At this point, it might be safe to say that shopping online is crossed the line from acceptable norm to downright necessity. We buy movies, music, games, toys, clothes and countless other things online. Yet one area that is still fighting for a foothold is food. People are still clung to the idea of trekking out to the grocery store is the only way to get sustenance. If you are ready to try it, you are going to be surprised at what you discover. Lets answer the most pressing questions first.
Q. Is the food fresh?
A. For the most part, yes. Just like anyplace you shop online stick with brands you trust. The good news is, unless you are looking for an exotic item, you really have two options: Amazon or your local super market. Amazon sellers mostly deal with items that take a long time to go bad. Can’s goods, dry boxed and preserved items in jars. Poor sellers don’t last due to Amazon’s repeated attempts to get comments from their customers. Local super markets don’t have the quantity of verity, however they can pull from local shelves, and so for the most part you are getting the same goods as if you went to the store yourself.
Q. Isn’t it more expensive?
A. Yes. Well, no. It depends. If all you need is a bag of flour you probably are going to spend more. Not everything on Amazon has free shipping. Local markets typically have delivery fees. Still, don’t take those fees at face value. Consider these factors:
1. How much gas do you use in your trip? Gas Buddy or Cost 2 Drive can give you and idea of how much it costs to drive to and from the store. You can deduct the savings right from the delivery charge.
2. How much of a hassle is the trip? What is your time worth? Parents with young children could spend as much time getting to and from the market as it does to actually shop. Even if you’re making minimum wage, this, with the savings in fuel and you have your delivery fee paid.
3. Remember the adage don’t shop hungry? As you realize you need items make a list, or plan a weeks meals and only order the ingredients you need, and there is no overbuying. Money saved is after all, money earned.
4. Most local markets still take coupons. Others, such as Amazon, offer discounts for subscribing to commonly purchased items. You know you buy coffee every three weeks, or you eat 2 frozen pizzas every week and a half. Subscribe, you could save 10 to 30% depending on the item.
5. Focus on quality not advertising. Ever have a recipe that calls for something you never used before? Don’t be buy the most expensive or the fanciest box. If your online market doesn’t offer comments, check Amazon and use Google to see what other people say. Saving a few dollars on a different brand isn’t the payoff. The payoff is how much you save going forward when you realize something better or just as good cost you less.
6. No double buys. If you don’t remember if you need garlic, stop, go to the kitchen and look. Still have some? Skip it this time.
Q. Will they leave it on my doorstep or at the apartment office? I don’t want it to go bad.
A. Amazon ships Fed Ex and UPS and they will leave it based on whatever the prior agreement or shipping method states. Local markets however give you a window to pick from so that you can be home when they arrive. Most will give you one to two-hour window and some offer a more specific time for a higher delivery fee.
Q. I don’t know… do they even offer it where I live?
A. Ask! Kings Soopers, City Market and Home Stop are very aggressive on their roll out. Stop and Shop is too. Check their websites first, after all, companies with a pronounced virtual shopping space don’t always know the details about their online services. If they don’t know, or know they don’t, ask them how you can let corporate know your interested. If they do, inquire if they have any promotions for new customers. Most of the ones listed above offer free or discount delivery for your first order.
One final tip: try a few items you can afford to throw out before you make a big order. That way if the quality doesn’t match up you don’t go hungry.