5 Ways to Save Money on Grocery Delivery, According to a Financial Expert

updated Jun 4, 2021
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Credit: Instacart

This past year changed a lot of people’s habits for good — and the way that we shop for groceries is most certainly one of them. For obvious reasons (safety concerns chief among them), a huge influx of people turned to ordering groceries online, many for the first time ever. One popular ordering platform, Instacart, experienced a 200 percent increase in app downloads last year, per statista.com. And they’re not the only ones.

Read more: 7 of the Best Places to Buy Groceries Online in 2021

Convenience comes at a cost, though. Trust me: I’m a financial expert, so I pay attention to these things. Delivery fees for Instacart (for example) will run you between $5.99 to $7.99 per order (on top of the groceries you buy), and even more if you order less than $35 worth of food. If you want your food ready within an hour, that’ll cost you too. And that doesn’t include tipping your shopper, either.

If you aren’t ordering your groceries mindfully, these costs can add up (especially if you place multiple orders throughout the week). Rest assured, I have some tips to help you shop smart and avoid unnecessary fees. Here are my top five.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Stagger free trials with new delivery services.

Avoid grocery delivery fees by taking advantage of free trials across different grocery stores and delivery services. For instance, you sign up for Walmart + and secure free grocery deliveries over a 15-day free-trial period. Instacart also offers a free-delivery 14-day trial. You can also get free grocery delivery for 60 days with FreshDirect’s DeliveryPass. (I could go on!)

My point is this: Tons of grocery delivery services typically offer trial memberships, so do your research to scout out such offers and keep track of them. If you play it smart, you can benefit from waived delivery fees for months. (Obviously, you must still be a good human and tip your shopper as generously as possible.)

2. Seek out additional deals online.

Coupon clippers rest assured that you can find coupons for grocery delivery services, too! I recommend doing a quick Google search of your grocery store of choice to see if they’re offering any online ordering deals or visit a deal aggregator like CouponFollow.com, which offers discounts such as $15 off Instacart orders.

Another tip? Make sure to request the physical grocery receipt from your delivery driver, too, so that you can earn cash back with a rebate app like Fetch Rewards or Ibotta. Just snap a picture of the receipt and use the app to earn points towards free gift cards to stores like Amazon, Walmart, or Target (which you could use to offset future grocery purchases).

3. Refer family and friends to your favorite services.

Sharing your favorite grocery delivery services with family and friends can be beneficial to your budget because many sites offer cash bonuses for referral sign-ups. Taking advantage of this money-saving offer is easy. Instacart allows you to refer up to five friends, either by email, Facebook, or a unique referral link, offering a $10 credit for the first order. Once the referral’s first delivery is complete, you will also get a $10 credit (with a maximum of $50 in referral credits). Walmart’s referral program is identical to Instacart. FreshDirect offers $25 to friends and family for their first order and you’ll get $25 in return credit once they get their first delivery. 

Credit: Shutterstock

4. Consider memberships you already have.

Signing up for multiple memberships to qualify for free or unlimited online grocery orders may offset deliveries fees, but your current memberships may already have your back. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, you have access to Amazon Fresh at no additional cost.

Here’s the flip side: If you were considering joining a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club to benefit from their bulk deals, but prefer to order online, hold off on signing up. You can dodge the initial membership fees for these stores by shopping through Instacart instead. (Yes, you can get access to Costco, without a membership, through Instacart.) This way, you can figure out which additional memberships are worth it for you and your family.

5. Opt for curbside pickup.

Ordering groceries for doorstep delivery can save you time, but it’s not the cheapest way to get food quickly. Dodge delivery fees, while still saving yourself the time of setting foot into the store, by opting for curbside pickup at your favorite local grocery stores. This year, loads more retailers have added this convenient perk. In fact, 121 retailers expanded to offer curbside pickup as of August 2020 (compared to just 19 retailers who offered this buying option in 2019), according to the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500.

Do you get groceries delivered? What do you do to try to save money?