Since moving (back) to New York City, our grocery shopping has been flipped on its head. As many of you probably still do, I used to hop in the car, drive five minutes to Costco or Walmart, get out of my car, and walk into the store. I’d walk up and down every aisle with a pen in one hand and my list in the other, hoping Sally behaved herself in the cart. But those days are but a figment of my memory now. Now, 95% of my grocery shopping is done from the comfort of my couch, while staring into the depths of my laptop screen.
There are brick-and-mortar grocery stores all over the city, but ordering our groceries is actually the most cost-effective and way more convenient. Grocery shopping in a brick-and-mortar out here is a nightmare with a toddler because I’m pushing a stroller that gets stuck in the tiny, crowded aisles. I apologize every minute to a stranger I’ve hit with said stroller, and I pay two or three times what I used to pay for groceries in Utah. Just thinking about it is making my palms sweat.
Now, back to that glorious online grocery shopping. There are a number of services to choose from, and we’ve tried every one. If you’re interested in how this whole crazy shopping experience works and which ones are the best, read on.
Google Shopping Express
I know they say to save the best for last, but I just can’t. Google Express is the best of the best of the BEST. When we first got to the city, a woman at our church told me it would change my life. And I mentally rolled my eyes a little. But she was completely right. It’s been around less than a year, and there’s literally (said like this) nothing more convenient.
So what does Google Express offer? It delivers items from a number of local stores right to your door. Costco, Fairway, Target, Toys”R”Us, Walgreens, PetSmart, Staples, and several others. I know. If you order in the morning, it can be at your door that night. Otherwise, the delivery is next-day. The only catch is that it only delivers non-perishable items. In other words, if it needs refrigerating or freezing, they don’t offer it.We mostly use it for Costco’s and Target’s nonperishable items.
Pros: You can get items from multiple stores in one big order. If you do order from different stores, the orders arrive at different times within your delivery window. That said, there’s no obligation to tip, and I haven’t yet. Google Express delivery personnel are smiley and happy, a refreshing change in New York City.
And the online customer service is better than any other delivery companies I’ve encountered. If anything is wrong with an order, they’ve responded to me within a couple of hours and given me a refund on that item. One time an item was forgotten, and they asked if they could deliver it the next day and then gave me $10 credit on my next order. And, I’ve received multiple gifts from them. The week of Valentine’s Day they gave me a small box of chocolates. Finally, the delivery minimum is only $15, much lower than some other stores. I’ve been nothing but pleased.
Cons: You can’t get your perishable items from them, dangit! Aside from that, if you don’t live in a doorman building, it can be annoying to be buzzed multiple times within an hour with different stores delivering your order.
Cost: Currently, Google Express offers a free, three-month trial period for new customers. After that, unlimitied delivery is either $10/month or $100 for a year. As far as the prices of the actual items go, nothing is marked up. The price you see on Google Express is the same price you’d find in-store at Costco or Target (which can’t be said for Instacart).
Amazon Prime Now
This service is a thing of the future, and the future is now. Amazon Prime Now carries many everyday items, thousands of them in fact. And if you’re a Prime member, it can all be yours for free in just two hours. And if you’re really in a crunch? You can pay $8 shipping and have it at your doorstep in one hour. No more panic attacks
if when I run out of diapers or wipes in my sleep-deprived new-momma fog come April.
Pros: Did I mention you can get anything you want in two (or one) hour(s) flat? Considering the short delivery window, I expected a very limited selection of items. But I’ve been impressed by just what I can have delivered almost immediately. When Johnny got the stomach bug, I ordered saltine crackers, Coke, Sprite, and Tums at 4:00 a.m. to arrive by 6:00 a.m. It was incredibly convenient. Also, like Google Express, the delivery minimum is only $15.
Cons: Amazon Now doesn’t offer perishable items, so if you need milk for your cereal, you’re gonna have to leave the house. Also, unlike some of the other services, a tip is strongly recommended for this service, understandably so! Amazon Now delivery people work harder than any others!
My first Amazon Now order was because I was tired and wanted some caffeine, as well as some chips to eat with my lunch. I ended up deciding to stock up on Diet Coke and other soda because it was a really good price. When the delivery guy showed up at my door, he was wearing the biggest backpack I’ve ever seen, filled with my order of heavy soda in one compartment, as well as other people’s orders in other compartments. I felt so bad! Rather than driving from destination to destination, he was having to trek all over the city with this huge backpack on. The tips are well-earned. But knowing how hard they work, I try to save this service for emergencies only.
Finally, all ordering is done through the Amazon Now app, which is kind of hard to peruse. I wish they had a feature to order online outside of a mobile app.
Cost: The prices are all Amazon Prime prices, but the tip adds to the cost. Aside from that, delivery is totally free with an Amazon Prime membership!
Peapod is one of the two main delivery grocery stores in NYC, the other being FreshDirect. Imagine what you’d get at a typical grocery store, and it’s pretty much all available on Peapod, including your perishable items.
Pros: If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for groceries, Peapod and FreshDirect are great options. Almost any grocery item you need can be found on these sites. Delivery is next-day, and Peapod offers delivery options to save you money. For instance, if you choose a big delivery window (five hours instead of two), you can save $2. Or if you have your groceries delivered on a Super Value day, you can also save money.
Cons: Compared to some of the other delivery services, Peapod’s customer service is pretty mediocre. They’re not bending over backwards for the customer like FreshDirect or Google Express. They deliver your groceries in plastic bags, and sometimes items aren’t packaged as nicely as the other services. Also, I feel more obligated to always tip with Peapod, whereas I don’t feel that way with Google Express or FreshDirect as much. Finally, the minimum order is $60, and if you have a Pod Pass, it’s $100!
Cost: Peapod is considerably less expensive than FreshDirect on most items.They have their own generic brand, as well as widespread sales on the site, which makes their items even more reasonably priced. Like FreshDirect, Peapod offers a 60-day trial of their free delivery subscription. Once that trial is up, it costs $59 for six months of free delivery (of orders of $100 or more). Without a pass, orders of $60–$100 have a $9.95 delivery fee. And orders of $100+ have a $6.95 delivery fee.
FreshDirect is one of the two main delivery grocery stores in NYC, the other being Peapod. Almost anything you’d want to get at a typical grocery store is available on FreshDirect, including your perishable items.
Pros: FreshDirect has next-day delivery and great customer service. They also regularly offer deals for free delivery, and their minimum order is only $30. Finally, their delivery people are kind and friendly, and everything comes nicely organized in cardboard boxes. Their website gives ratings (from one to five stars) on how good their produce is, which really helps in ensuring you’re ordering produce that will be high quality (since you’re not picking it out yourself).
Cons: The main con with FreshDirect is the price, which I’ll expound upon more in the Cost section.
Cost: FreshDirect is considerably more expensive than Peapod for most items. That said, they’re still very reasonable compared to the brick and mortar grocery stores found throughout Manhattan. They also have a large number of sale items to choose from. Like Peapod, Freshdirect offers a 60-day trial of their free delivery pass. After the 60 days, it costs $69 for a six-month membership. Without the pass, deliver is $5.99, with a minimum order of $30.
Instacart is a beast all its own in this wide world of NYC delivery services. Anything you need from Costco, Fairway, or Whole Foods can be at your doorstep, usually by the next day. But it’s not just a delivery service. Instacart is a personal shopping service, with someone actually going to one of these stores and doing the shopping for you.
Pros: There’s no other delivery method that will get you your perishable items from Costco, Fairway, or Whole Foods in the city. The shopping itself is done very carefully, just for you. If the store is out of an item you need, your personal shopper will text you and ask whether some other brand will work. If you want to get ALL your shopping done at one of these three stores, it really doesn’t get more convenient.
Cons: Unlike Google Express where one order can be from several different stores, with Instacart you’re limited to just one store per order. There are also several cost-related cons, which I’ll expound upon in the Cost section.
Cost: Because Instacart is such a specialized service, it’s fairly costly. Your first delivery is free, and then a delivery fee of around $4 to $6 is applied. On top of that, the prices found on Instacart are marked up from the in-store prices for Costco, Fairway, and Whole Foods. This was a dealbreaker for me because, on top of marking up the prices, you also have to tip your personal shopper. In all, Instacart is the costliest of all the options listed. That said, it’s also pretty darn convenient — although, not quite convenient enough to be worth it to me.
So those are our delivery options, dissected by moi. What services do we use? Well, for all of our non-perishable items, I order from Google Express. For perishable items, I switch between Peapod and FreshDirect, depending on who’s offering better deals/promotions. For bulk perishable items, we do a Costco run every couple of months. For emergencies, I use Amazon Now. And for household goods I don’t need the next day, I use Amazon Prime. It sounds complicated, but it really doesn’t feel that way now that I have my system down.
At times, I crave that ability to peruse a store, walk down an aisle, and pluck my groceries from the shelves with my bare hands. But when baby #2 gets here, I think more than ever I’m going to love all my NYC delivery services.
What do you think of the NYC system of grocery shopping? If you’re an NYC resident, do you use any of these services?
It’s great Joanna that you have all those food delivery services available in NYC. Back in the day (many many moons ago), when we were your ages and just starting our family, we didn’t have such services. In those days the shopping duties fell to moi to handle (usually very early on Saturday mornings). And I must say that I got quite good at it. Shopped the deals, followed my list, looked for in-store specials and generic brands, and knew where everything was located in the store such that I had everything bought and stored in the car in under an hour. Over the years my wife took over the chores but after I retired two years ago I reclaimed the Saturday morning shopping duties (much to my wife’s delight because then she could sleep in a tad later – lol). I’m sure that here in Toronto we probably have such services as you guys do in NYC but I still prefer to personally shop, look over the merchandise and quality of the food that we eat.
One question: does severe weather (especially this winter) ever impact the timely delivery of your food purchases?
If we lived in suburbia, I would prefer to just shop myself, too. There have been a few times I’ve gotten emails about limited delivery when we’v been expecting a big storm in NYC. Other than that, it’s pretty consistently available. With a kid in tow, the convenience of being able to just order can’t be beat!
What a great round up! I live in Philly and grocery shopping here is tricky as well. Thankfully there’s a Trader Joe’s around the corner, but it’s always packed and I can’t get some of my favorite brands there since they have their own. I’ve started using Amazon Fresh (which is different from Amazon Now). Free delivery of perishable and non-perishable items is included in your Prime membership, which is awesome. There’s a $50 minimum and they suggest you tip, but you’re not obligated. They’ve always been on time, gotten my orders correct, and the delivery guys are friendly. I’m a huge fan. I could go on and on…but I think I’ll stop there! 🙂
I’m dying for Amazon Fresh to come to my zip code! And nice that you live near a TJ’s! It’s crazy how little conveniences like that make such a big difference in a big city.
I need to make a list of all these services so I can just keep cashing in on first free deliveries and trials 🙂 I’m a big fan of Amazon. I get everything that’s not groceries delivered- including bulk orders of paper products. Otherwise, I brave the line at Trader Joes every two weeks. Might have to try out these alternatives.
Seriously! That’s all I’ve been doing since we moved out here. I just finished up one, and I’m about to start another at a different delivery service.
I don’t currently use any delivery service except for my laundry. But I live in Queens (which has it’s own navigation pitfalls and challenges) so it’s technically NYC, but not Manhattan…vis a vis totally different ball game.
I’m fortunate enough to have my own vehicle and can (and do) drive where I need to…the library…all of them…no really…I’m serious. #bookworm
I also have a local market 2 blocks away that is super convenient. For the times they do not have what I need, that vehicle comes in super handy.
I am intrigued by Google Express though. I will investigate that option further. It may be worth it to not have to drive to LI to Petsmart.
Unless I find an apartment in their parking lot, I’m resigned to the fact that I will have to drive to Douglaston to shop at Fairway. Its not a total hardship because I like shopping there as long as it’s not crowded.
Thank you for the breakdowns on these services!
Such a perk to living somewhere like Queens… driving! Honestly, if I weren’t for where we are living in NYC, I don’t think I’d rely on delivery nearly as heavily. As is, though, I’m sure glad it’s an option!
You’re missing one! Amazon Fresh also delivers groceries in NYC, depending on your zip code. They started rolling it out a few months ago.
You’re right! It’s not in my zip code yet, so I didn’t feel like I could give a proper review of it. I’ll add it to the list as soon as I’m able to give it a try. It sounds really promising, so I’m excited for it to be available where I live!
I live in Arkansas, home of Walmart, so its easy to drive to the store. I had never thought about having groceries delivered since recently. I had a friend that was talking about her sister getting put on bed rest and the strain it put on her family. She lives in Arkansas as well and needed a way to help out getting everyday tasks done. She found that she could order non- perishable items on Walmart.com to be delivered at her door. If you are spending $50 or more the shipping is even free. You can purchase anything at the Walmart stores plus some using this method. It was a great cure for her situation in a rural area that doesn’t offer any delivery services that I know of. The friend that I know uses it all the time now. They will ship anywhere, but I don’t know how long it will take to get to you. It only takes two or so days I have been told, but Walmart headquarters is literally 45 minutes away from my house. I don’t know if it would be worth it for you to try walmart.com, but I thought I would share the information. It is a great resource for people that live in a rural community with a crazy schedule or situation for sure.
Interesting! I had no idea that was an option! I’ll have to look into it. Their prices can’t be beat.
I’m in NYC but not Manhattan so as a previous person commented, not everything is the same for all the boroughs. For example, the only delivery service on this list that is available to me is Fresh Direct. I’ve debated using them on a number of occasions but just find that I do better elsewhere as far as the cost goes. I do use Amazon Prime for quite a few things but I have to plan in advance because I still have to wait the 2 days.
I find that these delivery services can be really great but you have to live in the right neighborhood since its all done by zip code.
PS. I do like that you are doing NYC specific posts now that you are back here, like this one!
Totally. It’s all about where in NYC you live. The nice thing is that if these delivery services aren’t available where you are, chances are they aren’t as necessary, as other more convenient/less pricey options are available. I’m very happy to have them where we are!
Seems like you have it all sussed! Especially with No. 2 imminent, it will be a lifesaver to you to be able to order online instead of having to trudge out with two kids or asking to Johnny to pick something up on his way home and the possibility of him forgetting!!! Yikes!! 🙂
Yes! I tend to stay holed up for a while after a baby is born (at least I did with Sally), so it will be so nice not to have to leave home to get food and other supplies!
That was … literally … the best review of NYC delivery services I have ever read!
Haha! Why thank you!
Most of this post doesn’t apply to me since I live in a SLC neighborhood but the advice on how to pronounce “literally” was worth it!!
Haha, yes! Very important to know the proper use of “literally.”
This is a great list. Just an FYI…Amazon Prime Now now carries some perishable items. Organic milk, string cheese, juice and ice cream to name a few. It’s getting better and better but due to the tipping thing, Google Express still remains my all time fav!
Very cool! Thanks for the heads up. Like you, Google Express is still our favorite option, BUT we just recently got Amazon Fresh opened up in our area and like most Amazon things, it’s awesome.
Just two mins ago got my first Peapod delivery. I’ve been a client of fresh Direct (so many in my full service, 131 unit building are) for years, hugely efficient, but, I started feeling prices were going thru the roof and I might do better. Found Peapod via a search engine.
The delineations above here re the difference services of this kind, are accurate and so, really helpful.. Luv that. As fate would have it, many items I needed and order often were ON SALE at Peapod. and I mean off the chain amazing sale prices!
It appears their regular prices are average and not that different form Fresh Direct, but not postitive yet.
I save money by choosing a delivery slot with a huge window….but got an email narrowing it down to two hours. I guess the lobby attendant signed, cause I didnt have to; lovely delivery guy. Yes, they pack in plastic shopping bags, did not get eggs so wonder what they would be like, but otherwise, I see ho problem with this.
Unlike someone who commented that she felt more obligated to tip with Peapod than with FD…I luved that you can include the tip online when ordering….cause often I have no real cash on hand and forget I don’t.
While the Peapod site could use some improved graphics, pragmatically, in some ways, it’s better than FDs, in other ways less good. I also got too late, I should have looked for coupons for, delivery discount first time customers, caught one too late.
Capitalism is about competition. I am really happy I discovered Peapod. I suspect in the future, I might sometimes go back to FD, but i like having this really good alternative!
Unless someone is into very esoteric products, I would absolutely recommend trying Peapod, I would recommend trying them….esp their SALE ITEMS!
[…] Get Your Groceries Delivered. If the time it takes to stand in line at Trader Joes is what keeps you from buying groceries and cooking at home, consider a grocery delivery service. Many of these services offer first time order promo codes. You can work your way through those, trying each one out while enjoying the new customer savings. Check out Our Freaking Budget’s guide to NYC grocery delivery services. […]
What about Jet.com?
Hey Joanna! Just want to take a moment to thank you for your insights. This is the second article I’ve read and it has been so helpful. We just moved back to the City after a 25-year absence, and I needed your counsel!
I’m just wondering if you’ve ever tried Walmart.com? Does Google Express beat them in prices? We needed several very specific items to make the best use of the limited space in our apartment (we went from 5,000 square feet to 1,200!) and the deals and free shipping from Walmart (over $50) were too hard to pass up. And when something didn’t work, I literally packed it back into its box, and printed out a free return shipping label. That said, I have yet to try Google Express and Peapod. But they are next ;).
So, I spent a bit of time gathering 27 items in my Google Express cart today, comparing each item with Walmart.com and choosing Google Express if it was a better deal. Had to leave my computer for a few hours, and when I returned, the cart was cleared! The live chat representative said there was no way to get the items back without re-shopping! Has anyone else had this problem?
Hallelujah, thank you for providing me with exactly what I needed. 🙂 And now off for my first NYC delivery order…
Thank you for this. It was so helpful. I am just starting to look into the delivery options for groceries and this post was such a great summary of all the options. Any thoughts about packaging? I was using Fresh Direct a number of years ago but found that in addition to their prices being high their packaging was just ridiculous. As in a large box for one pepper and a lemon both in plastic bags. It just seemed to wasteful!