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The best grocery delivery services: Amazon Fresh vs Walmart Grocery vs Instacart

Amazon Fresh
(Image credit: Amazon)

Ordering food through online grocery delivery services in the US was so easy a few weeks ago, but now that it's April 2020, that has changed. Finding a supermarket delivery time slot is a tremendous challenge, with delays among all the services.

We're here to list the best grocery delivery options and we're scouring the time slots of each service everyday to try to point out which is not only cheapest, but offers the soonest food delivery drop-off dates. 

There are new hurdles this week. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic straining food supply chains, both Amazon Fresh and Instacart have faced warehouse and delivery worker strikes. Instacart, for its part, has agreed to the offer health kit demands of its employees, so grocery delivery crisis averted there – for now.

Walmart Grocery is offering pick-up and, in some locations but not all, delivery, but it's also limiting the amount of customers who can go into stores. It's unclear if this this affects grocery pick-up availability, but it may push people to opt for delivery, further reducing available time slots.

Good news: there are other options, including Fresh Direct. We're also in the process of reviewing more region-specific services, like Shoprite, Publix, Giant, and Wegmans, as well as speciality apps, such as Local Harvest ShopFoodEx and GoBio.

While we're normally here to help distract you with a list of fun things to do at home when bored, we're also here to inform, especially when it involves offering advice about an online service that gets you a necessity delivered like food. That way you can get everything, from heart-healthy meals, to rich comfort foods you can't live without, COVID-19 pandemic or no pandemic.

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

(Image credit: ShopRite)

6. ShopRite

Delivery fee: $5

Regional grocery chain
Mobile app
Not available outside Northeast US
Online shopping doesn't show sold-out products

ShopRite is a grocery chain located in the Northeastern US (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware), offering pickup and/or delivery near some of its locations. 

Note that ShopRite's online ordering is already impacted, and you'll likely have to wait in an online queue to start shopping – and unfortunately, the online grocery catalog doesn't always reflect in-store availability. Check the chain's info page on the changes made to online and in-store shopping due to COVID-19.   

Buyers can shop online through the ShopRite website or using the ShopRite mobile app. When picking groceries, add special instructions either while shopping by clicking 'Add Notes' under a product selection or during checkout, then choose 'pickup' or 'delivery' and reserve a timeslot. If opting for pickup, keep in mind there are specially-marked lanes at your grocery store of choice's entrance dedicated for this.

Check if ShopRite offers delivery near you by using the chain's store locator and entering your zip code – make sure to check the box that says 'Online Grocery Delivery.' Also keep in mind: someone over 18 years old must be present to accept delivered groceries.

Pick up and delivery for groceries at: ShopRite.