Recent events have turned our lives topsy-turvy. Even as communities are re-opening, we’re staying close to home, but restrictions also open our eyes to exploring new options. With grocery stores and restaurants semi-closed, food delivery services went from digital trends to necessity. We decided to take a look at five of the best.
Narrowing our list required some clarification. In discussing food delivery apps, should we include those that deliver from local restaurants, grocery delivery service, and/or meal kits? Digital trends tell us the average user does a little of each, so we accepted that as our guideline.
1. Amazon Prime Now (and Amazon Fresh)
Amazon turned into a lifeline for many when the stay-at-home orders locked us in place. For groceries, there is some confusion between two offerings: Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Fresh. Amazon Prime Now is included in your Prime membership. Fresh gives you a wider selection of items for an additional $15 monthly fee.
Both services pull their items from Amazon’s massive distribution centers and/or (Amazon-owned) Whole Foods stores. Both feature same-day delivery.
If you are a Prime member, you get same-day grocery delivery at most competitive prices. Shopping and delivery are exactly like anything else from Amazon. Even as delivery times shift due to overwhelming demand, Amazon is the best at keeping up.
Amazon’s grocery deliveries are mainly available in major metropolitan areas like Seattle, Washington DC, or Chicago. They are less available in rural areas. There is also a minimum order of $35 for free delivery.
2. Walmart Grocery
In fierce competition with Amazon, Wal-Mart developed its own app-driven delivery service for groceries. Wal-Mart has an advantage in having more stores in rural areas, making its service more widely available. The shopping experience is very similar to Amazon’s. You shop via an app. Prices are the same as at their stores.
Same easy app-based shopping without the annual “prime” membership fee if you only use occasionally (delivery fees run $8-$10, plus driver tip). If you use the service more often, there is an annual $100 membership that eliminates the delivery fees (but not the tip). Wider availability in rural areas.
Limited to certain stores. There is a minimum $30 order. Delivery times have varied widely lately due to extreme demand.
For those who prefer shopping in local stores, Instacart is your best grocery option. Instacart is the biggest and most-refined of a number of “personal shopper” options. They contract to local shoppers to find items at multiple stores in your community. You select your items via the app and they shop both chains and locally-owned businesses. Instacart’s pricing structure is kinder to smaller orders. It’s typically 5% above store price for non-alcohol items, plus a 1.9% service fee, plus a 5% tip. They also offer an Instacart Express membership, which gives you free deliveries on orders exceeding $35.
Item-based pricing is preferable for a smaller delivery order. They are more likely to shop locally-owned stores (not guaranteed). You get access to items and non-bulk quantities sometimes unavailable from larger stores. There are options for scheduled deliveries, as well as on-demand orders to suit your schedule and needs.
Costs can be confusing to calculate. Pricing increases during higher-demand delivery times. (You can offset this by scheduling during lower-demand hours).
4. Uber Eats
Even if the groceries can be delivered right to your doorstep, sometimes you just ache for comfort food from your favorite restaurant. The good news is they’ve opened for take-out and delivery. The better news is that, even though the restaurant doesn’t deliver, Uber Eats makes delivery as easy and reliable as booking an Uber.
The best news (considering the current circumstances) is that virtually every local restaurant has joined Uber Eats. Most of the major chains were already part of the network. This means a wide selection of your favorite eats is minutes from appearing on your doorstep.
Cost. Uber Eats will reliably get your food to your door, but it can be expensive They also seem to be experimenting with pricing, including testing fees based on the distance between you and the restaurant. Pricing also varies by city. At the time of this writing, the fees were the cost of the food, plus taxes, plus a “booking fee”, plus a tip.
5. Blue Apron
If you’re not already familiar with meal services, Blue Apron is the best place to start. Each kit includes all the pre-measured raw ingredients needed to prepare a meal for two or four delivered to you in a recyclable cooler. The kit also comes with a simple instruction manual for preparing the meal. This will include unwrapping, cutting, measuring, and honest-to-God stove/oven cooking. It is a great way to pretend you can cook while actually learning how. It’s a subscription service. A three-meals-per-week two-person plan is $60 per week; four-person is $140.
Rave reviews from people who want to cook, as well as those who can, but don’t want to go shopping. They also have a wide variety of menus, so it is a great way to explore new recipes and techniques in a hand-held environment.
The cost is higher than if you did the shopping yourself. It is not a replacement for all of your meals. You will still find yourself needing to visit stores and/or have groceries delivered to fill the gap.
For each one, we listed here, there are another five vying for position and plenty of product reviews to check out. However, if you’re hunkering down in your smart home, these are the first five food and grocery delivery apps we would try out.