Fresh food delivered, with no supermarket shuffle

Online grocery shopping and meal subscription services can save time, money

Created date

May 10th, 2016
Fresh food delivered through online grocery shopping.

Fresh food delivered through online grocery shopping.

It can be hard to find enough time to go grocery shopping. Busy schedules and important tasks often take precedence over clipping coupons and planning meals. Inclement weather and physical impairments make traveling to the store and carrying heavy bags a challenge.

Online grocery shopping and meal subscription services eliminate these inconveniences and concerns. They allow you to purchase everything on your list, from paper towels to pumpkin puree, and have it delivered at your earliest convenience. Or you can subscribe to a company that sends you ingredients and instructions to make a delicious meal for two. All of this is available at your fingertips through your computer, smartphone, or tablet. 

Fresh fruits, veggies, and more

Safeway, Giant Food, Sam’s Club, and Wal-Mart are just a few of the grocery store chains that offer online shopping services. Some provide delivery as soon as hours after placing an order, while others only offer a pickup option. In either scenario, online grocery shopping can save you time, and often money, with discounts available exclusively to delivery and pickup customers. 

Once you create an online account with the grocery store of your choice, you can shop departments and aisles just like you would in a brick-and-mortar market. Add everything on your list to your virtual cart, including spices, baking supplies, household necessities, and even perishable items like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meats. Most sites let you save your frequently ordered items for a more efficient experience, and some even offer recipe ideas. For even faster and more convenient grocery shopping, download the store’s app to your smartphone or tablet.

Because these stores allow you to purchase perishable items, you need to choose a specific window of time during which your groceries will be delivered or picked up. Luckily, many provide flexible options so you can find the time and day most convenient to your busy schedule. Delivery fees vary but tend to average between $10 and $15, and some locations do require a minimum order to qualify for delivery service. 

Nonperishable foods and household items

Online giant Amazon recently introduced Prime Pantry, which the company describes as a “store where Prime members can shop for groceries and household products in everyday package sizes.” This service offers reduced prices on frequently purchased items and nonperishable foods, including toilet paper, cake mix, and canned beverages, all without having to order bulk quantities. Each Pantry box costs $5.99 to ship, regardless of size or weight. 

Amazon also offers the Dash Button, a “Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite item with the press of a button,” according to their website. It’s adhesive on one side, so a Dash Button for Tide can be placed right on your washing machine, for example. That way, when you pour out the last of your detergent, you can order more to be shipped right to your home without having to leave your laundry room. Dash Buttons are available for $4.99 each, and correspond to other household items as well as beverages, snacks, pet items, and more. 

Unlike the online grocery stores, you don’t have a same-day delivery option; in fact, delivery varies based on availability and location. Additionally, you must be an Amazon Prime member ($99 per year) to use these services.

Meal subscription services

If you love to cook but don’t like planning menus or marketing, a meal subscription service like Blue Apron, Plated, or Hello Fresh may be perfect for you. Here’s how it works: First, create an online account with the meal subscription service of your choice. Choose the number of meals and the number of servings you would like to be sent per week—for example, three meals for two people each week. Then, you select the recipes that look the most delicious or most closely match your preferences. You can do all this on your computer, or you can download the service’s app to manage everything from your smartphone or tablet.

The subscription service then sends you all the ingredients you need to make those meals—produce, protein, and all. The ingredients are shipped in a self-cooling box or container, and almost all companies guarantee freshness for a reasonable length of time between delivery and refrigeration. Most services are very flexible with their subscriptions, making it simple to change the number of servings per week, skip a few boxes, or just plain cancel. 

Of course, this only covers one meal a few days per week, and the average price per serving is around $10. However, if you’re interested in trying new foods and learning different cooking techniques, a meal subscription service is a great way to accomplish both.