Like meal kits, grocery delivery service options have proliferated to the point where we’re spoiled for choices—so determining the best grocery delivery app or online service can be tricky, and varies from person to person. But we’re here to help. Note: Due to unprecedented demand during the coronavirus pandemic, many of these services are experiencing long delays or even declining new orders; Amazon recently instituted a waitlist for all new food orders through Amazon Fresh. The information presented below reflects a pre-pandemic state of normalcy, so shipping times and some other information listed may not currently be accurate.
It’s an old saw, yet blatantly true: we must eat to live—ergo, we must procure food. Even urban dwellers can grow some of it at home, but the majority of us have to go grocery shopping. Luckily, we live in an age where we can buy groceries online, from pet food to pantry items, not to mention everything in between.
Many supermarkets offer their own delivery or pick-up options, but there are also a number of other grocery delivery apps and services, each with their own pros and cons. There may not be an overall best grocery delivery service that gets the #GOAT, but there’s definitely one that will appeal most to you.
Here’s an at-a-glance summary. Keep scrolling for more details.
- Prime Pantry: included w/ Amazon Prime; free shipping w/ min. order; non-perishables only
- Prime Now: included w/ Prime; 2-hour delivery w/ min. order; groceries + select non-perishables from local stores, including Whole Foods
- Amazon Fresh: included w/ Amazon Prime (formerly an add-on service); 1-hour delivery available; groceries only, including Whole Foods
- Instacart: no membership fee (free 2-hour delivery + ability to shop from multiple stores, including Costco, with paid upgrade); in-app discounts; first delivery free
- Google Express (Google Shopping): no membership fee; free shipping w/ min. order; same-day shipping available; shop Costco items; non-perishables only
- Peapod: limited service area; free delivery for 60 days; next-day delivery available; double manufacturers’ coupons; gas rewards
- Shipt: yearly or monthly fee; personal shoppers fill special orders; shop Target; no surge pricing; free delivery on min. order
- Jet: no membership fee; free shipping on min. orders; only for non-perishables
- Walmart: schedule pickup; delivery available in some areas (with new “Unlimited Delivery” option in some cities); in-store prices
- FreshDirect: limited service area; free delivery with paid membership
Amazon Prime membership confers a whole host of perks, including grocery discounts with Prime Pantry. Unlike Prime Now and Amazon Fresh (read more about them below), Prime Pantry is for stocking your shelves with non-perishable goods like cooking oil, pasta, cereal, and snacks, even pet food, as well as cleaning supplies and other items.
If you want free shipping on Prime Pantry orders, you have two options: pay a $4.99 monthly Prime Pantry membership fee and spend at least $10 on your order, or simply meet the standard order minimum of $35, easy enough to do; otherwise, there’s a flat delivery fee of $5.99. A few other cons: no 2-day shipping, no shipping to dorms (sorry, Prime Student members), and no delivery to Alaska or Hawaii.
If you’re looking for more fresh food in addition to pantry staples, Prime Now may be a good option. It’s included with a regular Prime membership (if you don’t have one of those, you can try a 30-day free trial) and it lets you shop for groceries and many other items like gifts and electronics, from a range of local stores, including Whole Foods. Standard 2-day delivery is free, but you can also get your order delivered within a 2-hour window (for free on orders over $35), or within just 1 hour (for a $7.99 fee); this includes select non-grocery items, so if you need eggs and a printer ink cartridge ASAP, you’re in luck! (But will probably have to place two separate orders since they’ll come from different stores.)
If you prefer to pick up your groceries, you can do so in some locations (at your local Whole Foods) an hour after ordering at no extra cost, or within 30 minutes for a $4.99 service fee. Pick-up and delivery are available between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. 7 days a week. You can also order from local restaurants with Prime Now, but check Amazon’s site to see what’s available in your specific location.
Rounding out Amazon’s grocery options, there’s Amazon Fresh. It’s very similar to Prime Now (in fact, it was expected that the two services would be merged by the end of 2018, though that hasn’t happened yet), but it is exclusively for groceries. Amazon Fresh was formerly an add-on service that cost an extra $14.99 per month but is now free/included with Prime.
If Amazon Fresh is available in your location (you can enter your ZIP code to check), you can get fresh produce, milk, meat, and more—including Whole Foods Market 365 products—delivered within an hour, or whenever is most convenient for you. You can also schedule pick-up if you prefer. All delivery and pick-up options are free in most cases, though exceptions apply (order minimums and rush delivery/pick-up windows). If you’re in New York, according to Amazon’s FAQ, “Customers with a valid SNAP EBT card…receive free access to the Amazon Fresh selection without monthly membership fees.” (The same applies to Prime Pantry.) As with Prime Pantry, Amazon Fresh does not deliver to dorms.
Instacart delivers from a variety of grocery stores (it depends, as always, on where you’re located), and in some areas also delivers from liquor stores, pet stores, and pharmacies. You can even order from Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesale through Instacart, without needing to have a membership at those brick-and-mortar stores (though the same items will cost you more than they would in-store for members)—so it’s potentially comparable to Amazon’s Prime grocery options, without the annual fee.
You can upgrade to Instacart Express ($99/year or $9.99/month) in order to get free 2-hour delivery on orders over $35 and to be able to shop from multiple stores in the same order. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay delivery and service fees on all orders ($3.99-$5.99), and those may be higher during busier periods. While they don’t honor in-store coupons, there are often in-app discounts on various items. New users get their first order delivered free.
Google Shopping—formerly known as Google Express—is sort of like a hybrid of Instacart and Prime Pantry; there’s no membership fee required, and you can order from various stores, including Target, Best Buy, and Costco (with the same member price caveat, though some items do go on sale at times), but you can’t get any perishables. If you meet the minimum order amount ($25 or $35 depending on the store you choose), you get free shipping. You may be able to get same-day shipping, but not always (depending on when you place your order), and they use companies like FedEx, UPS, and OnTrac for their deliveries.Shop Now
Peapod isn’t available in as many regions, but if you are in their delivery zones (several mid-Atlantic and northeastern states, plus Chicago and nearby metro areas), you can rack up major savings. They double manufacturers’ coupons up to $0.99, and offer a full 60 days of free delivery (with promo code 60DAYSFREE, which also gets you $20 off your first order, with a $75 order minimum); after that, you can buy a Pod Pass to get free delivery if you wish. Otherwise, the delivery fee is calculated based on your order total. Rather than sending shoppers into various stores for you, orders are fulfilled at Peapod warehouses, and you can schedule delivery up to two weeks in advance, if you like to plan ahead.
You can’t get 2-hour delivery as with most other services, but you can get it as soon as next-day—or schedule a pickup at certain local stores. Peapod also offers its own meal kits, and in some markets where Peapod is affiliated with Giant and Stop & Shop stores, you can even earn gas rewards points with your purchases. A couple other nifty features: You can type a grocery list into their notepad and populate items in your cart, or use the Shopping Genius feature to auto-fill your online cart with items you regularly purchase.
Shipt is pretty similar to Instacart, with a less widespread range and a requirement that you do purchase a membership to use the app, at $99/year or $14/month. The benefit is that you basically have a personal shopper who you can text with specific instructions and requests, so you get exactly what you want. You can even order items that aren’t listed in the app but that you know the store carries. They deliver from Target as well as Kroger and Meijer grocery stores and CVS. There’s also never any surge pricing, and no delivery charge on orders over $35 (otherwise, delivery will be about $7).Shop Now
Jet is owned by Walmart and is similar to Google Express/Google Shopping, in that there’s no membership fee, there’s free shipping on orders over $35 (otherwise, it’s $5.99 for delivery), and you can only order non-perishable goods. They offer their own line of “Uniquely J” branded items (like sauces, condiments, coffee, and snacks), and have a real-time savings engine that indicates items you can add to your order to lower the total price. You can pay less for items you know you won’t want to return (like toilet paper or your favorite granola bars) by opting out of the free return option.
They offer same-day delivery in select areas of New York, but you can order from anywhere in the continental U.S. if you don’t mind waiting a few days.
Walmart recently debuted a new Delivery Unlimited option available in select markets (they expect it to be available in over 50 percent of the country by the end of 2019); for a fee of $98 per year or $12.95 per month, you get unlimited Walmart grocery deliveries right to your door. Sign up for a free 15-day trial if you’re on the fence (and if it’s available in your location).
You can also order Walmart groceries (and anything else on the site or mobile app) online and pick up your completed order at your convenience anywhere in the country. While it may not be quite as easy as home delivery, it’s still quicker than shopping yourself, and means there’s no extra fee. Either way, prices are always the same as in-store, and same-day pickup service is available. While it’s not as widely available right now, Walmart’s InHome delivery service will stock your fridge when you’re not home.
FreshDirect only delivers to parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, D.C., and a few other areas (some, like the Hamptons, only seasonally), but they’re a great option if you live in one of those places. In addition to all the usual grocery store items like fresh vegetables, meat, dairy, dry goods, and home care supplies, they offer their own line of meals (both meal kits and fully prepared foods), as well as farmshare boxes. These farmshare boxes are just like what you would get if you joined a CSA, but with no long-term commitment; get fresh produce from local farms, including eggs and cheese in some areas.
As with most other services, you can upgrade to a paid membership (see pricing tiers here) in order to get free delivery, as well as special offers and discounts. If you’re in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, check out their little sister service FoodKick too (it includes alcohol delivery).
Since Uber Eats no longer delivers from Walmart, you can’t get your groceries from them, but they do, of course, deliver from all sorts of restaurants. So on those days when you don’t want to cook at all (and since your magically delivered groceries still won’t cook themselves—yet), it’s a great backup choice!Order Now
Another Alternative: Meal Kits
A happy medium between grocery delivery and takeout is the meal kit option—get fresh ingredients delivered to your door in just the quantities you need, with instructions on what to make with them and exactly how to do it, so dinner is easy and comparatively low effort, but still healthy and homemade. Check out Guide.com’s favorite meal kits, CNET’s meal kit recommendations, and our review of 5 popular meal kits—and if you want fully prepared foods with a healthy bent, see our Sakara detox meal delivery service review. As with grocery delivery, there are a wealth of meal kit options out there, but these guides will help you figure out which one is best for you.
Header image courtesy of ShotPrime Studio/Shutterstock.