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Is Online Grocery Delivery Worth It?

Deep down, does anyone really enjoy shopping for groceries? Grocery shopping is one of those annoying little chores that has to be repeated—a lot. Just like cleaning the house and brushing your teeth, no matter how many times you take care of it, you still have to do it again . . . eventually. Then one day, someone came up with a genius idea—grocery delivery! You can go about your day and then your groceries just magically show up at your house.

But is grocery delivery worth it and can it really save you any money? Let’s find out.

What Is Grocery Delivery? 

Plain and simple, it’s just like it sounds—someone else takes care of your grocery shopping list for you and delivers it to your door (for a fee, of course). You never have to leave your car, or your house, if you don’t want to. You can stay camped out in your comfy sweatpants and wait for the groceries to come to your door. It’s pure magic.

Why Grocery Shop Online? 

The list of pluses for online grocery shopping has grown since 2020—that’s for sure. Before, the biggest reason to grocery shop online was how flat-out convenient and easy it was. You pick out the item you want, pay for it, and everything is either delivered to your doorstep or picked up curbside at the store. Easy stuff.

shopping cart

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But since the pandemic, there are way more reasons to opt for online grocery shopping—less exposure to germs and less interaction with people (introverts everywhere, rejoice). If you’re wanting to keep yourself and your family distanced from others, then this could be the ticket.

Still, is online grocery shopping the right option for you? There are a lot of pros and cons that you have to look at for your lifestyle and your budget. So let’s dig into a few:

Pros of Grocery Delivery 

There’s limited contact.

These days, one of the biggest pros for online grocery shopping is the ability it gives you to stay away from people. You don’t have to worry about someone sneezing on you as you roam the store. You don’t have to mess around with putting on a mask. And you don’t have to get the entire family suited up in their hazmat gear either. Shopping for groceries online lets you limit contact with others, and in this COVID-19 kind of world, that’s a huge plus.

You can double-check the groceries you already have.

How many times have you bought stuff at the grocery store only to get back home and discover you already had it in the back of your pantry? With online grocery shopping, you can actually go check your fridge, pantry and cabinets to see what you already have on hand. Let’s be honest, you can do this any time you’re making a grocery list, but somehow it seems easier when you’re ordering your groceries online.

You can stick to the list and cut out impulse spending.

Nothing will derail your grocery budget like some good, old-fashioned impulse buys. You walk down the snack aisle and suddenly remember your obsession with Cheez-Its, which reminds you that you really need some fruity cream cheese to go with those bagels in your cart, which also reminds you that you should pick up some everything bagel seasoning while you’re at it. In the spice aisle, you start wondering if you’re out of cinnamon . . . you probably are. Better pick some up just in case. After all, you’ve been meaning to make your mom’s oatmeal cookie recipe. Oh, wait—you need oatmeal! And maybe some new flavored coffee to wash it down.

Sound familiar? No, we haven’t been spying on you at the grocery store. We know because we all fall for impulse buys just like that. One thing snowballs into another thing and another, and before you know it, you’re on the way home and half of the snack aisle came along with you!

You can edit items you don’t need.

This is the beauty of online shopping! And you’re probably already doing this when you buy other things online. Think about when you’re shopping online for clothing—you toss a couple shirts, a few jeans and a pair of shoes into your virtual cart. But when you get to the online checkout, you come to your senses and realize all you really need is the shoes.

Since you were shopping online, it was easy to look at the total and edit things out, right? The same goes for grocery delivery and ordering online. You get to see the grand total before you’re stuck footing the bill. That way, you can get rid of the groceries you don’t need (like those pesky impulse buys!) and delete items to make sure you stay on budget.

It’s more convenient.

When it comes down to it, online grocery shopping is downright easier—it just is. And as busy as we all are these days, sometimes it’s just worth it to get your groceries delivered and have one less thing haunting your to-do list.

Cons of Grocery Delivery 

All the delivery fees and service charges add up.

Yep, this is probably the first con everyone thinks of when it comes to grocery delivery and pickup. After all, who wants $6.95 added to their grocery bill? That’s the cost you’ll have to think about if you want the convenience. But sometimes, even with that added fee, it’s actually going to be cheaper than what it would’ve cost you to walk into the store (impulse buys and all).

It’s more expensive.

Aside from the delivery and service fees, some grocery delivery items are just plain more expensive. Take Whole Foods, for example—they offer online grocery delivery through Amazon Prime. But everyone knows Whole Foods might just take your whole paycheck if you’re not careful.

And depending on your location, some of those grocery delivery prices might even be higher online than at the store, especially if you’re using a service like Instacart. For example, if you shop in store at Costco, a 10-pound box of Quaker Oatmeal could run you $8.99, but when shopping with Instacart, it’s closer to $11! So just be on the lookout, and try to compare prices even when you’re shopping for groceries online.

You can’t pick your own produce.

That might sound weird at first, but think about how many times you inspect the peaches or plums before you pick up the one you want to buy. You’re giving them the once-over for bumps, bruises and rotten spots. Or maybe you just have really particular preferences and want to make sure your bananas only have a hint of green at the top. There’s just something about being able to see the food you’re buying with your own eyes. Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s just better when you are the one sifting through the produce section and not some stranger.

You might not get the items you want.

Sometimes, grocery stores aren’t well stocked and run out of items (toilet paper, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer . . . sound familiar?). And when you’re there shopping in person, you can decide for yourself what you’ll get instead when the item you want isn’t there.

When you’re doing online grocery shopping, you can say, “Hey, if they’re out of blueberry yogurt, just grab strawberry instead,” but that doesn’t always mean that’s what will happen. You might wind up with peach yogurt as your backup. Aka you might not actually get what you want when someone else is doing the shopping for you.

Are Grocery Delivery Subscription Boxes Worth It? 

Odds are, you’ve seen an ad for these things before. These grocery delivery subscription boxes sound pretty good up front, but sometimes, the price is higher than the benefit here. Cost comparing will be your best friend when it comes to figuring out if this type of grocery delivery will really save you a buck or not.

Meal Delivery Kits 

To make life easier, people like to have all the ingredients for recipes just shipped directly to their front door each month. These subscription meal delivery kits come with all the food, sauces and spices you need to cook the recipes they send you. Fancy, we know. Some folks can get a lot of meals out of this, and the price turns out to be cheaper than buying all the ingredients at the grocery store—but not always. Especially if you have more than one or two mouths to feed.

Ugly Produce Boxes 

On the flip side of the picture-perfect meal kits are these weird things called ugly produce boxes. Ever heard of them? They’re just like they sound—boxes filled with food that has a few bumps and bruises (but isn’t rotten!) that grocery stores can’t sell to the public. But the ugly food suppliers can sell the food to you at marked-down prices. If you don’t care about eating an ugly cantaloupe or squash, this could totally be up your alley. The boxes themselves will run you about $20 to $30, though, so if that’s more than you planned to spend on produce, then you might not actually be saving money.

How Much Do You Tip for Grocery Delivery? 

When it comes to tipping for grocery delivery, a 15–20% tip is a good rule of thumb. But whatever you do, remember to tip. Why? An actual human delivery person (or clerk) went around and shopped for you and then brought it to you curbside or at your front doorstep. Go ahead and reward that kind of (good) service with a decent kind of tip. Now, be prepared—some workers aren’t allowed to take a tip, but it’s always nice to make the effort on your end.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to add the tip to your grocery budget! If you know you’re going to have groceries delivered twice this month, just add a little extra to your grocery budget to make room for the tip.

What’s the Price Difference Between Grocery Pickup and Grocery Delivery? 

This really comes down to which company you’re using for your online grocery delivery or pickup. It’s pretty safe to assume that delivery will cost at least an extra $5 to $10. Shop around and compare grocery stores to see how they stack up.

At Kroger here in Franklin, Tennessee (where we’re located), the grocery items are the same price whether you’re opting for delivery or pickup. But delivery will set you back an extra 10 bucks! On the flip side, pickup from them is free if you hit $35 with your order. So if you don’t mind driving down to the store, going the pickup route can save you some extra cash.

Still, not everyone’s delivery fee is as pricey. If you have Amazon Prime, you can get groceries from Whole Foods delivered to your door for free (as long as you hit $35). But remember what we said about the grocery prices at Whole Foods? Yep, they’re more expensive (as in a single banana costs 20 cents more there than it does at Kroger). So do a little digging, compare prices, and see what grocery store will give you the best deal around.

What Grocery Stores Offer Grocery Delivery and Pickup? 

There are a lot of options when it comes to online grocery delivery and pickup. And even more places began offering this service during the coronavirus outbreak to help limit their customers’ contact inside stores. Here are a few places to look at when you want the ease of online grocery delivery and pickup:

  • Walmart
  • Amazon Fresh
  • Instacart (partnered with Aldi, Costco and more)
  • Kroger
  • Whole Foods (partnered with Amazon Prime)
  • Shipt
  • Safeway/Albertsons
  • Publix
  • Target
  • FreshDirect
  • Thrive Market

Does Online Grocery Shopping Save Money? 

Yep, it definitely can. If you’re someone who gets tripped up in the checkout line by impulse purchases, then yeah, you might save $20 just by not setting foot in a grocery store at all. If that’s you, then you probably won’t mind forking over a $5 delivery or pickup fee if it means you can stick to your grocery budget. But if you’re someone who would rather drive around town, hitting up multiple grocery stores to make sure you’re getting the best deal—online grocery shopping might just be a useless expense to you.

No matter where you fall, take some time to really think through what the total cost of grocery delivery would look like for you. Let’s say your usual weekly trip to the grocery store (impulse buys and all) totals $150. Now you have a price point to compare to grocery delivery. If you know the delivery fees cost $5 and you’ll tip $3, then that means you have to delete $8 of impulse buys to break even. And let’s be honest, you could probably cut back way more than that!

Grab your last grocery receipt and look at all the items you could do without (like that bag of chocolate pretzels they were giving out as samples). If you really pay attention, you can probably shave off a good $25—which means that even with the added costs that come with online grocery delivery, you could still save $17 (plus the gas you save by not driving anywhere). Is grocery delivery worth it then? It all depends on what you buy and how you shop. Download Rachel Cruze's Meal Planner and Grocery Savings Guide for more tips and tricks. 

Bottom line? You’ve got to do what’s best for you, your lifestyle and your budget. It’s a juggling act for sure, but take the time to crunch the numbers so you know what works best for you. Use our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, to help stay on top of your grocery spending. Take a look and see if adding grocery delivery to the mix throws a wrench in your budget or if it actually makes you spend less. You never know unless you give it a shot!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

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