I recently wrote an article for this very site denouncing, in no uncertain terms, the idea of ordering groceries online. I shared a full five-point list of reasons why I simply cannot get behind the process, underpinning all of which is the fact that — despite my many millennial tendencies — I am still in some ways a traditionalist.
For me, there is a kind of simple joy involved in my in-person supermarket routine, and there's just no way to replicate that through a screen. (I know this is true because a few years ago, I did my 20-something duty and gave online grocery shopping a shot.)
There's no one like an editor to (kindly, gently) push you out of your comfort zone, though, so when mine suggested that my skepticism made me the perfect candidate to test out a few delivery services and candidly share my experiences, I accepted the assignment. (You know — personal growth and all that.) I researched a few popular platforms and made a plan to try as many as possible in just two weeks. Set in her ways? Not this girl.
I expected that my first order would need to be one of the biggest, so I chose the service associated with Stop & Shop in hopes that it would offer the widest selection of basics at the most reasonable, most true-to-supermarket prices — and I wasn't disappointed. Using the site's handy search bar, I was able to search for pretty much everything on my list, and because of the wealth of brand options, I even got to comparison shop.
Generally speaking, I got the sense that Peapod was a great way to buy snacks and treats (the highlight for me was finding a two-for-$8 deal on Halo Top ice cream, which I'd been dying to try), and a slightly less great way to purchase ingredients for meals. By my rough math, the cost of all the necessities for my go-to dinner recipes on Peapod was higher than what I would pay at my local grocery store — but I understand this might not be the case for households with more than two people.
Peapod has a flat delivery fee of $9.95, which felt a bit steep on top of my $65 grocery bill, but the food arrived precisely in the middle of my reserved delivery window and was brought to my door by an extremely friendly man who told me face-to-face that the berries I'd so excitedly purchased on sale were out of stock (sadly, confirming one of my reservations about online supermarkets). All of the food looked fresh and delicious, and with the exception of an unnecessary bag of random freebies that I didn't need, I was happy with everything in my box.
Cost: There's a $9.95 delivery fee per order, but no minimum
Pros: The site has basically every ingredient, box, or bag you could ask for.
Cons: They were out of the berries!
A few days later, I had my eye on a new recipe for quinoa mac and cheese, so it was time to stock my kitchen with the necessary ingredients. I turned to Foodkick first. Foodkick is a relatively new offering from FreshDirect, and because their primary focus is quick delivery (we're talking same-day service here), I found their prices a little high and their offerings a little sparse for my specific needs, especially since I didn't require delivery ASAP. I decided to table FoodKick for another day (more on that later).
For my mac and cheese needs, I looked instead to FreshDirect, FoodKick's less expensive and more diversely stocked older brother. FreshDirect is a favorite among my friends, so I had high hopes. I found plenty of shop-able options (but no more — and possibly less — than Peapod) and prices that seemed roughly in line with what I'd seen so far with other online services. My favorite thing about FreshDirect was its attention to special dietary needs. Throughout the shopping experience, the site offered suggestions for gluten-free and dairy-free items, and as someone who's always in the market for products in these categories, I was happy to find new-to-me foods to (quite literally) add to my list.
My major complaint with FreshDirect is the $40 delivery minimum. While I understand that this model makes good business sense for the service itself, a minimum like this makes online grocery platforms a less economical option for small families like mine. I found myself adding totally unnecessary items to my cart just to have the privilege of being a (theoretically one-time) user. On top of the $40 minimum, FreshDirect also charges a $6.99 delivery fee. Although FreshDirect's fee was less than Peapod's, I prefer the Peapod model: Buy as much (or as little) as you want, and as long as you're willing to pay for the luxury of having it delivered, they'll make it happen. To its credit, FreshDirect's delivery was also timely.
Cost: There's a $6.99 delivery fee per order, and $40 minimum
Pros: The site has tons of options — especially if you have special dietary needs. It even makes suggestions, which helped me find new things I might not have happened across in a store.
Cons: That delivery minimum really bummed me out.
A few days after my quinoa mac and cheese was made and polished off, I found myself on an overnight trip for work, and I decided that timing a delivery for my return would be the perfect addition to my test. My husband and I do quite a bit of traveling, and one of the things I find most attractive about ordering groceries online — assuming I ever change my mind about the whole practice — is the ability to stock your kitchen from the road and avoid the whole "we-just-got-back-from-vacation-and-need-to-go-to-the-store-at-9 p.m.-so-we-have-food-for-breakfast-Monday" rush entirely. I'd read good things about Jet.com, and while their site had the best prices I'd seen so far, I discovered on further inspection that they require two days for delivery, and I needed my food the next day (it's worth pointing out here that, for someone who didn't even care about getting their groceries delivered a week earlier, I had become suddenly dependent on instant door-to-door gratification). Max Delivery presented the opposite problem — the food was incredibly expensive, and I definitely didn't need the one-hour delivery they were offering.
I decided to circle back to FoodKick, where I dabbled for the first time in ordering prepared foods. I'd been traveling and wasn't too psyched about cooking from scratch when I got home, and the prepared options looked so good. I'm not too proud to admit that one of the points in my list of FoodKick notes literally reads "ROTISSERIE CHICKEN! WE'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR ROTISSERIE CHICKEN!" (in all caps because, for some reason the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens of my suburban childhood are a rare commodity in Brooklyn). In addition to said chickens, FoodKick also stocks real ingredients, meal hacks, complete meals, meal kits, and a la carte entrees and sides.
FoodKick waived the delivery fee on my first order (thank you very much!), but according to my research, they typically charge $3.99. The food arrived smack dab in the middle of my selected delivery window (again, thank you very much!), and everything I ordered was packaged neatly with cooking directions. More importantly, it was delicious and convenient.
Cost: Delivery is free for your first order. After that, it's $3.99. The minimum is just $20, which as they put it, is "some delicious snacks and a six-pack. Done."
Pros: That's right, they offer same-day alcohol delivery. The meal kits and prepared foods are a nice addition to the other, more typical, offerings.
Cons: For now, the service is only available in the New York City area, but that brings me to my point about a lot of these services and how there are probably other options local to you.
What I Learned About Grocery Delivery Services
What I learned from testing these services is that I don't need to become a die-hard online supermarket shopper in order to reap their benefits. I can still go to the supermarket for most things and then there might be an occasional place in my routine for a delivery service (I can't believe I'm saying this). Based on pricing model and selection, my favorite services were Peapod and Foodkick, and I can see myself using the former to stock up on snacks, and the latter to plan ahead with pre-prepared meals when I'm having a crazy week. I guess I can admit that without totally eating crow on the hard line I previously took.
And if I can't, please don't tell me. I'll just be over here, joyfully eating my rotisserie chicken.
More on Grocery Delivery
Do you have your groceries delivered? Which service do you use and what do you like about it?