ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently examined five national companies that offer online grocery shopping. All of them allow you to browse food categories just like you’re in an actual store or searching by keyword or UPC. The downside is that some sites require a minimum purchase and shipping fees can be pricey; most provide only dry products. Here are the results:
- www.shopfoodex.com was the best site for shopping by aisle, like a regular supermarket. There are over 11,000 shelf-stable items here and you can shop for things by category; there’s even a “checkout lane” where gum and candy can be purchased! Shipping costs start at $8.99, based on order size and your proximity to Virginia (where orders originate), but it can go up quickly. For orders of more than $100, shipping is discounted by a third of the total cost. The downside is that there’s not much to the specials section; and the unit price isn’t listed.
- www.netgrocer.com was best for frozen foods (a wide variety) and some fresh produce. Organic and kosher products are available, as are dairy foods (butter, cheese). Shipping costs start at $9.99, but can go up very quickly, depending on your distance from the New Jersey headquarters and the cost of your order. The Downside-Some of the products on this site don’t have pictures; you can’t always see what you’re getting.
- www.amazon.com/grocery was the best site for grocery items, with hundreds of thousands to choose from (the standouts were in gourmet and specialty foods). Special diets are also featured well here; vegan, kosher, vegetarian and others are easily available. Shipping’s free on many orders that’s $35 and over (depending on the particular item). If you do a regular delivery (every one, two, three or four months), you’ll get discount orders and free shipping. An Amazon Prime member? Your $99 fee allows entry to the Prime Pantry (you can order up to 45 pounds of groceries for a $5.99 delivery fee; and a chart shows you how full the cart or box gets as you fill it up). Downside: Comparsion shop on products that you regularly buy; some of the prices may not be as competitive as you thought.
- www.MyBrands.com are best for hard-to-find items that’s not available in most stores. Not only mainstream products, but also ethnic and regional favorites are featured here. Shipping’s based on order weight and your particular Zip code. The Downside is that there’s no ingredient or nutritional info. And the navigating is strictly by the brand name. And if you don’t already know it…..
- www.walmart.com/CP/Food/976759 is best for low prices. A wide selection of brand-name (and in-house brand) foods, organic, gluten-free and other specialty items are available in both standard and bulk sizes. Shipping is free for orders of $50 or more. Downside-The site is not set up only for online shopping. Unit pricing isn’t always available, and printable coupons are only good for in-store products.
Shopping and Grocery Apps
Berry Cart (Android, iOS) saves you cash on healthy foods; cash back on organic, healthful and GMO-free foods. Scan current deals, follow app to-do’s. Go shopping, then upload your receipt. Cash out on Paypal or redeem for gift cards.
Cellfire (Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows) lets you organize digital coupons by loading them onto your grocery store cards. Pick and choose the offers you want to redeem each time and send them to your card. When you swipe your card at the store, your savings are included automatically. Very easy to use.
Cash Back Apps
Checkout 51 (Android, iOS)-You’re rewarded for buying pantry staples and other items. You get a list of cash-back deals and retailer-specific offers. Select what you want, then buy it in the store. When you’re done, just upload your receipt. Once $20 is reached in cash back, you’ll receive a check. New offers on Thursdays.
Retale (Android, iOS)-Digital weekly circulars are delivered to your device. Retale uses your location to deliver circulars for nearly stores right to the tablet or smartphone. “Flip” through the circular pages, choosing the deals you want. When you’re ready to shop, the app delivers store hours and maps.
Military Cost Cutters (Android, iOS)-For veterans or active-service military members, find businesses that offer discounts for you.Your location can be accessed to find nearby deals, or you can search on your own. You also get to rate companies based on your experience.
Kids’ Meal Deals (Android, Blackberry, iOS)-By using your phone’s GPS, you’ll be notified of daily “kids eat free” specials from participating restaurants (call ahead to confirm).
Grub Hub (Android, iOS)-Helps you search for food and order takeout. The GPS or search function can be used to find the right eating spot from a choice of almost 30,000 locations. This app also features coupons and some restaurant discounts.
Sources: “5 online grocery sites that really deliver”-From Consumer Reports-The (Sunday) Vindicator, April 12, 2015 and ¨The 50 Best Money Saving Apps of 2015¨ by Gwen Moran AllYou magazine, June 2015