There are few things more annoying than stopping at the local grocery store to pick up a few things then hauling bags of groceries into the house only to discover you have nothing for dinner. Or putting everything away only to realize you totally forgot the one thing that prompted you to stop at the store in the first place.
Might Be For You
Online grocery shopping isn’t for everyone. But if you are prone to impulse shopping or regularly go way over what you intended to spend on groceries for the week—even though you came prepared with a list and a stack of coupons to go with it—shopping for your groceries online might actually save you money. And time.
In this article, I will discuss online grocery shopping with both pickup and delivery options, giving specifics for Walmart and Kroger stores. Don’t assume these are the only food stores that offer these services. They are used as examples for many others now offering basically the same service, which for many has become a significant cost-cutter.
These are the ways that online grocery shopping has become a total game-changer for many.
1. Stop the Impulse Buys
There’s something about a grocery store that opens the door to my inner-6-year-old. Oh look! Donuts, flowers … fresh corn on the cob! Wow, I forgot I need a new Bundt pan. Adding two grandsons to our family has only increased my impulsivity in our town’s mega-supermarket, which curiously has a big toy department. My best intentions are tested and rarely come out the winner.
But discovering online grocery shopping—I don’t even have to walk into the place let alone shop all aisles—has put my inner impulsive self into an extended period of hibernation. I complete my order in the privacy of my home (car, campground, beach, school drive-up line), select a pickup time slot, complete payment and Done!
2. Find the Best Options
I’m still stunned by how cool it is to sit at home with my phone or laptop and have the entire contents of a very large supermarket right there, in front of me. I can search for, let’s say “yeast,” and realize I have multiple options. Who knew?
In-store, when I have yeast on my list, I find three kinds in the baking aisle. But online? There are actually 8 options—some of them not in the baking aisle at all.
Online, I can see all of the options together on one screen. I can find the exact requirement for family members with special diets. I can even zoom in on an item’s ingredients list and nutritional values, taking all the time I need to analyze.
I can easily see which is on sale. I can compare the unit price, I can zoom in on the product label. In only a matter of seconds, I have everything I need to know to make the best choice. I feel smarter and as frugal as I want to be. It really is amazing.
3. Reliable Assistant
I have friends who insist they’d never participate in online grocery shopping because “Who would let someone else pick out my produce or select the right roast or chicken?” Well, I would! And only because I’ve tested, tried, and found that I end up with better results when I have a reliable assistant working for me.
I don’t know why, but when I try to find the best vegetables—especially avocados—they’re not always that great. When I pick up my groceries and discover what my shopping assistant selected for me, regularly I am amazed.
Maybe they keep the best quality choices in the back for the “onliners?” I don’t know, but in more than four years of online grocery shopping in my local supermarket, I’ve never been disappointed. Actually, I’m happy I can’t touch the produce. I know me. Once I touch it, I might as well own it for how impulsive I can be. But online, I stipulate only what I need in the exact weight or number—and that is precisely what I get.
4. Exact Balance
Sitting in front of my computer placing items into my online cart, I can see the running total and at the same time see exactly what’s in my cart. I don’t have to keep that running estimate in my head. I don’t get that unexpected surprise at checkout.
Something else: I can perform tiny tests. Let’s say I’m running low on certain pantry items. I can search, “flour,” see what’s on sale, and make a reasoned decision for whether to buy today or wait for a better sale. Or I can add two bags to my cart to see how that affects my checkout total.
5. Unlimited Do-Overs
Shopping online, I can “put things back” easily with a single click without holding up a line or feeling super embarrassed. I can change my mind a dozen times—and I do. That assures I’m not going to end up with a lot of things I won’t actually use.
Sitting at home, it’s easy to plan the week’s menus without all the distractions, samples, and displays. I can check my pantry, fridge, and freezer, so I’m not re-buying what I have already. I have this sense of freedom and the time to make good choices. I can read recipes, price ingredients, and change my mind a dozen times until the moment I decide to check out.
6. Deals and Coupons
My supermarket, King Soopers, which is part of the Kroger family of stores, has all kinds of deals going on that change every week. And I can see all of them on my computer screen when I open the sales flyer for the week.
I can stack those sales and deals with any manufacturer’s coupons I might have, plus take advantage of unexpected, exclusive perks.
7. Reasonable Fees, If Any
Walmart and Kroger* are online retailers offering online grocery shopping. Both offer either curbside pickup, where you have an appointed time to pick up your order or home delivery. During checkout, customers choose a designated store to visit and select a timeslot to pick up their orders.
Kroger stores. There is a standard $4.95 curbside pick-up fee for Kroger stores (waived in some locations with a minimum order of $35).
Walmart. Pick up orders over $35 for free. Orders that don’t reach the $35 minimum have a fee.
Both Kroger and Walmart have policies that their employees are not allowed to accept tips.
Delivery fees vary, so check carefully before you opt for home delivery. Tipping the delivery driver is customary, so make sure you consider this as part of your overall delivery expense.
My Home Delivery Experience
I have opted for online home delivery only one time, which was at Costco. It was only days before Christmas and I was especially slammed for time with a big event breathing down my neck.
This is how it works at my local Costco: I placed my order online (food items only, no 72-inch TV this time). Once I completed my order including payment, Costco summoned Instcart (a third party) to send a shopper to fetch my items with my delivery time slot and promise of a 2-hour delivery.
This shopper texted me as she arrived at the store, even making me aware that one of my items was not available and offering a reasonable substitute. Once she had checked out she texted again that she was on her way with an estimated time of arrival.
My Instacart shopper carried everything into the house, making things even easier than I expected. It was a flawless experience as grocery delivery goes, for a delivery fee of $13.95*. That, plus a 20% tip, made the overall fee much higher than my regular pickup service at King Soopers. Still, it saved my bacon at a time I really needed a reliable assistant. I found the experience to be well worth the additional fee.
*(Instacart delivery starts at $3.99 for same-day orders over $35.)
8. That Spark of Joy
I’m talking about that feeling of being super organized. I get that spark with online grocery shopping. The way my shopping cart is organized as I fill it is right there on the side of my screen with everything so tidy and organized.
Then, when I arrive to pick up my groceries, the nicest people come out with everything organized according to frozen, refrigerated; cans together, produce carefully packed in separate bags, and so forth. I pop open the back door of my car, and everything is carefully loaded into the car. They hand me my receipt, and that’s it.
While stores now offer both delivery and pickup options, I opt for pickup. If my order is more than $35 in total, the pickup fee is waived.
Part of the online checkout process includes making an appointment for the day and time I want to pick up my order. At the appointed time, I pull into one of the special parking spaces reserved just for Pickup and either call the phone number on the sign or use the app to let them know I have arrived.
* The Kroger Co. Family of Stores includes:
- King Soopers
- City Market
- Jay C
- Pay Less
- Harris Teeter
- Pick ‘n Save
- Metro Market
- Fred Meyer
- Dillons Marketplace
- Fry’s Marketplace
- King Soopers Marketplace
- Kroger Marketplace
- Smith’s Marketplace
- Food 4 Less
- Foods Co
Originally published 10-24-22. Updated, Expanded and Republished 3-9-23