Online grocery shopping: is it worth it?
No matter how much we think our family’s meal planning is optimized, there is always room for improvement. Earlier this year we published Maude and Marie’s strategies for meal planning and weekly menus. Whether your shopping habits are dictated by what’s on sale, or planned in advance by weekly menus, it’s clear there is more than one way to achieve your grocery shopping and meal planning dreams!
Adopting a meal planning strategy is essential for efficient week nights.
Why not try grocery shopping online?
The evolution of online grocery shopping offers new tools to plan and shop more effectively. You can browse store offerings from the comfort of your home – hey, anything that can be done wearing pyjamas is a win in our books.
Most services allow you to either i) shop online and pickup in store at a scheduled time, or ii) shop online and schedule a delivery for an additional fee.
Instead of shopping the aisles, you shop their website. You can’t see and smell the produce, but you can search by keywords!
Why adopt online grocery shopping?
We can think of several benefits upfront, namely time, money, and convenience.
For example, if you had planned to try a new recipe and made your ingredients list, you can figure out what’s available ahead of time, and if any substitutions are needed. Googling alternate recipe ingredients while stranded in a grocery store aisle is no one’s idea of fun.
What’s even better is that you know your bill before you submit your order. No more surprises at the cash register, no more having to eliminate items making split second decisions while annoyed customers wait in line behind you. Heck, this could even see the extinction of the nightmare couple arguing at the Costco cash register over an insurmountable bill!
Did we also say you can shop online at any time from anywhere, even in your PJs!
Advantages include sticking to your budget, substituting ingredients based on availability, and shopping from the comfort of your home!
What to consider when comparing services
As we see more and more services booming in our neighborhood, we decided to compare our options. We cross-compared a few services available in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Disclaimer: services offered in your locale may vary, but for the sake of this exercise, our concluding points still apply.
Here is how we approached our comparison of grocery pickup and delivery services:
1) The grocery shopping list
Our fridge was quite empty, our fruits/veggies stockpile depleted, so we set up a pretty well-rounded list to capture items across various grocery and produce categories
2) Selecting retailers
Based on what was available in our area, we picked some of the major services that have comparable offerings on our shopping list.
We compared the following retailers:
- Walmart Grocery Pickup
- Fortinos Grocery Pickup
- Instacart Grocery Delivery (Instacart’s orders in our area are fulfilled by Fortinos, so this offered an additional controlled comparison):
- Grocery Gateway (fulfilled by Longos)
More and more retailers are offering online grocery shopping options.
Which online grocery shopping service is the best?
Well that is impossible to answer as it depends on what your family values! Everyone has different needs and realities, and place value on different aspects of the shopping experience.
Convenience of the service
- If you are picking up your online order, do you have a car and how far are you driving? You may find the convenience of shopping online worth the trouble of potentially driving further for pick up, compared to shopping in person at a closer grocery store.
- Is it a must for you to have your order delivered to your house?
- Can you book a time slot that works for you? Some places will partially ship your order even if you go for pick up in person. Typically, this happens if the item is not carried at your store, and instead will be sent to you from a distribution center.
Variety of food available
- Some people shop at one store and stick with whatever is available.
- Others may shop at many different stores for select items, especially if they have a more elaborate menu or require exotic ingredients for recipes. Take some time to make your shopping list and browse stores online in your area to see if those hard-to-get ingredients are available!
Local and in-season produce
- Do you want seasonal fruits and to support local farmers? Depending on which retailer you target, getting local, seasonal varieties of vegetables, fruit, dairy, and meats is just a few clicks away. Sure, you’ll pay a premium for it, but if it is important based on your personal grocery shopping values, choose a retailer that also value it!
- If you are sticking to a budget it will boil down to price.
- Decide where the balance between convenience, variety and local supply lies for YOU!
- How much is it worth for you to pay a premium to get your groceries delivered to your house (both in time and $$)?
Pick a service that aligns with your values.
What we think of the current options
We love online grocery shopping
First off, what a time to be alive! Online grocery shopping is here to stay…for-the-win! Whether you choose to pick up or deliver, it’s pretty much a win on the convenience front. We’ve done both, and ultimately, it’s super convenient to have a delivery, but the pickup options are streamlined and relatively hassle-free.
You’re gonna pay for variety
No surprise that variety increased with the more expensive retailers. Walmart lacks many exotic ingredient varieties, and you can’t select local produce. However, Walmart does continue to improve their offerings. Walmart is an excellent option for budget-conscious shoppers that want to stock their kitchen/households with the essentials minus the trouble of shopping in-store.
On the other end, Grocery Gateway not only offers a plethora of exotic ingredients, local/seasonal produce, a huge array of ready-to-serve foods, but you can even purchase alcohol! Just be prepared to pay the premium for this.
Delivery will also come with a $$ cost
We also wanted to address our controlled-comparison between Fortinos (pickup) and Instacart (delivery). Both orders are fulfilled from the SAME Fortinos stores. Unfortunately, we found that Instacart does not keep up with the Fortinos weekly flyer. That means in addition to the general markup you pay on each item, the price gap grows further on flyer items. Tack on fees for delivery and service (i.e. a personal shopper), and you’ll be paying about 15% more for the same order. The perks are that you can get really quick delivery…like in an hour! Again, perhaps this is a service that is worth paying for for your family.
What we think of it all
In terms of price range, we calculated a $38.15 difference between the cheapest pickup (Walmart), and most expensive delivery (Grocery Gateway) options. In the end, your grocery order can cost up to 25% more if you want access to more exotic ingredients, ready-to-serve foods, local/seasonal produce, alcohol, and delivery. Take this into consideration and decide where the tradeoff lies for you!
What does your family value and how much are you ready to pay for it