Buying Healthy Groceries Online: Pros, Cons, And Who’s In The Grocery Delivery Game

During the COVID pandemic, most of us have seen a real sea-change in the way we’re approaching mealtimes. 

In the name of limiting our exposure to crowds, many are staying out of restaurants, and there’s only so much takeout and delivery you can order before you notice your bank account taking the hit for it. 

That means more than ever, people are preparing meals and eating at the kitchen table bistro. Unless you’ve got “staff” (in which case you may not need to read this article), that also means more time spent making grocery lists, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning. 

Not only does that kinda detract from the pleasure of actually eating the delicious dinner you’ve made, but those of us with larger families may as well set up a cot in the kitchen for all the time we spend there. 

Luckily, buying healthy groceries online is pretty safe and easy, and it saves the back and forth trips to the grocery store. For some who haven’t quite dipped their toe in that pool yet, the process can seem a little daunting, but we’re here to help. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of ordering your groceries online, give a couple of tips for how to get the best out of your experience, and we’ll talk about just a few of the stores that we think offer the best online shopping for healthy groceries. 

The Case For Ordering Your Healthy Groceries Online

There are so many advantages to online ordering, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t done it sooner:

1. The Obvious: It’s Convenient

Regardless of who you decide to shop online with, the convenience is undeniable.

  • Ordering and paying for your food online means no checkout lines.
  • A quick search in the search bar on the website makes it super easy to find what you need. This means no more searching up and down aisles for what seems like an eternity before you finally find the baking soda (you’d be surprised, in a lot of stores, it ain’t where you’d think…). 
  • Say goodbye to  loading and unloading groceries (unless you opt to use the drive-in and pick up services that most grocery stores offer, but still, no loading). 
  • There’s no jockeying for parking or dealing with traffic.
  • No worrying about masking up and wiping down carts and credit card pin-pads.

Really, depending upon your usual shopping experience, the list of conveniences goes on and on. 

 

2. It Can Be Surprisingly Inexpensive

Depending on which online grocery service you use, you can save beaucoup dollars. 

  • Some online stores that specialize in bulk purchasing still save you money in terms of cost per unit (like Costco or Sams), but they also offer subscription savings offers where you can save money and get free delivery if you take advantage of their automated scheduled purchase programs.
  • Because more and more brands are jumping on the online shopping bandwagon, some stores offer coupons and deals for items you may or may not have been able to save on in the grocery store.
  • Some online stores make it easy to compare prices on items from multiple retailers to find the best deals. 
  • Some apps like Swagbucks and Ibotta give you rewards for shopping at certain online retailers.
  • Regardless of where you choose to shop online, without the real temptations of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your list. 
  • Also, watching the tally as you shop is an effective deterrent for overspending. It sure beats watching the number on the register rise alarmingly from the checkout line.   

3. You Don’t Have To Sacrifice Quality

As the grocery delivery business has skyrocketed, so has the selection of quality items available. Fresh produce, organic foods, and sustainably raised meats, seafood, and poultry are just a few of the things commonly offered by most online stores. 

4. It’s Easier To Shop For Specialty Foods

Looking for vegan options, or gluten-free? Need to find specific items for food sensitivities like lactose intolerance, or healthy sugar-free options for pantry staples? If you’re looking for it, the internet has it. Shopping for specialty foods online also means no schlepping from store to store trying to find what you’re looking for. 

Some Things You May Not Love…

While online shopping definitely has it’s advantages, there are a few things that make it a deal-breaker for some:

  • You can’t thump melons, squeeze avocados, or smell peaches. Shopping online doesn’t provide the sensory experience that shopping in the store does, which can mean the difference between a ripe banana and a green banana. If you need that banana to be ripe for tonight’s dinner, you may be out of luck. 
  • It’s unlikely you’ll find the specials regularly offered in grocery stores in online stores. Things like BOGO specials, or 3-for-a-dollar deals aren’t part of the virtual world, nor are coupons. (Some online stores do offer digital coupons, but they’re harder to track down than coupons for brick and mortar stores.)
  • While you can find most of the brands you regularly shop for, limitation is a possibility. If you’re brand conscious and are super loyal to a specific dish soap or mac and cheese (just an example), you may need to consider trying something new.

You also may see brands online you’ve never heard of, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, many of them are just as high quality as the household brands. 

Where Should I Shop?

This isn’t an easy question to answer, because where we like to shop may not be your cup of tea. Also, there are literally hundreds of online stores for healthy groceries out there, if we talked about them all, this quick article would become a novel. 

A good place to begin may be to keep shopping at the stores you prefer, just use their online options. You may find you don’t have to change a thing and it works out just fine. You may also find you don’t like their online prices, delivery options, or they aren’t particularly user-friendly to navigate. Supermarkets like Publix, Kroger, and Albertsons all have online stores, as do health food stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods.

Familiar names like Walmart and Target also offer online shopping and delivery, but up and comers like Instacart and Vitacost are gaining lots of popularity as well. 

If you’re at a loss, Amazon PrimePantry and PrimeNow are popular choices. PrimePantry is an online warehouse store, kind of like Costco and Sam’s, but they offer a few perks the retailers don’t. PrimeNow is grocery-focused, and are partnered with Whole Foods (because Jeff Bezos owns that too), so you can order from both places on the same site.

The only drawback is without an Amazon Prime membership, you have to pay for shipping on orders under $25, and extra for same-day delivery. To take advantage of these perks, and some of the others they offer for online grocery shopping, you’ve got to pay for a membership. 

If you don’t have a Prime membership, you may find the free shipping and same-day delivery (where available) well worth the price, not to mention the other perks that go along with having a membership. But that’s an entirely different article for another time.

Bottom Line?

We’re big fans of buying our healthy groceries online around here, but that’s because of our specific needs and preferences. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about your comfort zone. Many people just don’t want to stop shopping at a brick and mortar location, and that makes sense, grocery shopping is a ritual that some people find relaxing and enjoyable.

At any rate, if you’ve been on the fence about it, we hope this little article has cleared up some of the questions you might have and given you some information to help you decide what’s best for you.

Happy home chef-ing!