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Is it worth it to buy groceries online? A review of the best options

If you buy groceries online, your grocery buying experience is quicker and more convenient. But is it cost effective?

There’s a growing number of online services that make buying groceries easy and convenient. But the real question is whether these services actually save us money.

We’ve researched several of the most popular online food services and the answer we’ve come up with is this: it depends. As you’ll see below, there are a lot of different factors that determine how much you can save by buying groceries online.

First, a few factors to consider


It may be weird to think about your time in terms of dollars and cents, but for those who really do value their time, the convenience of online food services may be worth much more than the potential added costs.

Buying habits

If you find yourself buying more than expected at the grocery store, shopping online is a good way to stick to your list and avoid impulse buying.

It’s also a good way to be more methodical while price shopping or comparing prices based on weight.

Gas spending

Some delivery services cost extra, but they may actually amount to less than the cost of gas to drive to and from the grocery store (depending on where you live, of course).

Best online food services overview

Food Service Best For
HelloFresh Time-strapped grocery shoppers
Instacart Comparison shopping
Home Chef Quick and easy meals

Best online food services


  • Best for: Time-strapped grocery shoppers

How it works

HelloFresh is just one of many food delivery services that delivers meal kits right to your door. Rather than buying a bunch of groceries and cooking food throughout the week, they deliver recipes for each meal as well as all the ingredients, pre-cut and pre-measured so that all you have to do is cook it without excess waste. There’s 45+ weekly recipes and 100+ seasonal and convenience items to choose from that let you easily customize your weekly order to please everyone involved.

Most popular

HelloFresh offers 45+ weekly recipes and 100+ seasonal and convenience items to choose from that can please a variety of different diets and preferences.

The recipes are easy to prepare with simple step-by-step instructions that anyone can follow, and the pre-portioned ingredients provided are always fresh.

Special offer: Get 16 Free Meals and Free Dessert for Life!
  • Easy meal prep with simple instructions
  • Range of options to please everyone
  • Eco-friendly and convenient packaging
  • More expensive than some competitors
  • Delivery window can be inconvenient
Select Plan
Offer applied as discount across 9 boxes, new subscriptions only, and varies by plan. One free dessert item per box with an active subscription.


Starts at $9.99 per serving, plus around $10 for shipping.


  • Prevent food waste-A lot of us end up buying more groceries than we need. You may actually save money if you find yourself regularly throwing out food that’s gone bad.
  • Save time-For many of us, time really does equal money. So paying a bit more to avoid the onerous meal prep could actually help us save.


  • More expensive-Each meal costs a minimum of $9.99 for the HelloFresh kits per a serving. If we purchase the ingredients ourselves, the cost per meal can be much lower. With that said, HelloFresh notes they’re 60% cheaper than dining at a restaurant* and 25% cheaper than takeout.

» MORE: Try HelloFresh or read our full HelloFresh Review


  • Best for: Comparison shopping

How it works

Instacart partners with more than 190 retailers including local stores and national chains, offering same-day grocery delivery of both perishable and non-perishable items.


$14.99/month for free unlimited same-day delivery or $5.99 fee for orders of $35+ and $9.99 for orders under $35.


  • Easy comparison shopping-With a huge inventory from multiple retailers, it’s super easy to compare prices and find the best deal.
  • Easier budget-conscious shopping-Having an overview of your bill as you’re shopping makes it easy to remove items that don’t fit your budget and be conscious of your total.
  • Online savings-Instacart often has great promos and sales for extra grocery savings.


  • Can’t use coupons-Unfortunately, Instacart doesn’t allow you to use traditional coupons that you would use at a physical grocery store.

» MORE: Learn more from Instacart

Home Chef

  • Best for: Quick and easy meals

How it works

Home Chef works just like HelloFresh. They delivery meal kits right to your door, with fresh, pre-measured ingredients that you can quickly prepare.

Our Favorite Meal Kit
Home Chef

Rated #1 in customer satisfaction and our favorite meal delivery company.

Home Chef offers multiple meal choices each week with ample variety to meet dietary needs. While not the most adventurous or customizable meal box out there, Home Chef delivery fresh, quality ingredients and tasty recipes consistently.

Special offer: Get 18 free meals (across first 5 boxes), free shipping on your 1st box and a free dessert item (for life).
  • Recipes are easiest to follow
  • Customize meals with your favorite protein
  • Super fresh ingredients, all measured out
  • No vegan option (vegetarian only)
Choose Your Meals

You can choose between a variety of food options, and decide how many times a week you would like your box delivered.


Starts at $9.99 per serving for meal kits with pre-portioned ingredients and $10.99 for shipping.


  • Save time-Home Chef offers meals that range in the amount of time they take to make. You can choose from plenty that take 30 minutes or less.
  • Fresh ingredients-Home Chef has very fresh ingredients that vary, so you always have something exciting to try.


  • Cost-Home Chef is an expensive alternative to grocery shopping.

» MORE: Try Home Chef or read our full Home Chef Review

Other ways to save on groceries

If you’re looking to lower your monthly grocery spending, there are ways you can do so without moving over to online shopping.

Use rewards credit cards

There are plenty of rewards credit cards out there, some of which specifically cater to grocery store and dining purchases.

Coupons and discounts

The best coupon and promo tools have been around for ages. They allow you to save online, sometimes automatically, and even in-stores.

Avoid food waste

Americans are throwing out billions of dollars of food every year. Avoid buying more than you need by making a shopping list and sticking to it.

This also means avoiding the classic grocery store meander that leads to impulse buying.


Pay attention to sales. Load up on your favorite on-sale essentials if you know you’ll have to buy them eventually.

Just try not to be too caught up in the sale mentality. You may just end up buying something you’ll never use because the sale was good.


As the online food delivery competition continues to grow, it’s becoming easier to have your cake (delivered) and eat it too.

Having the control to make online purchases at your leisure can definitely have its financial advantages. But online delivery by no means guarantees a cheaper grocery bill than its brick and mortar counterpart. The verdict really depends on how you shop, live, and eat.

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