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The best grocery delivery services: AmazonFresh vs FreshDirect vs Instacart

grocery delivery services
(Image credit: HelloFresh)

The best online grocery delivery services in the US offer the wide food selection you want, the price you're willing to pay (hopefully the same as your local supermarket), and a range of ideal delivery times.

With the coronavirus pandemic, grocery delivery services have become crucial as a way to source food safely. It's among our best things to do at home stuck indoors. The funny thing is none of these services existed a few years ago. Now they're vital.

AmazonFresh, Instacart, Fresh Direct and Walmart Grocery are among our favorite grocery delivery options. They offer almost everything you'd find in a supermarket, from heart-healthy meals, to rich comfort foods you can't live without, COVID-19 pandemic or no pandemic.

A majority of the grocery services we highlight deliver (or in the case of Walmart offer pick-up) nationwide. But we're also reviewing more region-specific services, like Shoprite, Publix, Giant and Wegmans, as well as speciality apps, such as Local Harvest ShopFoodEx and GoBio.

Getting groceries delivered isn't a problem in 2020. Getting them quickly for the best price is the real challenge. Here's the best service to go with.

The top online grocery shopping services

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. AmazonFresh

Great prices for Prime members

Minimum spend: $35 for same-day delivery with Prime

Familiar UI for Amazon users
Fast Prime delivery speeds
Requires Amazon Prime membership

AmazonFresh has suddenly become the best online grocery delivery service in the last six months. You see, it used to require a separate costly subscription (it was $119 a year), but in late 2019, the Seattle-based company rolled its grocery service into the normal Prime subscription that you probably pay for anyway. That means, you can order a bunch of perishable items and ready-made meals with Prime delivery speeds at no extra cost – so long as you spend $35 on groceries.

AmazonFresh also tends to be cheaper than its online grocery delivery competition, exactly like you'd expect from Amazon.com. The company's Whole Foods ownership shines here, with tons of fresh produce in a completely familiar website and app UI.

Stock up online at: AmazonFresh

(Image credit: Instacart)

2. Instacart

Instacart

Minimum spend: $10 with a varying delivery fees

From local grocery stores you know
Pricing set by grocery stores

Instacart provides AmazonFresh with real competition by sourcing foods from your local supermarket and delivering everything to you with same-day delivery – at least that was the case before coronavirus struck. Like all services, it's a bit overloaded.

What's important is that Instacart supports a variety of neighborhood markets. It'll come at a price, in some cases, as these supermarkets are in charge of setting the prices, and sometimes they're inflated. We've found that they don't always match what'd you'd pay in stores. 

But, for the most part, things are consistent enough when you're ordering a large shopping cart full of foods, and the small $10 delivery order minimum is among the best we've found. You'll have no trouble meeting it. Delivery fees do vary based on the size of your order, but $7.99 seems to be fairly standard from what we've experienced at checkout.

Fill up your fridge at: Instacart

(Image credit: FreshDirect)

3. FreshDirect

Local groceries for New York and the Delaware Valley

Minimum spend: $30 with a $5.99 delivery fee

Good deals and DeliveryPass
Doesn't serve nationwide

FreshDirect has a nice mix of locally-grown foods and mass-market chain items from top brand you'd see in a supermarket. Familiarity is its big selling point here, even if FreshDirect can't compete with AmazonFresh on price and has a delivery fee.

Its minimum order amount of $30 is actually $5 cheaper than what Amazon requires, but you will have to pay a $5.99 delivery fee each time. There is a way out of that fee: its DeliveryPass offers unlimited free deliveries, better time slot reservations and exclusive perks. It costs $129 a year, or $79 every six months. There's also value-for-time weekday pass: $39 for six months with delivery slots limited from Monday to Thursday.

The biggest hurdle for considering FreshDirect isn't the delivery fee, however. It's that the service is only available in New York and the Delaware Valley region (New Jersey, parts of eastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware). 

View all the groceries at: FreshDirect

(Image credit: Walmart Grocery)

4. Walmart Grocery

Walmart's pick-up service

Minimum spend: $30, but pick-up only

Cheap prices you'd expect from Walmart
No service fee
Pick-up only, except for a few markets

Walmart Grocery has its own pickup service available essentially wherever a store with Walmart Grocery is located, which is currently in 49 states in the US (find your closest one here). The megastore chain also offers delivery, but only in select markets.

Assemble your order online or through the Walmart Grocery App for mobile and choose your pick-up time - and if you submit before 1pm, you’ll be able to pick them up the same day. You’ll need to order a minimum of $30 worth of goods, but there’s no fee for the service. Plus, the pickup option now accepts SNAP EBT, though not WIC. 

If you opt for delivery, which is through a third-party, a fee will apply depending on time slot.

Pick up for groceries at: Walmart Grocery

Safeway

(Image credit: Safeway)

5. Safeway

Minimum spend: $30 with a 10 delivery fee

Delivery or pick-up options
Region-limited

Safeway is one of the few major grocery chains that provides delivery service, though it’s only available in locations surrounding stores under the Albertsons Companies umbrella – including Safeway, Albertsons, Pavilions, Vons, and more. Enter your zip code on the main site to see if delivery is available in your area.

If so, you can shop either from the site or using Safeway’s mobile app and browse among whatever items your nearest location has in stock - but the chain is already notifying website visitors that some items might be limited in availability and delivery times might be impacted. Delivery orders must be a minimum of $30 and have a $10 fee, though that might be reduced for orders of $150 or above.

Shoppers can either opt for delivery or pickup - if the latter, a grocery store employee will deliver your order to your car. You can order any time, though deliveries are only between 8am and 10pm, 7 days a week, and typically offers same-day delivery - you’ll see which time slots are available at checkout. Some areas also offer Rush Delivery through Instacart, which will get your goods to you in as fast as two hours. 

In your area? Here's Safeway