Grocery delivery services offer point-and-click convenience and door-to-door service, but are they the smartest and safest way to buy your food? Here are some things to keep in mind before you place an order.
There are several large, online grocery stores — Fresh Direct, Pea Pod, Vons and Amazon — that deliver to multiple states, but even some local mom-and-pop grocers offer home delivery services, too. Most of these stores offer the same generic and name brand items as you’d find on store shelves — you’ll even find deli, produce, frozen, healthy and beauty, bulk items and cleaning products. Most also offer a wide range of kosher and organic foods and even some local options — and many specialize in their own branded or commission special prepared meals.
Typically, services charge a delivery fee and will usually give a discount for the more money you spend. There’s almost always a minimum order requirement, too ($30 for Fresh Direct and $60 for Pea Pod in my zip code). If your favorite online grocery source has a brick and mortar location (like Stop & Shop or Giant for Pea Pod), be sure to check the store to compare prices. Delivery items may be a bit more.
The Good and the Bad (or Spoiled)
I’ve ordered from these types of services in the past, and I’ve discovered some very distinct pros and cons. The home delivery was great, especially when I lived in a city where I had to walk and carry everything, but I did have trouble coordinating a drop-off time that worked for my schedule (they often tell you a two-hour window — just like the cable company). Being a dietitian, food safety always pops into my mind – I was concerned about everything being fresh and whether perishable items were kept at the proper temperature in transit. My orders also came in huge boxes — sometimes even just one small item in a larger box. That’s lots of waste for me (and the environment) to deal with.
In most shipments, I wasn’t pleased with the produce I got — it wasn’t fresh enough for my liking and one time, some of it was spoiled and I had to toss it (I did receive a refund after calling customer service). Based on my research and personal experience, here are some more important things to keep in mind:
- To-your-door service
- Big orders are easier to manage for city-living — no carrying required
- You can keep your budget in mind as you add (or subtract) items to your online cart
- Nutrition information and food labels for all items are available online
- Time saver: you don’t need to go to the store and you can save weekly must-haves so they’re always on your list
- The food may not always be as fresh as if you went to the store
- Scheduling a drop off time may be troublesome
- Extra cost of delivery fees and minimum order requirements
- If a customer service problem does occur, it may take longer to work out
- Waste factor: lots of packaging
If you do choose to order from a delivery service, keep the following things in mind – and don’t be afraid to call and ask questions before placing your order.
- Call to be sure the food travels in a refrigerated truck (it’s actually mandatory by law).
- Make the proper arrangements for delivery if you live in an apartment building or complex — does your door buzzer work? Can someone else sign for it immediately?
- Make sure someone is home to put the food away ASAP!
- Check your order when it arrives to make sure you got what you paid for.
- If you receive items that are incorrect or spoiled, call customer service right away for a refund (check the refund policy with your particular vendor).
- Some of the sites offer recipes and cooking instructions for things like meat and fish; definitely check them out!
- Here are few more FAQs from the Fresh Direct website.