How to Save Money and Time with Online Grocery Shopping

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FOOD  |  7.9.15  |  by Julie Rhodins

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Here's our easy tips for online grocery shopping -- to help you save money and time -- such as with this Amazon Prime Pantry option
Photo: Amazon Prime Pantry
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When does it make sense to shop for your groceries online?  Ask yourself a few key questions.  Is it hard to go shopping with my young children?  Do I find that I run out of time to get it done because I’m working or volunteering?  Do I want to save time in my day? If you answer ‘yes’ to either of these questions, online grocery shopping might be for you.  Most online grocery series were made for the busy parent/adult who wants to save time and avoid shopping with kids.  If you think this is for you, then read on.

Here’s our easy tips for online grocery shopping — to help you save money and time 

This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission if you make a purchase using one of our links.  Thank you!

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Tips for Online Grocery Shopping

USE IT FOR PANTRY STOCKING

Make a list of pantry items that you use over and over, no matter how your menu changes.  We like the ease of stocking rice, cereal, crackers, pasta and pasta sauce, and more.  Order these items online to save time.  These staples can include things like canned or bottled goods, grains, legumes, pasta, unrefrigerated boxed and packaged products, dried veggies and fruits, and nuts.

The Food Network and LearnVest have sample pantry lists, but you’ll still need to work on creating your own and finessing it over time.  You’ll want to do a quick inventory each week or every month, depending on how quickly you use up certain items.  An easy way to digitally do it is with a checklist in Evernote.

To save money with stocking a pantry, let’s first look at the off-line mindset.  Most people who save money on pantry items are continually looking for sales at the grocery store — they grab 10-20 of a pantry item when it goes on sale; and these people aren’t always coupon people or advertisement researchers, rather they just keep an eye out for those pantry staples.  To mimic this money-saving behavior online —

  • look for an online grocery service that will honor sales and
  • buy extra pantry items at a discount

If saving a few dollars on sales items isn’t your concern, then just fire away at restocking and you’ll save a boatload of time.

PAY ATTENTION TO PRICE AND DETAILS

When you are doing traditional grocery shopping, you know what a gallon of milk looks like and so there’s not even a thought about it as you look at the price.  Your mind automatically calculates based on past experience if that price makes sense.

But when you shop online, you don’t have the advantage of seeing, touching, and smelling a product.  So, you have to be an even more savvy label reader.  You’ll want to compare size/volume to price.  At first, that might seem daunting.  But, if you stick with it, later on it becomes easier and an advantage because you really do become more numbers driven with online shopping.

The Consumerist says online grocery shopping can give you an edge when it comes to cost pricing —

Comparing unit costs at the supermarket can be a pain, as many stores put the cost per pound/ounce/liter in tiny type. The online sites often make it easier to compare unit prices for similar products, so use this information to your advantage.

DON’T AUTO-REORDER UNLESS…

Some online grocery shopping services will pop up a “reorder past purchased items” window in hopes that you’ll just click “yes.”  But, unless you only care about saving time, don’t do it.

Check to see if you really need all those items, as well as the price before you click to order.  Don’t throw out being smart and frugal with online ordering.  By using a list and pairing it with online ordering, there is an advantage of saving money because there are less distractions with unnecessary products, thereby reducing impulse buying.

DECIDE IF YOU WILL ALSO ORDER FRESH ITEMS

Door to Door Organics conducted a survey of 1,100 U.S. online grocery shoppers and found 54 percent had increased their online grocery shopping in 2014.  But 57 percent of those who had ordered perishable, fresh items (like dairy, meat, and produce) with their order were disappointed in the freshness or quality they received.

It’s going to be a trial and error thing, and maybe word of mouth, until you find a perishables delivery service that consistently offers you great quality, with freshness, for a reasonable price.

You may decide that no one can pick an apple like you, and that you’re not willing to give up frequenting your local farmers market.  That’s okay.  At least you’ve saved time with all the other pantry items.  And you’re looking at a very quick and targeted trip to round out your upcoming week’s menu with your perishable shopping — you’re not spending half a Saturday shopping, so you’ve saved time.

Local cooperatives like Farm Fresh To You will deliver local farm produce every week.

Photo: Farm Fresh To You organic farm produce delivery.

BE CAREFUL WITH DELIVERY

Basically this means, when do you need the product? and what is the safest and most reliable way to get it?

With more people ordering online, doorstep box theft has risen.  So you want to be careful that your package will arrive safely.  

If you’re an at-home mom that regularly checks what’s on your doorstep and will answer the doorbell, then there’s not much of a worry.

But if you’re a working parent and regularly not home, you’ll want to use a service that will deliver when you are home if you are concerned about theft.

Or, you can pay for your local shipping center store to accept packages on your behalf — usually by paying for an annual mailbox (granted, this could add $150 or more each year to your annual expenses for this service); make sure they will text or call you when a package comes in if you are not regularly going to their office to check on your box.

Of course, it won’t make sense to buy perishables online if you don’t have a regular schedule and delivery time to be home for the drop off.  Save perishables for a weekend menu-fill-in trip to your local farmers market or grocery store.

FIND AN ONLINE SERVICE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Try a couple of different services to get a feel for what works for you and if they truly offer the time and money savings that you are looking for.  Determine if paying a membership fee for some services dilutes any cost savings that you are looking for.  Here are a few online grocery services to try —

  • Amazon Prime Pantry — you’re looking at using this service for non-perishable groceries and household items.  There is no delivery time request option, so you need to make sure that whenever the package gets to its destination it will remain safe until you bring it inside your home.  The service does charge $5.99 (even with it being Prime) for up to 45 pounds or 4 cubic feet of household products (the system calculates for you as you shop).  If you purchase over $50 in product, the shipping fee goes down to $1.99.  There is a weekly deals page to save up to 20% off, a coupon page, and a past purchases list.  This service requires an Amazon Prime membership.
  • Amazon Fresh — this is a limited-area, fresh-food delivery service available mostly only on the East and West Coasts, with same day or next day delivery.  You log-in with your Amazon user name and choose a delivery address to see if service is available in your area.  You must have an Amazon Prime membership to use Amazon Fresh, and there is a delivery fee.  The service allows you to order fresh, perishable foods alongside non-perishables (Amazon Prime Pantry is only non-perishables).
  • Door to Door Organics — currently available in mostly the Midwest and Upper East areas of the U.S., this online grocery service specializes in delivering “fresh, organic produce and Good Food groceries.”  It has a weekly, seasonal produce box (always organic) that’s part of the service.  You can stock your pantry, dairy, eggs, meats, seafood, bread, and more.  The “Kitchen” tab on its website gives you recipe ideas to go with the seasonal foods — a huge plus for figuring out your weekly menu – time saver!  And there’s a restock button that helps you quickly reorder what you regularly use.  Delivery is often free, depending on the distance.  If you won’t be home, they can leave perishables in a cooler at your doorstep.
  • ShopFoodEx — this service focuses only on groceries and is available in the 48 continuous U.S. states.  Shipping charges are calculated based on zones of where you live and how much you buy, and it takes about 2-7 business days to get your product.  It has weekly specials and the ability to create a shopping list.  This service would be for your pantry items.  No membership fee.
  • FreshDirect — only available in the upper East Coast at this time.  It requires a minimum $30 order to get the reasonable delivery fee (between $5.99-9.99) — delivering to the Hamptons is extra.  You can purchase staples and fresh items, even frozen products.  Truly like shopping at a grocer.  The site offers coupons and sales.  And it has regionalized local food offerings by season, like during the summer the company might offer local farm organic kale.
  • Peapod — this online grocery service is also currently only offered in the Midwest and Upper East of the U.S.  It is similar to Door to Door Organics (above) but with a variety of organic and non-organic.  You can order via desktop, smartphone, or tablet — especially handy if you commute via public transportation, as you could grocery shop while you are on the train.  It has weekly sales and double coupons.  There’s also prepared meals.  You can type in your zip code to learn about service fees.
  • Farm Fresh to You — this certified organic online service is available only in Northern and Southern California.  It is basically a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box that is delivered once a week.  In the box are the week’s seasonal veggies and fruits from the Capay Organic farm.  You choose the box type, size, and delivery frequency (weekly or every 3-4 weeks, for example).  You don’t get to choose what is in your produce box, as it based on seasonal availability — but you can add items to an Exclusion List for your account and other items will be substituted.  You can also add pasture-raised eggs and organic trail mix to the order.
  • Your local farm — we like using LocalHarvest.org to find farms near us.  This is an easy way to find local, unique delivery services like Farm Fresh to You (above) that are tailored to your area.
  • Your local grocer — find your local grocer’s website online and see if there is a “Grocery Delivery” type of tab.  Most of these local services do not require a membership fee, but be clear on delivery fees, if tips are customary, delivery times, and how they handle dropping off perishables if no one answers your door.  Some examples of local services are Safeway,  Homeshop via Kroger stores, Walmart to Go, and Instacart by Whole Foods.

What online grocery services have you tried and liked?

 Let us know in the comments below

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2015-08-24T13:17:26+00:00