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How to order groceries online during the coronavirus outbreak

Get your food haul right to your doorstep.

How to order your groceries online Credit: Getty Images / FG Trade

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With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the rise, many experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending that individuals practice social distancing by avoiding crowded places and limiting large groups of people coming together. But where does this leave us for essential tasks like grocery shopping?

While online grocery shopping isn’t for everyone, it is a solution for those who must temporarily avoid stores right now due to quarantining and for those looking to avoid supermarkets due to social distancing or the insane lines at stores. The popular grocery delivery service Instacart is even offering a “Leave at My Door Delivery” option (with similar services following suit), so you can expect minimal contact with your perishables.

Once you receive the groceries, you should take the necessary precautions to disinfect your home per the CDC. This includes washing your hands after touching the delivery, cleaning any surfaces your order could have touched, and scrubbing your fruits and vegetables with running water.

Before you decide to order online, it’s important to note that with shortages of products in the actual grocery stores, your selection might be limited with these services currently. Items like toilet paper, canned beans, potatoes, pasta, ect. might not be available.

Here’s a breakdown of the popular grocery services available:

Instacart

Instacart

The page you see when you select the store of your choice on Instacart.

Instacart allows you to choose from a variety of grocery stores in your area rather than just ordering from a specific store. Options include Wegman’s, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Star Market, Costco, and even non-grocery stores like CVS and PetCo. You don’t need a membership to join the service, but you can get free delivery on orders over $35 with Instacart Express, which costs $149 a year.

Once you’ve chosen your desired store, you can search through a variety of produce, non-perishables, and specialty items. There’s also the option to choose substitutions, in case your desired item is sold out. After you’ve virtually shopped, you can select a time window for the delivery within an hour. It should be noted that with high demand for delivery, the time selections could be delayed for several days right now, so if you need your groceries ASAP this might not be the best service for you.

Your subtotal for the service includes the estimated cost of your groceries (this will change to the precise number when you’re charged), delivery fee, service fee, sales tax, and driver tip, making it pricier than your typical grocery run. However, it could be worth it depending on your current needs.

Shop for groceries at Instacart

Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh
Credit: Amazon

An example, of a grocery item you can purchase through Amazon Fresh.

Amazon sells your favorite tech products and household essentials, and yes, they will even deliver groceries directly to your door. The name of their grocery delivery service is Amazon Fresh. The service is exclusively available to Prime members for an additional $14.99/month, but still offers free shipping on your groceries over $35.

Shopping on Amazon Fresh works the same way as shopping for anything else on Amazon. You’re just limited to searching for groceries. You can see in real time if an item is in stock, and you can even find coupons. If you spend less than $50, you’ll be hit with a $9.99 delivery charge, so keep that in mind while shopping.

Once you’re ready to check out, you can choose your delivery window for as early as same-day if it's available. Again, delivery times are very limited right now, so you may have to wait a few days for your groceries to arrive. You can request an in-person delivery if you’d like, but you don’t need to be there to receive your order.

The food arrives in paper bags or recyclable totes. You can specify your bag preference on Amazon. For frozen and refrigerated foods, Amazon uses insulated bags and frozen water bottles to keep things cool, which is a nice sustainable touch.

Shop for groceries at Amazon Fresh

Peapod

Peapod
Credit: Peapod

The front page of Peapod, which features various deals in the forefront.

Shopping at Peapod is just like shopping at Stop & Shop—but online. You can browse various aisles, search for specific items, and look through specials all virtually. There is a $30 minimum with every Peapod order to consider and the delivery fee can be up to $9.95 or as low as $2.95, depending on your order size. This service is also only available in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island where Stop & Shops are located.

While searching for specifics tends to be easier than browsing the aisles (which requires a lot of scrolling), adding items to your cart is as easy as pressing a button and selecting the amount you want. When you click on the product, you get an in depth look at the nutritional values, as well as the ingredients used, which is a pretty neat feature and something you wouldn’t be able to see for something like an apple if you were in a store. Like Instacart, you can make suggestions for substitutions if your desired item is out of stock.

After you’re done shopping, you can select a delivery time (which will be delayed by a few days due to the current high demand for the service) and select whether you’ll be home or not. You can also opt for an in-store pickup and waive the delivery fee. When you go to check out, Peapod will also alert you of any deals, which is useful to know and adds a nice touch to the online grocery shopping experience.

Shop for groceries at Peapod

Walmart

Walmart Grocery
Credit: Walmart

The homepage of Walmart's grocery page, including the items currently in cart.

In select cities, Walmart offers a grocery delivery service that is useful if you like to do your weekly food haul there. It should be noted that there is a $30 minimum for using the service, so think about how much you actually need before you start shopping.

Navigating the grocery page of Walmart is very similar to other food delivery services. The homepage features a variety of popular items, but it’s typically easier to search for the food you’re looking for or choose a department. Walmart will also feature “rollbacks” on certain food that’s on sale, so you’ll be in the know regarding deals. Before you finalize the order, Walmart will let you know if items are unavailable once you try to check out, and you can search for a replacement or void the item altogether.

Once you’ve added everything to your virtual cart, you can select either a pickup time or a delivery time. Both are currently delayed a few days because of the high demand of the service, but picking it up yourself will save you money on a delivery fee that can be up to $9.95. You can also opt for the Delivery Unlimited plan for free shipping for $12.95 a month or $98 annually, which could save you money in the long run if you use the service enough.

Shop for groceries at Walmart

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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