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How to get your groceries delivered without breaking the bank

NBC’s senior consumer investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen reports for TODAY.

As food prices rise like summer temperatures, the demand for delivery services has cooled in contrast. Inflation in the grocery aisle has caused families around the country to pinch pennies more than ever before. In fact, food prices have gone up 10.4% from last year’s costs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Prices have been spiking on many morning-time staples like eggs, meats, poultry and more. For example, 100% ground roast coffee is up over a dollar, an increase over last year’s average of nearly 26%. Similarly, the price of by-the-pound bacon is up nearly a dollar from last year, an increase of 11%. Most startlingly, a dozen eggs are up almost $1.07, a whopping 64.9% increase in price over last year. 

During the pandemic, the convenience of food delivery apps became a habit for many American families. In fact, online grocery sales in the United States totaled $7.2 billion in June 2022 alone, a revenue increase of 6% versus the prior year according to consumer consulting agency Brick Meets Click. This figure includes pickups, first and third party delivery and ship-to-home deliveries, so whether or not this revenue increase points to a broader use of these apps or inflation itself is still up for debate.

Still, as pandemic restrictions have started to ease, demand for some of these apps has cooled off as well. In June, American grocery delivery has actually dropped 26% since 2020’s lockdown saw these services boom by necessity. Since then, Buyk, a startup offering consumers grocery delivery within 15 minutes filed for bankruptcy in March and grocery app Jokr pulled out of the U.S. in June, opting to continue operations in Europe and Latin America. Instacart reported a 

Consumers here in the states are opting for cheaper alternatives like curbside pickup, eating out once again or going grocery shopping in-store to avoid not only a delivery fee but a driver tip as well. 

However, gas prices are also straining the wallets of shoppers around the country, so many consumers are worrying about whether or not they can keep grocery deliveries and takeout orders coming. 

There are a few ways that all of us can keep our budgets in check.

3 ways to budget for grocery deliveries

1. Look into services that deliver from multiple stores.

To get an idea of which places around you carry the best price per item, use apps that allow for product comparisons. Services like Instacart, Shipt, DoorDash and Uber Eats offer you the chance to shop through multiple stores at once and compare and contrast to find out which store has the lowest price for every item. 

2. Consider buying in bulk.

If you bite the bullet and pay for things in bulk you know you’ll use regularly, you can avoid hefty grocery bills and sustain your fridge and pantry for a longer period of time.

Wholesale app Boxed specializes in bulk orders and has no fee for its standard membership and shipping is also free on the app with orders over $79. While Costco doesn’t have their own dedicated delivery app, its offerings are available on Instacart. Keep in mind, though, if you’re not a Costco member, you’ll be subject to higher prices, and that Instacart charges more than prices you would find in-store. 

3. Look into the benefits that apps offer.

When you refer family and friends to some delivery apps, they get a finder’s fee for you signing up. Cleverly, consumers can help each other in kind on apps like FreshDirect and Instacart, who offer credits for every first order made through the apps’ referral systems. Additionally, Walmart offers a promo bonus when you refer a friend to their app.

How to save on routine deliveries for groceries

 1. Consider “free-trial hopping”.

You can enjoy the exclusive services of different apps while not yet committing to a subscription. Then, when you’re ready, you can decide which app holds the best options for you and sign up for a monthly subscription. 

Some options include:

  • Instacart — where you can subscribe at $9.99 a month for free delivery on orders over $35.  
  • Walmart+ Inhome — which starts at 19.95 a month, with free shipping and no additional order fees or tips. 
  • Boxed — which offers a Boxed Up premium subscription at $49 for free shipping on orders over $20.  
  • Amazon Prime — which allows you to take advantage of Amazon Fresh if you already have a Prime subscription.

There are ways to save on restaurant deliveries, too

1. Pay attention to the fees.

If you’re looking into popular delivery apps like DoorDash, UberEats, and Grubhub for dinner, pay close attention to the varying service and delivery fees each app will charge on top of your bill. 

 2. You can order through the restaurant directly.

Comparing the prices of the dish you want doesn’t stop simply on each delivery app. Skip third-party fees from the apps that send the cost of your pad Thai sky high by taking a look at the price of what you want on the actual restaurant’s website as well.  

3. Don’t forget to search for coupons. 

Hit up popular apps for savings like Groupon, Cash App, Coupon Follow, American Express even the Wall Street Journal offers deals and coupons for everything from groceries to restaurant discounts.