeast, Midwest and East Texas — 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 a price increase of around 15 percent.
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.
Other food and grocery delivery services worth checking out
These are just some of the top grocery delivery services out there, and some offer an entirely different approach.
Many grocery stores are jumping on the train with options to order online and pick up in-store. Kroger and Smith’s grocery chains offer online ordering, pick up, and even home delivery at many locations through ClickList, for instance. The online grocery ordering options are also relatively low cost, with ClickList charging $5 per order, or $8 for expedited orders.
If you want truly fresh produce, joining a community-supported agriculture (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.
Lastly, meal kit delivery services are a trendy way to simplify cooking at home. Popular options such as 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 grocery delivery service for you? Only you know the right balance between cost versus convenience in your life.
In most cases, getting your groceries through a service a 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.
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