How to find cheap groceries online

If you want to know whether or not buying groceries online is for you, check out this roundup of the top five online grocery destinations.

If you want to start buying groceries online, we have five sites for you to try out. Few of them are designed well and a couple require up to five days to actually get your groceries. When it comes to buying groceries online, the experience is far from perfect. But I think you might find value in some of these options.

The wide world of groceries

Amazon

Amazon provides the best grocery experience, flat out. It's the service I use. And it's the only service I can fully recommend.

Amazon's grocery store, while still in beta, is designed well. Finding groceries takes just a few seconds. Adding goods to your shopping cart mimics the familiar Amazon experience. And prices are usually better than at my local supermarket. That said, I did find some better deals at wholesale brick-and-mortar stores, like BJ's and Costco.

Delivery is a major concern for most online grocery shoppers. That's where Amazon really shines. Amazon offers its "Free Super Saver" shipping on most products. You'll get your delivery in five to seven days. You can also get bulk items like paper towels in three to five business days with free shipping. If you want your groceries sooner, you'll be forced to pay for it, but Amazon can accommodate just about any time frame you require.

The Amazon grocery shopping experience is convenient, simple, and affordable. I highly recommend it.

AulSuperStore

The first thing you'll notice when you get to AulSuperStore is how ugly the site is. There's a very basic navigation bar in the left sidebar listing all the different grocery pages, but little else. It reminds me of a late Web 1.0 site.

I was generally impressed with AulSuperStore's inventory of groceries. Almost anything you search for will be on the site. But beware that some products I came across were sold out--something I never saw on Amazon. Prices were competitive, but they didn't quite match Amazon's pricing.

Delivery is the biggest issue facing AulSuperStore. You can't expedite shipping. If you're in Upstate New York, New York City, or New Jersey, you'll get your groceries in one day. But if you're in California, don't expect them for at least four days. Such a rigid delivery system will probably turn some people off.

AulSuperStore, while competitive on prices, isn't competitive on anything else. I don't recommend it if you live outside of New York or New Jersey.

Groceries Express

Groceries Express provides delivery to any of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. But if you live in Detroit, you can have frozen foods delivered to your door.

Unfortunately, that's the only real benefit Groceries Express provides. Like AulSuperStore, it's poorly designed. Finding individual groceries is too difficult. And its search field doesn't make finding products any easier.

When it comes to pricing, Groceries Express is on par with the other grocery services in this roundup, though it won't match Amazon on many products. I was also displeased with the lack of options. For example, Amazon offers a slew of different dog food brands. Groceries Express offers just a handful.

Groceries Express guarantees delivery via FedEx in three days, which isn't so bad. But its less-than-ideal selection turned me off to the service.

MyBrands

MyBrands' vision is to provide you with all the groceries you look for on a daily basis, as well as those that are hard to find. So, if that brand of cereal you enjoyed in Florida isn't available in your area, check out MyBrands to see if it stocks it. Chances are, it will. I was quite pleased with the company's selection of the basics, like ketchup, bread, and household goods. But I was blown away by its selection of hard-to-find products.

MyBrands is designed well. Finding products was made simple with the navigation pane in the left sidebar. And its "Quick Finder" tool helps you find a particular item in seconds.

Generally, prices on MyBrands were in line with Amazon's, but some of the harder-to-find products will run you a bit more. If you want your groceries the next day, MyBrands can accommodate that, which makes it even more valuable to the online shopper looking for some deals and convenience.

I was impressed by MyBrands. It's not as nice as Amazon, but it's close. Consider it a fine alternative to Amazon's grocery store.

ShopFoodEx

Once you get to ShopFoodEx, you'll probably be a little overwhelmed by its homepage. It's cluttered with "aisles," which are an artist's representation of a particular grocery type. They're flanked by real images of product specials. It's just ugly.

You'll find a nice selection of products on ShopFoodEx. From paper towels to condiments and baby products, the site has it all. Browsing through those products is practically impossible though, because the site uses a column view to display items instead of listing them across the page. Once again, its awful design takes away from the experience.

ShopFoodEx offers a price-matching service, which will refund you for the entire cost of buying a cheaper item online from another grocer. So if you find that Amazon's ketchup is cheaper than ShopFoodEx's, you can inform the site's customer service representatives, and they will refund you the total cost of your Amazon order. It's a nice touch that adds some value to the site. But I didn't try it out, so I'm not sure how lenient it is with that offer.

I should note that ShopFoodEx's shipping costs are expensive. You'll be forced to pay $8.95 or $12.95, depending on where you live, for delivery within three to six business days.

ShopFoodEx fails to provide a viable grocery experience. While I like that it matches pricing, its bad design will immediately turn people away.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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