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.
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).
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?