Whether it is a byproduct of social distancing or merely a choice families make for convenience’s sake, one of the fastest-growing sectors in the retail marketplace is online groceries. While grocery delivery has been available in large cities like New York and San Francisco for decades, online grocery sales have more than tripled in the past year. And they are expected to continue to grow at an astronomical rate, reaching nearly a quarter of the almost $1 trillion grocery market by 2025.
“COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way shoppers approach their grocery options, so much so that we now expect to see online sales reach an unprecedented $250 billion by 2025,” Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of Toronto-based Mercatus, a data firm dedicated to the grocery business, told the Supermarket News last September.
Given the industry’s massive growth, it’s no surprise that some of our top choices include some of the giants of the online retail sphere, while other choices include online innovators and membership companies. Nearly all offer contactless delivery options and the ability to expedite orders for an extra charge. But no matter which retailer you choose, you can count on the convenience of delivery to your home or office in most locations around the US.
When you are caught in the middle of a juggle, here are the 7 best places to get online groceries that will make your week a little (or a lot) easier.
Walmart Grocery offers a number of services, their most popular right now being the door-to-door delivery of most orders, including almost every item available at their larger supercenter stores.
In addition, they offer a number of enticements that make them a better value than delivery-only apps like Instacart and Shipt, including a guarantee that delivery items are available at the in-store price.
But where some services make money by small per-item price increases, Walmart charges a nominal delivery fee of up to $10 per order.
Savvy customers, however, can make the most of Walmart’s delivery service by enrolling in Walmart+. The Plus service can be billed either monthly ($12.95) or annually ($98) and offers a 15-day free introductory trial plus a host of other cost-saving benefits. These benefits include 5 cents per gallon on gas at Walmart stations, access to fuel at affiliated Sam’s Club wholesalers, unlimited free deliveries and free next- and two-day shipping on items from Walmart. They also offer a mobile scan and go option to pay for items in the store using your mobile device, allowing you to skip the checkout line entirely.
Walmart also offers free pickup with more than 3,000 participating locations, with store employees delivering your item to your vehicle at curbside.
Retail giant Amazon is in the grocery business in a myriad of ways, including their delivery service AmazonFresh. You’ll get access to tons of fresh produce and packaged foods from the digital interface you know and love.
While many customers enjoy shopping from Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh also partners with local retailers and supermarkets and currently offers service in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.
Another option for Amazon Prime customers in select cities is Prime Now, a delivery service with no additional monthly fee.
Keep in mind that in order to use AmazonFresh, you will need to have an Amazon Prime account.
A minimum order of $35 is required for free delivery.
The largest of the app-driven delivery options, Instacart isn’t a retailer but rather a service that uses personal shoppers to hand-select items from participating retailers and deliver them to your door. Quick delivery is available from large national retailers, including brands like Costco, Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, and more. Instacart also offers partnerships in some areas with local retailers and food shops.
Customers can place orders either from the app (available on iOS and Android) or directly from the website.
The downside to Instacart is often pricing; Instacart’s retail partners and not the app itself set prices on individual items, and some retailers choose price points higher than on in-store purchases. Like many online grocery services, Instacart offers a membership option on both a monthly and annual basis that allows customers to avoid the minimum $4 delivery fee.
Shipt is a delivery service similar to Instacart, offering service in over 200 cities. Depending on where you live, Shipt also partners with other large retailers like Petco. But the main attraction here is Shipt’s relationship with parent company Target.
While other retail partners vary by region, it’s possible to order groceries from a local chain, dog treats from Petco, office supplies from Office Max, liquor from area liquor stores and even linens from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The Birmingham, Alabama-headquartered company now offers its same-day, next-hour delivery service in 5,000 cities.
In a 2010 study, The EPA estimated that Americans contributed almost 220 pounds of food waste per person each year. In the same study, they found that retailers were contributing almost 133 billions pounds each year.
Imperfect foods works to close the gap between healthy food, Americans and the landfills by setting families up with a regular delivery service of produce that may not have made the cut. The most common reason these foods didn’t make it to the stores? The main culprits are either nontraditional appearances or a simple surplus on the store’s part.
Shoppers can customize their orders to be delivered as often as weekly and include a variety of grocery items that extend beyond produce, like pantry staples, dairy products, snacks and meat.
One of the lesser-known but solid options is Boxed. Boxed offers a ton of shelf-stable bulk goods, including a private label brand called Prince & Spring. While services like Instacart and Shipt focus on individual items chosen in a way that mimics your own visit to the grocery store, Boxed more closely resembles a warehouse club, shipping orders of items in larger quantities. You won’t be able to buy a single two-liter bottle of your favorite soft drink at Boxed, but you will find decent prices on cases of 24 cans of various sodas and sparkling waters.
Their resemblance to warehouse clubs is more than a coincidence. Boxed members can shop for a selection of Costco’s Kirkland Signature line without having to pay for a Costco membership. For produce and foods with an expiration date, such as seafood, eggs, and frozen meals, an Express Grocery option is available in select geographic areas.
And Boxed offers a discount of 15% on your initial order. They also offer free membership, and shipping costs $7 for orders under $49. An optional annual membership payment of $49 buys you free shipping for one year, however.
Fresh Direct boasts a huge selection of food from brands you’re probably familiar with. Shoppers also have the ability to find products sorted by specific filters, including top-rated, local, organic, kosher, gluten-free, family size and sale items.
The Fresh Direct app allows you to plan delivery times and offers incentives to schedule deliveries during off-peak hours. One of the pioneers of internet-based grocery shopping, Fresh Direct has been around since 2002.
While they currently only serve the metropolitan areas in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, look for Fresh Direct to expand in the coming years.
They also offer seasonal service to New York and New Jersey beaches. A $129 annual membership allows for unlimited free deliveries for the year, and you can shop from a large selection of pre-made meals, side dishes, main courses, sauces and marinades, pizza, sandwiches and rotisserie chickens.
A significant con, however, is that typical orders are filled the next day.
Far and away, our favorite choice is Thrive Market. Another membership-driven option, Thrive once described itself as a cross between Whole Foods and Costco––and the comparison is apt.
They frequently offer discounts and daily gifts, sent to members via text messages that link to the well-designed and speedy app. The app groups products not only in traditional grocery fashion but also by many of the major dietary considerations, including generating lists of available products for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, keto, and Whole30 diet plans.
While most of their items are shelf-stable, they also offer customizable large-quantity boxes of high-end meats, seafood, and poultry; one of the better choices here includes First Light’s Wagyu Starter box, a selection of over 6 pounds of wagyu beef in various cuts for $99.99.
Like browsing the aisles at Whole Foods, you’ll also find a wide variety of supplements, personal care products, beauty, and bath and body items. The membership at $5 a month is reasonable, and they offer a full 30-day trial period as well.
Ready, Set, Shop
The realm of online shopping is vast and wide; and it is reaching more families than ever. Here are 8 good platforms for your online grocery shopping, from one-stop-shops to businesses curated to specific dietary restrictions. Not sure which one to test out? Why not try out a couple? Often, you won’t really get to know a company until you’ve ordered from them a few times.
So pick a few top contenders and test them out. There’s no harm in trying and honestly, who gets upset by having too much good food and home products stocked in the pantry?
You might also be interested in: 20 Healthy Food Subscription Boxes [For All You Foodies]
Best Places for Online Groceries: