There are few things more annoying than stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few things, hauling bags of groceries into the house only 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.
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! These are the ways that online grocery shopping has become a total game-changer for me.
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 only supermarket, which curiously has a big toy department. My best intentions are tested and rarely come out the winner.
But discovering online grocery shopping—so I don’t have to even walk into the place—has put my inner impulsive self into an extended period of hibernation.
Finding the best option
I’m still stunned by how cool it is to sit at home with my 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. And 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.
Perfect execution by a reliable assistant
I have friends who insist they’d never participate in online grocery shopping because “Who wants to 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 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 two year 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 exactly what I get.
Seeing my real balance, not an estimate
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.
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. I know I’m not going to end up with a lot of things I won’t actually use.
Getting what I need without feeling pressured
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, change my mind right up until I check out.
Taking full advantage of 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 stack those sales and deals with any manufacturer’s coupons I might have. They make it so easy.
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 ever 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 total, the pickup fee gets 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 to let them know I have arrived.
The nicest people ever come out with my groceries all 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.
Reasonable fees, if any
Walmart and Kroger* are national chains offering online grocery shopping. Both offer either 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.
There is a standard $4.95 fee for Kroger stores (waived in some locations with a minimum order of $35). There is a $30 minimum purchase requirement for all Walmart grocery orders and pickup is always free. 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 drive is customary, so make sure you add this in as part of your overall delivery expense.
I have opted for online home delivery only one time, which was at Costco. One year during Christmas holidays, 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; I couldn’t put a 72-inch TV into my cart) then Costco summoned Inst-Cart to send a shopper to fetch my items with a 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 Insta-Cart 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.
* The Kroger Co. Family of Stores includes:
- City Market
- Food 4 Less
- Foods Co
- Fred Meyer
- Harris Teeter
- King Soopers
- Jay C Food Store
- Owens Market
- Pay-Less Super Markets
- Smith’s Food and Drug