Grocery Delivery for All!
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).
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 Whole Foods, 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 Express costs $149 a year, which includes free 1 and 2- hour delivery (when available) with a minimum purchase of $35. This cost doesn’t include the (optional) 10% service fee or tips for the shopper/driver for every delivery. If you don’t sign up for the annual program, deliveries cost $7.99 for one-hour delivery or $5.99 for two-hour or more delivery.
Locations: Instacart is available in most major cities in the U.S. Enter your zip code here to check if they deliver to you.
I (Meg) have been using Instacart for a couple of years, now, and here’s the 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, especially if it’s an item not available through Amazon Prime Now, Instacart is your best bet.
Instacart has offered our readers $20 off (for first time customers)! Use this link.
Arguably Instacart’s main competitor—especially now that Amazon purchased Whole Foods —AmazonFresh also offers same-day delivery of groceries from a variety of sources.
I (Meg) have used Amazon Fresh for about a year now, and it’s generally my go-to.
Locations: AmazonFresh currently delivers in most cities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and California. They’re always expanding their empire, however, so check here to see if they deliver to you.
Cost: Amazon Prime members pay a monthly fee of $14.99 (which equates to $180 per year, a bit more than Instacart), in addition to their annual $99 Prime membership (if you have Prime anyway, it’s just an add-on). All deliveries over $40 are free with your “Fresh” monthly membership (not including suggested tips, which are substantially lower than Instacart’s); orders under $40 are charged a $9.99 delivery fee.
But wait! I’m about to blow your mind! They just introduced…
Amazon Prime Now for grocery items!! I know, I know, it’s a little confusing…. but to compete with Instacart, they are now offering one hour (for $7.99) and 2-hour (free!) delivery for many grocery items (though not all grocery items are available on Prime Now).
The caveat is that you have to spend $20 and it’s only available (for now…) in the following areas: Cincinnati; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New York City; Phoenix; Portland; Oregon; Richmond, Virginia; San Diego; the San Francisco Bay Area; Seattle.
Just to clarify, you only need a Prime membership for Prime Now grocery items; for the full “Amazon Fresh” service, you have to pay the $14.99/month Fresh fee – capiche? Prime Now offers a limited selection of grocery items while with Fresh, you can get anything.
And of course, you can always try Fresh with a 30-day free trial.
AmazonFresh Pickup is also available to Prime members in select cities at no additional cost and without an order minimum. Onward.
- AmazonFresh 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.
- AmazonFresh’s customer service is also helpful when there’s a problem with your order.
- AmazonFresh groceries come in large, green, boxy bags with tons of ice packs (and sometimes dry ice—which as long as you’re careful, can make for awesome science experiments!). You can return the boxes and the gel packs (but not the dry ice packs, obvi) to Amazon by leaving them out for the next delivery. I seriously love that I don’t have to cut up boxes or throw anything away! *Note: lately, they’ve been using insulated paper bags for delivery. I’ve contacted them to see if this is the new thing, or just a temporary work-around.
- 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. With Amazon’s chilled totes and ice packs, your items stay cold for…. a very long time.
- AmazonFresh doesn’t offer goods from local bakeries… so if a freshly baked loaf of sourdough from your local grocery store bakery section (or who am I kidding—a batch of newly baked chocolate chip cookies) is the only thing that’s going to satisfy your craving, you might be better off with one of the personal shopper services (like Instacart) instead.
- The packaging: AmazonFresh goes a bit overboard with the ice packs, and the boxy green bags take up a lot of space. You’ll need an area to store them while you wait for the next delivery.
Bottom Line: Once again, Amazon has nailed the logistics of grocery delivery. With your regular Prime membership, you can get tons of grocery items delivered within 1-2 hours from Prime Now; with the full Fresh membership, you can get just about anything either that afternoon or the next morning. Screw ups are rare; in my experience, I don’t have to text back and forth with a shopper for an hour. Best of all, there’s almost no waste. On the downside, the totes take up a lot of space, so it’s not ideal for people who are space-constrained.
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 Express now delivers Whole Foods products, including the popular 365 brand, along with tons of other brands.
- Google Express 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 Express 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 Whole Foods 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!
Locations: Generally available in the mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Great Lakes states, Peapod offers delivery from Stop & Shop and Giant grocery stores. Coverage includes the following states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- Peapod has some meal kits available with already prepared ingredients.
- The user-friendly app allows you to save shopping lists and easily reorder items you’ve purchased before.
- Peapod offers more than 12,000 different products, including deli items, prepared foods, seasonal items and more.
- Peapod offers up many discounts, sale items, and ways to save money each week.
- Peapod uses tons of plastic bags, although it does offer to recycle them if customers return them to their drivers.
Cost: The delivery fee depends on the order: it costs $9.95 for orders of $60, and $6.95 for orders over $100. Tipping is optional, “but always appreciated.” Alternatively, orders can be picked up at some Peapod 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, Peapod also offers the “Pod Pass” program, which costs $119 a year and includes the cost of delivery for any orders over $100.
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.
FreshDirect offers next day delivery of groceries, rather than same day delivery (pssshht!). To compete with Instacart, it recently started a new service called FoodKick, which does deliver some items within an hour.
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.
If you purchase “DeliveryPass” for $129 a year ($10.75 a month), deliveries are included, and you can schedule recurring weekly delivery time slots in advance. 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 major grocery chains across the South and Midwest, including Publix, Kroger, Fry’s, and H-E-B. 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: It delivers in major cities in Alabama, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. You can check here to see if it delivers to your neck of the woods.
- 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: Without a membership, delivery costs $7 an order. 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 $100 a year, or $14 a month, which includes 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.
Local Grocery Stores That Deliver
Several major grocery stores have their own pick-up and delivery services, including Safeway, Walmart, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Albertsons, Shoprite, Hannaford, and Hy-Vee. This might be an option if you live in the sticks.
As our parents age (or perhaps if they are ill or have mobility issues), they may find grocery delivery worthwhile as well.
Locations: Safeway provides grocery delivery in Arizona, California, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. through its service, Vons.
Cost: Delivery costs $9.95 for purchases of $150 or more. You need to purchase a minimum of $49 in groceries. For purchases less than $150, Vons charges $12.95.
Locations: Walmart Grocery has a no-fee, same day pickup service with a minimum order of $30 in the following cities: Atlanta, GA; Charlotte and Fayetteville, NC; Salt Lake City and Ogden, UT; Nashville, TN; Tucson, AZ and Colorado Springs, CO.
You can order your groceries online (for the same in-store cost) and then pick them up at the store without having to get out of the car.
Delivery Cost: Walmart Grocery is beginning to offer delivery (through a partnership with Uber) for a delivery fee of $9.95 in a few areas (including Tampa, Phoenix, Dallas, and Orlando) on a minimum order of $30.
Kroger has a popular grocery pick-up service called ClickList. You can order your groceries through their website, then pick them up at the store. The best part? You can pick up your groceries without having to get out of the car.
Cost: $4.95 (or $7.99 for expedited orders).
Locations: *ClickList is expanding to include delivery, which as of right now is only available in Dallas and Richmond, Virginia for a delivery fee of $11.95.
Locations: The southern grocery chain Harris Teeter offers pick-up and delivery options through their Express Lane program in Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Maryland.
Cost: Pick-up costs $4.95, and delivery costs $12 to $15 per order, plus the service fee of $4.95. Harris Teeter states that it does not accept tips.
Locations: Albertsons is a grocery store chain located in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Check to see if they deliver to your address here. They offer same day delivery if you submit your order by 8:30am.
Cost: $9.95 on purchases of $150 or more and $12.95 on purchases under $150, with a minimum order of $49. Drivers do not accept tips.
*Note: it took forever to get through to their customer service on a Thursday morning… So if customer service matters to you (which it will for grocery delivery!) you might want to check if Instacart will pick up from your local Albertsons instead of relying on their delivery service.
Locations: Hy-Vee’s grocery stores are located across the Midwest in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Check here to see if your local Hy-Vee delivers to you.
They have a website and an app where you can create lists and “favorite” items to easily buy them again.
Cost: ALL of its stores offer grocery pick-up, and some offer delivery (for free if you order over $100, or varying fees for smaller orders).
Locations: Shoprite stores are located in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Cost: You have to select your store on the Shoprite From Home page and create an account to find out the fees you’ll be charged for pickup or home delivery.
Locations: Hannaford To Go offers grocery pickup at their stores in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.
You need to order four hours in advance for same-day pickup.
Cost: $5. Their shoppers do not accept tips.
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, 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 Safier and Meg Collins