About a year ago, in an attempt to reclaim some of my weekend leisure time, I decided to try a grocery delivery service. While considering whether to even use such a service, I questioned whether the advantages would outweigh the cost.
I definitely wasn’t interested in paying a lot more for my groceries or for a subscription I wouldn’t use in the end. Now that I’ve handed my cart over to a professional shopper, I hope my experience will answer some questions for others.
How grocery delivery services work
For those who aren’t familiar with these services, let’s take a look at how they work. First, be aware that they are not all the same. You will want to compare to find the one that works best for you. (Note that if you are loyal to a specific store, you may be limited to that store’s shopping service.)
The general idea is that you can order groceries online or via an app. Someone does the shopping for you and then delivers to your home or work. There is typically an option for pick up at the store as well. You simply park in a designated area, and your shopper brings your purchases to you. All of this is done for a fee. Depending on the service, you may pay per order or for a longer-term subscription or both.
Advantages to consider
There are some definite benefits to having someone do your grocery shopping for you, such as:
Time savings. This is the main reason I first began using grocery delivery services. For someone who really doesn’t like to shop, I can somehow spend several hours in a store. I will go in for a quick trip, and then be aggravated with myself when I come out hours later and the sun is setting. With someone else doing my shopping, I can avoid small talk with old high school classmates or checking out every clearance aisle.
Cost savings. Sticking to a list is a challenge for me. Once in a store, numerous items I never knew I needed end up in the cart. Ordering online forces me to stick to a list, and in the long run reduces the amount I spend on actual purchases.
Convenience and flexibility. When ordering from a grocery delivery site or app, you automatically create a list as part of your order. That list can be re-used, saving time. Also, many apps will track what you have purchased in the past and alert you when the item is on sale. In addition, I like being able to place an order from my home any time of day and schedule it for delivery or pick up when I leave work.
Health benefits. I love chocolate and ice cream and other foods that probably aren’t the best for my diet. If I am physically in a store, I will buy them. If I order online, it is easier for me to make sure that only fruit and healthier options find their way into my home.
Some of the disadvantages
Overall cost. When doing your own shopping, you do have more of an opportunity to compare and find the best deal. Plus, I have found some online services actually charge more for certain items than what you would pay in the store. (I first noticed this when I realized I paid $2 more for an item I regularly purchased in the store.) So, on top of paying more for items, you may have subscription fees, delivery fees and tipping of your shopper.
Coupon and sale policy. While some online grocery delivery services accept manufacturers coupons, some do not. Also, some have set prices for items that aren't adjusted if the same product is on sale that week.
Inventory and selection. When someone is shopping for you, there is the dilemma of what to do when items are out of stock. I have found that you really need to be available by phone or text to approve substitutions, so in a sense you are still devoting time to the shopping process. Not being available may mean you end up without certain items or substitutions you are not happy about.
Shopper quality. I have had some excellent shoppers. I have also had a few who are less than stellar. A shopper might choose an incorrect item or not invest time in selecting the freshest vegetables or checking expiration dates. In one instance, a co-worker ended up with 4 bunches of bananas instead of the 4 bananas actually ordered. Our work department feasted on bananas for several days.
Making a decision
How do you determine whether a grocery delivery service is right for you? I would suggest several steps:
- First, take some time to compare services and each one’s total cost, before making any long-term commitments.
- Watch for trial offers, such as a discount on your first order or a reduced annual subscription, so you can try a service out.
- After using the service, compare your total cost with your normal grocery expenses when you shop in person.
Everyone’s situation and reason for using such a service is different. It’s best to weigh the pros and cons and decide what makes sense for you. When I was a single, working parent, having someone grocery shop for me would have been helpful, but I personally couldn’t have justified any additional cost.
Now that my children are grown, I’m willing to pay for grocery delivery, so I can have more free time. I don’t have any picky eaters at home who will be upset if the wrong peanut butter is delivered. And, when time allows, I can still venture into a store to peruse a clearance aisle or two.
Need an easy way to track and compare your spending?
Old National Money Management, a feature in Online and Mobile Banking, makes it is easy to track and categorize what you spend. Your transactions are automatically placed into color-coded categories such as Food and Dining or Auto and Transportation.
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