Can You Avoid Paying Extra for the Convenience of Grocery Delivery?

Shopping. Food. Groceries.

You can get almost anything delivered to your doorstep these days. Often inside an hour.

That sort of convenience is outstanding for specific situations. I spent 14 hours cooking on Christmas Eve last month only to realize late in the process that I forgot a key ingredient. I overpaid for someone else to deliver it to me, but it was worth it because of the situation.

In many cases, though, the average person can run their monthly budget into the ground if they’re getting food and groceries delivered to their door every week.

Let’s focus on grocery delivery. Is there a strategy — or a certain combo of a specific grocery delivery option and retailer — that delivers convenience on the cheap?

That's what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

Is Grocery Delivery Cheap With the Right Strategy?

How can I get cheap grocery delivery?

That's what a listener wondered about on the Jan. 9 podcast episode.

David in Pennsylvania asked: Clark, I'm not a user of grocery delivery. But I recently got a complementary Instacart Plus membership through my credit card that includes a $15 monthly credit if I use it. However, it seems Instacart prices are often higher than in-store prices. Are certain retailers better on Instacart than others? Is there a strategy or technique to enjoy the convenience AND some savings?

Unfortunately, Instacart and Shipt make you pay for the right to have someone shop for your groceries, drive to you and deliver them to your door.

The charges can include:

  • Delivery fee
  • Membership fee
  • Tip for the shopper
  • Surcharge above the retail price for each item you buy

“Here’s the thing. With Instacart and Shipt, you’re going to pay big surcharges. And you don’t even know how massive that markup is unless you get in your car, go to the supermarket they delivered from and compare your receipt item by item,” Clark says.

“If you sign up for Walmart+, the prices you pay are the same as the prices in the store. It is a massive advantage that Walmart+ grocery delivery has over Instacart and Shipt. You save so much money with Walmart+ vs. the other two.”

If you haven't noticed, Clark is a huge fan of Walmart+. He also noted that if you're getting groceries through Walmart+, a store employee does your shopping.

"Instacart and Shipt are about convenience," Clark says. "They are not about price."

Two Potential Exceptions for Cheap or At-Cost Grocery Delivery

There are at least two exceptions to grocery delivery. Possibly more.

In these instances, you're not paying that much more for the convenience of having someone else shop for you.

The first exception is shopping at Aldi through Instacart.

Aldi does charge higher prices for store pickup than it does if you shop inside the store yourself. But, Clark says, you’re saving 35%+ vs. a normal supermarket by shopping at Aldi in the first place. That savings number may still be 25% even after the premiums.

“It’s really well done. You pull into a space at the Aldi and they come out with the groceries,” Clark says.

During a recent Clark Stinks episode, one listener admonished Clark for claiming that Aldi is the "only" exception. Target owns Shipt, Susan said. Therefore, Shipt members who order from Target get the same prices as those who shop in-store.

“Please remind your listeners to always tip their delivery drivers as well,” Susan said. “These delivery gigs don’t pay as well as they once did and shoppers are struggling.”

Final Thoughts

Sometimes in life, you can have your cake and eat it too.

At least for now, though, the major grocery delivery services make you pay for the convenience of shopping from your couch. And that makes sense.

However, some grocery delivery services and retail stores are more expensive than others. If you do go the grocery delivery route, you likely can save money by taking the time to understand your options.

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