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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.

Thank goodness someone came up with a genius idea of grocery delivery! Now, you can go about your day and 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 house if you don’t want to. You can stay camped out in your comfy sweatpants and wait for the groceries to arrive. It’s pure magic.

Why Grocery Shop Online? 

The biggest reason to grocery shop online is because it’s so flat-out convenient and easy. You pick out the item you want and pay for it and then everything is delivered to your doorstep (or you can pick it up curbside at the store). Easy stuff.

shopping cart

Try our free Meal Planner to save money on groceries!

Still, is buying groceries online the right option for you? There are lots 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

You spend less time socializing—an introvert’s dream!

Let's be honest. Some people just don't like to be around other people. That doesn't mean they're bad people. It's just that idle chitchat at the grocery store is at the very bottom of their priority list. Quite frankly, grocery delivery is a dream come true for anyone who prefers to avoid groups of people.

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? If you buy groceries online, you can actually go check your fridge, pantry and cabinets as you’re ordering to see what you already have on hand.

Yep, we know 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? If you’ve ever done this, you’re not alone. Our research shows more than a third of shoppers in the U.S. admit to making at least one impulse purchase in the last three months—the majority of which were food items found while shopping in a store.

You can edit items you don’t need.

This is one of the biggest perks of online shopping! 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 within your grocery budget.

It’s more convenient.

When it comes down to it, buying groceries online is 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.

Think about it. You can shop at 11 p.m. in your pajamas after the kids have gone to bed. You can pick your delivery time for the next day, based on your schedule—usually a two-hour time slot. Plus, you can avoid checkout lines and parking hassles. A true lifesaver!

Cons of Grocery Delivery 

All the delivery fees and service charges add up.

This is probably the first con everyone thinks of when it comes to grocery delivery and pickup. After all, who wants $7.95 added to their grocery bill? Or a $99 yearly membership to avoid those constant delivery fees? (Oh, and a tip. Please tip your shoppers!)

These are the added costs you’ll have to think about if you want the convenience. But sometimes, even with those fees and tips, it’s actually still cheaper to go the delivery route than to walk into the store (for all the reasons we mentioned in the pros section).

Sometimes grocery delivery only offers the more expensive brands or items.

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.

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 (who doesn’t even know how ripe you like your bananas or how firm you want those plums).

You might not get the items you want.

Sometimes, grocery stores aren’t well stocked and run out of items. When that happens while you’re shopping in person, you can decide for yourself what you’ll get instead.

But when you’re doing online grocery shopping, you can say, “Hey, if they’re out of that generic ricotta cheese, just grab this name brand instead.” But if your backup is sold out too, well, you won’t get any of it. How will you make your lasagna then?

In other words, 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, right?

Some folks consider these meal kits a major grocery savings hack because they can get a lot of meals out of just one delivery. But here’s the catch. If you have more than one or two mouths to feed at home, meal delivery kits can add up quickly. And if you have a picky eater in your household, you might want to ditch the meal delivery kit idea. (They are not going to be into the roasted garlic cauliflower option.)

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 there are ugly food suppliers who can sell the food to you at marked-down prices. So, if you don’t care about eating an ugly cantaloupe or squash,

this is a great way to save money on groceries, especially if you’re a healthy eater!

The boxes themselves will run you anywhere from $40 to $70, 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, don’t forget to tip. Why? An actual human delivery person (or clerk) went around and shopped for you and then brought it to you at your front doorstep.

Go ahead and reward that kind of (good) service with a decent kind of tip. But be prepared—some workers aren’t allowed to take a tip. Still, it’s always nice to make the effort on your end.

Please note: 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 to your budget to make room for it.

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. Shop around and compare grocery stores to see how they stack up.

Often grocery pickup has no added cost. At all. And they often don’t even accept tips! You might have to make a minimum order to make it worth their while, but other than that, all you have to do is drive to the store and wait in your parking spot.

But grocery delivery always has added costs. Like we said: Convenience costs. You may have tips and delivery fees (or an annual membership cost) to cover, but you don’t have to leave the couch (except when the doorbell rings).

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:

  • Walmart
  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • Amazon Fresh
  • Wegmans
  • Kroger
  • Whole Foods
  • Safeway/Albertsons
  • Publix
  • Target
  • Sprouts
  • H-E-B
  • Harris Teeter
  • Meijer
  • Winn-Dixie

Plus, you can use Shipt or Instacart. They aren’t tied to just one grocery store.

What’s the Cheapest Grocery Delivery?

First, if you’re already a fan of online grocery shopping, make sure you go for the annual grocery subscription fee. It’s usually way cheaper than the monthly fee.

For example, Walmart’s annual subscription fee is $98 per year—that’s just $8.16 per month. But if you buy a monthly subscription, plan on paying $12.95 per month.

What’s the cheapest overall? Honestly, prices change so often, we can’t pinpoint the absolute cheapest for you. But don’t forget the power of Shipt and Instacart. If you factor in the number of locations they deliver to, the variety of stores (pharmacy, pet store, grocery) they partner with, their delivery time, product prices and membership fees—they consistently rank near the top.

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’ll probably save every single week—just by not setting foot in a grocery store at all.

But if you prefer shopping in person, picking out your own papaya, and staring a good deal in the face—online grocery shopping would 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 $7 and you’ll tip $18, then that means you have to delete $25 of impulse buys to break even. And let’s be honest, you could probably cut back even more than that!

Grab your last grocery receipt and look at all the items you could do without (like those chocolate pretzels they were giving out as samples and you just had to grab a bag). If you really pay attention, you can probably shave off more than a few items—which means that even with the added costs that come with online grocery delivery, you could still save money. (Don’t forget to count the gas you’d save by not driving anywhere!)

Also, grocery delivery or not, you should meal plan. Making a plan for every meal and every snack is how you really save money on groceries!  Download Rachel Cruze's Meal Planner and Grocery Savings Guide for tips and tricks on how to do this well.

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 you stay on top of all 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 helps you spend less.

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. Learn More.

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