Why I'll Never Give Up In-Person Grocery Shopping

You've come to love shopping for groceries on your phone. But have you tried it IRL lately?

close up of a woman holding a basket and shopping for lettuce
Photo: Getty Images

There's a lot to love about online grocery shopping. It's convenient! It saves time! It helps you budget! And you have more options than ever, from curbside pickup to in-fridge delivery with new services like Walmart InHome. Not to mention, grocery delivery services like Instacart continue to add features and expand their reach into more places.

I imagine many folks wonder – as remote workers have about their offices – whether they ever want to return to the old norm. Well, I for one am sticking to in-person shopping. Here, I'm sharing my top reasons for grabbing groceries in stores and, for the sake of being fair, four reasons you may prefer grocery shopping online.

Reasons to Grocery Shop in a Store

1. You can see the products.

Appearance matters when it comes to fresh produce, whether it's lettuce, broccoli, or berries. No store employee will pore over your green beans the way you will, or pick out the longest English cucumber. Nor will they examine the packages of your pantry staples to make sure they're in good shape. And they're certainly not going to look at how freshly baked the bread is, when your steak was cut, or if your chicken breast looks woody. Hired shoppers waste no time in grabbing items and moving on.

2. You can touch the products.

Many folks want to touch items to assess them, especially produce. A melon may look like any other melon, but without the solid "thunk" and the push on its "bellybutton" to determine ripeness, how will you know if it's ripened enough to wrap in prosciutto for your dinner party that night? Without a light squeeze to your stone fruit or a pull on a pineapple leaf, how can you guarantee sweetness? Only touch can tell you.

3. Nutritional info is accessible.

Easy access to the nutrition facts of packaged goods is a perk of shopping in person. Plus, when you're facing an array of choices, you may even discover that a better-for-you alternative exists.

4. You have more options for customization.

Need a birthday cake inscribed? Looking for lunch from the hot bar or a made-to order deli sandwich? Order online and you usually can't get these foods. Online shopping limits you to what's quick, easy, and accessible, which leaves little room for customization. Sure, you can specify how much ham you want or roughly how many pounds of pork chops you need. But if you're looking for the former sliced extra thin or pork as a crown roast tied off just for you, you simply can't get it.

5. You can shop deals and save more.

These days, you can use digital coupons, supermarket apps, loyalty points, and more to save on groceries. But shopping in person makes getting back to basics easier thanks to price tags right on the store shelves, which break down cost per unit or per ounce, and stickers that indicate sales and bonus volume-based buys. Savings are more subtle online, and you can't easily see all the quantity options side by side. Moreover, at the store you can also seek out clearance items, including marked-down overstock, produce nearing overripeness, and day-old bakery goods, which you won't come across on a virtual aisle.

6. You don't have to meet order minimums.

Sites may mark up the prices of items to cover the cost of an in-person shopper or delivery. While it is easier to stick to a budget when your can see your total each time you add an item to your virtual cart, you're often also cornered into order minimums that can make you spend more than you intended. This puts you at risk of tacking on unnecessary items to avoid extra fees.

7. You can bring your own bags.

Groceries dropped off at your door may arrive in more bags than you would think to use yourself. When you shop in person, you're almost guaranteed to uses fewer, and you can bring reusable bags to use as little packaging as possible.

Reasons to Grocery Shop Online

1. It's convenient.

Avoiding crowded parking lots and skipping grocery store lines are among the advantages of online grocery shopping. Plus, you can fill your cart at any time of day, and you can build up a running list of items as you think of them. As easy-peasy as that is, however, if you accidentally ordered, say, a kid-sized snack pack of raisins and the bulk size of dish soap, you'll most likely have to go into the store to make the return. So, double check your cart before checkout.

2. You can avoid impulse buys.

The displays at the ends of aisles, called end caps, can tempt you to buy all kinds of items you didn't go in for. While sticking to the perimeter of the store can help you shop more efficiently, so does following a close grocery list – and your online shopping cart is most likely that. Yes, the store websites can be just as riddled with suggested products you don't really need, but again, seeing your cost tallied in real time can help you resist the impulse buys before checkout.

3. You can avoid contact.

Personal space has always been important to most of us, and COVID made it even more so. If you're cautious about getting sick, online shopping is the clear winner with deliveries to your door or bags loaded right into your trunk. However, it should also be considered that when you shop the off-hours and use the now commonplace self-checkout kiosks, you can easily keep other shoppers and staff even farther than an arm's length away.

4. You can use less fuel.

Well-coordinated delivery is actually more fuel-efficient – and therefore greener – than individual grocery runs. You may expect Amazon to come to this conclusion, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders in 2020. But the University of Washington has concluded that carbon dioxide emissions are cut by as much as half when deliveries are made to clusters. Of course, this is more true in densely populated areas and doesn't apply for curbside pickup.


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love