Home grocery delivery is great, but make sure you don’t over pay for it

Today, I attempted home grocery delivery for the first time in several years using the Instacart service. If you aren’t familiar with Instacart, it’s a “portal” of sorts for online ordering of groceries to your home or business. Currently, in DC, there are several stores available in my zip code including major stores such as Costco, Whole Foods, and Safeway. I was a little surprised that Costco is an option. I am not a Costco member, so I will attempt to use them next time to see what happens.

First, the good. Really slick interface. Very easy to select the store of your choosing and the items you’d like to buy. The selections were very inclusive, so essentially no drawback for variety there. Second, first delivery was free (normally $4 and up), which is a huge bonus given the time saved from driving to the store, picking out the groceries, driving home, and then unloading them. Third, the delivery window, even on a Sunday was very convenient. We put our order in around 11:15am and we had our grocery delivery at 1:20pm.

grocery delivery

Credit: Safeway

Now, the drawbacks. First, our order wasn’t completely available without some substitution. But, a very helpful, friendly “personal grocery shopper” called and let us know and carefully went over the options. In the end, it wasn’t a big a deal that we swapped our items, but at the store, one might be able to re-think things more easily when presented with visual options. Second, using coupons is not really possible with their platform, but they do have specials and other promotions. Third, and this is probably the largest drawback, the price differential between Instacart and Safeway.com for the same item item was substantial. Take a look at these screenshots below for a half gallon of milk purchased at Safeway.com vs. Instacart while shopping through the Safeway store. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Instacart grocery delivery

Credit: Instacart

If you look closely, you will notice that the same half gallon of 1% milk from Safeway.com is $2.79 vs. $3.49 using Instacart to shop at Safeway. In other words, it could be cheaper to use Safeway.com for grocery delivery than Instacart for the same food products at the same store.

Now, I can’t say this is a universal truth for all products bought on the Instacart site, but you should make sure you aren’t overpaying for the same item that you are buying online anyway.

Grocery delivery is a great option if available to you

Since I live in a dense, urban area, these types of services are definitely worth the delivery fee. But, if we continue to shop online for groceries, I am going to compare the native shopping sites first to see if I can use coupons, and if the prices are better, to make sure we aren’t overpaying.

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