Grocery delivery options in Chicagoland
February 13, 2018 7:47 PM   Subscribe

For the most random of reasons, one of my friends won't be able to drive for several months. Instead of Lyft and such, he's opting for a grocery delivery company. Can you help him pick between Instacart, Peapod, and Freshdirect?

● Will deliver specified products (or at least notify of changes/ability to choose subbed item)
● Cost
● Punctuality
● Great customer service
● Friend lives in northern Chicago burbs, in case that makes a difference
posted by jojo and the benjamins to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He may or may not care about this, but Instacart incorporates undisclosed markups into its prices. That is, wherever they buy the apple, it may cost fifty cents, but Instacart will charge seventy-five...or ninety...or sixty-eight. He may want more transparent pricing--obviously, the company has to create a margin somewhere, and Fresh Direct does that by (among other things) charging for delivery--but I prefer them to be clearer about it.
posted by praemunire at 8:45 PM on February 13, 2018

I worked for Instacart...for 2 hours. They were so disorganized and just such a complete mess that two hours was all it took for me to realize I was wasting my time. I would recommend using one of the restaurant delivery services before I would recommend Instacart. (I also worked for a handful of restaurant delivery services, and at least two of them would also do grocery shopping if you requested it.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:15 PM on February 13, 2018

Safeway delivers in some areas. There is a charge for some delivery-time choices.
posted by Cranberry at 12:29 AM on February 14, 2018

I've seen plenty of Peapod vans in the northern burbs. We used them a few times several years ago, but their website was pretty bad and we fell out of the habit. Maybe it's better now? Was not a fan of Instacart, mainly due to the constant substitutions and erratic delivery times.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:01 AM on February 14, 2018

Shipt also delivers from Meijer to the northern suburbs.
posted by jabes at 7:35 AM on February 14, 2018

I'm not in Chicago and I'm not sure if this varies regionally, but I've been using Peapod since December and I think it checks all these boxes:

- Specified products: in three big orders, I've had three products that were out of stock and substituted; on 2 out of these 3, I was notified before delivery and given an option to change their substitution; on the 3rd one, the delivery guy pointed out the physical item that was different and where it was noted on the shipping list, and said I could reject it if I wanted. I think you can also specify preferred substitutions in case a particular product is out of stock.

- Cost: cost is comparable to all of the easily accessible grocery stores for me. These admittedly are not the cheapest options, but since I'd have to get a taxi to go to the cheaper stores anyway, it works out about the same even before I consider the value of my time. One thing I really really like is that you can sort items on their website by Price or by Unit Price (e.g., price per ounce) - I use this all the time and now I miss it when I'm in a grocery store.

- Punctuality: In each of the three deliveries I've had, the truck has shown up when it said it would, within the window specified. Usually I can schedule a delivery for within a day of when I place the order, although I usually push it out a few days for my own scheduling reasons.

- Great customer service: Delivery guys are friendly and super helpful; Peapod called me when I first started with them just to check in and make sure everything was in order; I haven't had any issues.

Re chimpsonfilm on the Peapod website - I'm not sure if the website has been improved since then or if it's just perfectly aligned to my needs, but I find it easy and pleasant to use. Like I said re the Unit Price option above, I'm starting to like it better than actual in-person grocery shopping for a lot of things.

I was turned off of Instacart because it seemed like everything had unpleasant surcharges, and FreshDirect isn't in my market. I started using Peapod because I had a credit card discount offer and a free delivery promotion, but I've liked it so much that I've kept with it even after both deals expired.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 7:55 AM on February 14, 2018

as an alternative to the outside services, Jewel offers direct delivery. Marianos has some indirect hoohah with instacart, but depending on where he is, small independent grocerers may also offer delivery services.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:08 AM on February 14, 2018

I use Peapod frequently. They stock their own warehouses now with groceries, so unlike Instacart, they're not shopping at a different store for you. It's their own setup. They may be reflecting somewhat higher prices on items, but compared to when I was shopping at Mariano's, I don't think it's significant on most things. At least not on the things we buy. You miss out on some of the crazy loss-leading sales from Jewel or whatever--prices are more predictable and consistent, though there will still be occasional sales.

I agree with Signed Sealed Delivered. The drivers are courteous, the substitutions are reasonable and relatively rare, and the cost is comparable. When you order, it shows you what the substitute will be if it's out of stock, and you can choose by item whether or not you want that substitute. You also can set your account globally to automatically substitute or not. Plus, they give you a heads up when they arrive, like SSD said. You see your running total as you're purchasing, so it's very budget friendly. I don't look for snacks or anything "fun" until my needs are totaled in the cart and I can see where I am compared to my budget for the week.

If you get into a regular cycle with Peapod, you may not pay very many delivery fees at all. I enrolled, paid the $6.95 delivery fee, and then was offered a 90-day window of free delivery. Then, if you spend enough you qualify for VIPea status, which earns free delivery and free items every so often. I have continued to qualify for VIPea status ever since, spending about $75-100 a week.

There is a $60 order minimum for Peapod.

I feel like Instacart is okay for "I have a cold and need someone to bring me a can of soup and a box of kleenex, even though they're probably going to bring the wrong soup and possibly the wrong type of kleenex." For my regular groceries, I couldn't handle that level of inconsistency. No experience with Freshdirect. I've had an okay experience with Amazon Prime when needed, and their minimum order is $40, I believe? The groceries are somewhat more expensive, but it's mostly Whole Foods groceries, so that makes some sense. Organic stuff is cheaper through Peapod than through AmazonFresh, if that's what you're into.
posted by terilou at 10:04 AM on February 14, 2018

I recently discovered that I can get groceries delivered to me (in the near-west suburbs, from Fresh Thyme, a sort of hybrid Trader Joe's/Whole Foods) for no additional delivery charge via the Prime Now app. Worth checking out, especially if your friend is already a Prime subscriber. Amazon Fresh is another option (I think it's a $200 annual membership), as is Google Express.
posted by ndg at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2018

Costco also delivers now. Between that and a CSA I'm pretty set.
posted by fshgrl at 12:27 PM on February 14, 2018

Depending on which 'burb your friend is in, Angelo Caputo's Fresh Markets delivers groceries to select suburbs for a $10 delivery fee with a $50 minimum order. I haven't used the delivery service, just the pickup-in-store option, so I can't speak to their drivers' punctuality or customer service.

Their website was kind of kludgey and slow, but they seem to have updated it since last time I ordered. When they needed to substitute items, they did call me to ask what/if they should substitute.

Caputo's is my regular grocery store - and I am a huge fan. They have a great selection of fruits and vegetables, regular groceries and a wonderful selection of Italian specialties. I estimate that I save at least 25%, if not more, shopping there, rather than at "the Jewels".
posted by sarajane at 12:55 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

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