Best grocery delivery services in 2021: Instacart vs Amazon Fresh vs Walmart Grocery
The best grocery delivery services bring fresh produce, meat, dairy and pantry staples right to your front door. Forget navigating crowded aisles or waiting for space in the parking lot — get your groceries online with just a few clicks.
The best grocery delivery services were especially essential for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. While social distancing regulations have eased in most areas of the country, grocery delivery services continue to remain in high demand. Different options are sprouting all the time, including the relatively new Dumpling.
Even at the height of the pandemic, supermarkets were considered an essential business and never shut down. Still, getting groceries delivered at home is a very convenient option for many people. The best grocery delivery services offer fresh produce, meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, prepared foods and meal kits. Others only sell nonperishable, shelf-stable pantry items like pasta, cereal, canned goods and snacks.
As far as delivery fees and times, they run the gamut. Some offer free delivery with add-on memberships, and most require a minimum order. You can get groceries delivered within an hour in some places or schedule them for the next day or later in the week. And in light of the coronavirus pandemic, most of these services offer contactless delivery, so the order will be dropped off outside the door.
Here are the best grocery delivery services right now.
What are the best grocery delivery services?
Online shopping has become ubiquitous in recent years. Now, people buy everything online, including groceries. The best grocery delivery services offer everything that you can get at the store, but with the convenience of being dropped off at your home.
Two of the biggest and most widely available grocery delivery services are Amazon Fresh and Instacart. They operate differently (Amazon Fresh puts together orders in a warehouse, while Instacart uses personal shoppers who go to local stores near you), but both offer a range of goods, from fresh produce to meat and seafood to non-perishables like pasta to cleaning supplies.
The other options that round out the list of best grocery delivery services have more limitations, whether it’s availability in many locations or the breadth of products they sell. None are exactly cheap when it comes to delivery fees, but convenience and quality come at a premium. Dumpling markets itself as an ethical service, empowering personal shoppers as their own business owners. FreshDirect has excellent organic produce but at higher prices and in only a handful of states. Peapod and Shipt also have limited coverage areas, though they do feature great deals and coupons.
For anyone looking to replace their regular, weekly in-store grocery shopping experience, Amazon Fresh may be the best choice if you’re already an Amazon Prime member, but Instacart provides targeted access to your favorite store.
The best grocery delivery services right now
Amazon Fresh is essentially a digital grocery store. It used to be an add-on service but now comes free for Amazon Prime members. The store offers fresh produce, meat, dairy, seafood, packaged foods, Whole Foods 365 products and household goods, such as cleaning supplies. You can even shop for electronics, clothing and toys on Amazon Fresh. The interface is the same as the rest of Amazon, so using it is easy and familiar. Just add items to your cart and then check out.
Amazon Fresh offers free two-hour delivery in most cases if you meet an order minimum (which vary by area). For a fee in some areas, you can get your delivery within the hour. Pickup is available in some cities and is free.
Try the Amazon Fresh service now.
Instacart uses personal shoppers to pick up items for you from local stores. You can even order from Costco and Sam’s Club without needing a membership (though you will pay more than members would in the store). Some areas even allow you to order from liquor stores, pet stores and pharmacies. As you’re shopping, you can indicate substitutes if any items are unavailable. You’ll receive live updates and can track the shopper’s progress on GPS.
If you upgrade to Instacart Express, you get free two-hour delivery on orders over $35 and you can also shop from multiple stores at the same time. Otherwise, you have to pay a fee starting at $3.99, which goes up during busier times of the day and varies by how quickly you want your delivery. Learn more about Instacart promo codes, delivery fees and becoming a shopper.
Try the Instacart service now.
The gig economy can be brutal on the people that work it — from Uber drivers to grocery delivery shoppers. Dumpling touts itself as empowering shoppers to become their own business owners. If you feel even vaguely icky about how some services exploit their workers, then Dumpling is a grocery delivery outfit that you can feel good about.
Every shopper sets their own fees, hours and stores, so Dumpling’s service will vary greatly depending on which shopper you select. The Dumpling app is a bit less slick and intuitive to use than some of the big names, but the shopping process itself was just as smooth. I received two deliveries from different stores from one shopper, whose range included Trader Joe’s (which no other service covers). The shopper was prompt and communicative, texting me about out-of-stock items and inquiring about replacements. The delivery itself was on time and followed current health precautions.
The delivery/shopping fees are a bit steep, but again, those fees are set by the shoppers themselves. And unlike a service like Instacart, Dumpling allows you to select the same shopper again and again, so you can build a more personal relationship with them. And at a time like this, it’s a nice way to support an essential worker.
Try the Dumpling service now
Walmart Grocery pickup and delivery is available most major cities. Previously, the service allowed you to order from Walmart for same-day pickup. Now, you can have that order delivered to you, also same-day. Walmart Grocery has existed on a separate app from the main Walmart app, but the company plans to merge them soon.
So, what can you buy? Everything from groceries (perishable and nonperishable) to home goods to electronics to beauty products to clothing — anything Walmart sells at low Walmart prices, which is why it’s one of the best grocery delivery services. You can get fresh fruit and outdoor gear at the same time! Once you order, you can select an open delivery window up to a week in advance. And if you sign up for the Delivery Unlimited package, shipping is free. Otherwise, the delivery fee starts at $7.95.
Try the Walmart Grocery service now.
FreshDirect is limited to a handful of Northeast states and offers those areas high-quality produce, meat, seafood, cheese, baked goods and pantry staples. They also make their own brand of meal kits and prepared meals — you could buy an entire Thanksgiving meal, as an example. You can also buy farmshare boxes, fresh flowers, household goods, personal care items and alcohol in some areas. Because their goods are top-notch (and often organic), their prices reflect that so you may experience some sticker shock.
If you’re in New York City, you can also use their Express service to get groceries the same day. And in the summers, FreshDirect expands its coverage zone to the Jersey Shore and Hamptons. Their fees are high, depending on the specific area, as is the monthly and yearly passes. But if you want quality groceries, you have to pay for them.
Try the FreshDirect service now
Peapod is one of the first of the best grocery delivery services, though it’s not in many regions right now. They recently pulled out of the Midwest and the Washington D.C. area. Peapod offers all the standard groceries like fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, dairy and pantry staples but also their own brand of meal kits. There’s decent savings to be had, too: They double manufacturers’ coupons up to $0.99. Be sure to sign up for their emails, which also tout special deals.
When you first sign up for Peapod, you can save $20 off your first order and get 60 days of free delivery with the promo code 60DAYSFREE. After that, you can get free delivery with PodPass, but only by ordering over $100. Otherwise, the delivery fee varies by your order total and the day and time you select.
Try the Peapod service now
Google Shopping, formerly known as Google Express, offers mostly non-perishable items from a variety of stores, including Target. Think Prime Pantry crossed with Instacart (but without the personal shopper). Again, if you order from a membership-exclusive store like Costco, you will pay a premium price that is more than members would pay. Depending on the store, if you meet the order minimum, you get free shipping.
The delivery windows also depend on the store; some offer same-day shipping from Fedex and UPS, but you’re more likely to receive your items the next day or in several business days. As to what you can buy, you can shop the standard pantry staples like baking ingredients, pasta, beverages, canned vegetables and fruits, snacks and condiments. In some areas, you can buy non-refrigerated vegetables and fruit and fresh flowers.
Shipt is similar to Instacart but requires you to sign up for a membership, which comes with free shipping on orders over $35 (for smaller orders, the fee is $7). Shipt has a somewhat limited coverage area versus the other best grocery delivery services, but still offers convenience and decent prices. They promote weekly sales, coupons and deals (including buy-one-get-one-free) if you’re looking to save on your grocery budget.
Like Instacart, you get a personal shopper who will pick up the items on your list from various local stores, including Kroger, Target and CVS. In some areas, you can even get alcohol. If your personal shopper has questions about substitutes, they will contact you to discuss adjustments to the order. Once you place an order, you can get your items as quickly as within the hour or schedule the delivery in the next two weeks.
Try the Shipt service now
Imperfect Foods is one of several grocery delivery services that sells, well, what it name implies. That could anything from slightly bruised apples to weirdly shaped carrots. As they say, they stock groceries with “cosmetic quirks, irregular sizes, or are just surplus.” You may struggle to see what’s actually imperfect about the groceries you get, since they’re still good quality and sustainable, to boot. Imperfect Foods also offers exclusive sales and deals that you won’t find anywhere else.
Once you sign up, you’re assigned a delivery day. Then, you have a certain shopping window. A great feature of Imperfect Foods is that they “pre-fill” your cart with items you might like. You can always add and remove your choices during the window. And if you don’t need groceries a certain week, you can skip a delivery.
Try Imperfect Foods now
How to choose the best grocery delivery service for you
The first thing to do when deciding which is the best grocery delivery service for you is determining which are available in your city or area.
If you want to find out which of the best grocery delivery services is in your area, here’s a handy list to check for availability. Just visit these links, enter your zip code or address information to learn which grocery delivery service will bring groceries right to your door.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list to the best grocery delivery services in your area, consider what you need to buy. If you need fresh produce and meat, you should go with Amazon Fresh, Walmart Grocery, Instacart, FreshDirect, Peapod, Shipt or Amazon Prime Now. If you only need non-perishables, consider Google Shopping or Prime Pantry.
You may also want to consider the quality of the groceries. If you want organic produce, we recommend FreshDirect or Prime Now (which sells Whole Foods produce). If you want to shop at your favorite store, go with Instacart or Shipt. If you want to buy pre-made meal kits, check out Peapod and FreshDirect. If you’re all about a budget, Walmart Grocery may have some of the lowest prices.
Grocery delivery alternatives
With so much demand for the best grocery delivery services right now, many of the providers on our list are experiencing delays. It’s often hard to find open delivery slots, as well.
Other businesses, as well as new enterprises, are starting to step into the avoid. Panera has expanded from delivery of its usual menu of sandwiches, soups and salads to offer pantry essentials including milk, fruit and vegetables and their signature bread items. The goods are priced competitively to similar items found in supermarkets.
The self-driving startup Nuro recently received approval to test its driverless delivery robots in California. The company has already tested driverless delivery in Arizona and Texas and will now expand into nine Bay Area cities. Their service focuses on “last mile” deliveries — groceries, laundry, take-out orders, etc. Down the road, Nuro’s robots could bring your supermarket order to you.
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