Online grocery shopping seems to be one of those things that divides people radically. I have friends who swear by it - who never, or rarely, shop any other way. I have other friends who loathe the very idea or are gun-shy of the concept to the point of unwillingness to even try it.
I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps, having used online grocery shopping pretty extensively for the three months either side of the birth of each baby, but much more sporadically thereafter, and recently not at all, until I placed an order earlier today, my first one for almost a year. I find myself ambivalent about the whole business, which is why I don't use it regularly and tend to fall back on it in exigent circumstances only, but at the same time, I have found it invaluable at those hibernating stages of parenting where the very notion of trekking to the grocery shop with one, two or three small children in tow seems akin to climbing Mount Everest in January. In bare feet. And board shorts ;-)
The advantages (the "for" case) of online grocery shopping mostly relate to time-and-motion efficiencies for me, although I know some people also avert that there is a cost advantage (this might be true for extremely organised people like the Planning Queen, but I haven't found it consistently true for me). I see the advantages as follows:
1. No physical shopping trips with small children / in evenings by tired parents
Depending on the age and stage of children, the general busyness of your weekly schedule, and everyone's state of health and energy, this can be a blissful boon of online grocery shopping. For those weeks when the very thought of a possible supermarket toddler meltdown makes you sob in advance ... teh InterWebz is your friend.
2. Overall, the time expended is less (although not as dramatically less as you might suppose at first).
I grocery shop once a fortnight, buying fresh fruit & veg and meat weekly at the greengrocer / butcher. (I count groceries as everything else - packaged food, frozen & dairy, breakfast foods, bread & baked goods, pasta, rice, legumes, dried foods, canned foods, cleaning & household products etc).
A grocery shop at the supermarket takes my toddler and I approximately 45-50 minutes in-store, plus 10 minutes to load the car, 10 minutes total travel time, 25 minutes unloading and putting away - a total of 1.5 hours. An online shop takes me about 35-40 minutes to enter, and the unloading / putting away time is the same, but I do save the 20 minutes travel and loading.
3. The timing of delivery can be chosen to suit you.
One of the things I like least about physical grocery shopping is the unloading part, which has to be accomplished by me alone with a usually tired and mischievous toddler in tow. With an online shop I always select a delivery time when my husband will be home from work, so one of us can put away the groceries while the other kid-wrangles uninterrupted.
4. It is somewhat easier to control costs
Because you can see the total mounting up as you go, it is easier to take out discretionary items if your budget starts getting blown. I set myself a $250 budget for a fortnightly grocery shop (bearing in mind that this doesn't include f&v and meat) and I can usually stick to it online. My in-store buying varies a lot more, sometimes as low as $180 but often as high as $300.
However, there are some disadvantages to online shopping that mean I don't see it becoming my default / always mechanism. The against case for me is:
1. Losing the opportunity to model and share public behaviour with my kids.
The thing about kids and shopping is that, in my experience, each of my kids has become noticeably more pleasant to shop with the more times we practiced and invested the time into learning about shopping behaviours. In a nutshell, if they never get a chance to do it, they'll never learn how to do it. (I fully realise this argument is bollocks if you have kids with sensory issues or who are neurodiverse).
2. Quality of products / out of stocks and substitutions
I have often found the quality of any fresh produce disappointingly poor with online shopping (hence, I never order fruit & veg online now, although if pushed I will order meat sometimes, such as this week when I know I won't get to the butcher). The amount of times that an item I've ordered has been out of stock, and substituted with an item I wouldn't have chosen, is also annoying if you've based a menu plan around specific items.
3. Missing out on specials
I know they do have online specials but frankly, the better bargains are always in-store. I've often switched laundry detergent brands, for example, based on a price cut, or stocked up on loo paper or crackers because they are super-duper cheap. Overall I think I spend more intelligently in-store when I can see what's on offer and make decisions based on that.
What do you think? Do you like or loathe online shopping (or neither)?
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