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Are the grocery delivery services worth it?

January 3, 2016
Tips

I cringe every time I read articles claiming grocery delivery is disrupting food. However, given I live in the nation’s start-up hot bed-the San Francisco Bay area-I decided to give in to curiosity and see whether grocery delivery services were worth it.

 

Our grocery situation is complicated

In any given month we typically visit Whole Foods, Trade Joes, Costco, Target, Safeway, Mollie Stones (a local store that is a hybrid between Whole Foods and Safeway), the local corner store, and/or Walgreens. Key drivers of our choices are meat quality, produce quality, price, and access to national brands with ingredients that despite my best persuasions I just cannot convince my husband to abandon. We’ve tried farmers market, but they just doesn’t square with our toddler’s weekend activity schedule nor are the prices competitive.

 

Our most usual weekly combination is Whole Foods/Safeway to get our mix of fruits, vegetables, meat and pantry staples. Keeping track of what we can buy at each store was a pain until we discovered a great grocery list app that keeps us honest across all our stores, but multiple store visit was still a pain.

 

I was curious if a solution to our grocery needs existed with one of the delivery services

If I could eliminate one of the store visits per week at a reasonable price, it would be worth it, but was this even possible? I decided to try two options-Amazon Fresh and Instacart- to see for myself. (Note: Walmart’s grocery service operates in the Bay area but since we don’t shop there for anything else, I didn’t consider trying it).

 

Amazon Fresh

amzn fresh bags

What it is: Amazon’s subscription grocery service that costs $299/year and requires a minimum order of $50 for delivery.  The $299 does include Amazon’s prime services.  Learn more on their website here.

Pros

  • The selection is pretty good
  • It can be delivered by 7am so I can unpack everything before leaving for work

Cons

  • Only carries brand names
  • Several major staples we use are missing
  • Produce is hit or miss and usually a miss in that it is either already over ripe or rotten or does so extremely fast
  • There is no rhyme or reason to what Amazon Fresh carries vs. Amazon Pantry vs. Amazon
  • Amazon’s prices are not always competitive

 

Instacart

instacart shopper

What it is: A service that delivers anything you select from a store such as Whole Foods, Target, Mollie Stones, etc. if it is in stock within 1-2 hours for $7.99 a delivery. Learn more on their website here.

Pros

  • Replaces a trip to Whole Foods
  • Can be delivered in two hours
  • There are no mark ups on prices in the store

Cons

  • There is always at least one substitute which I have to make via proxy versus being there in person
  • Produce quality is dependent on another person’s judgement
  • Pricey if it becomes a habit

 

Overall

While neither service is 100%, our family has shifted its grocery habits to Whole Foods/Mollie Stones and Amazon Fresh with an occasional trip to Target or Costco.  After several mishaps with produce from both Amazon Fresh and Instacart I no longer outsource this to anyone but myself.  It’s prevented last minute creative recipe making because I just discovered the eggplant delivered was rotten and has reduced food waste.  I have used Instacart here and there but as a regular solution it just doesn’t work for our family.

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