Online Shopping for Groceries. It's About Time!

I should start by admitting that I Hate Shopping!  When I go to a store, I want to get in and out as soon as possible.  I tell my wife that "I go buying, not shopping."  I love online shopping; I buy everything I can from dog food to diapers online.  I like that I can quickly comparison shop, read reviews, find out if it is a good price, get discount codes, use cash back sites, and, most importantly, it saves me time.

However, when I go grocery shopping, it seems to take forever.  It never fails that I miss things on my shopping list and have to revisit a few aisles.  I tend to impulse buy and get items we already have at home. If I hate regular shopping, I Loath Grocery Shopping!  So, when I heard that both Walmart and Kroger were going to start online shopping and pickup service in my area, I was more than a little excited.    

Online Experience

Both Walmart and Kroger have made the online experience really user friendly and intuitive from the sign-up process to checkout.  That being said, there is a little bit of a learning curve.  For instance, shopping by department requires scrolling through page after page of items, and it quickly becomes apparent how many products modern grocery stores stock. Use the search function - it is your friend. 

Produce

Produce is one area I had hesitations about regarding the online experience.  I like to pick out the freshest produce I can find; I don't trust a stranger to do it as well as me.  With a few caveats, I have been satisfied with the store employee picking my produce.  They generally pick fresher produce than anything I usually see in store.  I suspect that they pick from the back storage area rather than the retail area of the store.  I have had one bad experience so far where my strawberries were so overripe I would not a have gotten them if I had shopped myself.  But I think that is an issue with that particular Walmart's supplier, as I have never seen them have good strawberries. 

One downside I encountered specifically with Walmart is being limited to buying produce in increments of 1 lb.  This can be a major limitation.  For instance, I found out that 1 lb of bananas is 2-3 bananas and 1 lb of serrano peppers is several cups worth when I really just needed 2-3 peppers.  Kroger gets around this issue by letting you order by number and not by weight.  Kroger also lets you add notes per an item to your personal shopper.  This can be really helpful when you want a ripe avocado that you plan to eat soon or don't know how many peppers equal the cup called for in your recipe.

Online Shopping Cons:

Someone else's food. My wife is mad that none of it is anything good ;) 

  1. Neither store has a good system to show the nutritional facts, including the ingredient list. Walmart does not include this information at all and Kroger only shows low resolution pictures of the item.  With Kroger, you can read the nutritional facts on most items just fine, but on some larger items, like a frozen pizza, it is very difficult to see.  You can work around this by doing a Google search for the exact name of that item, but this should be part of the product information.
  2. There is not a good way to compare prices between items or to sort by price.  I am sure this is done intentionally to make you spend more.  It's not too difficult to figure out the best buy, it just requires a little mental work.
  3. There is no mobile app. It would be really nice to be able to add items to an order on the go. 
  4.  I recently got part of someone else's order. I hope this is a one time thing, but you should check your order to make sure you get everything. 

Pickup Experience

 Image by Ben Holden

Image by Ben Holden

Both Walmart and Kroger have an almost identical pickup method.  They call you the day of your pickup to remind you of your order and pickup time (this has already saved me once).  Once you arrive at the store, you just pull into one of the well marked and signed designated parking spots and call the store from your car with your name and parking space number.  They come out with your groceries and ask you to confirm any substitutions (see below) they made to your order.  Once you sign and use any coupons (Kroger only), then they load your car up and you're ready to go. The whole process from the time I pull in until I pull out is normally around 5 minutes, with the longest time being about 10 minutes because I used coupons.   

Fine Print

  1. There is a minimum order requirement.  It will vary by store and region.  Both Walmart and Kroger in my region require a minimum of $30.
  2. You must schedule a time to pick up.  They are given out in 1 hour blocks and, in my area, time slots fill up about 1-3 days ahead of time. 
  3. Walmart and Kroger restrict payment to credit or debit cards.  This can be a loss of savings if you usually use discounted gift cards.
  4. Walmart does not allow you to use coupons.  Kroger does allow the use, but they have to take them back inside and update your order so that adds a few minutes to your checkout time.      
  5. Substitutions are turned on by default, but can be turned off easily.  Leaving this option selected allows the store to substitute an item on your order with another brand that they feel is equivalent if they are out of your particular ordered item.  In these cases, they give you the lower price of the two items and you have the option of refusing the substitution at pick-up.  I've been pretty happy with the substitutions I have gotten, but there have only been a couple so far. 
  6. You do not receive a normal receipt for your purchase.  Rather, there is an emailed "receipt."  This means you will lose out on using coupon apps like Ibotta that always have some "coupons" for staples like milk and eggs, because the emailed receipt is not recognized by these apps.  This emailed receipt also made a return slightly difficult, as one of Walmart's in-store customer service employees did not know how to accept the receipt.

Cost

Kroger waives its fee the first three orders, but after that it is $5 per order.  Kroger's extra cost can easily be offset if you use the Kroger store coupons they send in the mail.  You can also search for digital/printable coupons when you are shopping online. 

Walmart does not charge a fee for its service, but that does not mean it's "free".  The big cost for me is the inability to use gift cards and coupons.  I often buy Walmart gift cards at between 2-3% discount using the website giftcardgranny. This method normally saves me around $2-$5 a week on my grocery bill.  We tend to buy mainly fresh foods, and don't use a lot of manufacturer coupons.  However, there are some items we buy regularly that often have coupons that we are losing out on when we order online.  

Another hidden cost can be overspending and picking up items that are not on your list.  This is always a problem when grocery shopping.  But grocery stores have made a science out of making you spend more money in stores and they do it with the online experience as well.  For example, when I checkout I get shown items I may have forgotten.  What is included are staples I may really may have forgotten like milk, eggs, hamburger buns (to go with the hamburger meat in my cart), but it also includes items like ice cream (the exact type I really like).  My main strategy to not overspending is to be aware of how I am being tricked to spend.  That is why I use the sage advice of making a list before shopping.  If you plan ahead, I think it is actually easier to stick to a list online than in store and to keep those impulse buys to a minimum.    

Shameless Plugs 

If you decide to sign up for Walmart Grocery or Ibotta, we would appreciate it if you would use the following links:

  • Kroger Community Rewards: This is a great program where Kroger gives a percentage of your purchases to a charity of your choice. If you don't have one in mind, I recommend one that is close to my heart: St. Theresa Catholic School (#80179).
  • Walmart Pickup: You will save $10 on your first order over $50 (the standard offer) and we will also get $10 off an order.
  • Ibotta: You’ll get $10 when you redeem a rebate within 2 weeks and we will get $5 for referring you.

 ... "Win, Win" 

Our Verdict

Online shopping for groceries is on my list of top greatest things ever.  Depending on your shopping habits, it does have a cost.  But the convenience factor and the ability to reduce impulse buys makes it well worth the small cost in my book.  I think both Kroger and Walmart have a great service from start to finish, but my preference for quality, choice, and cost is Kroger.