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Some people don't like the thought of ordering groceries online, thinking it's lazy or assuming the delivery service won't bring the right items or the best quality produce. Let me put your mind at rest though—if you haven't tried online grocery ordering you are going to be impressed! At least, I was.

There are many reasons why getting in the car and heading to the store might not be what you want to do today. Maybe you're snowed under with work, perhaps you have several small kids you don't want to drag along to Kroger or H-E-B, or it could be you just aren't in the mood for a busy supermarket. Fortunately there are several options in Houston for getting your groceries delivered safely to your door (or even into your kitchen). Yes it might cost a bit more overall, but remember, you're saving money on gas as well as your precious time.

Grocery Shopping for Me, Pre-Houston

When I lived in Holland, I did one of two things. I would either walk four minutes (yes four minutes) to the closest grocery store, or six minutes to the second closest, and carry my groceries home again. Or I would order them online. It really depended what I needed and whether it was raining! To grab some bread, milk and juice, the brief walk was just fine. For heavier items (cat litter, big bottles of soda or watermelons, perhaps) I would order online and wait for my goodies to be delivered. That worked out just fine, and then I moved across the Pond where things are a bit different.

My First Trip to Randall's

I moved to Houston in July and, since I am still in the process of learning to drive, looked for a similar solution, only to discover you need a credit card to order groceries here. I thought I'd found a solution when I realized our nearest Randall's is a mere 2 miles away, so I set off on foot one morning with a grocery list in hand, not realizing how a 4 mile round trip in a humid 110 degrees wouldn't be anywhere near as pleasant as I imagined. Of course, as soon as I returned home, my husband decided that it was time to inform me his company was paying for us both to eat out that first week, so my efforts had been in vain. I shrugged, chalked it up to experience, and consoled myself with cold water lobster tails at Eddie V's (which were rather nice). A short while later, once we had the necessary credit cards, I decided to compare online grocery delivery services and do a little research into which was the best. Let's take a look at some of the options.

Amazon Prime Pantry

This was the first online grocery service I tried, and to be honest it's very good for the staples such as cans, bottles, packaged meals, household items, and also if you like to buy in bulk. You can order a virtual Prime Pantry box and fill it with any items from the online store, then pay a flat delivery rate of $5.99 per box. Once a month Amazon offers free delivery if you choose at least five of their 'select' items as part of your order. You can also earn credit ($1 off a book or movie, for example) by opting for a slower shipping speed. I'd say Amazon Prime Pantry is worthwhile if you want to stock up on household items, canned food and so on, but you can't order fresh produce, so it's rather limiting in that respect. Also, you aren't going to get one hour delivery like other places offer, so if you just realized you're out of toilet paper or coffee, you should probably consider an alternative!

Instacart

This company appealed to me because you can choose items not just from one store, but from H-E-B, Spec's, Whole Foods Market, Costco, Central Market and Petco. Some of the items are the same price as in the store while some might be marked up a little. Whole Foods and Petco items are the same price as in store, Costco is 15 percent more and the rest vary. There are online coupons you can apply to your order. As for delivery, you can choose a slot one hour from now, two hours from now or later, depending on when is convenient. Sometimes it gets busy so you might not be able to choose a one-hour delivery slot. Use the website or the app to select your items, then you will be allocated a shopper who you can track online while they shop. Yes, you can see in real-time which items they've found along with anything that's not available (and you can choose that they substitute or refund, as you prefer). You can also track their drive to your home so you know exactly when they'll arrive. As for the delivery fee, it depends on how big your order is and the time slot you choose. You can also use Instacart Express for $14.99 a month or $149 a year, for unlimited deliveries.

Shipt

Similar to Instacart, Shipt delivers from H-E-B and uses personal shoppers to gather your items and deliver them. You pay a fixed $7 for the delivery, or else $14 a month or $99 a year for unlimited deliveries. As for pricing, there is an average markup of about $5 per $35 of groceries. The app is easy to use and there is a 'special request' feature so if you want to make sure your avocados are perfectly ripe or a particular item has a week before the expiry date is up, you can add as many notes as possible to fine-tune your order.

Conclusion?

Instacart and Shipt are quite similar, so I'd say give each a go and see which you prefer. If you want to order items from more places than just H-E-B and don't mind the slightly higher delivery cost, try Instacart. If not, try Shipt. And for basics, keep an eye on Amazon Prime Pantry for the latest deals. There are more options for the home shopper, such as Burpy and Grocery Station, but I haven't had any experience with those just yet. Sometimes I like to go to the store and look around, and choose my own items, but I've found shopping online to be really easy, and since the personal shoppers are trained to choose the best quality produce for you, there shouldn't be any disappointments. If anything does go wrong though, I've found that both Instacart and Shipt have excellent customer service. 

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