Have you ever tried the grocery pickup services? If not my friend, you might want to check it out, because it's a money and sanity saver.
What is Grocery Pickup?
I noticed grocery pickup services gaining popularity back in 2019, as more and more stores started offering the service. It grew exponentially in 2020, so much so that I'm hard pressed to name a store that isn't offering it now.
Essentially what you do is go online to the store's website or app, search up and add the items from your grocery list, and then pay for it online/in the app. You pick a time to swing by the store to pick it up, go to the designated area of the parking lot when you arrive, and check in via the posted phone numbers or in the app. The store employees roll your grocery order out to your car, you have a quick chat about any items that were substituted or out of stock, and then they load it into your vehicle. It's that simple.
Why I Tried Grocery Pickup
I first tried the online grocery pickup services when I broke my foot a couple of years ago. I didn't want to use one of those motorized carts at the store, and dealing with a cart while getting around on crutches or my little knee scooter was just a royal pain. My husband helped, but he doesn't have the honed grocery budget skill that I've developed over the years. When you're trying to keep a close eye on that budget, little extras add up.
Don't get me wrong, my kids are also sweet little helpers, and they were old enough to push the cart and help grab things off the shelf. But if you've ever taken more than one of your kids to the store with you, you know how the best day can quickly dissolve into a major, public argument over who gets to push the cart, or because one accidentally ran the cart into the other. Then there's the begging for the expensive, sugar-filled cereal... and the cookies... and the....
I am no saint. There's only so much I could take. So I turned to the buy online/pick up in store method to maintain my sanity. I didn't stick with it once my foot was healed. But it's become a very regular thing for me over this past year, and it saves me time, hassle and money.
Online Grocery Orders Save Me Money
If you're doubting that grocery pickup services really save you money, I did, too. I was SURE it would cost me more, especially when I saw that $5 per order fee. But it doesn't. Really, it doesn't. Check it out-
- As of the time I write this, the stores I use waive the $5 per order fee if you hit a minimum order amount, which is usually around $35. If I do my regular weekly menu planning and grocery list, and only do it once a week, I have no trouble hitting that minimum. You just might need to condense your shopping to one or two stores, if you've been used to making more stops.
- I'm not tempted by other things I see on the shelf. It's so much easier to stick to my list when I'm not faced with the temptation of the Oreo cookie display. My shopping is more focused - dare I say even healthier - and not subject to impulse buys or me "shopping while hungry."
- My kids aren't seeing things they JUST HAVE TO HAVE. They're not involved in the shopping process at all. They might be in the car with me when I pick it up, but other than that, they're not asking for fruit snacks, cookies, chips, ice cream, etc. (Big bonus here - I avoid major stress when I don't have to take two kids to the store that also has toys.)
- I can cross-shop and compare prices while I'm ordering. I sometimes open another browser window and pop between two stores to see who has the better deals. If you're saving $0.25 on bread at the first store, but the deodorant you need is $1 less at the second, then you'll still come out $0.75 ahead by ordering both at the second store.
- It's faster. While this doesn't directly translate to an extra few dollars in my grocery budget, it means I can do other things with my time. That, as they say, is priceless.
How to Do Your First Grocery Pickup
You may already have a grocery app or two on your phone, and you've likely got a favorite one or two stores where you do your grocery shopping on the regular. With the variety of stores that are doing this now, there's likely no reason for you to try a different store than the one(s) you already use. Check out any fees they charge. Generally they'll waive the pickup fee if you hit a minimum order amount. (Frequently around $35 minimum.)
You generally will have two options for making your order - in the app or on the website. (I have noticed one of our chains has a separate app for the pickup/delivery service, aside from their regular coupon/savings app, but most just updated their app to include ordering.) Whichever method you use, grab your grocery list and get started. Log in if you're not already, because this lets you take advantage of any store reward program pricing. You can also apply digital coupons, if you've enabled that from a site like coupons.com. Search up the items in your list, and add them to your cart in the right quantity.
At some point in the process you'll be prompted to say if substitutions are allowed. Depending on the store, this checkbox might appear as you're adding items to the cart, or it might be as you're moving through the payment process. If you click "yes," you can note if canned "French" green beans are ok if they're out of regular cut green beans, if 2% milk is a fallback for 1%, etc. You can also request firm avocados, ask that your bananas more on the yellow side, etc.
Once you're done, move to the payment step, input your credit card information, and select a pickup date and time. You generally get an hour-long window for pickup, so don't worry about missing your time if you're not there at precisely 4:15 p.m. I find the text updates are helpful, as you'll get an idea of when they're shopping and when your order is finished and waiting for your pickup time. You can typically see that status if you log back in where you did your order, too.
When it's time, show up to the store's designated "pickup" area, follow the steps to sign in and alert them that you're there, and make sure your trunk or hatch is unlocked so they can set your groceries in there for you. I've even used coupons at one of our local stores. When they come to your window, I just hand them the coupons and they scan them right there. They'll tally the final bill after you present any coupons, and after any adjustments are made based on out of stock or substituted items.
Tips for Grocery Pickup
DO use the filters and categories to make ordering faster, and be a little more descriptive with your search terms. For instance, if you're looking for peas, you'll save a lot of time and scrolling if you search specifically for "frozen peas," "dried peas," or "canned peas." (Maybe you're more patient than me, but I like to find things quickly online!)
DON'T lock yourself into a specific brand if you can help it. Just like when you shop in person, you can save if you're open to the store brand.
DO cross-shop if you can. One of the awesome things about grocery shopping this way is that I can open up two browser tabs on my computer and compare prices side-by-side for two stores. This is so much faster than driving from one store to another!
DON'T forget to check the coupon policy for your store(s). You might be able to use store coupons, digital coupons and printed coupons from the Sunday paper. They'll generally have an FAQ somewhere that will tell you how their coupons work with online orders. If you're unsure, call the store and ask.
DO pay attention to stated quantities when you're adding things to your order! I recently thought I was requesting four Roma tomatoes, and I ended up with four pounds of them! Thankfully it wasn't an expensive mistake, and I learned a great new tomato recipe to use them up, but still....
DON'T forget to pay attention to sale dates. If you're ordering on the last day of the current sale, but your pickup is the next day, you're probably going to pay the prices that are in the system when they actually shop your order the day of your pickup. You could end up paying more than you expected!
DO read up on the substitution policy at your store. I've had a more expensive brand substituted for price of the cheaper one I originally ordered, and I've also paid the actual cost of the new item they substituted. (You always have the ability to accept or reject substitutions.) This will vary by store.
DON'T up your order at a store just to meet the minimum because you can save on a few things at store A and a few other things at store B. If your list is long enough that you can split your order smartly to get the best deals, that's one thing. Otherwise, figure out which store has the greater overall savings and go there. If you're adding unnecessary things to your cart or you're paying a $5 fee, then you're costing yourself money.
DO be a little open-minded. As I mentioned, you can specify how you want your produce to look and feel, but you might not get it exactly how you would pick it out yourself. By and large, I get what I want, and I'm fairly particular.
Give online grocery orders a try. It hasn't completely replaced my in-person grocery trips, but it has significantly cut down on them, and I surprised myself with how well it fit into our monthly budget!