Last year I tried online grocery shopping for the first time. It was in the early days of the pandemic and like a lot of people I was trying to avoid leaving the house as much as possible.
I have a very specific process for grocery shopping so I was a little wary. After a few weeks though I thought “I could get into this. It’s really convenient.” I knew there was a service charge, delivery fee and that I should tip the driver. I justified those costs by thinking “Yeah but what’s my time worth?”
Then, I started looking at my monthly grocery spending. It was up. Way up. At the time I chalked it up to panic buying toilet paper so I didn’t give it much thought. I eventually went back to regular shopping and didn’t think much more about it.
Recently though, I tried it again. Once again, even after you factor in the delivery fees my spend seemed high.
Ok, something’s odd about this. Time for an experiment. I decided I’ll go to the grocery store then compare the shopping list. What I found was pretty shocking.
Do groceries cost more with Instacart?
Ok, I’m going to spoil it here. Yes. In some cases it’s more expensive. Read on to see my analysis.
My shopping list wasn’t very big this week so it was easy to make the comparison.
Check it out below.
|6 everything bagels||$3.00||$3.49|
|Store 1% milk||$3.89||$4.49|
|Califia farms creamer||$3.29||$3.79|
|Log cabin sugar free syrup||$3.29||$3.79|
|San Marzano Whole Tomatoes||$4.99||$5.79|
|Cheez Its original||$5.79||$6.69|
|Kens Simply Vinaigrette Italian||$2.69||$3.19|
|Kashi Island Vanilla||$3.99||$3.49|
|Quaker life cereal||$3.99||$4.69|
|Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale||$6.99||$8.19|
|Keebler Chips Deluxe Family Size||$4.99||$4.69|
|Perdue BBQ Chicken Wyngz||$8.99||$10.49|
|Tyson Air Fryer||$7.49||$8.99|
|2lbs fresh strawberries||$7.99||$9.49|
|6oz fresh blackberries||$3.99||$5.99|
|2lb Jumbo Raw Shrimp||$21.98||$22.99|
For all of these items, I factored out any Bonus Card savings. This is the price on the receipt before discounts are applied. The prices were on average were 15.5% higher. My overall bill was 14% more.
But wait, that’s not counting the Instacart fees.
Instacart offers free delivery but they still charge you a service fee and suggest a tip. With the service fee and the tip here’s what the actual difference is.
How much more expensive is Instacart?
In my test above you can see that Instacart is 25% more expensive.
I spend about $150 per week on groceries. Using Instacart will cost me over $1000/year in inflated grocery charges and fees.
Look, I get that we’re paying for convenience. I’ll probably still use Instacart from time to time. I just want to make sure you go into this with eyes wide open and realize that there is a real cost to that convenience. They offer free delivery but really they’ve just obfuscated their costs into inflated grocery items.
Is Peapod cheaper than Instacart?
Peapod is a grocery delivery service that was purchased by Giant Food stores. It’s not available in all areas. They do service my area though so I did the same price comparison.
|6 everything bagels||$3.00||$3.00||0.00%|
|Store 1% milk||$3.89||$3.82||-1.80%|
|Califia farms creamer||$3.29||$3.29||0.00%|
|Log cabin sugar free syrup||$3.29||$3.29||0.00%|
|San Marzano Whole Tomatos||$4.99||$4.99||0.00%|
|Cheeze Its original||$5.79||$5.79||0.00%|
|Kens Simply Vinegarette Italian||$2.69||$2.69||0.00%|
|Kashi Island Vanilla||$3.99||$3.99||0.00%|
|Quaker life cereal||$3.99||$3.99||0.00%|
|Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale||$6.99||$6.99||0.00%|
|Keebler Chips Deluxe Family Size||$4.99||$4.99||0.00%|
|Perdue BBQ Chicken Wyngz||$8.99||$8.99||0.00%|
|Tyson Air Fryer||$7.49||$7.99||6.68%|
|2lbs fresh strawberries||$7.99||$7.99||0.00%|
|6oz fresh blackberries||$3.99||$3.99||0.00%|
|2lb Jumbo Raw Shrimp||$21.98||$23.98||9.10%|
As you can see most of these grocery items are the same or cheaper if you go with Peapod. The one caveat here is that I did the Peapod comparison a day later so prices may have changed.
How do the fees compare? Peapod is higher than Instacart.
However, even with the higher fee the overall cost is less than Peapod.
If you choose in-store pickup. The fee is only $2.95.
None of this should be surprising, whether you increase costs of the individual items or have a fee tacked on at the end people need to be paid. We’re paying for the convenience. It’s just good to see how much that convenience is actually costing us.
I spend about 2 hours a week grocery shopping. This includes meal planning, the round trip and the time in store. Meal planning usually takes the most amount of time.
Based on what I’ve learned here, I’m more likely to use the in-store pickup. This will save me about 40 minutes a day or about 35 hours / year.
Will your overall bill be more expensive? That depends on your shopping habits. If you follow my grocery shopping hacks you’re better off going to the store yourself. However, if you always end up walking out of the store with stuff you don’t need then your wallet (and your waistline) might be better using a delivery service.
One last thing…
We build the recipe clipping app ClipDish. If you like to search recipes online and hate the backstory that goes along with it you should should it out.