Cost Comparisons: Online Grocery Delivery vs. Your Neighborhood Grocery Store

online groceries vsFellow thriftster and TTG  reader, Allison, sent us a note asking if we would review/evaluate grocery delivery services. This is something I’ve been considering for some time – but didn’t know the best angle to go at ‘er. Since there are so many different grocery deliver services out there, I thought it would be interesting to do some cost comparison shopping of online grocery delivery services vs. buying your groceries in-store. 



I selected 14 random items (that were the same size/brand – or as close as possible) we could find at both stores. Obviously prices can fluctuate and can be lowered by using coupons. I made sure I did the comparison on the same day.

For the sake of this “comparison shop” I decided against using coupons for either. I selected an online grocery delivery service here in Minneapolis and then a nearby reputable grocery store.

I have to admit. I was a little biased. I was expecting to see a big difference in the grocery delivery service vs. going to pick up groceries in-store.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Here are the results – based on the identical product OR as close to that product (size) as possible.

ItemOnlineIn-store
Organic Celery$2.59$3.99
Bananas (3 lb)$0.83/lb$0.65/lb
Progresso Minestrone 19oz Soup$2.75$2.29
Brownberry 100% Whole Wheat Bread$3.29$2.99
Fat Free Skim Milk 32oz$2.09$1.79
Large Eggs Grade A (dozen)$1.99$1.89
Rice Dream Rice Milk 64oz$4.99$4.99
Crystal Farms Natural Sharp Cheddar Cheese 8oz$3.59$3.59
Coke 12/12oz cans$5.29$4.00 (on sale)
Lays Classic Chips 10oz$4.29$2.50 (on sale)
USDA 85% Lean Ground Beef - 1 lb.$2.99$5.65
Oreos Double-Stuf Cookies$3.99$3.99
Annies Mac & Cheese$2.19$2.19
New York Garlic Texas Toast 11.25oz$3.29$3.29
Totals$44.16$43.80
+ Delivery$5.00 (next day / $50 or more)
$9.95 (next day / $49.99 or less)
$9.95 (same day / $50 or more)
$14.90 (same day / $49.99 or less)

Comparing grocery delivery and the neighborhood grocery

While the prices at both groceries are very comparable, things get a little more interesting when trying to access their value. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Online Grocery

ProsCons
ConvenienceDelivery charges
Similar costsMost require someone at home to receive
Save gasMay not deliver in your area
Saves timeCan't pick out your own produce
Accepts coupons

Nearby Grocery

ProsCons
ConvenienceHave to commute to
Can get what you want/when you want itTakes time
Less expensiveItems may not be in stock
Accepts coupons

Obviously, each grocer has pros/cons AND (on the whole) going up the street to the nearby grocery store is going to be cheaper and more “immediate”.

But there is something to say about online grocery delivery. I can see how they may be of great benefit to the elderly or busy folks.

And, isn’t our time worth money – as well as factoring in commuter costs?

I’d be interested to know if you’ve used a grocery delivery service and the value it adds to your life.

For disclosure purposes, I used Coborns Delivers (as the online grocery store) and Byerly’s (as the in-store grocery store) on 1/3/14
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19 comments

  1. Mandy says:

    We use Green Bean Delivery in our area for delivery of organic fruits and vegetables. At first I expected the quantity of food in my bi-weekly bin to be smaller and the cost to be much higher when compared to our local grocery. However, the prices are very comparable and they do not have a delivery charge if you meet the minimum $35 requirement. The food is delivered in a sturdy plastic bin that is insulted and comes with an ice pack. They exchange your prior bin and drop off your new bin. You have the ability to customize your order online and the ability to choose (versus being stuck with what’s ripe from a local CSA) is a big plus for us. Our meat comes from a local farmer and butcher so we do not typically purchase meat at the grocery. Finally our eggs come from a friend who raises chickens. Between the delivery service, meat in the freezer, and Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program, I rarely make stops at the local grocery store. Totally worth it!

  2. Anita says:

    Very interesting, I always thought delivery service would be a large expense but it may not be! However it won’t work for me since I live way out in the country! Good to know if I ever move in to town!

  3. When we had young kids, I used Coborns. I think it probably saved me even more then that it would now. Not having three small kids convincing me to add unnecessary items to the cart not only saved me dollars, but sanity as well.

    I also felt like online delivery (back then) allowed me to menu plan more easily. I could block off an hour to plan and shop all while the kids napped.

    Now that they are older, I don’t mind going to the store and have found Target to be cheaper on the items I’ve checked. I am lucky to have both Target and Cub nearby. I have no doubts that Coborns would be cheaper than Byerly’s. Although I do love Bylerly’s for the experience, they do tend to have high prices.

    • Aaron says:

      It would be interesting to see how Target compares with other grocers on price (I’ve always expected them to be more). Agreed – Byerly’s is a higher-end grocer.

  4. Tara says:

    My family uses Peapod online groceries every few months to stock up on heavy items. When bad backs run in your family and you are getting older you don’t mind paying the delivery charge every few months so someone else will schlep 9 + cases of soda and all of your canned goods for you. We also use the local market as well though.

  5. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    We used the old SimonDelivers for a while, and Rick actually worked as a delivery guy for them years ago. Price-wise, it really wasn’t much more expensive than our local grocer, but nowadays I’m getting much better deals by shopping at Warehouse clubs and Walmart. Also, I must be a bit of a control freak, b/c I don’t much like other people picking out my groceries, especially produce. :-) However, living in the boonies now, I can see extra benefit in home grocery delivery, since it’s a 15 mile or so jot to Walmart these days.

  6. We use Peapod at work. We find it’s often more expensive, but it’s good for pre-packaged goods. One thing I think you missed is the tip! We tip 15% and that can be a big uptick!

    I much rather go to the store and see the prices for myself rather than look at a more limited expense online.

    • Aaron says:

      Ah – good point about the tip Michelle. The one that I priced off of actually discourages tips (if you can believe that). I would probably still feel obliged to do so.

  7. Direct Accident Management says:

    I noticed that we can buy in bulk online at amazon.com. I was wondering though if it’s really worth it. Unfortunately, I work 2 jobs, so I basically have NO time to go grocery shopping. I mean I wouldn’t mind going to a store, but I always run into someone when I go to the store. So I was wondering if buying online is easier and not as expensive.

    • maddashin says:

      Absolutely. Just compare prices. I have Prime and use it all the time. Saves time and money. I can’t lug dog food any more. Much better delivered. Prime Pantry looks good but, I have not tried that yet.

  8. Brad says:

    The one thing about online grocery shopping that can save you money is if you have a budget number you have to stick to, you can definitely do that online! When you are shopping at the store, you can try to mentally keep track of how much you are spending, but most of the time I go over, especially with incidentals that aren’t on my list.

  9. maddashin says:

    I use Fresh Direct. Tend to stick to what is on sale. Better prices. Much better than going to the grocery store. I measure time into everything I do. I include the time spent in the grocery store. It is much better to meal plan too. You don’t waste as much. I use Paprika app on my iPhone. Fabulous. I can adjust all the recipes.

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