The marvels of modern technology continue to transform (or "disrupt" if you want to sound like a cool Menlo Park bro) even the most mundane aspects of daily life. The latest errand slated for extinction by businesses ranging in size from the scrappy startup to the colossal corporation is the trip to the grocery store. From AmazonFresh to Instacart and more, companies are vying to become the dominant brand in at-home grocery delivery—so you can rely on them to bring everything you need to make dinner (or maybe just that pint of Chunky Monkey you're embarrassed to pick up in the store).
It's predicted that by 2024, 70% of consumers will shop for groceries online, according to a joint report by the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen. Given the obvious benefits of online grocery delivery (from not having to fight for a parking space to avoiding people you don't really want to talk to in the produce section), you may be tempted to give grocery delivery a try but feel stymied by the less-than-transparent breakdown of the various services and fees.
The good news: There are several popular online grocery delivery options, and we break down everything you need to know to help you determine if you're ready to give up brick-and-mortar shopping for good and give online grocery delivery service a try.
The current darling of the online grocery delivery world, Instacart recently acquired an additional $600 million in funding to help expand its grocery delivery reach into (nearly) every bodega, convenience store and supermarket in the country.
Instacart has a long reach, serving more than 4,000 cities in all 50 states (plus Washington D.C.). The delivery company is used by all types of stores, from the relatively posh Whole Foods to the humble CVS (and it recently joined forces with the cost-savings supermarket giant Aldi in time for Thanksgiving delivery), so you're not locked into a specific retail brand.
Instacart doesn't have a set delivery fee for most orders, setting the price based on the size of the individual order, the availability of its shoppers and delivery fleet to fulfill that order, and how quickly you want that order delivered to your doorstep. For example, an order from a CVS in New York City on a Wednesday morning came with an $11.99 delivery fee, while the same order in rural Ohio only cost $5.99. In general, the larger your order (there's a minimum of $10), the smaller the delivery fee.
If you sign up for Instacart Express, the startup's subscription service, you get free deliveries on all orders over $35. The membership fee is $149 annually, or $15 if you want to try Express month to month.
Getting your first order delivered is as simple as visiting Instacart's website, entering your ZIP code, signing up with your name and email, and then browsing the available stores. When you're ready to check out with your order, you can choose to have the groceries delivered within two hours, within five hours or from a selection of two-hour time blocks throughout the day.
The Seattle-based e-commerce titan already dominates most of the online marketplace for consumer goods, and with its acquisition of Whole Foods it hopes to replicate its success in the online grocery delivery space.
Amazon offers two similar services for grocery delivery, though both require an Amazon Prime membership. Prime Now is available in 62 markets, most of them major cities. This service only delivers groceries from Whole Foods, so lovers of organic (and pricey) food rejoice!
AmazonFresh, which is a delivery service dedicated specifically to grocery delivery and isn't limited to only Whole Foods, is currently in flux with its availability. The best way to determine whether you can use the service is to type your ZIP code into AmazonFresh's website and see if you get lucky.
Since both options require an Amazon Prime membership, you'll first have to pay $119 a year (or have a friend/relative/ex with Prime add you to their account). For two-hour Prime Now grocery delivery, orders under $35 carry a $5 fee, while orders $35 and up are free. If you want your groceries to arrive even faster, you can pay the $5 on orders $35 and up to have it arrive within an hour. Orders under $35 that arrive in an hour cost $10.
AmazonFresh requires you to add a $15 monthly subscription on top of the $119 annual fee you already pay for Prime membership. For orders of $40 and more, there's no grocery delivery fee—but anything less incurs a $10 fee.
Have you ever shopped on Amazon before? Then you'll be intimately familiar with how to browse and select items on both Prime Now and Fresh. When checking out with Prime Now, you choose how quickly you want it delivered and when (either one- or two-hour delivery windows).
For Fresh, you choose either a three-hour delivery window for "Doorstep Delivery," which means the delivery person will drop your food off at your doorstep, or a one-hour window for "Attended Delivery," which means you must be present to receive the order.
The nation's largest retail chain is also one of the biggest grocers, and now Walmart is beginning to branch out by offering groceries for pickup and at-home grocery delivery service.
Although Walmarts seem a ubiquitous part of the American landscape, branches of the store that offer grocery delivery service remain rarer. The company claims its delivery service will be available to more than 100 metro areas representing 40% of households by the end of 2018, but currently, it's enjoyed by shoppers in around 50 markets. To find out if you live in one of them, visit the Walmart Grocery home page, and the site will automatically tell you if grocery delivery service is available.
Walmart charges a $10 fee on all orders, but shoppers must meet a minimum of $30 on each grocery delivery.
Go to the Walmart Grocery website and, if you don't have one already, create an account. After you've done so, select a delivery window, pick your items and you're off to the races (from the comfort of your home).
Once a burgeoning startup delivery service, Shipt was acquired by Target in 2018 to help the big-box store offer same-day delivery service for its groceries and other select goods—but it also delivers products from other stores, including groceries.
As with most of the other grocery delivery services, the best way to check if Shipt can deliver groceries to your door is by visiting its website and typing in your ZIP code.
Similar to Instacart Express and Amazon Prime, Shipt charges a membership fee to use its grocery delivery service. You have a choice of paying a $99 annual fee or $14 every month, for which you get free delivery on any orders over $35. Anything less incurs a $7 fee.
When you enter your ZIP code on Shipt's grocery delivery website, it helpfully tells you which stores it can deliver from in your area before you proceed to purchasing a plan. Once you're signed up, you pick your store and simply browse its goods, adding whatever whets your appetite to your cart. You then choose from a list of available one-hour delivery time slots and wait for your groceries to arrive.
While this Chicago-based online company doesn't guarantee same-day grocery delivery, it remains a good alternative for shoppers who are able to plan out meals at least a day ahead.
Shoppers in the following locations can use Peapod to avoid a trip to the grocery store:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
You have to place a minimum order of $60 with Peapod, which carries with it a delivery fee of $9.95. If your order costs between $75 and $100, that grocery delivery fee drops to $7.95. And if you're placing an order that costs more than $100, you'll pay $6.95 for the delivery.
Visit Peapod's website, type in your ZIP code to make sure the company delivers to your area and then browse the available groceries by the broad categories listed (e.g., "Dairy" or "Proteins"). When your cart is filled, you'll schedule a two-hour delivery window (the earliest being sometime the next day), and select whether you will be present for the delivery or whether Peapod can leave your groceries at your doorstep.