Grocery and meal delivery services are a convenient way to reduce trips to the supermarket -- and spending on those unnecessary items that sneak their way into your cart as you shop. What's more, these services make it possible to shop when it's most convenient for you, whether it's in the few minutes before you scramble off to work or while you're binge-watching TV in your pajamas late at night.
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The landscape of grocery delivery companies has changed quite a bit over the last few years, with once-popular services such as Chef'd and Terra's Kitchen shutting their doors and traditional retailers such as Walmart entering the space.
But some of these services come at a premium, which can potentially put a strain on your budget. Keep reading to see what the current batch of online grocery delivery companies offer in terms of products, prices and convenience, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.
Last updated: May 12, 2021
For people who need their groceries immediately, Instacart is an excellent option. Serving all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Instacart can deliver items in as little as one hour.
Unlike other online grocery delivery services, Instacart doesn't ship your food from giant warehouses. Instead, it connects you with freelance personal shoppers who bring you groceries from your favorite supermarkets -- including Whole Foods, Costco and Petco.
You can sign up for Instacart Express to save even more money if you use the service regularly. An Instacart Express subscription-based membership costs $99 per year, which breaks down to $8.25 per month, or it's $9.99 per month if you pay monthly. The membership entitles you to free delivery on orders of $35 or more, even if you order from more than one store. You also get a discount on the 5% services fee, and there’s no extra charge for deliveries made during peak service hours.
How much does Instacart cost? The delivery fee ranges from $3.99 to $7.99, depending on the size of your order and how quickly you want your delivery. The minimum order is $10.
Is Instacart Worth It?
Instacart is an excellent value considering you can get groceries from multiple stores delivered the same day you order them.
Who is Instacart best for? Here's who should consider Instacart and who should take a pass:
Instacart is best for customers who shop at multiple stores to find their favorite products.
Customers who don't need same-day service can save money on groceries by shopping elsewhere.
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2. Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh offers free delivery on all eligible orders over $35, and while Amazon Fresh used to be an extra $14.99 fee on top of the Prime annual fee, as of October 2019, that benefit is now free with Amazon Prime.
Amazon offers Fresh in select markets. Though membership for this service is pricey, the items themselves tend to be priced competitively, with great supermarket deals.
How much does Amazon Fresh cost? Amazon Prime members pay an annual $119 Prime membership fee. Eligible two-hour deliveries of $35 ($50 in some areas) or more are free with a membership, but orders under $35 are charged a delivery fee.
Is Amazon Fresh Worth It?
Some people might be deterred by the extra charge, but this price is actually not bad, considering the selection and convenience.
Who is Amazon Fresh best for? Amazon Fresh isn't the right choice for everyone.
Amazon Prime subscribers not satisfied with Pantry product selection might find Amazon Fresh more to their liking.
Limited delivery area means you'll need to live in a participating market to take advantage of this service.
Peapod is an online supermarket that offers thousands of different products, including prime meats and seafood, natural and organic groceries, fresh produce, locally sourced specialty items and alcoholic beverages, plus meal kits with measured and chopped ingredients. Enter your ZIP code on the Peapod homepage to find out if it delivers in your area.
How much does Peapod cost? For orders greater than $100, the delivery fee is $6.95. Orders under $100 have a fee of $7.95 to $9.95. The minimum order allowed is $30. You might also have to pay sales tax, and some deliveries incur a separate fuel surcharge.
Is Peapod Worth It?
The fee is minimal if you use the service only when you're spending more than $100.
Who is Peapod best for? Peapod is a good fit for some, but not all, shoppers.
Peapod is best for shoppers who want to purchase individual grocery items and meal kits all at the same time.
Shoppers who live in outlying areas should avoid Peapod to avoid paying a fuel surcharge.
The early bird really does get the worm with Vons' grocery delivery service. Vons, which operates under the Albertsons company banner, offers same-day grocery delivery, based on availability. You'll see your delivery time options when reserving a time or checking out, according to Vons' website.
Two-hour delivery is available in select areas between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. This service is provided by Instacart, and additional fees apply.
One of the biggest benefits of the Vons service is its "just for U" feature. This loyalty program provides digital coupons, personalized special deals and points rewards you can redeem for gas and grocery discounts and freebies.
Vons doesn't restrict customers to having their orders delivered. The grocer's "Drive Up & Go!" service lets you order your groceries online and pick them up at your local participating Vons store, where they'll be loaded into your car for you.
How much does Vons delivery cost? For purchases of $150, Vons charges a $9.95 delivery fee in most areas, but you might pay less for orders over $150. The minimum order amount is $30, and new customers get free delivery on their first online order of at least $30.
Is Vons Delivery Worth It?
Vons delivery is worth it for people who are extremely busy. It isn't among the cheapest grocery delivery services, but because users can earn points for gas and grocery discounts and freebies, the cost might be worth it for customers who place frequent large orders.
Who is Vons best for? Consider this before signing up:
Vons is best for Albertsons customers who want traditional supermarket perks like loyalty rewards and curbside pickup.
Vons is a less-than-stellar choice for budget-conscious shoppers who don't typically place huge orders.
FreshDirect customers can find high-quality fresh foods and prepared meals along with their favorite brand-name items and alcohol and purchase them with the click of a button. New users of FreshDirect's convenient online grocery delivery service receive two months of deliveries for just one penny with the DeliveryPass.
FreshDirect currently offers its services in Washington, D.C., and parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, with delivery on the Jersey Shore and in the Hamptons available in the summer only.
How much does FreshDirect cost? After your 60-day trial ends, you'll be charged $79 for six months of free delivery service or $129 for a year if you keep DeliveryPass.
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Is FreshDirect Worth It?
It's worth it if you use this service regularly. The longer you keep your subscription, the more savings you will enjoy.
Who is FreshDirect best for? Certain individuals are likely to be thrilled with FreshDirect. But it's not for everyone.
FreshDirect is best for those who live in the New York City and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas -- you also won't have to miss out on your deliveries while summer vacationing in the Hamptons or Jersey Shore.
FreshDirect is best avoided by shoppers who don't want to overspend on grocery delivery but also don't want to restrict their orders to three days per week.
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6. Google Shopping
Google Shopping is the current iteration of the search giant's discontinued Google Express grocery delivery service. The service differs from other shopping sites in that it essentially aggregates product listings from merchants that market their products on the site. You search for products by selecting the Grocery category from the navigation links on the Google Shopping homepage and applying filters to narrow your search results. The site offers three options for purchasing the items you select:
Order directly from the merchant's website for home delivery.
Order directly from the merchant, via Google Shopping's checkout, for home delivery.
Visit a local brick-and-mortar retailer to purchase in person.
Customers who checkout via Google Shopping will see their options for delivery time frames. Delivery times vary by merchant and the customer's location.
How much does Google Shopping cost? Delivery is free as long as you meet the store's minimum order amount -- generally $25 to $35 before taxes and fees. A shipping fee or a flat $4.99 small-order delivery fee is applied to orders that don't meet the merchant's minimum.
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Is Google Shopping Worth It?
One of the perks of Google Shopping is that you can compare prices from both online and brick-and-mortar retailers and choose how you want to purchase. With no subscription fees and free or low-cost delivery, Google Shopping's value is hard to beat.
Who is Google Shopping best for? Ubiquitous as Google might be, the company's shopping service won't meet everyone's needs.
Google Shopping is best for bargain hunters who place a higher priority on savings than convenience.
Google Shopping might not be the best choice for anyone who wants to make quick work of selecting and ordering their groceries.
Costco's membership warehouse club offers two-day delivery on nonperishable products in over a dozen grocery categories, including health and personal care, household and pet supplies. Same-day delivery is available in select areas via Instacart. Although Costco's website doesn't list which areas qualify, you can enter your ZIP code to find out if you're eligible.
How much does Costco delivery cost? A basic Costco membership costs $60 per year plus tax, if applicable. A Gold Start Executive membership, which includes 2% rewards on eligible purchases and expanded benefits on Costco services, is $120 per year. Members get free shipping on orders over $75 and pay a separate delivery fee of $3 for orders under $75. Prices on items in Instacart same-day delivery orders include service and delivery fees. The minimum order for same-day delivery is $35.
Find Out: 20 Ways To Pay Less at Costco
Is Costco Grocery Delivery Worth It?
Costco membership benefits like discounted pricing on a huge variety of grocery and nongrocery products and additional services like home and auto insurance, optical, travel and mortgage loans make it a good value for customers who need these services.
Who is Costco grocery delivery best for? See which category you fall into:
Costco grocery delivery is best for those who will also shop in Costco warehouses.
Anyone who prefers not to buy in bulk might want to take a pass -- especially if you won't use the services included with a Costco membership.
8. Thrive Market
Thrive Market is a socially conscious service that delivers over 6,000 organic and non-genetically modified products spanning food, home and beauty categories. Members get members-only pricing as well as perks like freebies and special deals. Shipping is available to street addresses in the contiguous U.S., and your first order over $25 ships free.
Part of your membership fee sponsors memberships and credits for low-income families as well as students, teachers, veterans and first responders, according to the company's website.
How much does Thrive Market cost? Annual memberships cost $59.95. The company guarantees you'll make that back in savings or it'll credit the difference when you renew your membership. Shipping is free for orders of $49 or more. The delivery fee for orders that don't meet the minimum is $5.95.
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Is Thrive Market Worth It?
Thrive Market guarantees you'll save on your grocery purchases, so there's really nothing to lose as long as you sign up for another year to collect your credit. Plus, you can feel good about your membership helping needy families, students and civil servants.
Who is Thrive Market best for? Thrive Market serves a niche segment of grocery shoppers.
Thrive Market is best for socially conscious shoppers who don't want to spend more than they have to for organic and non-GMO groceries.
Thrive Market is probably not the right choice for shoppers who prefer to stick with familiar name-brand groceries.
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9. Walmart Grocery
Walmart Grocery delivers grocery orders to metropolitan areas throughout most of the contiguous U.S. You can specify delivery windows and have orders delivered to your home or another location. Or, if you prefer to pick up your orders, choose your store and reserve a time slot, and the order will be brought to your car when you arrive.
You'll find a much wider selection of product categories on Walmart Grocery than on other grocery sites. You can purchase clothing and electronics, for example, in the same order as food.
How much does Walmart Grocery cost? There's no charge for pickup service, and you can get unlimited free deliveries for $98 per year or $12.95 per month. As of this writing, a 15-day free trial is available, but you'll need to select your preferred payment plan to qualify.
Is Walmart Grocery Worth It?
Based just on the convenience of being able to purchase a range of products while you grocery shop and get the whole order delivered free, $98 per year is worth paying.
Who is Walmart Grocery best for? Even people who avoid shopping at Walmart might take a second look at Walmart Grocery.
Walmart Grocery is best for people who want home delivery and like the idea of combining grocery shopping with shopping for other household items -- just like they do in Walmart stores.
People who don't mind picking up groceries as long as they don't have to shop for them are best off saving the subscription fee and sticking with pickup service.
Are Grocery Delivery Services Worth It?
To determine if a grocery delivery service is worth the cost, examine your life and schedule. Grocery delivery could be a significant time-saver when you're constantly running from one task to the next.
New-customer discounts let you try these services at low cost and little or no commitment. Discounts can be especially useful if you're trying meal-kits for the first time and aren't sure how they'll fit into your routine. It's also a low-risk way to experiment with a variety of services to see which works best for you and your budget.
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This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: AmazonFresh, Instacart and More: The Best Grocery Delivery Service for Your Budget