Online Grocery Memberships: Is it Worth it?

By Andrew Tavin

Feeling hungry? Grocery subscription models are making it easier, yet sometimes more costly, to get the shopping done.

We all need food to sustain ourselves — that is, unless you are some sort of machine learning program scouring the internet to become a robotic financial advisor, in which case please be kind to us when your kind takes control.

Robots and computers aside, we all live busy lives, and you may find it difficult to squeeze grocery store trips into your schedule. That is why online grocery delivery services have been gaining popularity. Some of those services offer a subscription model or membership.

Are those offers worth it? Let us find out together!

The upsides

Particular Pantry founder Jenna Coleman maintains that grocery delivery services can actually save money when used properly, despite the more obvious costs.

“One of the biggest advantages of using a grocery delivery service is that you can see a running total of your groceries, which makes it easier to make smart budget decisions,” Coleman explains. “Also, because you are shopping virtually, you do not have to run all over the store to find the items on your list or put things back if you realize you are going over budget.”

The time you save using a delivery service also has value. You can use that time to earn money in other ways, handle tasks you would have otherwise spent money on to accomplish, or just relax (which also has value).

Generally, purchasing a membership or subscription to an online delivery service means that you will pay a monthly or annual fee in place of a delivery fee per each order you make. This means you will need to use grocery delivery services with some frequency to make the subscription payments worth it.

Beyond that, different subscriptions have different features.

Considerations

This is the section of this article in which we offer a not-at-all comprehensive list of grocery delivery subscriptions to give you some examples before choosing to do your own research, if you should so desire.

“All Amazon Prime members are eligible for Prime Pantry, with free shipping on every order of $35 or more,” says Beverly Friedmann, who works for consumer review site  ReviewingThis. “With Amazon Prime Pantry, benefits include online coupons and deals, easy bulk buying (with a massive inventory supply on the site), and less temptations to impulse-buy that you would find with regular grocery shopping. The site also offers subscribe-and-save options for household goods, where you can [earn a percentage off your purchase] off by using an automatic scheduled service.”

Friedmann points out that Prime Pantry does not allow the delivery of perishables, which means you will need to use a different service when it comes to produce. Amazon has begun offering Prime Fresh; however it requires an additional cost on top of Prime and is only available in select cities.

Amazon Prime subscribers in certain geographic areas also have access to Prime Now, which provides free food delivery services from your local Whole Foods.

Instacart Express costs $9.99 per month or $99 for the whole year. It also allows you to skip the delivery fee on orders that are more than $35, which is apparently some industry standard. Because Instacart delivers from local supermarkets, you may have a limited selection,but you will be able to get your fresh fruit and vegetable fix.

Peapod offers PodPass at various subscription tiers. For $119 per year, you can waive the delivery fee on orders that are more than $100. If you are willing to sacrifice some flexibility, you can pay $55 a year for PodPass Midweek, which only works on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Where you live and how often you plan to use a subscription delivery service will determine which of these might make sense for you.

The downsides

You may decide to forego grocery delivery subscriptions.

As you may have noticed, all of these subscription services still require a minimum delivery order. It makes sense for the service provider, so they can be certain they are not losing money by allowing many small deliveries; however, this model can enable bad financial habits for the user.

“This leads you to have to add more items to your cart,” warns Dela Ainoo, personal finance blogger at Savvy Money Moms. “If you went to the store to make the purchase, the chances are that you would not have purchased the extra items.”

Lisa Hugh, founder and CEO of Single Ingredient Groceries, emphasizes the ways in which delivery services can encourage healthier eating for those without a lot of spare time, but acknowledges that it can be a waste of money if it is not used often enough.

As tends to be the case with our “Is It Worth It,” article series, the final decision will come down to your specific circumstances. At least, that has been the conclusion so far! We just hope we can help you make that choice.

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