Grocery Delivery – Budget Buster or Budget Saver?

Is Online Grocery Delivery Worth It?

Deep down, does anyone really enjoy grocery shopping? I have a friend that does, for some reason she enjoys the weekly adventure. For me, grocery shopping is one of those annoying little chores that must be repeated—a lot. Just like cleaning the house and brushing your teeth, no matter how many times you take care of it, you have to go do it again . . . eventually. Then one day, someone came up with a genius idea—online grocery delivery! When I tell you I heard angels singing, I really did!!

Why Grocery Shop Online?

The list of pluses for online grocery shopping has of course grown in the last few months. Before, the biggest reason to grocery shop online was how flat-out convenient and easy it was. You pick out the item you want, pay for it, and everything is either delivered to your doorstep or picked up curbside at the store. Easy peasy!

Now with the coronavirus, there are new reasons to opt — less exposure and interaction with people (introverts everywhere, rejoice). If you want or need to take precautions to keep yourself and family distanced from others, online grocery shopping might be the right option for you.

Like everything, there are pros and cons you want to consider for your lifestyle and budget. So let’s dig in to a few:

Pros of Online Grocery Shopping

These days, one of the biggest pros is the ability it gives to stay away from people. You don’t have to worry about staying 6 feet apart (or more) as you shop. You don’t have to mess with putting on a mask and gloves. You often feel like the entire family looks like they’re in hazmat gear. Shopping for groceries online lets you limit contact with others, and in this COVID-19 kind of world, that’s a huge plus.

You can double-check the groceries you already have.

How many times have we bought stuff only to get home and discover we already had it in the back of the pantry? Yes, I’m raising my hand! Something I’ve started doing is actually checking my fridge, pantry and cabinets to see what I already have on hand. For some reason it’s easier to check while I’m online adding items to the shopping cart. Also, looking over the cart listing on both Kroger and Whole Foods I have spotted missed or extra items much faster.

You can stick to the list and cut out impulse spending.

Nothing derails a grocery budget like good, old-fashioned impulse buys. You walk down the snack aisle and suddenly remember your obsession with cookies, which reminds you that you really need some salsa to go with those tortilla chips in your cart. In the spice aisle, you start wondering if you’re out of cinnamon . . . you probably are. Better pick up some just in case. After all, you’ve been meaning to make your mom’s oatmeal cookie recipe. Oh, wait—you need oatmeal! And maybe some new flavored coffee to wash it down. Get the picture? I know I’m not the only one that does this.

You can edit items you don’t need.

This is the beauty of online shopping my budget loves! You’re probably already doing this when you buy other things online. Remember when you were shopping online for clothing—you toss a couple shirts, a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes into your virtual cart. But when you get to the checkout, you come to your senses and realize all you really need is the shoes. So out goes the other “extras”.

It was easy to look at the total and edit things out, right? The same goes for grocery shopping online. You get to see the grand total before you’re stuck footing the bill. That way, you can get rid of the groceries you don’t need (like those pesky impulse buys!) and delete items to make sure you stay on budget.

Cons of Grocery Delivery

All the delivery fees and service charges add up.

Yep, this is probably the first con everyone thinks of when it comes to grocery delivery and pickup. After all, who wants $4.95 – $6.95 added to their grocery bill? But that’s the cost you have to determine if you’re saving and the convenience. When I first started picking up at Kroger they charged a $4.95 service fee. It doesn’t make sense for only a couple of items but when I was shopping once a week it actually saved me money. My impulse buys alone could be $4.95 for that container of cookies in the bakery. Did I mention, I’m a cookie and chip kinda gal?!

It can be more expensive.

Aside from the delivery/service fees, some grocery delivery items are just plain more expensive. Take Whole Foods for example—they offer free online grocery delivery through your Amazon Prime. But if you’re spending an additional $20 – $25 more for the same items from Kroger or Randalls then it’s not worth it. For example, if you shop at Costco, a 10-pound box of Quaker Oatmeal is $7.99, but when shopping with Instacart, it’s about $10! Just be on the lookout and try comparing prices even when you’re shopping for groceries online. It’s actually easier. No one behind you tapping their foot.

You can’t pick your own produce.

That might sound weird at first, but think about how many times you inspect the peaches or tomatos before you pick up the one you want. You’re giving them the once-over for bumps, bruises and rotten spots. Or maybe you just have really particular preferences and want to make sure your bananas only have a hint of green at the top. There’s just something about being able to see the food you’re buying with your own eyes. Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s just better when you are the one sifting through the produce section and not some stranger.

You might not get the items you want.

Sometimes, grocery stores aren’t well stocked and run out of items (toilet paper, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer . . . sound familiar?). And when you’re there shopping in person, you can decide for yourself what you’ll get instead when the item you want isn’t there.

Kroger and Whole Foods send me a text message with a suggested substitute when they’re out of the item I’ve chosen. So far, they’ve had great subs but be aware if they’re out of blueberry yogurt, and they offer a sub it may be strawberry instead. You always have the option to accept or decline though.

How Much Do You Tip for Online Grocery Delivery?

When it comes to tipping for grocery delivery, a couple bucks is fine, or you might want to do 10–15% of the total bill. But whatever you do, just remember to tip. Why? An actual human delivery person (or clerk) went around and shopped for you and then brought it to you curbside or at your front doorstep. Go ahead and reward that kind of (good) service with a decent kind of tip. Now, be prepared—some workers aren’t allowed to take a tip, but it’s always nice to make the effort on your end.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to add the tip to your grocery budget! If you know you’re going to have groceries delivered twice this month, just add a little extra to your grocery budget to make room for the tip.

What’s the Difference Between Pickup and Delivery Prices?

This really comes down to which company you’re using for online grocery delivery or pickup. It’s pretty safe to assume that delivery will cost at least an extra $5–10. Shop around and compare grocery stores to see how they stack up.

At Kroger here in Houston, the grocery items are the same price whether you’re opting for delivery or pickup. But delivery will set you back an extra 10 bucks! On the flip side, pickup from them is free. So if you don’t mind driving down to the store, going the pickup route can save you extra cash. This was how I started my online grocery shopping with Kroger earlier this year.

What Grocery Stores Offer Online Grocery Delivery and Pickup?

There are lots of options when it comes to online grocery delivery and pickup. And even more places began offering this service during the coronavirus to help limit the customers’ contact inside stores. Here are a few places to look at when you want the ease of online grocery delivery and pickup:

  • Walmart
  • Instacart (partnered with Aldi, Costco and more)
  • Kroger
  • Whole Foods (partnered with Amazon Prime)
  • Randall’s

Does Online Grocery Shopping Save Money?

Yes, it definitely can and it has saved me more than it hasn’t. If you’re someone who gets tripped up by impulse purchases, you might save $20 by not setting foot in the grocery store. If that’s you joining me, then you probably won’t mind forking over a $5 delivery or pickup fee if it means you can stick to your grocery budget.

No matter where you fall, take some time to really think through what the total cost of grocery delivery would look like for you. Let’s say your usual weekly trip to the grocery store (impulse buys and all) totals $80. Now you have a price point to compare to delivery. If you know the delivery fees cost $5 and you’ll tip $3, then that means you have to delete $8 of impulse buys to break even. And let’s be honest, you could probably cut back way more than that!

Grab your last grocery receipt and look at all the items you could do without (like the bag of yogurt pretzels they were giving out as samples). If you look closely, you can probably shave off a good $25—which means even with the added costs, you could still save $17 (plus the gas you save by not driving anywhere).

Bottom line? Do what’s best for you, your lifestyle and especially your budget. It’s a juggling act for sure, but take the time to crunch numbers so you know what works best for you. You never know unless you give it a shot!

Published by Financial Coach - Roxanne Langley

I understand how it feels to wonder where your money goes each month. Or feel frustrated by the idea of planning for a stable financial future when today is still so uncertain. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I can show you how by helping you build a budget, get out of debt, and begin to save for the future of your dreams. As a trained Money Mindset Coach on your side, "You’re not alone in the journey!"

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