Is Grocery Delivery Worth It? We Weigh the Pros and Cons

When you've got a hundred things on your to-do list, online grocery delivery might be just the ticket. Use our research to help decide if online grocery delivery is worth it!

As someone who has gotten groceries delivered since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve put a lot of thought into whether online grocery delivery is worth it. It saves me a trip to the store, including the time I spend wandering the aisles (plus, the gas it takes to get there and back).

However, there’s a lot more to think about, like impulse buys, couponing and more. We break it down for you, no matter which of the stores offering grocery delivery and pickup you decide to order from.

Benefits of Online Grocery Delivery

Save Time

With all of us trying to do as much as possible in a day, having groceries delivered could save you 53 hours per year. (Yes, the reported average shopping time for most Americans is 41 minutes per trip, with 1.6 weekly visits.) This means that you can dedicate more time to things you enjoy.

Not only will you be able to skip out on the trip to the store, you’ll probably save a little time with suggestions based on previous orders. With this, you can quickly add your regulars from the “previously bought” or “recently viewed” sections of the site.

Save Gas

No need to fire up the car and load up the kids. Depending on how far the grocery store is from your house, gas can add up—and with online grocery delivery you don’t need to waste any of yours. A lot of times, the shopper will shop for multiple customers at once, so maybe you’re even helping cut emissions by not making your own individual trip to the store.

Don’t Forget Anything on Your List

I think that online grocery delivery is worth it because I’m notorious for forgetting things. Whether I forget to write it down, or simply miss it as I’m browsing, I always manage to make it home without everything I set out for.

Yes, it’s still possible to forget something when you’re “adding things to the cart” online. However, you can check your pantry while you’re online shopping—something you can’t do while you’re physically at the store!

Another plus? If you have the app on your phone, you can easily add an item right when it pops into your head, and build up your virtual cart until you’re ready to order. This way, you don’t need to sit down and make a list 30 minutes before you go to the store, trying to remember everything that’s crossed your mind this week.

If you like to make lists, count on one of these grocery shopping apps that make creating and managing them a breeze.

Skip Impulse Buys

Sure—you may be worried about delivery fees. (Although sometimes, you can skip that cost by ordering the minimum dollar amount.) However, online shopping can help you focus on your list instead of being distracted by the tempting treats placed on the endcaps or at the checkout. When you don’t see those chocolate chip cookies, you can’t be tempted to buy them. To save even more, check out all our tips for budget-friendly grocery shopping.

Take Advantage of Weekly Deals

If the idea of missing out on in-store specials has you afraid to try grocery delivery, don’t fret. There are online specials, too. (Including some that brick-and-mortar shoppers won’t get.) No more driving to two or three different supermarkets to find items that were advertised in the weekly circular. Instead, with a click of a button, you’ll add all the sale items to your virtual cart.

Use Easy “Clipless” Coupons

Searching through weekly flyers, clipping coupons and remembering to bring them to the store can be daunting, especially if couponing isn’t your thing. Some grocery chains make it simple for you to use manufacturer’s coupons as you online shop. Apply them to items in your virtual cart with ease! Not only will that save you money, but time as well. (If couponing is your thing, here are some almost-magic couponing secrets.)

Filter Based on Dietary Restrictions

If you have special dietary restrictions, most shopping sites allow you to filter or search products based on needs such as gluten-free, kosher, organic or even sugar-free. This allows you to focus on making our best gluten-free recipes instead of reading labels endlessly.

Drawbacks of Online Grocery Delivery

Young Woman Receiving Fresh Food Grocery DeliveryOscar Wong/Getty Images

Not-So-Perfect Replacements and Alternatives

For some stores like Target, you can opt into receiving texts from your shopper if your desired item is out of stock. Often, they’ll send you a picture of your replacement choices, and you can let them know what you’d like as your substitute. If the brand doesn’t matter to you, you can also set preferences to let the shopper pick the “best alternative.”

Admittedly, sometimes the shopper doesn’t do a good job of showing you your options. Or, you may not find out that a key ingredient to your recipe was out of stock until the groceries hit your doorstep, making it difficult to prepare the meal you had planned. It all depends on the communication skills of the shopper.

Not Picking Your Own Produce

One of the most frustrating parts of online grocery delivery is not being able to pick your own produce. You can’t always count on your shopper to pick the best option, and they also can’t read your mind, either—maybe you wanted an extra-firm avocado to make guacamole a few days from now, or extra-brown bananas to make banana bread tonight. However, if you opt into communications from your shopper, you can usually let them know what you’re looking for. In my experience, they’ll try their best to grab what you need.

Keep in mind, you could also outsource your produce shopping by subscribing to a produce delivery service instead of relying on stores like Walmart, Kroger or Aldi for the best fruits and veggies.

Delivery Fees, Minimums + Tipping

Yes, you should tip your grocery shopper. If my shopper does a good job and is communicative with me about replacements and out-of-stock items, I’ll tip 20%—which can definitely add up with a big order. Keeping track of how much you’re spending on groceries and the tip, and comparing it with the cost of gas and the amount of time you spend at the store will help you determine if online grocery shopping is worth it for you and your family.

In addition to the tip, delivery fees can also add up. However, for many stores, you can get a membership, which will keep you at a flat rate per year, instead of charging you per trip. At Target, you can choose to pay $9.99 per order, or get a membership for $100 a year. I definitely order groceries more than 10 times a year, so it’s worth it for me to get a membership (plus, I split it with my roommate—which makes the deal even better).

Finally, delivery minimums can prohibit you from grabbing only a few essentials in your online order. At Target, a minimum delivery is $35. If I put in an order every two weeks, I usually have no problem hitting that. However, if you’re the type of person that hits the grocery store for milk every few days, you might find that delivery minimums inhibit your regular stocking of the fridge.

Lauren Pahmeier
Lauren is an associate editor at Taste of Home, focusing on search engine optimization. When she’s not making sure readers can find TOH’s recipes on Google, she’s practicing her food photography, consistently finding new recipes to try and hunting down the most indulgent treats in the Twin Cities.