We Crunched the Numbers and This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy Groceries Online – CNET

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Grocery inflation may be slowing, but that doesn’t mean the effects of the past few years aren’t still being felt at the register. If you’re looking to cut food costs, we’ve located the best places to buy cheap groceries online. Discount grocery delivery is definitely a thing, and we’ve done the math to find the absolute cheapest online grocery service. We looked at three of the most popular national grocers with at least some form of delivery — Amazon FreshTarget and Walmart. In the end, Walmart nabbed the top spot as the cheapest place to buy groceries online. The big box store came out about 10% cheaper than Target and 18% cheaper than Amazon Fresh. 

If it’s gourmet goods you seek, we also found the best places to buy specialty items online. For budget basics and staples at affordable prices, look below for the full breakdown of online grocery costs at Walmart, Target and Amazon Fresh.

Amazon, Target and Walmart compared

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Walmart Target Amazon Fresh
Total before extras $137.10 $153.34 $165.66
Monthly membership fee $13.00 $11.00 $15.00
Total: $150.10 $164.34 $180.66

Walmart has the cheapest groceries online

walmart-plus

Walmart

Walmart is well-known for having some of the lowest prices of any national retail chain. In this analysis of the cheapest online grocery delivery operations, its budget-friendly reputation held up. Walmart pretty much swept the field with the lowest total cost in every grocery subcategory except one — pantry staples — for which Target has the lowest total by about $2. Many of Walmart’s cheapest items come courtesy of its in-house brand, Great Value. Target has an in-house brand of its own called Good & Gather, while Amazon sports a number of generic brands including Amazon-branded groceries along with Happy Belly and 365 by Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon.

How I did the math

To find the cost of buying groceries online at these three retailers, I first generated a list of 37 popular grocery items — some name brands, some generic — on the same day and in every grocery category including bread, snacks, dairy, produce, meat, fish, beverages and pantry staples. I mostly avoided specialty items and organic ingredients for this exercise. For each product, I chose the cheapest available option from all three retailers: Amazon Fresh, Target and Walmart.

If an item wasn’t available at one retailer, I selected the next closest thing, since that’s what a shopper would likely do. In some cases, a product was only available in a larger or smaller size. In those instances, I prorated the amount and price to ensure it was an even cost comparison.

Cheapest online grocery delivery services

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Walmart Target (Shipt) Amazon Fresh
Eggs/dairy:
Brown eggs (12) $4.87 $5.19 $2.98
2% milk (1 gallon) $3.08 $3.89 $4.39
Almond milk (1/2 gallon) $2.44 $2.99 $4.00
Block Cabot cheddar cheese (8 oz.) $2.98 $3.19 $4.29
Plain yogurt (32 oz.) $2.36 $3.79 $3.29
Subtotal: $15.73 $19.05 $18.95
Bread and snacks:
Loaf of 7-grain bread $2.38 $3.99 $4.00
Thomas’ English muffins (pack of 6) $3.48 $3.49 $4.69
Club crackers (13.7 oz.) $3.38 $3.99 $4.79
Subtotal: $9.24 $11.47 $13.48
Produce:
Broccoli head (1 lb.) $1.38 $4.11* $1.99
One pound bag red potatoes (1 lb.) $1.18 $1.30 $1.00
Package of mixed greens (5 oz.) $2.98 $3.69 $4.14
Hass avocado (1) $0.88 $0.99 $0.99
Bag of carrots (1 lb.) $1.24 $1.29 $1.00
Bag of yellow onions (1 lb.) $1.05 $1.30 $0.93
Subtotal: $8.71 $12.68 $10.05
Pantry:
Bottle of Heinz Ketchup (32 oz.) $4.28 $4.99 $4.28
Jar Hellman’s Mayo (20 oz.) $5.48 $6.29 $7.49
White rice (2 lb.) $1.62 $0.95 $1.99
Chicken stock (32 oz.) $1.33 $1.99 $2.79
Ground Starbucks coffee (12 oz.) $14.92 $10 $8.90
Peanut butter (16 oz.) $1.84 $1.69 $3.19
Seltzer (8) $3.28 $3.99 $4.49
Barilla penne pasta (16 oz.) $1.84 $2.19 $1.99
Prego pasta sauce (24 oz.) $2.24 $2.89 $3.69
Canned dog food (12.5 oz.) $1.88 $1.79 $1.67
Subtotal: $38.71 $36.77 $40.48
Snacks:
Box of Cheerios (18 oz.) $4.78 $5.49 $4.78
Bag of cape cod potato chips (8 oz.) $3.68 $3.99 $4.59
Corn chips (11 oz.) $2.48 $2.29 $2.49
Chewy granola bars (box of 8) $2.44 $2.99 $3.98
Breyer’s ice cream (1 quart) $4.97 $5.79 $5.99
Simply Orange juice (52 oz.) $3.98 $4.59* $5.29
Subtotal: $22.33 $25.14 $27.12
Meats/fish:
Ground beef (1 lb.) $3.98 $6.29* $4.66
Atlantic salmon (1 lb.) $10.98 $10* $12.00
Bone-in chicken (3 lb.) $3.96 $5.07 $6.96
Organic chicken breast (1 lb.) $6.68 7.49* $13.79
Bacon (16 oz) $4.24 $4.89 $5.99
Plant-based beef (1 lb.) $7.96 $9* $6.79
Morningstar Veggie burgers (4 pack) $4.58 $5.49 $5.39
Subtotal: $42.38 $48.23 $55.58
Total before extras: $137.10 $153.34 $165.66
Monthly membership fee: $13.00 $11.00 $15.00
Total: $150.10 $164.34 $180.66
*Denotes item not available for shipping

Why these three retailers?

amazon fresh pickup grocery shopping

Amazon Fresh offers free delivery for members or in-store pickup, depending on your location.

James Martin/CNET

While there are other places to order groceries online, Amazon Fresh, Target (via Shipt) and Walmart are three of the most popular US grocers with a national presence and the option for online delivery. Other discount grocery chains like Costco and Aldi can be delivered using third-party apps such as Instacart, but Instacart marks groceries up about 10% so it’s not typically going to be your best budget option. (That said, shopping in bulk and in person at Costco can save you as much as $1,000 over the course of the year, potentially more if you become a Costco Executive member.)

How much is unlimited delivery for Amazon Fresh, Walmart Plus and Target?

All three retailers offer cost-effective monthly memberships that include unlimited free deliveries on orders of about $35 or more. Amazon Prime is $15 per month and includes free delivery on grocery orders over $150 as well as for most Amazon non-grocery products. You’ll also get Amazon Prime Video and a few other perks. As of Feb. 28, Amazon Fresh charges fees for grocery delivery on orders under $150 even for Prime members, so you’ll pay as much as $10 per delivery depending on the total.

Walmart Plus is $13 per month or $98 for the year for unlimited free deliveries. Target’s Shipt is the cheapest of three memberships at $11 a month with no minimum delivery total to hit. All three offer free in-store pickup in some form, although Amazon has fewer locations than Walmart and Target.

As of Feb. 28, Amazon Fresh charges fees for grocery delivery on orders under $150 even for Prime members, raising the total price even more.

Target doesn’t deliver all types of groceries

shipt shopper in produce aisle

Target-owned Shipt will send groceries to your door in a matter of hours but there are some staples, including meat, not available for delivery.

Shipt

While I tried to use only items that were available for delivery, it wasn’t always possible. Target and its national shipping partner Shipt don’t have every grocery staple available for shipping, particularly fresh meats and some produce. If you want to shop for your full list of groceries at Target, you’re likely going to have to visit a brick-and-mortar location.

Are online grocery prices cheaper than at the store?

In general, Walmart and Target offer the same prices online as they do in brick-and-mortar locations, but not always. Sales items, in particular, are not always coordinated between online and in-store. Amazon Fresh is mostly online-only save for a few locations, although many products on Amazon Fresh can also be found at Whole Foods. 

hungryroot box of groceries

Hungryroot is a cross between a grocery delivery service and meal kit company and encourages you to go rogue from the recipe.

Hungryroot

Other options for grocery delivery

Instacartis a popular national delivery service and functions as a third-party shopper and delivery outfit that allows you to order groceries from a selection of local supermarkets. You’ll essentially be paying the same prices as if you visited the store yourself, plus a $4 delivery fee and tip. 

Fresh Direct is another popular grocery delivery service and one of my favorites. It’s currently only available in the Northeast. The prices here are a bit higher than the three retailers I analyzed above, but the grocery selection and customer service are both excellent. 

Hungryroot is a quirky grocery delivery operation that functions differently than the others. With a subscription, you’ll get weekly deliveries of curated groceries based on your preferences and eating habits. Hungryroot also populates recipe ideas when ordering and will send you the ingredients to make them if you so choose. 

Thrive Market is yet another members-only grocery service. Thrive has lots of high-quality and organic meats but no produce or dairy products. 

Boxed.com is a good place to find dry goods, pantry items and paper products at low prices but it’s not a full substitute for a grocery store since it lacks the fresh foods you would typically buy at a market. 

If you don’t mind getting your various groceries from different vendors, we’ve tested to find the best produce delivery servicesbest meat delivery services and even the best online fish and seafood markets for 2023. 

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