5 Reasons I Refuse to Buy My Groceries Online

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Rumor has it that lots of millennials are ordering their groceries online.

Delivery services are so hot right now.

I admit it: I’m a millennial, too. While most of my friends swear by the convenience and cost savings of shopping with their favorite delivery company, I just don’t get it.

To be fair, I’ve given it a try. When my husband and I moved to our Brooklyn apartment two years ago, we dabbled in having our food delivered (it should be noted that my spouse is much cooler and more tech-forward than I am) for a few weeks. At first, I’ll admit that I loved it. Checking items off my shopping list from the comfort of the couch and simply waiting for them to arrive at a predetermined time the next day just felt less messy than the alternative. The service’s sleek, user-friendly interface also warmed my hungry little heart.

Within less than a month, though, the novelty had worn off, and I was feeling totally limited by our new routine. To me, stocking our kitchen is a deeply personal errand, and I didn’t love how it felt to cede so much control of it to an automated system. Many of my arguments against online grocery shopping are a lot less emotional and a lot more specific (which I have to believe will also make them more convincing).

5 Reasons I Refuse to Jump on the Grocery Delivery Train

1. I like to see and hold my food before I buy it.

During my brief foray into ordering groceries online, I was disappointed to find that most of the perishables I bought arrived in my kitchen in less-than-stellar shape. Produce, in particular, was often overripe or oddly undersized, as if I’d gotten the absolute smallest sweet potatoes or eggplant available for the appointed sticker price.

I’m not typically a tough customer, but because one of the major draws of having groceries delivered is having someone else do the heavy lifting on the produce that typically weighs down my bags for me (as a city dweller, I walk to and from the supermarket), it was definitely a letdown when those were the items that weren’t measuring up.

Call me a skeptic, but I like to actually experience my perishables before I buy them. When I buy groceries in person, I can gauge how many days of freshness I’ll have with each ingredient and buy — or not — based on my meal schedule for the week.

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2. I find it harder to stick to a plan when I shop online.

There’s something psychological that happens (to me, at least) when shopping online. The fact that there’s no physical swipe of a debit card or counting of cash makes the money suddenly feel Monopoly-esque, as if it’s only sort of real. And while online grocery services do offer a running tab of your cart and direct you toward items you’ve purchased previously to help you stay on task, I find that the ability to type any kind of food into the search bar or to gleefully scroll through landing pages of snacks algorithmically selected to tempt me is a recipe for disaster. It’s a lot easier to stick to a plan — and a budget — in the familiar aisles of my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. In person, I can just skip the aisles I know I don’t need to browse. Online, however, I just keep scrolling.

The other side of the argument: 6 Ways We Save Money by Having Groceries Delivered

3. Delivery windows are still an imperfect science.

Making time for a trip to the supermarket is not always easy, but when I’m running the errand myself, I get to stay in control of my schedule. As much as grocery delivery services are continuing to perfect their infrastructure to ensure that food arrives at your door just when you request it, the fact remains that, as the consumer, you’re waiting for someone else to bring you what you need. What happens if something unexpected comes up during your planned delivery window? What if you get stuck on a lengthy conference call and can’t break away to sign for your food? Even under the best of circumstances, delivery windows often span for several hours, which — in my opinion — can really complicate a day. Running out to the grocery store myself just feels like a better use of my time.

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4. It’s hard for me to justify paying a delivery fee.

My dad always says that “your time is worth something, too.” He’s right, but in light of my aforementioned hesitations about grocery delivery, I don’t feel strongly enough about its value proposition to pay the necessary added cost. Years from now, if and when physically going to the market requires an extended drive in traffic with small children in tow, I can see how I might change my tune on this one, but for now, I’m not crazy about the idea of spending money on delivery fees, which seem unnecessary in my current circumstances and can range from $3.99 to $9.99 to an annual subscription.

5. I still like the experience of going to the store.

Here’s the part where I let you in on a little secret: my Instagram-loving, generally instant gratification-expecting, millennial self really enjoys actually going to the grocery store. It takes me back to childhood, when it was an errand my mom and I did together, and simultaneously gives me a sense of grown-up pride, since I’m now following in her shoes and doing the shopping for my own household. I like checking out what products are being featured on the endcaps each week, sniffing the flowers in the front of the store, and saying hello to my favorite cashiers. So much of this experience is lost in its online counterpart, and I’m just not ready to give that up yet. Also, the stores have free samples.

More on Grocery Delivery

What about you? Do you get your groceries delivered? Or are you with you me, sticking to the old-fashioned grocery store?