Is Online Grocery Shopping Right for You?

Going to the Web to stock your pantry can save you time, money and hassle.

Going to the Web to stock your pantry can save you time, money and hassle

More opportunities for startups. While the brick-and-mortar grocery industry has long been dominated by major chains, the online marketplace has fewer barriers to entry. Even small, online-only businesses such as Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based company that launched in February, have room to flourish. The website partners with some 150 Bay-area food producers to connect consumers with small, sustainable-food suppliers.

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"We have food entrepreneurs representing every aisle of the grocery store: farmers, fishermen, butchers, bakers," says Good Eggs CEO Rob Spiro. Food purchased on the site is made to order; a pie purchased Monday night, for example, is baked on Tuesday and arrives at the buyer's doorstep on Wednesday. Spiro says the company's system eliminates waste, since everything brought to the Good Eggs warehouse has already been bought by a customer.

Rewards vs. drawbacks. The benefits of online grocery shopping include accessibility, budgeting tools and convenience. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores offer a familiar, personable experience, which some consumers don't have a desire to stray from.

Delivery fees are also worth keeping in mind. If you choose a service that charges shipping costs for each order, consider your shopping habits. If, for instance, you plan to order food each week, you may be better off buying your groceries at a supermarket instead of paying a delivery fee each time. Meanwhile, paying a flat fee to sign up for a six-month free delivery package could be worth the cost if you shop often and can save money on gas or other expenses by eliminating trips to the store.

Consequently, consumers should weigh their options when deciding whether to make the switch to online grocery shopping.