Is Online Grocery Shopping Right for You?

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Online shopping is becoming more popular for nearly anything imaginable. Really, what can’t you buy on the Internet these days? And as an added bonus to the convenience of “shopping in your pajamas,” many online merchants offer better pricing than brick and mortar stores, sometimes no sales tax and free shipping. What’s not to like? For most items, as long as you don’t need to have it in your hand this very minute, online shopping is the way to go.

One possible exception to this rule is shopping for groceries. There are plenty of sites offering groceries online but, unlike books, for example, online grocers aren’t putting any traditional stores out of business. There seems to be something about grocery shopping that doesn’t jive as well with e-commerce as other types of shopping, like for books, electronics and clothing.

Some of the reasons that online grocery shopping hasn’t been widely adopted yet probably include:

  • Lack of immediacy – Unlike a phone or a pair of jeans, when we’re out of milk, we generally need it now. Groceries are not something we can usually wait days for.
  • Expensive – Online stores tend to offer fewer sales and specials than your neighborhood grocer. While they may entice you with low prices on a few items, expect that their pricing overall will be higher than your local stores. In addition, most online stores don’t accept coupons which is a common way many consumers reduce their grocery costs. If you do shop for groceries online, be sure you’re familiar with what constitutes good prices for the items you’re purchasing. Some sites have purchase requirements as to how much you must spend, say, on refrigerated, frozen, dairy, meat or deli items.
  • Limited selection – Putting an entire grocery store’s inventory online would be a monumental task for the business itself and a shopping nightmare for the consumer to navigate. That’s why online stores offer a limited selection of items, brands and sizes. It’s often difficult to buy products online in the size you want or that are most economical for your needs.

Adding to the limitations on product availability, some online stores are prohibited from shipping certain items in certain types of containers. Some will not ship in glass, or ship products with pop-top lids for example.

  • Shipping/handling charges – On top of already higher prices for their merchandise, online grocers generally charge for picking and shipping your groceries. Those fees quickly eat into any bargains you may have found.
  • You don’t get to “squeeze the tomatoes” – When someone else does your shopping for you, you are completely removed from the choices that are part and parcel of grocery shopping, like, which melon do you prefer? Do you want this package of ground beef or the that one?

There is one indisputable fact about online grocery shopping, however: It’s convenient. When you purchase groceries online, you don’t have to actually walk the aisles, brave inclement weather or lug home groceries. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to shop or physically can’t, it may represent a huge convenience to you and be worth the extra expense.

Perhaps there are some items you really can save on, or maybe you can find specialty items online that are inconvenient (or impossible) to find locally. In those cases, online grocery shopping is a wise choice. For strict savings on groceries across the board, however, it’s not the most frugal option. Take into account the costs versus the convenience when considering whether online grocery shopping is right for you.

What groceries do you purchase online? Is it for savings or convenience?

Bonus Tip:

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