Online grocery delivery can be a great way to save time and valuable if you can’t get out due to bad weather or illness. But what online grocery service delivers the most for your dollar: Amazon Fresh, Walmart, Safeway or Instacart.
A survey by Bain & Company and Google found that 25% of Americans used an online grocery delivery service at least once in the past year. While grocery delivery service availability varies by location, some areas offer several options. I compared three to see which offered the best value.
Amazon offers three different tiers of online delivery:
Amazon Prime Now has free two-hour delivery nonperishable items for Prime members only. (Membership is currently $119 per year.)
Amazon Prime Pantry is an additional $4.99 per month with Prime membership and offers household and dry goods items.
With its recent acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh now offers fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, beverages and alcohol plus dry goods. Amazon typically contracts with independent drivers to handle deliveries from their warehouses. The cost of an Amazon Fresh membership is $14.99 per month in addition to Prime Membership. The membership enables you to receive free delivery on orders over $50. (Orders under $50 incur a $9.99 delivery fee.) Deliveries can be scheduled in two-hour windows from 7 am until 9 pm.
Pros – Great selection, lots of organic items available plus cool meal kits and packaged lunches and dinners. Long delivery window seven days a week and need not be at home for delivery
Cons – The COST! You must be an Amazon Prime Member to join Amazon Fresh so you are looking at $24.91 per month PLUS and additional $14.99 for Fresh, whether or not you order anything. Also, food prices tend to be higher than many grocery stores although not as high as you may expect given the Whole Foods connection. Limited availability although they are expanding into more markets.
The Verdict – The site was easy to navigate and shop and loved that it remembered my previous order so I had a ready-made grocery list to add to or subtract from and suggestions for similar items I might want to order. My complete order arrived within the two-hour window (no substitutions!) after receiving texts letting me know it was on its way and when it arrived. Where I would give Amazon mixed marks is on their packaging – oversized paper bags that can’t be returned although they can be recycled, numerous ice packs which are still taking up space in my freezer – and the freshness of their fruits and vegetables (brown spots on bananas that need to last a week, not good). And the jury is out on whether the mandatory $5 tip added was convenient or a pain.
Like Amazon, Walmart offers several tiers of online grocery delivery.
Walmart 2-Day Shipping offers thousands of items including cereal, canned goods, household products, etc. (no fresh or frozen food) with no deliver fee on orders over $35.
Walmart Grocery – Using its own trucks and some private vehicles, Walmart Grocery delivers fresh, frozen and non-perishable items in as little as four hours.
Pros – Delivery window of 9 am-7 pm, same-day delivery, large selection of items with same prices as offered in stores
Cons – The biggest is that you must be home to sign for the delivery and show ID for alcohol purchases. Although membership isn’t required, there is a $7.95-9.95 delivery fee and minimum $30 order required. Limited availability although expanding to more cities.
The Verdict – Although it was a pain to be home, delivery was on time and in these nifty blue totes, a step up from Amazon’s paper bags. Like Amazon, the freshness of some of the fruit and vegetables was lacking and they were out of a few items (although they replaced with higher end substitutions without an additional fee). Of the three services tested, they had the lowest prices for the same items however, with the delivery fee, it ended up costing a tiny bit more than Amazon. But, for occasional online grocery delivery without having to buy a membership, Walmart Grocery is an ideal option.
Safeway Delivery via Instacart
Safeway (along with over 190 retailers including Kroeger (QFC/Fred Meyer), Costco, Wegmans and Publix) has partnered with Instacart to offer same day grocery delivery. Orders can be delivered in as little as an hour or you can reserve a time up to five days in advance.
Pros – Available in more markets than Amazon or Walmart, huge selection of fresh, frozen and household items, offers store coupons, do not need to be home to accept order, no membership required, delivery times range from 9 am to 9 pm.
Cons – The fees which vary per retailer. For Safeway delivery, the fees are $3.99 on orders of $35 or more (although it is waived if you order certain eligible items), $7.99 on orders under $35 and $5.99 for delivery within the hour. Delivery is free if you sign up for Instacart Express. ($99 per year after free two week trial)
The Verdict – Slightly higher prices than the store. I did like that Instacart warned me if they were out of an item and suggested substitutions as opposed to Walmart arbitrarily making the substitution. Like Amazon, Instacart adds a driver tip and a “service fee” on top of the delivery fee. I do give high marks to my driver – who also shopped for my order – he was there five minutes before the delivery window began and did an excellent job of picking the fruit and produce. Unfortunately, there was a duplicate item, a mistake on another and everything was packed in flimsy paper bags, low marks for eco-friendly. Instacart immediately prompted me for a review and, after I mentioned the mistakes, I was offered a credit and free delivery on the next order – high marks for customer service.
Safeway Delivery via Store
In certain areas, Safeway offers delivery using their own drivers.
Pros – Same day delivery between 8 am – 10 pm, free delivery on first order and $20 off with orders of $75 or more, uses reusable paper or plastic bags – more eco-friendly!
Cons – Charges delivery fee plus service fee of $3.95-$4.95 on order. Minimum order of $30. Must be at home to accept delivery.
If you frequently order groceries online, Amazon, with its selection and free delivery with membership, may be the most economical. For occasional orders, Walmart and other non-membership services, seem like a better deal. With so many options and the convenience or shopping at home, online grocery delivery is worth trying.
If you frequently order groceries online, Amazon, with its selection and free delivery, may be the most economical. For occasional orders Walmart and other non-membership services, seem like better deal. With so many options and the convenience or shopping at home, online grocery delivery is worth trying.