I’ve Been Using FreshDirect for 3 Months — Here’s What I Like and Don’t Like About It

published Jan 15, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you’re a frequent reader of Kitchn, you’ve probably seen my work without even knowing it. I’m the in-house food stylist, helping make all of the photos on the site look as delicious as possible. When people hear this, they probably assume that I spend my days preciously placing herbs or painting chicken the perfect shade of brown. But the thing about food styling is that it is mostly careful planning and a lot of grocery shopping. And up until recently, I would do all of that shopping myself — schlepping hundreds of dollars worth of groceries across the city. But not anymore!

How FreshDirect Works

I recently started using FreshDirect — a grocery delivery service that allows me to order my groceries online and have them delivered straight to the office. You shop online and a FreshDirect worker shops the company’s own facility and fills your order (read: it’s not a shopper out at a random grocery store). It has saved me time and pain, and I have no plans of going back to in-person shopping. But before I get into why I love it so much, here’s a little bit more about the service and how much it costs:

  • Pricing and fees: The standard minimum for most deliveries is $30 — and delivery fees range from $5.99 to $15.99. I’ve found that the fees during peak delivery times are typically higher than early morning slots. There’s also DeliveryPass, which costs $129 for the year and gets you free delivery.
  • Where it’s available: FreshDirect is currently only available in a small portion of the East Coast including New York (all five boroughs) and parts of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, D.C., the Hamptons, and the Jersey Shore. (You can see a full listing of delivery zones and fees here.)
Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

What I Like About FreshDirect

FreshDirect has a huge inventory of groceries — which is especially important for me. Some of the recipes I style call for specific products or brands, and FreshDirect always has them in stock. Whether that is frozen cornbread, wild mushrooms, Stove Top-brand stuffing, or whole vanilla beans, you can count on them to have it.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Another thing I love about FreshDirect is that the products always arrive perfectly fresh. As a food stylist, it can be a bit stressful not being able to touch or feel the groceries before I order them. (What state will the parsley arrive in?!) Luckily I’ve never experienced any spoilage issues or less-than-ideal products. The herbs are always perfectly fresh and the greens are crisp and camera-ready and I’ve grown to trust FreshDirect to deliver top-quality products. As someone who obsesses over the freshness of their groceries, this has been a pleasant surprise.

Additionally, even though Kitchn is footing the bill, I still have to watch the bottom line. I have a budget to stick to and FreshDirect’s prices are either on par or cheaper than the grocery stores I used to shop at. I save a little bit here and there as I put things in my cart and it adds up to several dollars of savings each time. And although the site doesn’t accept coupons from outside sources, the site has sections filled with deals and its own coupons.

But for me — beyond the quality, pricing, and large inventory —the main benefit of using FreshDirect is convenience. They make it so easy to create a grocery list, select a time slot, and checkout. And as someone who spends a big chunk of their life grocery shopping, this has been a serious blessing.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

What I Wish Was Different

Although I really do love FreshDirect, there are a few things that I wish were different. Similar to a cable company, FreshDirect makes you choose a delivery window that is about two hours long. This means you have to hang around at home (or the office) and wait for them to arrive — so you need to make sure you have nowhere to go. In my experience, the groceries seem to arrive towards the end of the delivery window. (If your time slot is between 10:00 to 12:00, expect a 11:45 delivery.) They’re never late, but it rarely arrives within the first hour.

Unlike other grocery services (like Instacart), FreshDirect does not typically offer a same-day delivery option. Time slots fill up quickly, so I try to reserve my delivery time quite early — up to a week in advance sometimes. Luckily you are able to edit your orders, so this isn’t such a big deal. If something pops up or I run out of an ingredient, I just add it to my order.

Some items (like specialty beer) are only available to purchase in bulk or by the case — which can be a bit of a burden when all I need is a single bottle for propping a photo. I don’t expect this to be an issue for most people, but it can be a bit of a letdown when I have to order more than I actually need.

Other Things to Know

FreshDirect packs all of their groceries into reusable bags. You can either keep them for yourself or send them back the next time you place an order. (The delivery driver will take them back for you.) They also tend to package their delicate items (like glass jars or avocados) in special padding to prevent damage. While I don’t love the excess packaging, I appreciate that the items are protected so they remain perfect for the camera.

FreshDirect sends frequent emails with promo codes and other deals, so keep an eye out for these. Sometimes the deals can be pretty significant (like $25 off orders!) so they are worth checking out.

My Final Thoughts

FreshDirect has seriously improved my life and I highly recommend it. I no longer have to schlep heavy groceries across the city or search for obscure items not typically found in my local store. They are incredibly reliable, have never been late, and are definitely worth the delivery costs. As someone who takes their grocery shopping very seriously, you can trust me to tell the truth.

Have you used FreshDirect before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!