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The pros and cons of online grocery shopping

Shopping online has become a staple of our culture. These days, more and more goods are available on the internet—including groceries. For some, the convenience of shopping anytime, anywhere can make a big difference while others are more skeptical about giving it a try. If you’re unsure about getting into the online grocery shopping game, here’s a run-down of the most popular options available to you.

Online grocery shopping options

  • Online delivery: Companies like Amazon and Walmart offer options for online grocery shopping with same day or next day delivery as well as options to buy in bulk at cheaper rates.
  • Local grocery stores: Many local or chain grocery stores like Giant Eagle or Walmart offer curbside pick-up service for online shoppers. Other services, like Instacart, allow you to choose from a variety of stores and offer delivery right to customers’ homes.
    • Pre-bagged pick up: This option allows you to order online and pick up your bagged groceries at the store.
    • Bagged and delivered: With bagged and delivered, your order is gathered, bagged, and then delivered to your home during a pre-chosen timeframe.
  • Online meal delivery kits: Home meal delivery kits—like HelloFresh or Blue Apron—are becoming increasingly popular. These companies offer options for a set number of meals each week and mail the raw materials to your home for you to prep, cook, and enjoy. 

Pros of online grocery shopping

Time management: The biggest benefit of online grocery shopping is the ability to shop whenever you want 24/7—without having to spend time walking around the grocery store. You can send your order during your lunch break, while the kids are at soccer, or even while lying in bed. This saves time and can ease the stress of having to head to the store after a long day.

Savings: Many online grocery shopping platforms allow you to compare brands with a few clicks which means you can choose the most cost-effective option every time. You can also watch you cart total change in real time as you add items to your cart which will help you stay on budget. With the meal kit services, there is a set price that you pay for a variety of meal options. They sometimes offer the option to upgrade or add on, but knowing ahead of time how much your weekly meals will cost can help you keep on budget.

Avoid impulsive buys: You know when you head into the store for milk and eggs, but you leave with your arms full of bags? Marketing professionals know how to catch your attention and convince you to buy items you probably don’t need. Everything from the placement of products in the store to the packaging and shelf height can have an impact on the likelihood of a consumer buying it. Shopping online means that you won’t fall victim to those marketing tricks.

Choice in delivery: Depending on the platform you are using for your online grocery shopping, you can decide whether you need your groceries ASAP or if you can wait a day or two. Many of these platforms offer delivery in as little as two hours, but you can also choose to wait for a few days. That means you can shop ahead for a large party or event and have your food delivered on the day for your convenience. 

Plan healthy meals: If you are trying to plan healthy meals for your family, online grocery shopping can help you find the items you need for your menus. You have the ability to build your meals according to recipes while picking the healthiest, most cost-effective options for your family. 

Stay organized: Many online grocery shopping platforms help you save time by creating shopping lists that you can return to again and again. You can also automate purchases so the things you buy regularly are delivered to your door when you need them without you having to think about it.

Cons of online grocery shopping

Price: While the comparison features can help you save money, savings are not a guarantee. You may find that you pay a little more overall than you would shopping on your own, due to either mark ups or delivery fees. Not to mention, meal kit options can drive up costs, fast! Make sure you understand the associated fees and build them into your budget if you’re going to try grocery delivery.

Missing items: Sometimes stores run out of items you need. Most online delivery options allow for substitutions which can allow you to still get the same or similar product, but that’s not always the case. Similarly, certain perishable items may not be available due to shipping constraints with some of these services. Be sure you understand the missing item policy of the service you use before placing your order.

Experience: Some people just like to go to the grocery store. If you enjoy the experience of walking around the store, planning meals on the fly, and hunting for the best bargains, online grocery shopping may not be for you.

Quality of produce: With online grocery shopping, you’re not actively picking your own items—and that’s important for produce. While these services have dedicated staff picking out your food, the bottom line is they may not pick the produce you would have. If you are particular about ripeness, color, or other aspects of you fruits and veggies, you may not want to order them on the internet.

Whether or not online grocery shopping is for you is a personal decision that should be made based on your family’s budget, time, and specific needs. As the trend grows, no doubt the platform options and service areas will grow with it. So, go ahead: weigh your options and give it a try. It may just change your life!