Does shopping for groceries online save money? -

Does shopping for groceries online save money?

If grocery shopping feels like a chore, a new crop of online businesses are offering to deliver them right to your front door.

According to Consumer Reports, online purchases of packaged food are expected to grow from $12 billion to $25 billion by 2014.

America Now put three of the more popular sites to the, and

To help with our experiment, Jada Wellman, who prefers to skip any chore involving a shopping cart, offered to do her grocery shopping with us.

"If I can just come home, kick back, type something and hit ‘Enter' and it will be at my door in a couple days, that's fine with me," exclaimed Wellman.

Electronic grocery services primarily sell household non-perishables like soap and cereal.

There are two kinds of services: brick-and-mortar stores where online orders are arranged for pick-up or delivery, and "drop-ship" web sites where products come from various locations via a shipping service like FedEx.

Most online stores do not accept manufacturer's coupons, but some offer their own coupons.

America Now asked Wellman to shop for the exact same item, brand, and quantity at each of the sites. Due to variations in the quantity offered, there were some differences in the prices.

Wellman found the lowest "per-unit" prices at Amazon due to the bulk sizes they offer which she prefers for household staples she uses most often like detergent and toilet paper.

"You run out of toilet paper when you least expect it," Jada laughed.

Comparatively, Netgrocer and Alice offer grocery-store sizes, which cost more per unit, but may be more appropriate for items in which Wellman prefers fresh like coffee.

Amazon's Super Saver shipping offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more (some restrictions apply). International shipping is also available, as well as Amazon Prime, a subscription service which offers free shipping on some purchases for a yearly fee.

"Subscribe and Save" is a program the site offers allowing shoppers to automatically purchase and schedule shipments for routine items. Customers get another 15-20% off their purchase price for using the service.

According to the site, delivery takes three to seven days, but items can be scheduled to arrive faster for an additional fee.

Wellman found the on-site guidance at Alice comparable to having a personal shopper, an amenity she didn't mind paying a little extra for.

Alice walks customers through step-by-step, customizing and finding products based on each person who lives within a household.

Shipping is free only if you purchase six or more items. Purchases can only be made in the U.S. Delivery requires a physical mailing address; they will not ship to P.O. Boxes or A.P.O. addresses. The site hopes to open up service to Alaska and Hawaii in the near future.

According to the site, delivery takes between one and six days.

Other site amenities on Alice include: a "reminder" notification, site-specific coupons, return service within 30 days.

All shipments are made via UPS Ground, and arrive in a blue box.

Netgrocer delivers to all 50 states, including A.P.O./F.P.O. addresses, but not P.O. boxes. FedEx will deliver the products, and customers do not need to be home for delivery.

All orders can be canceled within a two-hour window without a fee if notification is made before items are shipped.

Netgrocer offers "specials" to customers, similar to a store circular.

According to the site, delivery takes three to seven days, with a shipping fee. 

After shopping on each site, Wellman decided that clipping coupons and looking for local sales would probably save her the most money. However, if she's ever in a time crunch, she said she's likely to use one of these sites.

The availability of online grocery shopping is particularly helpful for those who live in rural areas, don't have a vehicle, or are homebound.

A helpful exercise is comparing your last grocery receipt to what you can find online to see where the biggest savings come from. 

Other web sites currently offering online grocery shopping include: (This company delivers to areas of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. They also offer pick-up at their facilities.) (This company currently only offers delivery in eight areas with home delivery for $9.95, or the option to shop online and then pick-up at a store for $4.95.)

Amazon Fresh (This company provides service throughout the Seattle area, and offers delivery of a full-range of groceries, including bakery items, frozen goods and more.) (This company delivers groceries to Manhattan and Hudson County, New Jersey.) (This company delivers by truck to the southeastern United States and specializes in beef, pork, seafood and more.) (This well-known seller of gourmet foods in New York City now offers home delivery in the region.) (This company serves the New York City metro area. They focus heavily on fresh foods like seafood and meats, as well as general items. They will deliver to your home, or allow you to pick-up from their facility.) (This company offers home delivery of groceries to certain zip codes in Minnesota.)

Homeshop (This company is operated by Kroger's and delivers to several cities in Colorado.) (This company provides delivery to a large portion of Manhattan. Most deliveries are made within an hour, and they will also bring you DVDs as well as groceries.) (This company delivers to universities in New York and Connecticut. Delivery is free, but if you miss your window, there is a $15 re-delivery fee.) (This company is one of the oldest online grocery stores. They offer services in 11 metropolitan areas of the USA.) (This company is a full-line grocery store servicing the Boston, MA, area.) (The Safeway grocery store chain offers delivery from their physical retail shops.) (This company offers delivery to a large portion of the state of Missouri.) (This company offers full grocery shopping to areas surrounding Minneapolis, MN.) (This company offers delivery of goods from Magruder's to the Washington, DC, area.) (This company offers warehouse-style shopping delivered to your house in portions of New York City and Connecticut.)


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