Is online grocery shopping worth it?
I first heard about online grocery shopping a few years ago when I lived in a neighbourhood without amenities within walking distance. I used to dread spending the time, energy, and gas money going to the grocery store each week. I was working 70 hours, and a trip to the store could easily take one or two hours out of my day. It didn’t seem worth the hassle, and I often bought take-out instead because it was easier – not great for my waistline or my wallet. :|
When my neighbour told me she had started ordering her groceries online, I was intrigued. For a small fee, she was able to do all her shopping on the internet, and choose the delivery time most convenient for her. It seemed like the perfect solution to my time crunch, so I decided to try it out. It was great, and I used the service a couple of times before I ended up moving into my current home – which is more conveniently located for shopping.
But, I’m feeling the time crunch again. Even though I’m only working 50-55 hours/week, I find myself busy after work almost every day of the week – field hockey practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and running Monday, Wednesday, Fridays. Weekends are filled with more running, field hockey games, and social commitments that I’m never able to fit in during the work week. I was finding it hard to go anywhere but Safeway for my groceries (a 5 minute walk from my house), but everything is so expensive there.
So, I decided to try ordering groceries from my preferred store, Thrifty Foods. They charge a flat rate of $7.95 for next day service (same day is $9.95), which I thought was reasonably priced considering it would cost me $4.60 in gas to drive there and back, plus at least an hour of my time.
It took me about 15 minutes to order all of my groceries online (I did it over my lunch break at work), and I was impressed. I felt like I was able to stop my impulse purchases (which were almost always junk food), and I could see the total amount of my order as I shopped – which helped me stay on budget.
What impressed me about Thrifty Foods is their customer service, although I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve shopped with them for as long as I can remember, and it’s always been top notch. Their customer service reps will call you if anything you’ve ordered is out of stock, and suggest replacement items for you instead. Their delivery drivers are extremely friendly, and I feel really happy with how I was treated.
However, even though I’ve had some really positive experiences, and the service fees are reasonable, there are definitely cons to having groceries delivered.
For example, even though I was able to leave a note attached to each product I put into my online shopping basket, I almost never got the fruits the way I would have picked them out myself. “Slightly green bananas” can mean different things to different people, I guess. :) Additionally, it’s kind of inconvenient to have to wait at home for the delivery to arrive (a 1.5 hour window), and every other week I end up having to make a supplementary trip to the local Asian market anyway to pick up produce and other perishables.
I don’t think this is something I would do on a weekly, or even a bi-weekly basis. But I do think it’s something I would do every few months when I have a big shopping trip ahead of me.
In theory, anyone with a busy schedule can benefit from ordering groceries online. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to use the service again! However, it might only be worth it on a regular basis for the following types of people:
- People who don’t have vehicles, and cannot make big trips to the grocery store for regular staples.
- The elderly, disabled, or injured, who find it difficult getting out of the house.
- Those who live far from any reasonably priced stores.
Have you – or would you – ever go online grocery shopping?
Author: Krystal Yee
I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.