Family Finance: Hassle-Free Grocery Shopping

Jennifer Wray

This, for me, is the most difficult time of year. The days are short, my to-do list is long, and as winter weather sets in, my desire to leave the house for any reason—even a fun one—starts to plummet.

The idea of grocery shopping with a crabby 10-month-old? Forget about it. Thank goodness for technology and a modern service economy that has given rise to grocery delivery services.

The process, generally speaking, works like this: You hop online, shop from the local store’s inventory and place your order. Then, while you hang out at home, an employee picks, bags and delivers your items.

There’s a charge for the convenience, either in the form of an annual membership or a per-order fee (often waived if you hit a certain spending amount). You might also pay a slight markup on purchases. Shipt, for instance, estimates that members spend about $5 more on a $35 order to cover the cost of picking, packing and processing.

Although these services cost a bit more, they’ll save you time—and potentially money, if you’re an impulse buyer like me. One hint: Before signing up, check around online for discount codes; alternately, if a friend already uses one of the services, referral programs may provide both of you with a credit.

Here’s a closer look at what’s available here in Central Ohio: 


In Columbus, a Shipt membership provides access to two retailers: Meijer and Target.

Most items available in-store also are available within the app. But if you don’t see what you’re looking for, never fear: You can add a custom request and your Shipt Shopper will snag it for you (though items such as tobacco or prescription medication are off-limits). If an item is out of stock, the shopper will contact you. You also can provide details in advance about substitution preferences.

Are you a rewards shopper? Your Meijer mPerks account can be linked to Shipt.

A couple of caveats: Shipt has weekly deals on items, but their sales may not reflect in-store pricing. They do not accept coupons.

Delivery is available seven days a week, with the exception of some holidays—though if the store is open, Shipt is available.

An annual membership is $99 (or $14 per month). Pickup and delivery are free for orders over $35; otherwise, a flat $7 fee applies. Tips are accepted.


Instacart offers more variety than Shipt, both in terms of the available retailers and in the ways you can pay for the shopping convenience. Participating local stores include Costco, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Kroger, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Weiland’s Market and Whole Foods (plus places like CVS, Petco and Sur la Table).

There’s one major difference from Shipt: You don’t need to have a membership, although one is available and similar to Shipt in terms of cost. After a trial period, an annual Instacart Express membership is $99 (or $14.99 a month). Orders over $35 are delivered for free. Tipping is encouraged.

Customers who opt out of a membership can still shop. You’ll just pay fees that vary depending on the retailer, how quickly you want your order delivered and whether your chosen time is during a peak period. Special promotions (for example: spend $20 on Purina products, with an overall bill of $35) can score you free shipping.

Like Shipt, items purchased via Instacart can cost more than their in-store equivalents. And a similar sale section within the app can help you realize savings on your purchases.

Other Options

Beyond these big two delivery services are a couple of options worth noting: Giant Eagle offers Curbside Express delivery at select locations. Use your Advantage Card to receive the same kinds of savings you’d get in stores. A $35 minimum is required for deliveries, which cost $9.95 for same-day and $5.95 for advance orders. Walmart Grocery offers online ordering and free pickup, with delivery available at some stores.

Specialty grocer Hills Market, which has locations in Worthington and Downtown Columbus, offers daily deliveries with fees of $5 to $40, depending on ZIP code.

Jennifer Wray is a freelance writer and new mother.