Are you wondering how to order groceries online? We share our tips for ordering from local grocery stores, online stores in bulk and grocery delivery services and apps.
Note: We use referral links to products we love.
Understanding Online Grocery Options
Cris here. Many readers have been asking me about how we order online groceries. Since we travel quite a bit, we have learned how online grocery ordering options can vary greatly from region to region. This is especially true during peak times such as holidays or emergencies. The best strategy we have found is to be flexible and use a range of options to meet our needs. The options we have used regularly for years fall into three main categories:
- Local Grocery Store Pick-Up and Delivery Options
- Purchasing Items in Bulk Online
- Grocery Store Delivery Apps
Ordering Groceries Online From Your Local Grocery Store
Most major grocery store chains have online ordering options. Usually it is as easy as going to their website and looking at the top menu on their website. Depending on where you live they will give you options for grocery pick-up and sometimes even delivery to your home. Many chains offer free grocery pick-up either same day or next day, while some will charge a small fee. Sometimes busy times cost a fee while less busy times are free. Most delivery options do involve fees and also tips for your driver. You will see what is available to you on your grocer’s website. Check with your chain for their specific terms.
Below are the websites to grocery stores we have ordered from in the past:
How to Order Groceries for Pick Up or Delivery
Step One: While each store is a little different, the basic process is the same. First, you search for items using their search bar and add them to your cart.
Step Two: Then, when you are ready to check out you are prompted to pick a pickup or delivery time. Normally there will be plenty to choose from. However, during holidays and emergencies, you may have limited times to choose from.
Online Grocery Shopping Tip: If by chance there are not any time slots, try again in a few hours or the next day. If you have made an account and logged in, your items in your cart should save until you can find a time slot.
Step Three: Before checking out with your credit card, most stores will ask you if you allow substitutions on items. Most stores default to allowing substitutions, however if there are specific things that you don’t want substituted, you can usually opt out by un-checking those items. Regardless, you will always have the option to deny a substitution when you pick up your order or when it is delivered. You just tell them no thanks and it is no trouble.
Optional Step: If you happen to forget something, most stores will allow you to continue to add items up until a cut-off time that they specify at check-out. You can just add it to your existing order.
Step Four: Once your time slot approaches, an employee will go handpick your items and set them aside for you. If an item is out of stock, they will try to substitute it or if there is no suitable substitution they will just deduct the item from your bill. You will usually get an email or text about any out of stock or substitutions before it is time for you to arrive.
Step Five: If you are doing grocery pick up, the store will send you a notification that your order is ready, you simply drive to the store and park in a designated spot. They usually have a number you can call to tell them you are there. You do not need to get out of your car. The employee will load the item in your car for you. All they need from you is a signature.
Pros and Cons of Online Shopping with Your Local Grocery Store
I love ordering groceries from my local grocery store online. I usually make an order about once a week. However there are a few things I don’t like about it.
Pros of Ordering from My Grocery Store Online
- Service is offered at most larger grocery chains.
- During busy seasons (holidays, emergencies, etc.) it helps me avoid crowds.
- Ordering groceries from my kitchen helps me be smart with my budget. I can order groceries from my phone, computer or tablet while looking through my fridge and pantry. This allows me to know exactly what a recipe calls for and exactly what I need.
- I can take my time ordering groceries without feeling rushed.
- I don’t have to get out of the car at the store.
Cons of Ordering from My Grocery Store Online
- The major con of ordering from my regular grocery store online is that product availability can change before the employee shops for me.
- Substitutions sometimes are less than desirable.
- Communication is limited regarding substitutions.
- Fees and Delivery Tips can increase my grocery budget.
Purchasing Grocery Items in Bulk Online
Another way we have purchased grocery items online for years is by buying them in bulk from Amazon and other retailers. We primarily have done this to save money, particularly with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save to save money and not worry with hauling around bulky items to and from the store.
Online Bulk Shopping Tip: Beware of price increases and at times price gouging. Make sure you check the prices of the item and know the number of items you are purchasing. Online prices can change a LOT from month to month.
Grocery Items We Like To Buy In Bulk Online
- Low Carb Pastas
- Sugar Substitutes
- Low Carb Bread (We freeze ours)
- Pet Food
- Toilet Paper
- Paper Towels
- Household Cleaners
- Laundry Detergent
- Paper Plates
Pros of Buying Items in Bulk Online
- You don’t have to lug the items around the store and to your car and then to your house.
- Sometimes you can save 15% or more.
- You rarely run out of items.
- Subscribe and Save can be canceled, skipped or managed anytime.
- Netrition is a great resource for hard to find low carb and low sugar items.
Cons of Buying Items in Bulk Online
- It is expensive to purchase large quantities of items even if they are at a steep discount. Some retailers charge shipping unless you purchase a large amount, increasing the expense.
- You need space to store unused bulk items until you are ready to use them.
- Prices aren’t always a good deal and you will need to research to make sure you are getting the best price.
Grocery Delivery Services and Apps
Another online grocery option is using Grocery Delivery Services. These services usually charge a fee and have a tip expectation. These services will vary greatly depending on where you live. Typically the closer to a major city you live, the more likely you will have some of these options. Almost all have websites or apps where you enter your zip code to determine availability. We have used the following grocery delivery services regularly:
Amazon Grocery Delivery Services
Amazon’s delivery services almost work identical to ordering from your local grocery store except they deliver everything to your door within 2 hours. Availability will depend on your region. Outside of the recent emergency, I have found they are rarely out of stock of items you select and far more reliable for specific needs.
I have used Amazon’s 2 hour delivery services for years and been very happy with them outside of the current situation. However, as the national emergency has progressed it has been increasingly difficult to get a time slot with Amazon’s 2-hour services in my area. It and is now nearly impossible to get a time slot in my area at the time I am writing this. I expect this will improve greatly soon.
Pros of Amazon Grocery Delivery Services
- 2 Hour Delivery
- Reliable Stock at Time of Order AND Time of Delivery
- Competitive pricing to local stores.
- No delivery fee if purchasing $35 or more
- Your driver will leave your groceries outside your door.
Cons of Amazon Grocery Delivery Services
- Availability is subject to your region.
- Emergencies can greatly impact ability to get on their schedule.
Using Shipt for Grocery Delivery
Shipt has been a godsend for me during the recent emergency. Shipt is a third party personal shopper app that partners with grocery, retail and pharmacy stores in your area. I have been using Shipt for 2 years both at home and when we travel.
Shipt works similarly to your local grocery store’s ordering process, except you use their app to order the items you would like. Then a personal shopper hired by Shipt (not a store employee) will begin communicating with you and shop on your behalf. If an item is not in stock, your personal shopper will communicate with you and offer you options. This comes in especially handy during emergencies and holidays when stores are out of a lot of items and you have specific needs.
Shipt’s personal shopper is the closest thing I have found to going to the store myself. Your personal shopper communicates with you in real time while they are shopping. You can make decisions or ask for something different. I have also found that Shipt has a lot more availability in my area for delivery than any other options I have found during this emergency.
Pros of Using Shipt Grocery Delivery
- Personal shopper can help you get exactly what you need given the availability of items in the store. This will help you make custom substitutions as needed.
- A wider range of stores and types of stores are covered through Shipt.
- In my region, Shipt has had a lot more availability for delivery during this emergency than my other online grocery options for delivery and even pick up.
- Your personal shopper can leave your groceries outside your door if you prefer or bring them inside for you if you need that assistance.
Cons of Using Shipt Grocery Delivery
- Shipt has an annual fee (Here is an offer for half off) and order minimums for free delivery. A tip for your personal shopper still needs to be added to your budget consideration.
- Shipt may or may not be available in your area.
- You will need to be available to communicate with your personal shopper if needed.
Note: Instacart is another popular grocery delivery app that many stores and regions use. However, I don’t have personal experience with them.
Other Grocery Help
If you cannot use any of these services either due to their availability in your area or your ability to afford them, I encourage you to contact your local churches. You do not have to go to their church for them to help you. If you need food assistance, they can put you in touch with local food banks. If you simply need to avoid large groups of people due to health or age concerns, they can likely find a volunteer to pick up your groceries for you.