Is Grocery Shopping Online Cheaper Than on the Store? I Did the Math

This story is a part of Home Tips, CNET’s assortment of sensible recommendation for getting probably the most out of your own home, inside and outside.

Time is cash, because the saying goes. That’s the core worth proposition posed by a slew of contemporary supply and subscription companies. You can have absolutely anything delivered lately, together with booze, espresso, fish and snacks. Grocery supply companies reminiscent of Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect will ship absolutely anything you’d discover at a grocery store and assuredly prevent a while, however can shopping for groceries on-line prevent cash too? 

With membership and supply charges, I assumed grocery supply can be considerably costlier than buying on the retailer when all was stated and accomplished. To discover out, I checked out two widespread companies, Amazon Fresh (nationwide) and FreshDirect (at the moment out there within the Northeast solely) to see how they evaluate to a median brick-and-mortar market and see if the pricing was comparable and even cheaper than shopping for them in particular person. 

It seems that even with additional charges, shopping for your meals on-line prices almost the very same as in the event you made a prolonged and expensive gas-fueled journey to the market. Here’s what I realized. (You also can take a look at our picks for the finest low-cost meal supply companies, and the finest ready meal supply companies .)

Read extra: Whole Foods Is No Longer Whole Paycheck: How Shopping There May Actually Save You Money

Stop & Shop vs. FreshDirect vs. Amazon Fresh

Stop & Shop FreshDirect Amazon Fresh
Total earlier than extras $197.64 $182.27 $183.63
Tip N/A $10 $10
Delivery price N/A $6 $8
Total $196.64 $198.27 $201.63

I used average-priced Stop & Shop to match

There are dozens of grocery chains across the nation that fluctuate significantly in general value. For the sake of this train, I selected Stop & Shop, which is correct within the center; not identified for being overly expensive like a Wegman’s or Acme, but additionally not within the finances or wholesale class with Costco and Walmart. 

Woman in supermarket checking package information

Shopping in a grocery store prices you time and fuel cash. Is there a greater means with out breaking the finances?

Tanya Constantine/Getty Images

Before any costs, I generated an inventory of 39 widespread groceries objects — some identify manufacturers, some generic — in each class from eggs and dairy to bread and snacks, produce, meat, fish and pantry staples. I principally averted natural meals and specialty objects and selected the most affordable out there choice from all three retailers: Stop & Shop, FreshDirect and Amazon Fresh. 

If one thing wasn’t out there at one retailer, I chosen the following closest merchandise, since that is what a median shopper would possibly do. Amazon Fresh would not inventory boneless rooster thighs, as an illustration, so I selected rooster breast and added the identical price-per-pound value. This subject did not come up greater than twice. 

Read extra: Are Meal Kits Worth the Money? I Did Some Math to Find Out

fresh producefresh produce

Fresh produce is one factor you would possibly favor to purchase in particular person. But is it price a whole journey to the market?

James Martin/CNET

FreshDirect and Amazon Fresh even have both a membership or supply price to think about together with (elective) tipping (extra on that later), so I included these figures within the ultimate tally. 

I did not embrace the gasoline value required to journey to and from a brick-and-mortar grocery retailer, since there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all system. There can be the consideration of time and trouble required to buy in particular person. But, once more, this isn’t one thing one can simply quantify in financial phrases. 

Read extraGas Prices Are Bananas. Here Are 10 Ways to Save Money on the Pump

Stop & Shop vs. FreshDirect vs. Amazon Fresh

Stop & Stop FreshDirect Amazon Fresh
Brown eggs (12) $4.79 $3.49 $2.79
2% milk (1 gallon) $5.19 $4.59 $4.39
Almond milk (1/2 gallon) $3.29 $2.79 $4
Block Cabot cheddar cheese (8 oz) $4.89 $5 $5.29
Quart of plain yogurt (32 oz) $3.69 $5.29 $4
Bread and crackers:
Loaf of 7-grain bread $5.19 $4 $4
Thomas’ English muffins (pack of 6) $5.59 $5 $4.29 (Bay’s)
Club crackers (13.7 oz) $5.49 $4.79 $5.29
Broccoli head (1 lb.) $2.29 $2.60 $4.89
Bag of pink potatoes (1 lb.) $1.49 $1.01 $1.20
Package of combined greens (4 oz.) $4 $4.29 $4
Hass avocado (1) $2 $2.49 $2.29
Bag of carrots (1 lb.) $1.79 $1.49 $1.25
Bag of yellow onions (1 lb.) $1.49 $1.25 $1.11
Bottle of Heinz Ketchup (32 oz.) $3.69 $3 $5.69
Jar Hellman’s Mayo (20 oz.) $6.59 $6 $7.69
White rice (2 lbs.) $2.79 $3.39 $1.89
Chicken inventory (32 oz.) $3.29 $2.89 $1.89
Ground Starbucks espresso (12 oz.) $11.59 $11 $9
Peanut butter (16 oz.) $5.19 $2.49 $2.69
Seltzer (8) $4.79 $3.88 $5
Barilla penne pasta (16 oz.) $2.39 $2.09 $2
Prego pasta sauce (24 oz.) $3 $2.79 $3.59
Canned pet food (12.5 oz.) $2.09 $2 $3
Box of Cheerios (9 oz.) $5.69 $4.79 $5.79
Cape Cod potato chips (7.5 oz.) $5 $4.79 $4.19
Corn chips (11 oz.) $2.69 $3 $2.49
Chewy granola bars (field of 8) $4.89 $4.29 $3.79
Breyers ice cream (1 quart) $6.19 $7 $6.79
Simply Orange juice (52 oz.) $5.69 $5 $5
Ground beef (1 lb.) $5.49 $6 $4.69
Skinless rooster thighs (1 lb.) $5 $5.29 $5.19 (breast)
Atlantic salmon (1 lb.) $15 $14 $12.39
Whole rooster (3 lbs.) $6.90 $7.50 $6.75
Organic rooster breast (1 lb.) $14.24 $9 $11
Bacon (16 oz.) $7.49 $10 $8.09
Beyond beef (16 oz.) $11.49 $10 $11.29
Veggie burgers (4-pack) $4.29 $4 $4.95
Total earlier than extras $196.64 $182.27 $183.63
Tip N/A $10 $10
Delivery or membership price N/A $6 $8
Total $196.64 $198.27 $201.63

Is shopping for groceries on-line cheaper than in particular person?

After tallying the grocery value for my order with all three retailers, the outcomes had been remarkably comparable.

FreshDirect was the most affordable earlier than charges and solely barely greater than Stop & Shop with the $10 tip and $6 supply cost added. The complete amounted to $198.27, simply $1.63 greater than Stop & Shop (however with no journey to the shop, time spent buying or cash spent on fuel). If you subscribe to FreshDirect’s DeliveryMove, the entire can be extra like $194 and some bucks cheaper than Stop & Shop.

Amazon Fresh was the priciest, clocking it at $201.63 for a similar 39 objects together with the $8 supply price and a $10 driver tip. If you have already got Prime and knock the supply value off the invoice, Amazon Fresh would fall to the most affordable at $193.63.

If I’d used Instacart to order from Stop & Shop and have the meals delivered, the entire with a $4 price and $10 tip can be $210.64.

How a lot does Amazon Fresh value and what are the opposite charges?

Amazon Fresh is obtainable with free supply to anybody with a Prime membership which prices $13 a month or $119 per 12 months. This may even get you a subscription to Prime Video together with free two-day transport on Amazon correct, plus different secret perks

Those with out Amazon Prime can count on to pay $5 to $8 for every supply, relying on how quickly you need your order. Amazon Fresh additionally affords free pickup at Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh areas, relying in your proximity to these shops. 

Read extra: Prime Day 2022: Don’t Miss 9 Amazon Prime Perks Hiding in Plain Sight

amazon fresh delivery or pickup optionsamazon fresh delivery or pickup options

Unlike FreshDirect, Amazon Fresh affords each supply and in-store pickup for choose zip codes. 

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

How a lot does FreshDirect value and what are the opposite charges?

Fresh Direct has two supply price choices: You will pay $6 per particular person supply, or join DeliveryMove, which will get you limitless free deliveries. A 12 months of DeliveryMove is $129. There are additionally two six-month DeliveryMove choices: One permits for deliveries seven days every week for $79, whereas the opposite limits deliveries to Tuesday via Thursday however prices simply $39. 

If you had been to order groceries each week and select the most affordable supply plan (Tuesday to Thursday solely) you’d pay simply $1.50 per week, or $1.50 per supply relying on the way you have a look at it. 

delivery pass membership tiersdelivery pass membership tiers

If you do not need to pay the supply every time, FreshDirect affords three membership tiers for limitless deliveries.

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

Is it exhausting searching for groceries on-line?

Shopping for groceries on-line was extremely easy and intuitive. I preferred having the ability to peruse the objects rigorously and analysis something I used to be inquisitive about. I additionally appreciated having the ability to see my total order and complete value earlier than making a ultimate buy, a luxurious that in-person grocery buying would not afford.

For probably the most half, I discovered each merchandise I used to be in search of. Stop & Shop, FreshDirect and Amazon Prime inventory a number of the identical manufacturers, however not all of the identical manufacturers, and so I wasn’t all the time capable of finding the very same merchandise in any respect three. Amazon additionally has its personal proprietary model Amazon Fresh alongside Whole Foods’ 365 manufacturers, because it acquired the upscale grocery store chain in 2017.

chicken thigh product listings on Fresh Directchicken thigh product listings on Fresh Direct

For me, FreshDirect had the perfect choices in most grocery classes and at aggressive costs.

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

Surprisingly, Amazon Fresh was the one grocery retailer that did not have a few of the objects on my record together with boneless rooster thighs, and so I needed to discover a like various. Amazon additionally did not have just a few widespread manufacturers like Thomas’ English muffins, so I opted for a lesser-known muffin model known as Bay’s. 

For me, personally, FreshDirect had the perfect general collection of objects, beating out each Amazon Fresh and Stop & Shop. But slight variations apart, it is best to have the ability to discover absolutely anything you are in search of frequently in any respect three retailers.

One small annoyance I’ve had with FreshDirect is the buildup of reusable luggage because the service will not decide them up. A spokesperson for the corporate alerted me to a donation program they’ve arrange with native charities and nonprofits that want them.

You cannot squeeze a peach on-line

The largest draw back of shopping for groceries on-line is you could’t decide produce, meats and different recent meals together with your eyes (or palms). In my expertise, what I’ve obtained from FreshDirect within the dozens of orders I’ve positioned have been as much as snuff with no spoiled, bruised or overripe meals. The similar might be stated for my expertise with Amazon Fresh, though I’ve used this service much less. 

Buying groceries on-line remains to be my decide for worth and comfort

That stated, it is exhausting to disclaim the comfort of getting all of your groceries ordered in minutes and delivered in a day — generally hours. For these seeking to seize a while again through the week, ordering groceries on-line is a serious comfort and by my calculations, will not value you any greater than making a visit to the grocery store. 

instacart shopper holding pepperinstacart shopper holding pepper

Instacart assigns a client to purchase all of your groceries from an area market. It has its pitfalls however remains to be a time-saver versus going your self.


Other choices for getting groceries on-line


Instacart is a well-liked nationwide supply service and capabilities as a third-party shopper and supply outfit that means that you can order groceries from a collection of native supermarkets. You’ll primarily be paying the identical costs as in the event you visited the shop your self, plus a $4 supply price and tip. 

I’ve used Instacart and prefer it advantageous, however there’s a course of by which you could reply to your shopper in real-time via the app whereas they’re filling your order and consent to replacements for objects that are not in inventory (and there are all the time objects not in inventory). It might be distracting, time-consuming and even disturbing — though it is nonetheless a time-saver over buying your self. 

hungryroot grocerieshungryroot groceries

Hungryroot is a superb subscription service that sends a curated order of groceries designed to make meals and snacks all week. You can all the time make swaps for issues you don’t need. 



Hungryroot is one other grocery supply operation, however it capabilities a bit in another way than the others. With this subscription service, you will get weekly deliveries of curated groceries primarily based in your preferences and consuming habits. Hungryroot offers meal package solutions and can ship you the substances to make them in the event you so select. You can all the time ditch the meal kits or another objects you don’t need and swap them for groceries you do need utilizing a credit score system. The service in the end is designed to encourage new recipes and introduce new grocery objects to your weekly routine.

Hungryroot would not have almost as many grocery merchandise choices because the three shops I in contrast above, however it does have a full inventory of meat, dairy, fish, produce, pantry items and absolutely anything else you’d usually get from a grocery store. 

Read extraHungryroot Review: Can This Quirky Grocery Service Save You Money?

Hungryroot value versus shopping for groceries in-store

I examined the hybrid grocery service and meal package firm in June and preferred it rather a lot. Below is the fee for my week of groceries versus shopping for them from an area grocery store. You can learn extra in my full assessment of Hungryroot.

  • Hungryroot complete: $120
  • Groceries if bought individually: $107
  • Difference: +$13

Even extra on-line grocery choices: Thrive Market, 

There are different smaller on-line grocery companies out there together with Thrive Market and I discovered each the retailers to be fairly restricted and never a full substitution in your typical grocery run. 

Thrive Market, as an illustration, has a lot of high-quality and natural meats however no produce or dairy merchandise. Membership-only is an efficient place to search out dry items, pantry objects and paper merchandise at low costs however it additionally lacks the recent meals you usually purchase at a market. 

If you do not thoughts getting your numerous groceries from totally different distributors, we have examined to search out the finest produce supply companies, finest meat supply companies and even the finest on-line fish and seafood markets for 2022. 

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