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11 Useful Things You Should Know About Online Grocery Shopping

online grocery shopping

There are a dizzying amount of options when it comes to online grocery shopping these days! I’ve been a regular patron of the pick-up and delivery services offered by my local Smith’s store for the past year or so, and they continue to save me a huge amount of time and effort.

Even if your local grocer doesn’t offer delivery, a surprising amount of grocery stores now offer pick-up services. But if you’re interested in grocery delivery specifically, I recommend checking whether services like Walmart Grocery Delivery, Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or Shipt are available in your area.

And since online grocery shopping has been such a game-changer for me personally, I wanted to share some of its biggest benefits with you in today’s post. I’ve also included a list of helpful tips and tricks you can use to ensure that your own online grocery shopping experiences go as smoothly as possible!

5 Things I Love About Online Grocery Shopping

online grocery shopping

1. I Don’t Worry About Cart Space

When I shop at the grocery store, I have to consider the size and weight of the things that I buy, which means I could miss out on lower prices if I don’t have the cart space for bulk items. But I don’t have to worry about that when shopping online, so I can choose the biggest package of toilet paper without worry.

Related: 7 Things You Need To Know About Using Self-Checkout

online grocery shopping

2. It Saves Time

When I shop at the grocery store, I feel like I spend a lot of time wandering around trying to find the items on my list. But when I shop online, I can just type the name into the search bar, check out the options, and click one to add it to my cart!

online grocery shopping

3. No Crowds Or Lines

I used to try to time my trips to the store for just the right times to try and avoid crowds and long lines, but I don’t have to worry about either when I’m doing pick-up or delivery.

online grocery shopping

4. It Saves Gas

Getting your groceries delivered right to your door is an easy way to save gas in your car. Even grocery pick-up can save you gas if you combine the trip with other errands!

online grocery shopping

5. I Make Fewer Impulse Buys

It can be hard to resist the snacks, drinks, and magazines that frame the checkout line. Shopping online makes it much easier to stick to your list and budget by eliminating the temptation of those impulse buys.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits of shopping for groceries online, you might be ready to give it a try for yourself! Here are 11 tips and tricks that will help you have a smooth and successful shopping experience.

11 Tips And Tricks For Online Grocery Shopping

online grocery shopping

1. You Don’t Have To Start From Scratch Every Time

If you get a lot of the same items every time you shop, you don’t have to waste time building your order from scratch for every new order. Instead, just pull up any of your past orders and click on the “Add All Items to Cart” option.

Once you’ve done that, you can make further adjustments to your cart by adding or deleting items as needed. (If the service you’re using doesn’t have the “Add All Items to Cart” function, you should still be able to add items from past orders to your current cart individually, which will still save you time versus starting from scratch!)

2. Use Filters For Easier Searching

If you’re searching for gluten-free bread, vegan ice cream, or plant-based “meats,” use search filters to help narrow your results. Most services have search filters that can limit your results to only gluten-free, kosher, vegan, or organic options, which is an excellent time-saver for those with specific dietary restrictions.

online grocery shopping

3. There Are Multiple Ways To Save

When using an online grocery service, you can take advantage of multiple types of discounts and deals. You may be able to use digital coupons on top of existing store sale prices, and some services even offer discounts of their own. Be sure to comb through the app or website thoroughly to explore all of your savings options.

4. You Can Send Groceries Anywhere

On certain services like Instacart, you can shop for groceries and get them delivered to friends or family members across the country. With this functionality, it’s easier than ever to lend a helping hand to someone you love by stocking their fridge and pantry.

Simply input their zip code, choose a store close to them, then fill your cart with whatever you want to send them. Enter their address as the delivery location and place the order, then you’ll be able to track progress, chat with their shopper while they shop, and see when the order is being delivered.

online grocery shopping

5. Read Carefully While You Shop

While grocery shopping online, certain items may be priced by weight while others are priced by quantity. You want to be sure you know which is which when adding something to your cart!

For example, I read about one shopper who delivered the 5 pounds of bananas a women ordered, only to realize that the woman had only intended to order 5 individual bananas! To avoid this type of situation, read carefully while you shop and avoid making assumptions.

6. The Early Bird Gets The Best Selection

One of the best times to order items like produce, proteins, and dairy products is early in the morning, because grocery stores typically restock them overnight. To improve your odds of finding all the fresh items on your shopping list, try creating your order the night before you’d like it to be delivered so you can select the earliest delivery slot for the next morning.

online grocery shopping

7. Keep Your Phone Handy And Respond Quickly

Once you’ve placed an order, keep your phone handy in the time leading up to your delivery window. Your shopper may need to contact you while they’re shopping for your items, and the quicker you can respond to them, the faster you’ll get your groceries (and the easier you’ll make life for your shopper!)

8. Be Flexible

What’s actually in stock at any given store is constantly changing, so just because something was listed as available doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to be in stock at the store. It’s best to be flexible when it comes to your online grocery order, so that if you end up with a couple of substitutions or something is out of stock, you’re mentally prepared for it.

online grocery shopping

Once your groceries have been delivered, take a few minutes to take an inventory and check it against your order details. If you were charged for something you didn’t receive, there’s usually a Help or Support section in the app or on the site where you can go to get a refund (but you won’t know if you need a refund if you don’t take the time to check!)

10. Sending Flowers Is A Lot More Affordable

Instead of paying upwards of $80 plus shipping costs for a flower arrangement from a floral service, why not shop online for a beautiful (and much more reasonably priced) bouquet of flowers from your local grocery store or specialty food store?

As long as you’re in the same area as the recipient (or as long as you choose a store that’s within the delivery range of your intended recipient), you can send someone flowers for a fraction of the cost you’d pay otherwise.

online grocery shopping

11. Try More Than One Service

It’s never a bad idea to try a few different options before making a decision, and the same is true for online grocery services. If you try one grocery service and have a bad experience, don’t give up!

Do a bit of research and try another, because the next one might be exactly what you’re looking for! Different services also offer different perks and charge different fees, so you don’t want to miss out on a better choice just because you stuck with the first option you tried.

Instacart, Shipt, Walmart, Target, Amazon Fresh, and other services all have their own unique benefits and quirks. Some grocery stores even have their own delivery service, so it’s worth it to look into all the options available to you in your area!

Have you tried online grocery shopping yet?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • When grocery shopping online, it’s important to read the descriptions carefully and not just go by the.picture of the product. You could end up with the right brand of cheese, but get shredded when you wanted grated,etc. I’ve learned that the hard way.

  • When I broke my ankle a few years back, I discovered Walmart+ and grocery delivery. The biggest upside for me is #5 Impulse Buys. I try to stay within a $40/week budget for my food and online shopping makes it easy. The only downside is that I miss out on clearance items. If a 3LB tray of ground beef is on clearance, I’ll scoop it up, take it home, and cook it then vacuum seal and freeze for another day. Part of the reason I like using Walmart is that if I don’t like a substitution, I can ask for a refund. I can also add a tip after my order has been delivered.

  • I have been using grocery delivery/pick up for almost 2 years. It is so helpful for me as I am aging and have less ability to do my shopping. It would be so beneficial for mothers with little children!
    When I have had a problem with my order, which will happen, one call to the store filling my order or an email to the company, has solved everything.
    The best part is that when there is a new product, they will include a sample. Yesterday, my order included a new apple, Cosmic Crisp Apple. All of us loved it.

  • Online grocery shopping saved us when I broke my arm AND leg in 2017! I’ve been using Walmart’s service ever since. It is wonderful for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I would make the list, put in the order, and my hubby would pick it up…otherwise we would have starved during the 4 months I was not weight bearing, LOL!

  • Grocery delivery is not an option where I live, so I tried the grocery pick-up. I learned two things. 1. you have to be very careful to choose exactly what you want. I wasn’t careful enough and ended up with a wrong size of something, or the wrong type of product. My fault and lesson learned. 2. I learned that I needed to check the list that comes out with the order carefully so that if something isn’t right, I should take care of it right then.
    The other problem the first time I tried it was that it was VERY hot the day of the pickup – that was one reason I tried pickup instead of going into the store – and the delivery was delayed. I couldn’t run the motor the whole time, so I was too hot anyway.
    I still think I could make it work and think it is a great service. I just thought I would give a few suggestions as precautions for others.

  • Hi, I am on the other side of the coin in this I. I am a SHIPT shopper. I love shopping for my customers and giving them the personal service they deserve. I serve families that do not have the time because of other obligations or they just want to save money and don’t want to drag the kids along. I also serve shut-ins, people who are sick (this is cyclical during certain times of the year), the handicapped, and even hospitals and nursing homes. For those who have anxiety about someone shopping for them, Jillee is right, we are trained to shop for produce and meat, among other things. I carry cooler bags for cold items and produce at all times and baskets in the back of my car for transport of delicate items such as eggs. I have regulars that I serve a lot, and they think of me as part of their family. What I would like to say is people do not understand how hard we work to provide the service. We are subcontractors – not employees, so that means we have to pay our own taxes, gas, medical, etc. While we do get a small percentage of the shop, the bulk of our pay comes from the generosity of our clients in the form of tips. There are a lot of people that don’t tip because they think we get a large percentage of the shop. We don’t. I would hope that everyone that considers using a service like this would consider the person who is doing the shop for them. We put up with a lot of scenarios to shop for our customers, i.e., hurricane and storm prep, holiday prep, etc, and sometimes it is difficult to find parking spaces, as well as dealing with long grocery lines. There are times that we are shorthanded and pick up the slack and do two and sometimes three shops in scheduled delivery hour and are expected to deliver them within that hour. I love my customers, even my grumpy ones, but I wish people knew that we do rely heavily on tips. I notice one person asked how much to tip. Please consider, if you can, tipping as much or close to what you would tip an attentive waiter or waitress in a restaurant. Believe me, we go way out of our way to serve our customers. Also, in regard to Amazon shopping, it is convenient for some, but rarely are you able to schedule late at night for small last minute pickups or unexpected emergencies, which I do a lot of, for unexpected emergencies. In my area we don’t just shop grocery shops, we do Target shops, pickup prescriptions at CVS as well as shop the same, and we do Petco and Costco, among a lot of grocery stores – so we are versatile in many ways. I’ve even taken the trash out for some of my customers and brought in their mail because we are family!

    • I am so happy that you happened to comment. I think that it can open the door for a valued and important conversation. I am a 65 yo woman who has her 40 yo adult son living with her. My son lives with me because he suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2013, and people look at us and think that I have a perfectly able bodied, healthy son who always helps keep out. He may be somewhat able bodied but believe me, he is NOT able minded to do even normal daily living tasks. Therefore, he can carry in all those bags of groceries that are delivered to my doorstep, but he can no longer do any of the shopping since his brain has damage in the “executive decision making area” and he can’t even remember to eat, brush his teeth, severe sleep issues and his shirt term memory is totally shot! I cannot do the physical part of the shopping anymore. My arthritis is awful, I am diabetic (it is the results of being diabetic that are bad), and I need surgery to put a rod in my spine that I will not have done. I use this service because we cannot, not because I don’t want to mess with the kids at the store. I remember those days, but WE just had to deal with them, but the were not allowed to behave as they appear to be today! (Sorry, but it’s true!) To us, this service is exactly that, a service, NOT a convenience. It is like a blessing straight from above! I am grateful beyond words. However, when I got set up on this program, it is not made clear that the person delivering my groceries did NOT work for the grocery store. Unfortunately, we are on a VERY limited income, way below poverty. The only reason I am able to purchase the amount of groceries that I do is because we qualify for food stamps. It is degrading and embarrassing. In all reality, I cannot afford to tip. But I do try to tip. Walmart doesn’t have “personal shoppers” that keep in contact with the customer. And I do sometimes get sub-par products or delivery. Even so, I am extremely grateful. What would YOU suggest someone in my situation should do? I have considered cancelling and not using this service anymore. In any event, everyone single customer has had individual circumstances behind those doors where the deliveries come. God bless all…

  • In the north-east we have Hannaford to Go service. I can keep my list on line, use hannaford rewards for purchasing their products , digital coupons and printed coupons. Can make notes like green bananas. Pay by cc or cash. Order must total $30 or more. They do charge $5 per order. They use nice paper bags with nice handles. I reuse these bags to put my paper/small boxes for recycling.

    Walmart does not charge a fee, but are still using plastic bags. Very often I shop at both the same day. I open both store’s web site and check on availability and price.

    With both of the web sites you have to make sure you are shopping at the store you want to pick up from. I have a choice of three Hannafords and three walmarts within 30 miles of home to use. Availability for products may be different in each store. I will use the stores closest to where I am going for other reasons.

    • I live in Des Moines, Iowa and the Walmarts here DO charge a fee! It is either $12.95 per month, unlimited delivery on the “pick up & delivery” grocery site And the Walmart.com, or a flat $99 per year. Also, you do not choose the store, they system does by demographics. I know because I am currently having an issue with them that I cannot seem to get resolved. My assigned store, which would be my choice if I could, is only about 5 minutes away. I have recently been having a problem where I go on that online store, order, but then they are Filling my order from a store about 15 minutes from me. I have complained because my last order, 10!+ things were “out-of-stock”…which makes sense when I shop one place and they go to another store! Also, I find that I often get sub-par produce, and I end up with warm dairy products and have dealt with warm, fresh salmon! Of course I can go on and get a refund, but the inconvenience is not the money, but the fact that you don’t get the items! I am struggling and am struggling with leaving Walmart and going to a local HyVee. Don’t want to, but apparently Walmart doesn’t care if they lose customers.

  • I have been using Clicklist for over a year now. For the most part, I love it (I’m a handicapped senior) The fee is usually $4.95, but recently, they’ve waived the fee for orders over $35.00! One advantage is if the store is out of the item you wanted and they sub a different brand at a higher price, you pay the LOWER price! They pack all the frozen items together and all the refrigerator items together – easy unpacking for you. I have found that it’s best to use the instructions area when ordering produce, for instance, firm avocados, firm tomatoes, green bananas, etc. Recently I ordered 2 sweet potatoes and I got 2 that were so small, they totaled less than 1/2 lb.! So, I know now to specify LARGE sweet potatoes. Same with turnips I ordered 4 and the 4 were lass than 3/4 lb.! You can also specify, if you don’t want substitutions made on certain items. I love that they keep track of your recent orders, so these items come up onscreen so you can reorder. Heads up – check your order before you hit SUBMIT. Sometimes the quantities are not what you intended. Most annoying when you want 3 of something and you only get one.

  • LOVE grocery order pickup! Only wish it had been around when I had toddlers..Game changer. I can stop get my groceries and get out of the parking lot before I would have been able to find a parking spot at my Walmart. My mom uses it so she doesn’t have to carry heavy groceries….And bonus, I feel like a princess!!

  • I’m so glad to hear about the produce! That’s one thing that swayed me away from it. Now I’m thinking they’ll pick out better produce than me since they actually know what to look for. Are they more expensive or is there a delivery/pickup charge though?

  • I’ve tried store delivery from Vons but I like the way Instacart does it better…I like the personal touch and that you can change tip on their site. I increase it if they do an especially good job. I haven’t tried it yet but it might come in handy later…they’ll shop a good variety of different stores, something I hate to do myself these days. I have “shopped” different stores and then go with the best deal. I often get free delivery if the offer on their site contains products I use.

  • do you tip the person that puts the groceries in the car when you pick up? If so, how much, and what is it based on ie total cost of groceries, busier time of day, attitude of the employee, all of the above etc.?

    • Reply to K: The Walmart where I use grocery pick up and delivery, I asked the employee about tipping, and was told they can accept tips but the money goes to charity. The employee does not keep the tip.

  • Other options that I am using frequently are Kroger, Sam’s Club, Target, Lowes, and Home Depot. It makes life so much easier, especially as the holiday season insanity gets closer.

  • Some day I hope these services are available to me. It’s so sad that if your not living in city suburbs you get none of the modern shopping options, lyft, door dash, or public transportation. You are stuck living in the dark ages.

    • I live in a rural area of Ohio, but I am able to get many grocery items shipped to my house from both Walmart and Amazon. I think Jet does it, too. The only things we can’t get this way are perishables and frozen items. I really love shopping online, because so much more variety is available to us than we could ever get by just relying on the local small town stores. By getting my groceries online, I can buy all sorts of ethnic foods, international items, herbs and spices, etc. that they just don’t carry in my town of 4000.

    • Reply to Jo McGovern: I get all my cat food and litter from Petco or Amazon. Petco gives free shipping if you use repeat delivery. Amazon Prime is almost always free shipping. It’s really great in the winter.

  • Amazon Fresh also saves your grocery list so you can easily add items that you buy each week without having to search for them over again. A real time saver. Plus you can get meal kits without the subscription service just to try them out. Which has been fun to do. We’ve enjoyed Tyson Mealmakers and Marleyspoon.

  • I have been using the online shopping options through my local Walmart. I could go on and on about how much I love it! Another added benefit that you may not have mentioned is that I can add items to my order through out the week when I think of them rather than having to look for my written shopping list which I might not have with me at the time. Then everything is compiled into one order for pick up at the time I choose. I don’t know if I’ll ever step foot in a grocery store again!!

  • I had a car accident a few yrs ago which made it very hard for me to drive, I had panic attacks if it was farther than a mile, that’s when I discovered delivery and pick up. I had groceries delivered from amazon and loved it, pet food delivered from chewy at a discount and I would do pickup from Walmart since it’s less than a mile away. Now that I can drive farther, I now don’t mind shopping but thinking of doing it again since it’s winter visiting season and every store is packed.

  • I work for SHIPT and can verify everything Jillie has said. We pick the best produce and meats. We take special requests. We deliver to your door and even take the groceries into your kitchen if you want. This is a great service for anyone but particularly those with mobility issues. I have become friends with my regular customers!

  • Per a neighbor’s glowing recommendation, I subscribed to Shipt about a year and a half ago. I shop the sales in my store’s flyer and was told by my neighbor that I could still get the sale prices. That was incorrect information. When I went online to do my shopping, there were sale items to choose from, but all items had a mark-up! Take for instance an item on sale in the flyer for $1, the sale price online was $1.29. That might not seem like much, but if you’re paying an extra $.30/item, it can really add up quick! Not only was Shipt $100/yr (I got it on sale for 50% off), but I was paying MORE for every item AND a tip for the delivery person. Furthermore, I wasn’t allowed to use my store rewards or coupons. I thought I might use the service in the winter when the roads were icy, but I just couldn’t get myself to pay all of the extra money. Things might have changed since I subscribed; buyer-beware, make sure you do your research with those shop/delivery services.

    • There are sales but you have to shop in the app, not the store flyers, There is a mark up at some stores but Target ownes Shipt and there is no mark up.

      • That’s also true at my grocery store. But the store’s app has terrible ratings and I refuse to poke out a long grocery list on a tiny screen, preferring my desktop computer. My husband has gone into the store (he goes in to personally select the produce) and asked the manager for the coupon discount and he has gotten it.

    • I work for a Grocery store. At our store the shoppers need your store card ID number to get the sale prices. If the shopper has the —- the cashier scans – that’s how you can get the items at the sales price. That’s how it’s always worked whether you shop in the store or have a personal shopper.

  • I have shopped online for groceries at Harris Teeter for over 4 years. It saves me time, money & stress. I click on their weekly sales flyer & can quickly plan out our meals based on the deals they have. I also use it when we vacation at NC & SC beaches. So easy to pre-order the food from home & pick it up when we get to our destination, feels like I get added vacation time! Some stores have apps so can order on your cell vs computer. I havent tried delivery yet but will do so during the busy holidays, thankfully, I have 3 harris testers near me that offer pickup so it has been easy to schedule on way home from work or errands. Some stores have yearly subscriptions where you get unlimited pickup. For example, I pay $99 for the year & on average pickup 2x week. That means approx. $1 per order!!! That is a bargain.

  • I don’t use the online grocery service. The store I work for started Instacart awhile back. It’s been very popular. They deliver groceries within an hour. We recently started the pickup service within the last month. They have a person who handles the pickup orders.

    • My mom reminded me that my sister and husband use the Walmart grocery pickup. I can see why they use. They have 2 kids oldest almost 5 and my almost 2 year old nephew. Some of those crazy kid ages .It would have been nice to have had this available when I was a kid. This also nice if your unable to drive anymore.

  • I am a senior with limited mobility. I disliked relying on family to do my grocery shopping. In 2019, Walmart and Kroger’s started online shopping. I live too far for delivery but I take advantage of the pickup service. I am usually mobile enough to do the pickup and then a family member who lives nearby will take out of my car and into the house. It gives me more of my independence. I am very grateful for it!

    • Most of these services do have a service fee and I always tip the delivery person. If you one a specific service on a regular basis, many offer a discounted fee or set fee that includes all deliveries. In my mind, these fees worth paying for, because in the end, you are paying for the convenience and time it saves me.
      Many offer free delivery on your first order.

  • I love grocery shopping online! Today I grocery shopped while at my doctor’s office when he was running an hour behind. I didn’t see this mentioned but another reason I love shopping online is the ease of searching for new items or items I don’t buy often. I’ve had a rare type of tea on my shopping list for months now, and I could never seem to find it when I went to the store. I searched for it online…low and behold there it was! Additionally, I hate checking expiration dates on perishables and I’ve always been impressed with the expiration dates when I’ve ordered online. Maybe they grab from the rear?

    One tip I’d recommend is to pay attention to the “May Substitute” checkbox. I ordered a bunch of strawberry yogurt and instead I received strawberry and banana. Yuck!

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