Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 01, 2018 1:00 am

Online grocery

Productivity is back in town. Long gone are summer days without schedules and to-do lists.

Late, lingering dinners must be tabled. Kids come home hungry and with little time to eat before homework beckons. This means being organized is a must; there is no time for a last-minute run to the store.

Online grocery shopping is a key player in the game of household efficiency. As much as I love wandering the aisles of a grocery store, taste-testing new products and picking out the perfect peach, there is often no time for this. Lugging bags from store to car to kitchen is a drag, as is waiting in line when the only time you can make it to the store is when everyone else can, too.

Once considered a luxury, online grocery shopping has become more common and affordable. A recent Nielsen study reveals that about a quarter of Americans buy some of their groceries online, and up to 70 percent will follow in the next six years. These days, grocery delivery services provide more than food at your doorstep. They include menu-planning tools, meal kits, farmers market quality, and same-day delivery. Sounds enticing, but with so many different fees to navigate and stores to choose from, where to begin?

What to look for in an online grocer:

Fee structure: Some collect delivery fees. Others charge a subscription fee for unlimited deliveries. Establish how often you will be using the service to determine whether the subscription model is cost-effective. Look for member coupons and free trials.

Delivery: Same-day delivery is appealing if you are too busy to plan ahead. Short delivery windows or unattended deliveries are ideal for people on the move, while longer delivery windows can save money.

Interface: Most sites offer automatic reordering. Some enable you to buy ingredients straight from recipes or easily add items to your order after checkout. If you are always on the go, you'll want a user-friendly mobile app.

Variety: Would you prefer to shop at one store, or amass items from many stores into one delivery? Decide if you are interested in extras such as meal kits, chopped vegetables, and organic, gluten-free, all-natural or local foods before you pick a service.

Here are some things I have learned and mistakes I've made as I experimented with different online grocers:

Check unit quantities. I once inadvertently ordered 5 pounds of sweet potatoes instead of five individual ones.

Contact customer service if your blueberries spilled. Most companies will immediately credit or redeliver a missing or damaged item.

Book a delivery slot ahead of time during holidays and busy periods such as the day before the Super Bowl or before an impending snowstorm. Tuesday and Wednesday are often the cheapest and most available delivery days.

Search online for first-time-customer coupons and free trials, as not all are advertised.

– Casey Seidenberg, Washington Post