Grocery delivery is convenient, but between service fees, delivery fees, and tips, it can be an expensive endeavor. With a little bit of strategy, it is possible to save money with grocery delivery. We share seven of our favorite tips on budget grocery delivery.

By Samantha Lande
January 03, 2021
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The pandemic has forced many of us to change the way we shop. We've traded in pushing our own shopping carts to shopping the virtual aisles of stores we love. But convenience comes at a cost, and clicking through the aisles can add up quick. Luckily, there are ways to save money with a little bit of planning and strategy. Here are seven of them.

1. Buy the Membership That Makes Sense

If you've committed to doing most of your grocery shopping online, it pays to join the membership of one of the grocery delivery companies. Many delivery services will let you shop without a membership, but they'll add on hefty fees, which can increase your total by 10 percent or more.

  • Instacart Express is $9.99 per month, and gets you no delivery fees on orders over $35 plus reduced service fees.
  • Doordash offers a similar model of $9.99 a month for their newer grocery partnerships (Meijer, Fresh Market, etc.) and convenience store Dashmart (and their membership also covers restaurant delivery), with a lower, $12 minimum.
  • If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get membership access to free Whole Foods delivery or pickup with a $35 minimum order.
  • Walmart+, which has a $98 yearly fee or $12.95 per month, offers free delivery in limited markets, but requires a $35 order minimum.
  • Delivery company Shipt works with many stores, not just grocery stores, so that may make the $99 yearly fee a smarter investment. (You can also pay $14 a month for month-to-month services.) Delivery is free for Shipt members on orders over $35, but if you need a smaller order, they'll add $7, even for members.

If you like the feeling of being able to order groceries whenever you need something, membership certainly makes the most sense. Evaluate which stores you shop at most before you choose a membership; many of the delivery services have exclusive partnerships with certain stores.

2. Stick to Your List

This advice is essential to save money any way you grocery shop, but in theory it should be easier to do if you aren't roaming the aisles hungry or have kids hanging out of the cart. It can be challenging when you are trying to hit a minimum dollar spend, but instead of adding Oreos or ice cream (no judgement!), think of things you will need for meals in the near future that are shelf-stable, like pasta and beans. In our house we always add eggs, shredded cheese, or yogurt, items we go through quickly and would be ordering in our next delivery anyway.

3. Plan Your Meals

This good rule of thumb goes along with sticking to a list, but meal planning helps you save money regardless of how you shop. The advantage of shopping online is it makes it even easier to take your ingredient list already stored and shop through it. Think about including items that can pull double duty. Maybe it's roasted cauliflower one night and cauliflower-potato soup the next. When you aren't pushing carts and avoiding shoppers in the store, you can be a more strategic cook, planner, and shopper.

4. Take Advantage of Deals

Yes, you can shop sales with grocery delivery. Sometimes, the deals are quite obvious, like with Prime Now or Whole Foods, where you'll get the same savings as in store and can easily shop deals.

Other times you have to look a little closer. Instacart actually has a wealth of coupons that you can peruse by clicking on the savings icon, and they may show specific store specials, like Publix's weekly buy-one-get-one-free deals. Shipt offers in-app specials, too.

Expect to get push notifications from Doordash on various savings whether it be BOGO or a percent-off certain items each day. Some grocery stores even allow you to still put in your member savings number for additional savings.

5. Stock Up to Save

Stock up when prices are good, even when you're doing quick grocery delivery orders for weeknight dinners. You might notice sales more easily in-store, but spend a few minutes looking at prices of ingredients and foods you buy a lot each time you shop. They may dip into stock-up price territory.

Taking advantage of stocking up can end up saving you money in the end. Any non-perishable item you can stock up on is worth the time spent clicking through the app. For example, Instacart often runs specials if you stock up on a particular brand (Nabisco or Quaker, for example).

6. Choose Pickup When You Can

One of the grocery delivery innovations that has popped up during this pandemic is curbside pickup. Even if this is offered through a grocery delivery app (or sometimes directly from the store), it's often a cheaper option. They do the shopping, and you just pull up, check in, and pop your trunk. This can often save you on service fees and allow for a smaller minimum. Stores like Sam's Club, Target, and more even offer it for free.

7. Look Local

Sometimes the best deals are hiding around the corner. With the pandemic's significant impacts on small businesses, many small shops and farms have had to get innovative with supplying their goods. Although you may not be able to get everything you need, perhaps you can get a great deal on overstocked produce from a farm that will deliver for free, and you'll support a local business in return.