Culinary Confessions: Our Online Grocery Experiences

We finally checked out the world of online grocery ordering for pickup and delivery.

Culinary ConfessionsConsidering I battle major social anxiety and easily get overwhelmed in public, you might think avoiding the grocery store would have been a priority for me and my wife Molly, who’s a busy teacher and doesn’t have a lot of time to roam the aisles at the grocery store. Actually, as long as I don’t visit at the most crowded times of the week—nights after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and any time on the weekends—I love going to the grocery store to pick out the exact products we need for the meals we want to make. And Molly relishes opportunities to browse products we might love. So up until now, during this time when we’ve been encouraged to avoid unnecessary contact with other people, we’ve always done our grocery shopping the old-fashioned way.

To start this new journey, building a grocery list online, instead of on a piece of paper as I usually do like I’m still living in the 1990s, was certainly a very different experience. We were impressed overall with our first impressions of pickup and delivery, especially considering we don’t live in a major city that offers every convenience option on the market.

In our area, it appears only Instacart for Aldi and the widely-used Walmart Grocery Pickup are the only options available. (If you know you live near us, let us know if we’re missing something!) Amazon Fresh, among other services offered in some locations, does not serve our region yet.

Here’s what we thought of what we tried!


Instacart Aldi Delivery

Ordering: The Instacart app is easy to use for shopping at Aldi. Searching for products was simple, especially since Aldi doesn’t carry numerous brands of each type of item. You can keep adding items until your Instacart shopper begins shopping in the store, which means you aren’t locked into a list the moment you submit your request.

Delivery: You can choose a specific delivery time or a general window within a few days. We selected next-day delivery for a Friday, and our first order actually arrived on Thursday, the same day we put in our request. Our shopper was super nice, followed our specific directions and brought all of our bags to our front door. We took them inside our home.

Prices: The delivery fee that Instacart receives only cost us about $5, and we added a few dollars more for a personal tip that our shopper received. By the time we added taxes, our whole order cost us just a little more than $100, with about $10 being for charges beyond the actual food. We only buy groceries about twice a month, and we try to stock up as much as possible during each trip, so that’s not too bad considering the extra convenience charges. One thing that is somewhat unfortunate, but understandable due to the convenience factor, is that products generally cost a little bit more than they normally do in your Aldi store when you’re pulling them off the shelves yourself.

Products: Everything in our order was correct when we unbagged everything and stored it in our fridge, freezer and pantry. Our shopper also bagged things in logical arrangements, making sure our eggs, bread, fruits and vegetables were safely organized where they weren’t damaged.

Other Notes: You have the option to mark replacements for items that may not be in stock, and we received phone notifications within the Instacart app as our shopper gathered our groceries. It was nice knowing via the app when our shopper was at the store because that gave us consistent updates on when we could expect our delivery to arrive.


Walmart Grocery Pickup

I will first note that we understand that Walmart Grocery Delivery has become available in many areas more recently. We have not tested that process. We did the pickup service.

Ordering: The Walmart app includes a grocery section for ordering, a slight change from recently when Grocery had its own app. It was a little more tedious than Instacart navigating to the groceries, but it was still very easy to find products. Just like in the store, Walmart offers a ton of products from both national name brands and Great Value brand items, so there’s a ton to sift through in the app. Thankfully, a sorting feature allows you to organize your searches by price, brand and other measures, so that helps you more quickly reach what you want without endlessly scrolling.

Pickup: This part of the process is slightly more involved than the delivery option. You do need to select a specific one-hour window when ordering, and then you can add items to your shopping list until about 12 hours before Walmart begins assembling your list for pickup. You get a notification in the app when your order is ready, then you check in that you’re on your way when you head to the store. You pull into one of the spaces designated for grocery pickup, call the number on the sign in front of the parking space, and in minutes they bring out your items, confirm your name and load your car for you. During a very busy time for pickup, I only waited about 15 minutes from arrival time to when I left the lot for home with my groceries. I wondered if I should tip the employee, but he left hastily almost as if he didn’t want a tip or to interact with me. So, tip at your and the employee’s discretion.

Prices: Beyond the cost of the actual groceries I ordered and the taxes for those items, there was no additional charge for ordering pickup at Walmart, which was a nice surprise and change from Instacart’s delivery. Also, I don’t believe most of the items we ordered cost more than they normally do in store when I buy them while walking the aisles myself. So, as far as a seamless transition from going in the store and checking out to having someone eliminate my physical presence in the building, I believe Walmart pickup is cheaper than Instacart delivery, as you might expect.

Products: Our grocery order was completely accurate, and we received notifications in the app of the only two more obscure items that were out of stock. Like Instacart, you can approve replacements for some items on your grocery list, but if those are not available, you just get a refund and don’t get those products. Everything in our order was of high quality like I would hope, but I will say that our shopper did stack everything somewhat haphazardly in the back-hatch area of our small vehicle. Nothing was damaged, but I wouldn’t have minded the shopper giving me a chance to say some of the groceries could go in the back seat to avoid crushing items. Our milk jugs and a few bags were smushed, but nothing was really damaged. Regardless, everything was in good order by the time we unloaded our food at home and stored it away.

Other Notes: Since Walmart offers many, many products beyond groceries, I wondered if I could add something else to the order from outside the grocery section of the store. While we didn’t get too crazy, we did add a couple of health items from the pharmacy area to our list, and we received those in addition to our food. Check out that option if there’s something you need other than just edibles.


The Final Verdict

We would absolutely use Instacart delivery for Aldi as well as Walmart delivery again. Both experiences fulfilled our hopes and even went a little beyond what we expected. Really, which service we choose in the future will most depend on which products we want to purchase. There are certain things we can only buy at Walmart, and when that’s the case we shop there. Otherwise, we generally do our stock-up trips at Aldi.

In the end, as with everything in life, it all comes down to a tradeoff. Aldi’s prices are slightly lower and we can get them delivered, but there are charges for that convenience. Walmart doesn’t charge us for pickup and there are many more products available, but we have to go to the store for pickup.

Select your service based on what you want most and, as always, let us know what you prefer!

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