How to Grocery Shop Online

January 22, 2011

in Tech

how to grocery shop online

You may be the quintessential food shopper, diligently scouring ads to stock binders full of unexpired coupons and stalking rock-bottom grocery prices.

Perhaps you’re the gal who makes the news after scoring a truckload of groceries for 8¢. But I’m certainly not her.

If you’re not her either, there’s much more psychology that waltzes with you through the grocery store, encouraging you to spend more.

Just how does online grocery shopping help out with the grocery store hassle? The following folks are especially good candidates for cyber shopping:

  • Moms of young children
  • Impulse buyers
  • Self-employed individuals, contract workers
  • Urban dwellers with limited transportation
  • Folks who live far from city centers

If you’re one of these folks, or if you’re just looking for an alternative to the weekly grocery store beating, here’s a starting point for online grocery shopping:

Preplanning: Compare your grocery list with your receipt.

Take the next three trips to analyze your planned expenditures and how they turned out. Just how much did you spend in unplanned items? How much time and gas did the trip take? Did you visit more than one store? Calculate your gas costs, time, and impulse buys over the three trips. Consider your work and how much you earn per hour. What is the opportunity cost of grocery shopping for you? If you’re curious to see potential online grocery shopping savings, give it a go!

1. Choose the best online grocer for your specific needs.

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, the following merchants have a solid track record. Ordering food online isn’t like ordering a shirt–make sure you stick with someone reputable.

  • Alice not only offers an iPhone app for super easy ordering, but also has the easiest-to-navigate site. Customize a list of your favorite products and set each item to reorder on a frequency. With free shipping to boot, Alice is a no-brainer for pantry staples and home products. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to order all groceries exclusively from Alice, no refrigerated or frozen items are available.
  • Net Grocer online ordering is a comprehensive, buy-it-all-in-spot stop. But it isn’t always cheap and shipping isn’t free. If you live remotely or can’t physically make it to the store, Net Grocer is a great option. Dairy prices for the cottage cheese and milk I normally buy are nearly double, so be prepared for some higher prices with delivery fees on top of that. But you’d still come out ahead if you’re a chronic impulse buyer or live far from a city.
  • Amazon Grocery specializes in bulk buys, without having to shell out $60 per year for a club membership. Be ready to buy a 12-pack of canned chicken or 4-pack of Honey Bunches of Oats. But if you’re confident in the brand, Amazon Grocery provides amazing deals for larger orders of common and specialty items. And if you’re a parent or caregiver for kids, signing up for Amazon Mom will give you free Prime shipping plus 30% off subscribe and save items. AUL Super Store offers similar deals on bulk orders.
  • Shop Food Ex also offers fantastic rates on a great selection, but charges shipping. Shoppers get discounts between 5-25% based on the quantity of their order, which is a huge plus as prices are slightly higher than grocery stores. Shipping fees to the Northeast are cheaper than to the rest of the U.S.

2. Set up an initial order.

Before heading to the grocery store, what do you do? Make a list. At least you should. After evaluating your last three receipts, how many of your items were on the original list? Over 85% of all shoppers impulse buy at the grocery store. Nearly 30% of every cart is unplanned. One of the most attractive parts to buying online is eliminating the psychological warfare you must endure at the store. So setting up your initial order is akin to making your list, except you hit order and avoid all extraneous buys. Most of the options above either keep a record of previous purchases for future reorder or allow you to set up an automatic reorder, completely eliminating list making and shopping.

3. Coordinate shipping arrival.

Take special care to track your shipping, especially if you’re receiving perishables. Most reputable online grocers have accurate shipping information for exactly that reason.

4. Plan ahead.

Ordering groceries online means you don’t have the option to wait until the last minute. You’ll need to be proactive to avoid ending up in the same need-it-now emergency mode that got you spending more in the first place. Much like an office manager or warehouse stocker, you need to order more before running out. Set specific times each week where you evaluate your refrigerator and pantry.

5. Consider split shopping.

If ordering everything under the sun via Internet just isn’t feasible, reserve your produce and cold purchases for your local grocer and continue buying dry goods, cans, and home products online. This works considerably well for us, since veggies and meats come and go so quickly. A typical cold food run will set you back twenty minutes at the most.

6. Keep track of reorder timelines and adjust as needed.

Just how often does your family blow through a 12-roll toilet paper package? Make a list of all products you plan on ordering online, keep it in the powder room for reading material, and update as necessary. After three months of tracking you’ll be able to refine your reorder lists.

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