Wondering what e-grocery services are all about? Catch up on the basics of the almost $20 billion grocery delivery business and learn some pros and cons of some of the most popular services available.

By Andrea Beck
June 18, 2019
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If you find yourself ordering in or carrying out, an e-grocery service can help. Last year, estimated e-grocery sales in the U.S. totaled over $19.8 billion, a growth of more than 18 percent as people increasingly adopt this method of grocery shopping. Although Amazon tops the list of e-grocery retailers, Walmart and Target are both growing their own delivery services, and there are plenty of other e-grocers entering the market. For most services, you don't even have to leave your house (or remember to bring a grocery list). Here are the basics of using grocery delivery services, with a rundown on some of the most popular options to help you decide if it's right for you.

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What Is E-Grocery?

Each e-grocery service is a little different, but for most, the premise is the same: you visit an online store and pick your groceries, then a personal shopper will go grab them for you and deliver them to your door. Shopping for groceries online is just like ordering anything else; you can browse or search for the items you want, then add them to your cart and checkout (and since you're browsing online, you might not be as tempted to add impulse buys into your cart). Usually, you'll schedule a delivery time so you can accept your delivery in person, which keeps your fresh produce and cold foods from sitting out for too long. Some e-grocery services require a membership, while others charge a delivery fee or a service fee.

Popular Grocery Delivery Options

Interested in trying e-grocery for yourself? Not all grocery delivery services are the same, so to help you find the right fit, here are some features of the most popular e-grocers.

AmazonFresh/Amazon Prime Now

Amazon Prime members, this might be the best grocery delivery service for you. Free delivery is included in your Prime membership, so you can get all of your groceries sent to your door, including pantry staples and fresh produce. AmazonFresh gives you the option of scheduling a one-hour window to accept your delivery or to have your groceries dropped off on your doorstep like any other Amazon order (but with special packaging to keep your food at the right temperature). Or you can get non-grocery items (along with food) through Amazon Prime Now, which offers free 2-hour delivery.

One downside is that despite how quickly Amazon can ship products all over the country, both of their e-grocery services are still a bit limited. AmazonFresh and Amazon Prime Now are both available in larger U.S. cities (think Seattle, New York, and Washington D.C.), but if you live in a smaller city or town, they might not deliver to your area. You also have to be an Amazon Prime member to use either service, so if you don't already have Prime, consider other options.

Instacart

If you've found other e-grocers don't deliver to your area, check out Instacart. The company has a long list of cities and states that they deliver to on their website (including Hawaii and Alaska!). And they go beyond large metro areas; some small cities and towns are included, too, such as Des Moines, Sioux Falls, and Portland, Maine (along with some towns with populations under 5,000). Instacart hires personal shoppers that will go pick out your groceries for you, then deliver them to your door (sometimes as quick as an hour later). You can order groceries from stores in your local area by creating a list of what you need through Instacart, and then schedule a delivery time.

All Instacart orders must be at least $10, and you'll be charged a delivery fee based on the size of your order and your chosen delivery time. But if you try Instacart and like it, consider signing up for Instacart Express. You'll pay a yearly or monthly fee, but no delivery fee on orders over $35. Instacart also charges a 5 percent service fee, but that may seem a small percentage to pay for the convenience of avoiding crowded aisles and parking lots, especially since there's no required membership fee.

Shipt

Shipt delivers nationwide and has same-day delivery available in larger cities in 46 states. Similar to Instacart, you can choose a store in your local area to order from, then get a delivery from a personal shopper. Shipt also has the advantage of including stores that sell more than just groceries (hello, Target!) so you can include other household staples in your order. The company offers a free two-week trial, so if you're not sure if grocery delivery is for you, it's an easy way to try it out without racking up extra fees.

One potential downside of Shipt is that after your trial, you have to purchase a membership to continue using it. You can pay $14 per month to join Shipt on a monthly basis, or you can enroll in a yearly Shipt membership for $99. However, a perk of having a Shipt membership is that you'll get free delivery on orders over $35 (orders under that limit will have a $7 delivery fee). Joining Shipt is more of a commitment than some e-grocery services, but it can pay off if you're often short on time for grocery shopping and Target runs.

Other E-Grocery Options

While a lot of e-grocery services will shop for you and then deliver your items to your door, there are a few other options out there that let you save time while skipping delivery fees. Walmart has a same-day grocery delivery service in some of the U.S.'s larger cities, but they also offer free grocery pick-up, where you order your groceries online, then make a quick trip to your local store to grab everything without having to roam the aisles. If you're more of a Target shopper, they have a similar drive-up service that lets you order online, then pick everything up at once (and they'll bring it to your car!).

Some regional grocery store chains, like Hy-Vee and Kroger, also have their own similar services where you can pick up your grocery order without ever grabbing a physical cart, and most will even bring your order out to your car. Publix has a similar service, which is powered by Instacart. If you don't mind making a trip to pick everything up, it can be more affordable than other grocery delivery services and quicker and easier than going into the store yourself. And it's another way to experiment with e-grocery.

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