Remember the days when buying food for the week meant lazily wandering the aisles of a grocery store, planning meals in your head as if you had all the time in the world? When you could peruse the produce section for seasonal favorites … check a cantaloupe for ripeness … squeeze the avocados? When it wasn’t that big a deal if you forgot something you needed, because you could always just come back?
You were so young then. So… innocent.
Then you had babies — and everything changed.
Now a trip to the grocery store means shopping with one or more kiddos hanging off you or the shopping cart – or having to take time out of your precious workday. You grab items off the shelves in a mad dash to get to the checkout counter before the kids’ patience runs out. Or before they see that giant, alluring display of Star Wars Pez dispensers.
As little hands reach for things they desperately want, our inner voices clamor to “getttt outttt!!” I call it drive-by shopping — you don’t really have time to stop and ponder an item — must. keep. moving!!
Grocery shopping with young kids, for most, is an annoying chore, even an embarrassingly public display of your parenting flaws… or for some of us, our own personal hell.
Whatever your stance might be on food shopping, you may decide at some point to investigate some of the grocery delivery options in your area. Besides not having to drag your little ones out shopping, the perks of having your groceries delivered include easily planning out grocery lists in advance, getting hours of precious time back, and avoiding the inevitable regret of impulse buys at the store. (Why do they have to put the dark chocolate peanut butter cups right next to the checkout counter?! Damn you, Trader Joe’s!!)
Here are some of the leading grocery delivery services in your area (unless you live way off the beaten path, in which case you might want to see if your local grocery store delivers). You should also know this industry is changing and growing all the time! So keep checking back for updates!
Loved ones: consider a subscription for one of these as a gift for new parents. Some will even deliver prepared foods… almost as good as your homemade casserole!
Instacart is the company to beat when it comes to grocery delivery. Their app and website are easy to use, including a handy “buy it again” section and the ability to create saved grocery lists. It’s simple to find coupons, and Instacart offers food from a variety of grocery stores in your area (including but not limited to Stop & Shop, Wegman’s, Market Basket, H-E-B, Aldi, Star Market, Kroger, Harvest Co-op, Target, Costco, and Total Wine & More—getting your pinot noir delivered to your door? I’ll toast to that!).
Cost: Instacart+ is Instacart’s membership option. For a flat standard fee of $99/year or $9.99/month (and $49.99 for the first year), you get unlimited free deliveries on all orders of $35 or more. You must meet the $35 order minimum for each retailer within an order, however. If you don’t sign up for the annual program, fees start at $3.99 for same-day orders over $35. Pricing varies for one-hour deliveries, club store deliveries, and deliveries under $35. Note that services fees also vary based on location and number of items in your cart, and orders containing alcohol have a separate service fee. Head here for more pricing information.
Locations: Instacart is available in most major cities in the U.S. Enter your zip code here to check if they deliver to you.
Meg has been using Instacart for a couple of years now, and here’s her lowdown:
- Instacart will shop from just about any store of your choosing, including drug stores. They’ll even shop at the hippy-dippy market in Berkeley that carries my dog’s weird senior dog food.
- You can make special requests for items that aren’t listed on the app, and your shopper will try to find them (with an emphasis on try). The success rate for that, IMO, is quite low.
- They offer recipes (e.g., “Roasted Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing”) from which you can easily add ingredients, which makes meal planning much easier.
- Their customer service is consistently very good, both on the phone and over email. They usually take full responsibility for problems with deliveries (and there will inevitably be some problems) and will quickly issue refunds or redeliveries for missing or incorrect items.
- They’ve made this very confusing … essentially, there’s an optional “service fee” of 10%, which adds a lot to the bill, is automatically added to your total unless you go out of your way to opt out of it, and cannot be adjusted to any value other than 10% or zero. This money goes to the company, who claims it trickles down to the workers. They’ve made it more difficult to tip the shopper directly, so… many complaints about that.
- Instacart marks up some of the product’s prices (for example: milk), but promises in-store prices for others (e.g., Whole Foods), so you may be paying more for the same food. It’s hard to tell sometimes unless you’re really paying attention (or you know what stuff costs). One study found that Instacart marks up groceries 23%, on average. Yipes!
- There is a “chat” feature on the Instacart app, which most shoppers take full advantage of. So although you’re not at the store, you may be engaging in quite a lot of texting with your shopper about inevitable substitutions. This can be somewhat annoying, but it also ensures you’re more likely to get the products you want in the end. (You can also specify ahead of time whether you prefer a refund or a substitution for specific items, in case you don’t have time to chat with your shopper.)
- They screw up a lot. In my experience, they screw up at least one thing in every order. I’m the type who doesn’t have time to remedy the problem, so… I just live with it. One time, I got 20 lbs of the wrong dog food, so I donated it to the local shelter. Then I had to go out and buy dog food (again, first world problems, but….).
All in all, Instacart is nice because you can get food or goods quickly from just about anywhere (but not Trader Joe’s, sadly — from what I understand, they kinda hate each other), but it’s fairly pricey and they tend to make mistakes and blow up your phone with text messages while they are shopping. But if you need groceries (and drugstore items) now, Instacart is your best bet.
Instacart has offered our readers $10 off (for first time customers)! Use this link.
2. Amazon Fresh
Arguably Instacart’s main competitor—especially now that Amazon purchased Whole Foods —Amazon Fresh also offers same-day delivery of groceries from a variety of sources.
Meg has also used Amazon Fresh for about a year now, and it’s generally her go-to.
Locations: Amazon Fresh currently delivers to more than 2,000 cities and towns in the U.S., including Indianapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. They’re always expanding their empire, however, so check here to see if they deliver to you.
ALSO — Amazon Fresh now has physical grocery stores. While anyone can shop at the Amazon Fresh store, if you want to use the Walk Out or Amazon Dash Cart features, you’ll need to have an Amazon account with a linked credit or debit card. Just Walk Out shopping allows customers to skip the checkout line altogether, because everything they purchase gets added to their account virtually (when you walk in the store, you simply scan the in-store code with your Amazon app). Amazon Dash Cart utilizes a smart shopping cart in which you “sign into” using your Amazon app or a QR code, and like the Just Walk Out, the cart keeps track of your purchases virtually. Since your card is linked, you are automatically charged without ever having to go through the checkout line. Click here to see where in the U.S. you can find Amazon Fresh grocery stores.
Cost: In an effort to compete in the quickly growing and highly competitive grocery delivery market, Amazon Fresh eliminated its $14.99 monthly fee for Prime members. Now, Amazon Fresh is a benefit that’s included in your Prime membership.
To get started, you just need to request an invitation for Amazon Fresh (and Whole Foods Market delivery, if you’re interested in that as well) — once you receive and accept your invite, you’re good to go.
For Prime members, deliveries that are $150 or more are free. Orders under $35 are charged a $4.99 delivery fee. These fees do not include tips (which are optional, but always recommended); note that the entirety of your tip goes to the courier.
In many areas throughout the country, you can also request one- or two-hour delivery options.
Note that Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Prime Pantry have been discontinued.
- Amazon Fresh offers a huge variety of grocery items, including some from local vendors, like meat, dairy and baked goods (we’re able to still get our local dairy products (Strauss!), which we love).
- Amazon is beginning to offer meal kits with pre-prepped ingredients for easy dinners, e.g., “Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Vegetables,” which sets it apart from Instacart and could be a very cool feature as they add more meal options.
- Amazon Fresh’s customer service is also helpful when there’s a problem with your order.
- Amazon doesn’t mark up items the way Instacart does for many stores—in fact, it reduces the prices of many of its items.
- My favorite thing: I can (usually) order groceries in the evening and have them delivered before 7am the next morning (yeah! you heard me). This is perfect for those “oh sh!t” moments when you realize you have no food and nothing to give the kids for breakfast. In fact, you can schedule an “unattended” delivery for any time of the day so you don’t have to be there to meet the delivery person. They chill perishables with ice packs and such, so your items stay cold for…. a while.
- The packaging: Amazon Fresh used to have these nice, insulated totes that you simple exchanged each time (thus, no waste). Nowadays, they use paper bags, insulated paper bags, and lots and lots of…. bags. Huge bags for tiny little items. So much packaging, I just don’t understand. You’ll have to recycle/dispose of all this. Oh well, at least it’s not styrofoam.
Bottom Line: Once again, Amazon has nailed the logistics of grocery delivery. With your regular Prime membership, you have access to Amazon Fresh which gets you tons of grocery items delivered within 1-2 hours. Screw ups are rare; in my experience, I don’t have to text back and forth with a shopper for an hour. I don’t love all the bags and packaging, but that seems to come with the territory.
Google Shopping, formerly Google Express, offers a huge variety of non-perishable groceries to about 90% of the United States (including recent expansions in western, southern, and midwestern regions). This is ideal for people who want dry goods delivered, but prefer to hit a local market for fresh meat and produce. If your shopping list happens to be all non-perishable stuff, their service is appealing for a couple of reasons.
- There is no membership fee or cost for same-day delivery of groceries. Nicely played, Google!
- Google Shopping ships their orders with established companies like FedEx and UPS, so there’s no tipping involved at all. Their customer service is also very responsive and helpful in correcting issues with your order.
- If you need any kind of perishable food, Google Shopping isn’t going to be your go-to delivery service… at least not yet. But we all know Google is also aiming to take over the world, so this will surely happen at some point.
- Groceries come in recyclable paper bags you’ll need to dispose of yourself.
- You have to meet a new minimum purchase cost for each different store— so, for example, say you’re ordering dog food from Petsmart and some items from Target on the same day. Those are considered two deliveries with separate minimum purchases…
- Most non-grocery items are next day or two-day delivery instead of same-day, like the two mentioned above (#firstworldproblems).
Cost: None, as long as you meet the minimum order fee of $25 or $35, depending on which store you’re ordering from. This is pretty great, compared to other delivery services!
4. Stop & Shop Delivery & Pickup (formerly Peapod)
In 2020, Stop & Shop (along with Giant and Martin’s) integrated the Peapod online grocery service into its website and mobile app and launched a digital loyalty program called Stop & Shop GO Rewards. Customers who previously used Peapod.com and the Peapod app can now order groceries directly at StopandShop.com
Locations: Coverage includes the following states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
- The user-friendly app allows you to save shopping lists and easily reorder items you’ve purchased before.
- Stop & Shop offers more than 12,000 different products, including deli items, prepared foods, seasonal items and more.
- Stop & Shop offers up many discounts, sale items, and ways to save money each week.
- With GO Rewards you can earn points by shopping online or in stores. You can redeem rewards for things like as, grocery discounts, free items, etc.
- Stop & Shop is not available in too many places… yet.
Cost: The delivery fee depends on the order: it costs $9.95 for orders $60 to $100; and $6.95 for orders $100+. Tipping is optional, “but always appreciated.” Alternatively, orders can be picked up at some Stop & Shop stores for $3 without having to lug the kids out of the car. A small price to pay!
If you think you’ll end up using it a lot, you could join the GO Rewards program.
If you live in or around New York, you probably already know about Fresh Direct.
Locations: New York, New Jersey, D.C., Pennsylvania, or certain parts of Delaware and Connecticut.
If you order standard delivery of FreshDirect you’ll most likely get next day time slots rather than same day delivery; however, now FreshDirect offers Express Delivery (previously Foodkick) for certain areas in New York (for the same fee of ~ $5.99), which offers same day 2-hour food delivery service (note: not all of your items may be available if you choose the Express option, but they will be saved in your cart for purchase later).
FreshDirect offers recipes and quite a lot of yummy looking meal kits compared to its competitors, which seem worth checking out if you’re in one of its delivery zones. Its app also allows you to save lists and reorder your favorite items.
Cost: The delivery fee is between $5.99 and $9.99 for an order of $30 or more. In some vacation areas (e.g., the Hamptons), the cost will run you $15.99 in the summer months. See all delivery areas and fees here.
If you purchase “DeliveryPass” for $129 a year ($10.75 a month; $79 for 6 months), deliveries are included, you get exclusive special offers and you can schedule recurring weekly delivery time slots in advance. You also get a $5 discount on orders delivered between Tuesday and Friday. You can do an (almost) free two-month trial for the cost of one penny (don’t ask me why).
Shipt offers delivery of products from local and major grocery chains across the nation, including Target, CVS, Meijer and H-E-B (they also deliver from Buy Buy Baby, Sur La Table, Petco, etc.!). Its motto is “more time, less stress,” and it prides itself on choosing fresh produce for its customers. The Shipt app lets you order and communicate with your shopper.
Locations: Shipt now delivers nationwide in over 5,000 cities. You can check here to see if it delivers to your neck of the woods, and if your area is eligible for same-day delivery.
- The user-friendly app makes it easy to find sales and reorder items you’ve purchased before.
- Item prices in the app can be higher than in-store prices.
- The total cost is an estimate that may change at check-out time.
- Packaging depends on the specific store’s policies and the shopper, so you may end up with cloth, paper, or plastic bags.
Cost: Delivery is free for members on orders over $35. Orders under $35 will be charged a $7 delivery fee. Like with Instacart, the cost of the groceries is slightly marked up, and tipping your shopper is encouraged via the app.
A membership with Shipt costs $99 a year, or $10.99 a month, which includes unlimited delivery on orders over $35.
Reader insight: Take advantage of this service for travel — rather than packing baby foods or snacks, get your order all set up and when you’re close to arriving at your hotel, have it be delivered soon after you check in.
Thrive Market is a unique membership-based delivery concept, focused on making organic, healthy, clean food, household supplies, beauty products, etc., accessible to the masses. Via their app, Thrive Market offers over 6,000 different types of organic, non-GMO products, as well as the ability to search for products by different types of dietary needs and/or and food restrictions.
Locations: Currently Thrive Market ships everywhere in the U.S., except Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. They hope to be able to offer services to these areas soon, however.
Cost: Membership costs $59.95 per year ($12/month). You get a 30-day risk-free guarantee to see if you like it. If you cancel within the 30 days, you’ll get your money back.
With your membership, you get access to 25-50% off retail prices on 6,000+ organic, non-GMO, sustainable groceries, wines, beauty and household products.
Shipping fees are as follows:
Grocery — Free shipping on orders over $49, or $5.95 shipping if not
Frozen: Free shipping on orders over $120, or $19.95 shipping if not
Wine: Free shipping on orders over $79, or $13.95 shipping if not
Thrive Market claims to save its members approximately $30 on every order. They back this up by telling members that if they don’t make back their membership fee during their first year, they will credit them the difference when it comes time for membership renewal. We can get behind this offer!
Imperfect Foods is a weekly grocery delivery service with a mission: to reduce food waste. Traditional grocery stores throw out produce and groceries that are not “perfect” — i.e. “ugly” (misshapen, scarred, etc.). Imperfect Foods is trying to combat all that unnecessary waste.
According to their website, Imperfect Foods “offers imperfect (yet delicious) produce, affordable pantry items, quality dairy, and meat and delivers them to our customers’ door for up to 30% less than the grocery store.”
How it Works: Imperfect helps you tailor your weekly grocery order by asking a few questions, then they assign a specific delivery day based on where you live. They handpick items each week based on your preferences, and you take out anything you don’t want and add in any additional items you need. You can also skip your delivery any time before your shopping window closes for the week.
Delivery: You can either choose to have your groceries delivered weekly or bi-weekly. Your delivery date is picked by Imperfect Foods and is based on your zip code (the reason Imperfect Foods selects the delivery date is so they can deliver more efficiently and reduce emissions while doing so).
You can change your delivery frequency at any time, and you can also skip weeks if you know you’re going to be out of town, or if your family just doesn’t need any items that week.
Depending on where you live, your groceries will either be delivered by an Imperfect Foods driver, or a third-party delivery company. If you’re not home when your groceries arrive, don’t worry — perishable items will be packaged with gel packs and insulation so they’ll stay fresh until you’re able to refrigerate them. Groceries are delivered in compostable and recyclable cardboard boxes.
Locations: Currently, Imperfect Foods delivers to most of the West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast and the West Coast. Check here to see if Imperfect Foods delivers to your area. They are expanding rapidly so if you’re not in their delivery zone, be sure to check back to see if and when you might be.
Cost: You’ll only pay for what’s in your order at the close of your shopping order, in addition to a $5.99 delivery fee. Imperfect Foods will never charge a service or subscription fee.
10. Misfits Market
Misfits Market is a subscription-based delivery service that works directly with the farmers and food makers to “rescue” high-quality, organic “ugly” and “imperfect” grocery items that would otherwise be tossed (unlike Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market only offers certified organic, non-GMO selections). In addition to helping to combat global food waste, Misfits Market also claims their prices are up to 40% cheaper than grocery store prices.
How it Works: As of January 2021, Misfits Market rolled out a new shopping platform. Now, instead of choosing from pre-selected boxes like in the past, customers get to build their own order from among 300+ types of high-quality snacks, beverages and other pantry staples, in addition to Misfit Market’s signature fresh, organic produce.
You can choose to have your groceries delivered on a weekly or biweekly basis, and you have a 3-day shopping window to “fill your cart” to the $30 order minimum (currently, $30 is the order minimum in all of Misfit Market’s delivery areas — this may change in time). If you reach the order minimum by the time your shopping window closes, your items will be confirmed, and you will be charged the next day (no need to “check out” — your items will automatically be shipped to you). If you don’t hit the order minimum, your order will be skipped for the week and you won’t be charged. Similarly, If there’s a week you are out of town or choose not to build your order, you also won’t be charged. You are only charged when you build your order to the $30 minimum.
Misfits Perks is a new loyalty rewards program. When you join, you’ll earn points for every purchase, plus you’ll earn additional points for simple actions like downloading the Misfits Market app.
Delivery: Misfits Market uses third-party shipping providers; once you order, you’ll be emailed a shipping confirmation with a number to track your box. When it arrives, the driver will leave it at your doorstep if no one is home. All deliveries are shipped in eco-friendly packaging.
Locations: Misfits Market currently delivers to: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
If they don’t yet deliver to your area, join their wait list and you’ll be notified when it will be available in your area.
Cost: In addition to the $30 order minimum, shipping is a flat rate by zip code that starts at $6.99 per order.
Local Grocery Stores That Deliver
Several major grocery stores have their own pick-up and delivery services, or partner with Instacart to deliver groceries straight to your door. Check to see if your favorite grocery stores offer pick-up and/or delivery!
Welcome to the future, dear busy parents — grocery delivery options galore!
At the very least, grocery delivery is a great backup for when you’re sick, there’s a blizzard, the car’s in the shop, a global health pandemic, or you just really can’t stand the thought of facing the cookie aisle with your three year old today. (The struggle is real.)
As it turns out, we can have our cake and eat it too … and that cake can be delivered right to our door (mmmm, cake …).
Good luck out there!
~ Alicia S. and Meg Collins