I’ve been buying groceries online and have had them delivered for over 3 years! Get my best tips for saving money, time and most importantly . . . your sanity.
Desperate times call for desperate measures – that’s what I told myself about 3 years ago when I finally refused to ever drag 4 kids into the grocery store again.
WATCH THIS POST
Here is a little video with everything I say below. Read or watch – whatever you prefer!
Needless to say, I’ve never looked back! Whether ordering groceries online is now a necessity for you, or if you are also looking for ways to save time, money and a whole lot of sanity – I want to share with you all my best tips for online grocery shopping and delivery.
Even if you are a seasoned online grocery shopper yourself, or just beginning, I hope these tips will help you.
10 ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING TIPS
TIP #1 – Discover your options for local shopping and delivery.
Local stores will be able to get you same day or at least next day delivery – when times are good. So find out what stores and services are in your area. The best way to do this is look up their website online, or simply call them.
WHAT ONLINE PLATFORM DO THEY USE?
Once you find out if a grocery store near you has delivery services, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with what online platform they use. The majority of the stores in my area use Instacart. I can shop at 3 stores from the same website, and so that is what I prefer to use 9 times out of 10.
A smaller grocery store chain in my area, which is an Associated Food store, uses an online service called Rosie. Other big chains often have their own branded online platform for ordering groceries. I’m sure larger cities will have several more options to choose from, and even smaller cities will have fewer. Do your homework, and don’t weed any of them out . . . yet.
SOME COMMON OPTIONS FOR ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING
INSTACART: I can open one webpage and get groceries delivered from Smith’s Marketplace, Sam’s Club and Natural Grocers with Instacart – for my area. It will likely be different for your area.
WALMART: Then of course there is Walmart. They do not offer delivery in my area, only pickup. They have their own web platform for ordering groceries.
TARGET: I am not near a Target (sigh), you can order directly with Target and get free pick up, or use their 3rd party, Shipt, for delivery.
AMAZON FRESH: If Amazon Fresh is available to you, I’ve heard good things about that service. I do not have that option.
ASSOCIATED FOODS STORES: Several local stores offering associated food brands use a service called Rosie, or other 3rd party ordering website.
You are going to get a pretty clear picture that Instacart is my favorite. This is not sponsored in any way – just the best option I have in my area.
TIP #2 – Compare cost, convenience, user experience, and product availability.
Tip number 2 should be done when you first begin ordering groceries, and perhaps every once in a while – as services and systems tend to change quickly online. Take some time to sit down at your computer, open up all the options in different browsers, and compare the things that are important to you.
Will they actually deliver to your house, or is it pick up only? How quickly do you get your order? Is the store pretty close to you and are you familiar with their products? Do they automatically take out a tip, or are you going to have to remember to have cash on hand? Basically, learn what stores will actually make your life easier or harder.
First thing to check is your delivery fee. You’ll probably be able to type in your zip code and see what that will cost you for each store you are considering. Instacart is great because it works a lot like Amazon Prime where you pay a small yearly fee and then delivery is free. Considering I am a half hour away from the stores, this is pretty big savings for me.
Then you’ll want to compare the cost of products between the stores. With all your browsers open, begin searching for all the same things in each store, and do this for multiple products. Dairy, produce, bulk items, etc. Chances are, you will see quickly where you can get the best prices, or you’ll discover it is all very comparative. In my case, it’s almost always better prices with Instacart. Almost always, being the key words. But I learned it was generally better across the board, so it became my go-to.
Cost is huge, right? Or is convenience more important to you? Something to ask yourself.
CONSIDER USER EXPERIENCE
When I first opened up all my browsers and began getting a feel for each website, I quickly learned which website or platform was easier to navigate. On Rosie, it almost always had to be typed in with the exact name brand and package label to actually find it. Or you have to navigate through categories. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a bag of frozen berries.
But with Instacart, I can be very vague and find a multitude of options come up in search. Instacart would also save all my previous ordered items in a tab, and I could quickly open that up and add our regulars. Milk, eggs, butter, click, click, click. Finding a friendly website will make ordering your groceries quick, easy, and frustration free.
COMPARE PRODUCT AVAILABILITY
Does only one store carry your favorite cookies, organic products, or that special brand of lotion that your skin can only tolerate? If there are enough of those situations, cost, convenience and user experience don’t matter as much. I hands down prefer the produce at my Smith’s Marketplace, and they have most of the items I am picky about – so it’s a weekly order from there for me, through Instacart.
Now here is a thought – What if you price around and make orders from each store each week to get what you want at the best price? Sure, you could do that for the sake of price and product selection, but you are pretty much throwing convenience out the window as you’ll have to arrange communications and times with multiple stores, and you might actually be paying multiple delivery fees. So weigh the benefit of saving a dollar or 2 on a few items, versus getting it all from one store with one fee at one time.
I might add here, grocery shopping online is easier on desktop – especially if you are comparing. My mobile experience trying to order has almost always been glitchy. But I am sure that will get better as time goes on.
TIP #3 – Drop off OR Pick up OR Meet up
Your store may not give you the options, but most likely you will at least be aware that you can pick up from the store (which is often free) or you can have them delivered to your house for a fee. Delivered is definitely the most convenient, but I actually don’t have that option with Instacart because we live out in the boonies! I’m about 5 miles past their boundary line for delivery, so I take the 3rd option I made up myself . . . MEET UP!
This still saves me at least 50 minutes of drive time to pick up from the store, which is well worth it – especially considering my delivery fee is free with Instacart.
I simply plug in the address for our small town post office, write a few instructions like what car I’ll be in, where I am meeting them, and request a 15 minute notice – and it works perfectly!
Meet up is also a great option if you feel a little nervous about welcoming multiple strangers into your home to drop off groceries. Pick a busy place in town and just have them place the groceries in your car.
TIP #4 – How to save money while online grocery shopping.
When I first began having my groceries delivered, I had an internal battle that I was going to spend more money just because I wanted someone else to do the task I hated more than anything. I had to prove to myself (and my husband) that this would actually save us money each week.
That is so easy to do! Simply considering the lack of temptation for impulse buys is enough to see a savings.
If you do anything, just keep an eye on your cart total! You’ll know when you’ve exceeded your budget and have to rein in. Of course, price shopping for different brands is always a good idea, but just knowing the damage before I reach a check stand and see the total is a game changer.
I also make it a practice to delete at least one non-essential item before I checkout. Then I feel I always make up for the tip that wouldn’t be included if I shopped myself.
Something to watch out for – say you order on Sunday evenings (like myself) knowing it will be shopped for and delivered monday morning. The problem is, you may see sale prices change. It may be on sale sunday, but increased on monday – or something may actually be less on monday because it went on sale. If this stresses you out, be sure to order and have it delivered the same day if possible.
TIP #5 – Be Flexible, open minded, and considerate of your fellow human beings.
Understand that what you ordered may not be in stock. Be open to substitutions or at least let them know you don’t want anything else if that isn’t available. Most of the time the substitutions work pretty great, but in one instance I kept getting a bottle of dried mint herb, when all I wanted was fresh mint. That was my bad, I should have specified nothing else would do.
Other times, the shopper simply makes a mistake and misses something. They are human. Forgive, forget and be kind.
I know a lot of my friends have dug their heels in when it comes to online shopping because they feel no one can pick out produce like they can. I actually find these shoppers to be so well trained, they usually do a better job at picking produce than I do. Just be open minded and willing to give it a try! You might really like it!
TIP #6 – Plan way ahead!
In order to be flexible, it’s best to plan ahead with your order. If something isn’t in stock, and you are half way through dinner and waiting for that one item to be delivered – you might be in a pickle.
But if you order for a week, or even 2 weeks ahead, you can be flexible with your menu knowing you can swing by and get the one thing they weren’t able to get to you. Better to play it safe than be sorry!
If you need a little help with planning your grocery needs, I have a FREE home inventory printable pack on my TIDBITS Planners site, and I have a post showing how to use them as well. They are very handy for keeping track of essentials in your home and building up a food storage. You can also shop my planner products on Etsy.
If you would rather some simple and cute menu planning and grocery list printables – I have those for you too!
Simply fill out this form below!
*Already a subscriber? No need to fill out this form again. The link and passcode to my library is at the bottom of every email I send.
TIP #7 – Pick favorites
If you do this enough, you are likely to run into the same shopper multiple times. If you really really like them and how perfectly they pick out the best slightly green bananas, tell them they are your favorite!
Unfortunately, I can’t request the same shopper with Instacart, but by telling Alexandra she is my favorite, she works hard and fast to get my order. She’ll even drive it past the border up to my house, and it makes my day! And I’m pretty sure she has my number on speed dial and knows exactly what substitutions I want. Basically, treat them good, and they will treat you good.
Also, it works great to pick a favorite day of the week and time to place your order. If you know by Saturday, they are likely out of eggs, order on Tuesday after the ship comes in!
TIP #8 – Communication in key
Heard from the mouth of hired shoppers themselves, “please keep your phone handy when I am shopping!” Make a note of when your order will be placed and be on call. If you want the best substitutions and an error free order, be available. They will call and ask you, and prefer not to guess what you want.
TIP #9 – To tip or not to tip? That is the question.
Some services will automatically take out a tip at checkout, where you can also change the amount if needed. I prefer this because I never have cash! Some services actually don’t allow their shoppers to take a tip. Some shoppers wait awkwardly expecting a tip, and you have no idea why they won’t leave your doorstep. Be prepared and aware of what is to be expected and what is courteous. When in doubt, call the store and ask. Nowadays, shoppers are risking their health to shop for you, so a generous tip will leave you both feeling good.
TIP #10 – Check your receipts and confirmation email
When all those fresh groceries are piled high on your table, open up your receipt or online order and do a quick run through. You may have been charged for something you didn’t get.
You may have not received something you really needed, and won’t remember until it is too late. Before you put them away, double check everything! You will find errors eventually, but not too frequently. But it’s best to check.
BONUS TIP! – My favorite Online Resources for Home Essentials
Think outside your local options for items that are not time sensitive or fresh.
Buying local is great, but you may save money and headache by ordering from other online sources for things that are not perishable. Here are a few of my favorite resources that are saving me right now!
GROVE COLLABORATIVE: I order all my green cleaning supplies through Grove Collaborative. I LOOOOOOVE all their Grove branded items the most, but I get my Seventh Generation detergents there, Castile soaps, and other fun earth friendly goodies.
THRIVE MARKET: I order a ton of my organic specialty products through Thrive Market, and save a lot of money that way, as they are often cheaper then my local stores. ($20 shopping credit with my above link).
THRIVE LIFE: I order food storage and freeze dried snacks from Thrive Life. Incredible products!
AMAZON AND AMAZON PANTRY: Of course, I order a ton of non-food items from Amazon, or Amazon Pantry.
ALMOND COW: I order bulk nuts from Almond Cow, to make my own nut milk. (Use code “TIDBITS” to get $15 off your order).
INSTAFREEZE: And I order pre-made Instant Pot meals from Instafreeze . . . shameless plug for my sisters freezer dinner business. (They did have to shut down temporarily, due to current events, but they have meal plans that make our menu planning a whole lot easier!)
The list goes on, but I would absolutely love to hear your favorite place to order what you need. Let me know if you have any tips yourself or questions about ordering groceries online. I might add the warning, once you start, you may never stop. 3 years later, unless it is a random stop on date night . . . my kids don’t often see the inside of a grocery store. But they are learning bucket loads of how to shop smart online and I hope you did too! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to watch or read this long post!
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