Do grocery delivery and pick up services pay off?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shopping for groceries has never been easier. These days, you don't even have to leave your car or better yet, your house, to buy your family's favorite foods.

Popular grocery pick up and delivery services are supposed to save time,  but is it really convenient, and at what cost?

News Channel 3 found three local families to put grocery delivery and pick up services to the test.

All three of the moms WREG spoke with could use a way to make grocery shopping quick and simple.

Ashley Frisina has two growing boys.

"I need two carts for everything that I do and within the month we're gone," exclaimed Frisina.

Bobbie Nance is a wife and working mom with two teenagers.

Nance said, "They're always hungry, they're always on the move. We need healthy food, but also quick food."

Aneesa Burford's family includes her husband and three little girls.

"Just saving the time, a lot of times, you're working, you're tired, but you still have to muster up the energy to still go shopping."

Saving time is exactly what grocery delivery and pickup services are supposed to provide, but does it really pay off?

Frisina, Nance and Burford tested a total of four services to find out.

Frisina used Shipt, it's a online company that provides grocery delivery from Kroger and Target in Memphis.

  • A membership is required.
  • It costs either $99/year, or $14/month.
  • A $7 delivery fee is tacked on for customers who don't have the annual membership, and for orders under $35.
  • While the site offers sales, customers can't use store discounts or coupons.

Frisina signed up for a free trial, and started shopping. She submitted the order just after 3 p.m. and got the earliest delivery window available, which was between 5 and 6 p.m.

Shortly afterwards, Frisina received a notification showing the name, and even a picture of the person who'd be shopping for her groceries.

Companies like Shipt hire their own shoppers to pick and deliver the groceries.

Frisina added, "I thought that was cool because you get to see who`s picking your stuff."

Frisina's Shipt shopper later messaged her with a photo, explaining the strawberries in the store looked really bad.

"It`s kind of like she's a personal shopper so I feel like I'm in the store with her. And that works for me."

Then just before 5 p.m. the groceries arrived.

"Hey how are you," asked Frisina

"I'm fine, here are you groceries. I bagged them all myself to make them easier for your to put up," replied the shopper.

Frisina said of her experience, "Didn't take up too much of my time, it was awesome."

Bobbie Nance tested out Instacart.

It offers delivery service from several stores across the MidSouth, including Kroger, Costco, Petco and CVS, depending on ZIP code.

Instacart doesn't require a membership, but the annual or "express" is $149.

  • This waives the delivery fee on orders over $35, which can run from $5.99 to $9.99 for non-members.
  • The order minimum is $10.
  • Plus, customers are charged a service fee, and possibly a busy pricing fee during peak periods.
  • Instacart doesn't honor in-store sales, or coupons.

Nance selected Kroger and was able to start shopping with a simple sign in.

As Nance prepared to check out, though, she noticed her $40 order had quickly climbed to more than $53.

She decided against the trial membership, so was prepared for the $5.99 delivery fee, but a tip was automatically added, plus that service fee.

"It did add up," said Nance.

Nance placed her order just after 11:30 a.m. and got a message notifying her that she still had time to make changes before delivery which was scheduled between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

"So that`s convenient for the couple of things I might have forgotten," she said.

The shopper later asked for Nance's approval before substituting at item that wasn't in stock.

"And she now says we're all done, thanks for shopping."

Except the delivery was running behind.

Nance said as she glanced at her phone, "It had initially said 1:00 to 2:00, then it updated and said it would be between 2:00 and 2:30, and now I've just received a notice that my Kroger delivery is on our street."

In the end, the Instacart shopper still arrived a few minutes after 2 p.m.

Nance and the shopper greeted one another.

Then Nance asked, "Let`s see, how do we do this?"

The shopper replied, "I just unload it ... hand it to you."

The personal shopper even had all the bags packed in insulated totes.

Nance said of her experience, "Didn't have to get out in the steamy rain, got to stay home and here's my dinner!"

And while she wasn't fond of the service fee, Nance added, "It was pretty convenient."

Convenience is what Burford loved most about her experience trying grocery pick-up for the first time.

She joked as she got started, "Perfect, I think you started something!"

She shopped using Kroger's Click List and Walmart's Grocery Pickup.

  • ClickList costs $4.95, after the first three orders.
  • Pickup with Walmart is free.
  • There's no minimum order with Kroger; it's $30 with Walmart.
  • ClickList connects a customer's Kroger card, so electronic coupons are accepted, and so are paper coupons upon arrival.
  • With Walmart pickup, customers can't use coupons.

Burford placed both orders in the early afternoon, but pickup wasn't available until after 5, so she opted for a pickup time the following day.

Throughout the parking lot, both stores had signs pointing towards pickup.

Burford simply pulled in and called the number posted on the signs in front of her.

Each store added personal touches, like a gift bag for first timers from Walmart, and the Kroger associate who asked Burford if she wanted her eggs up front.

Burford said it was "an awesome experience, I think I`ll never go back to going in the grocery store."

The only downside for Burford was that neither Kroger or Walmart offered pickup at her neighborhood stores. She had to drive to the closest location that provided pickup.

In fact, not all of these services are available in every Memphis neighborhood.

Something else to consider with sites like Shipt and Instacart, is that often times, their online prices are higher than what customers would find in the store.

For example, Nance's Instacart order was $11 more expensive than what she would have paid if she'd shopped directly at Kroger.

While some of that was due to fees, we still found about half the items cheaper in the store.

As for the Shipt (now owned by Target) order, it was actually $3 cheaper online. (WREG tested with the current week's prices for Target and Shipt). Roughly half of the items were the same price online and in-store.

A breakdown of online vs. in-store prices is below.