What If My Grocery Bill Is So Much Lower Because I’m Using the Online Delivery Service?

Photo credit: Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0.

When I did my groceries vs. toiletries roundup yesterday, I noted that I was spending significantly less on at the grocery store now that I’d moved to Iowa.

Yes, food is a little less expensive in Cedar Rapids than it is in Seattle. (This cost of living calculator puts Seattle at slightly above the national average, in terms of food costs, and Cedar Rapids as slightly below.)

I’m also buying my toiletries in bulk whenever possible, which has helped bring my total bill down.

But I’m curious whether my online grocery delivery service is the real game-changer here.

Ordering my groceries online saves me money in two ways. First, it lets me meal plan a full month in advance. You might remember, from the Oh My Dollar! podcast episode where Lillian Karabaic interviewed me about meal planning, that I used to have this spreadsheet where I tracked groceries that I needed this week and groceries that I’d need next week — and that system worked fine, but it is way more efficient to ask myself “how many meals and snacks do I need this month, and how can I hit that number in the most cost-effective way possible?”

(Before you ask me what happens if I need fewer meals than planned because I end up going out to dinner or something: they roll over into the next month, of course. It helps that I like to cook the types of soups and stews that can be frozen for the future, vs. something that has to be eaten in the next two days or it goes bad.)

I like being able to see my shopping cart total before I do the online checkout, instead of doing the mental math thing or the tally mark thing to guesstimate the cost. I know how close I am to hitting my monthly grocery budget, and whether I should add or remove anything from the cart before purchase.

Ordering my groceries online also prevents impulse shopping. When I used to shop in store, I’d nearly always stick to my shopping list… but all those impulse-buy items would make their way onto next week’s shopping list. Buying guacamole-flavored hummus is okay when it’s planned! (It’s also gross. In case you were wondering.)

This is something I hadn’t quite put together until I listened to this week’s Oh My Dollar! podcast on curbing impulse purchases, but as soon as Lillian suggested online grocery shopping as a way to cut back on impulse buys, I was like of course. I have no idea what new flavors of Oreos are out there right now. I don’t know what they’ve done to yogurt. Someone could have put nacho cheese in the hummus and I’d never know, because I don’t type “nacho cheese hummus” into the Hy-Vee Aisles Online search bar.

So if you’re considering switching to an online grocery service, I’d say do it. I had thought that I might start going to the Hy-Vee in person once the weather warmed up a bit, but now I’m thinking I’ll buy all of my groceries online. Even when you add in delivery fees and tips, I’m still coming out ahead.

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