Skip to main content

Best grocery delivery services in 2021: Instacart vs Amazon Fresh vs Walmart Grocery

Best grocery delivery services
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best grocery delivery services bring fresh produce, meat, dairy and pantry staples right to your front door. Forget navigating crowded aisles or waiting for space in the parking lot — get your groceries online with just a few clicks.

The best grocery delivery services became particularly essential for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with restrictions mostly gone, grocery delivery services continue to remain in high demand. Different options are sprouting all the time, like Hungryroot and Dumpling.

The best grocery delivery services offer fresh produce, meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, prepared foods and meal kits. Others only sell nonperishable, shelf-stable pantry items like pasta, cereal, canned goods and snacks. 

As far as delivery fees and times, they run the gamut. Some offer free delivery with add-on memberships, and most require a minimum order. You can get groceries delivered within an hour in some places or schedule them for the next day or later in the week. 

Here are the best grocery delivery services right now.

What are the best grocery delivery services?

The best grocery delivery services offer everything that you can get at the store, but with the convenience of being dropped off at your home. 

Two of the biggest and most widely available grocery delivery services are Amazon Fresh and Instacart. They operate differently (Amazon Fresh puts together orders in a warehouse, while Instacart uses personal shoppers who go to local stores near you), but both offer a range of goods, from fresh produce to meat and seafood to non-perishables like pasta to cleaning supplies. 

The other options that round out the list of best grocery delivery services have more limitations, whether it’s availability in many locations or the breadth of products they sell. None are exactly cheap when it comes to delivery fees, but convenience and quality come at a premium. Dumpling markets itself as an ethical service, empowering personal shoppers as their own business owners. FreshDirect has excellent organic produce but at higher prices and in only a handful of states. Peapod and Shipt also have limited coverage areas, though they do feature great deals and coupons. Hungryroot has a more limited selection of groceries, since it focuses on healthy and nutritious food.

The best grocery delivery services right now

Best grocery delivery services: Amazon Fresh

(Image credit: Amazon Fresh)

1. Amazon Fresh

Specifications
Locations: More than 2,000 cities (check availability); no dorms
Membership required: Yes, included with Amazon Prime ($119 per year)
Shipping fee: Free with minimum order of $35
Delivery times: As fast as 1 hour
What you can buy: Groceries and non-perishables, including Whole Foods
Reasons to buy
+Free 2-hour delivery+Whole Foods products+Widely available
Reasons to avoid
-Requires Amazon Prime membership-Delivery windows can be limited

Amazon Fresh is essentially a digital grocery store. It used to be an add-on service but now comes free for Amazon Prime members. The store offers fresh produce, meat, dairy, seafood, packaged foods, Whole Foods 365 products and household goods, such as cleaning supplies. You can even shop for electronics, clothing and toys on Amazon Fresh.  The interface is the same as the rest of Amazon, so using it is easy and familiar. Just add items to your cart and then check out. 

Amazon Fresh offers free two-hour delivery in most cases if you meet an order minimum (which vary by area). For a fee in some areas, you can get your delivery within the hour. Pickup is available in some cities and is free. 

Try the Amazon Fresh service now.

Best grocery delivery services: Instacart

(Image credit: Instacart)

2. Instacart

Specifications
Locations: 40 states, plus Washington, D.C. (check availability)
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: Starting at $3.99 with minimum order of $10; free with Instacart Express ($99 per year or $9.99 per month) with minimum order of $35
Delivery times: 2 hours to 6 days
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, alcohol from local stores
Reasons to buy
+Shop at top stores+Widely available+2-hour delivery
Reasons to avoid
-Delivery fees can add up-Random shoppers

Instacart uses personal shoppers to pick up items for you from local stores. You can even order from Costco and Sam’s Club without needing a membership (though you will pay more than members would in the store). Some areas even allow you to order from liquor stores, pet stores and pharmacies. As you’re shopping, you can indicate substitutes if any items are unavailable. You’ll receive live updates and can track the shopper’s progress on GPS.

If you upgrade to Instacart Express, you get free two-hour delivery on orders over $35 and you can also shop from multiple stores at the same time. Otherwise, you have to pay a fee starting at $3.99, which goes up during busier times of the day and varies by how quickly you want your delivery. Learn more about Instacart promo codes, delivery fees and becoming a shopper.

Try the Instacart service now.

Dumpling grocery delivery service

(Image credit: Dumpling)

3. Dumpling

Specifications
Locations: 50 states
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: Varies (shopper sets fee)
Delivery times: Same day and beyond
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, alcohol in some areas
Reasons to buy
+Wide range of stores+Personalized service+Empowered shoppers
Reasons to avoid
-Fees can get expensive-Clunky app

The gig economy can be brutal on the people that work it — from Uber drivers to grocery delivery shoppers. Dumpling touts itself as empowering shoppers to become their own business owners. If you feel even vaguely icky about how some services exploit their workers, then Dumpling is a grocery delivery outfit that you can feel good about.

Every shopper sets their own fees, hours and stores, so Dumpling's service will vary greatly depending on which shopper you select. The Dumpling app is a bit less slick and intuitive to use than some of the big names, but the shopping process itself was just as smooth. I received two deliveries from different stores from one shopper, whose range included Trader Joe's (which no other service covers). The shopper was prompt and communicative, texting me about out-of-stock items and inquiring about replacements. The delivery itself was on time and followed current health precautions. 

The delivery/shopping fees are a bit steep, but again, those fees are set by the shoppers themselves. And unlike a service like Instacart, Dumpling allows you to select the same shopper again and again, so you can build a more personal relationship with them. And at a time like this, it's a nice way to support an essential worker.

Try the Dumpling service now

Best grocery delivery services: Walmart Grocery

(Image credit: Walmart)

4. Walmart Grocery

Specifications
Locations: 1,600 cities (check availability)
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: $7.95 to $9.95, free with Delivery Unlimited ($98 per year or $12.95 per month)
Delivery times: Same day to one week
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, other Walmart products
Reasons to buy
+Low Walmart prices+Access to many types of products
Reasons to avoid
-High delivery fees

Walmart Grocery pickup and delivery is available most major cities. Previously, the service allowed you to order from Walmart for same-day pickup. Now, you can have that order delivered to you, also same-day. Walmart Grocery has existed on a separate app from the main Walmart app, but the company plans to merge them soon.

So, what can you buy? Everything from groceries (perishable and nonperishable) to home goods to electronics to beauty products to clothing — anything Walmart sells at low Walmart prices, which is why it's one of the best grocery delivery services. You can get fresh fruit and outdoor gear at the same time! Once you order, you can select an open delivery window up to a week in advance. And if you sign up for the Delivery Unlimited package, shipping is free. Otherwise, the delivery fee starts at $7.95.

Try the Walmart Grocery service now.

Hungryroot

(Image credit: Hungryroot)

5. Hungryroot

Specifications
Locations: Most ZIP codes in 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii)
Membership required: Yes
Shipping fee: $6.99 for orders under $70; free for orders over $70
Delivery times: Once a week in scheduled window
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, prepared foods
Reasons to buy
+Quality ingredients+Personalized experience
Reasons to avoid
-Limited selection

Hungryroot is a personalized subscription grocery service with a mission to deliver fresh, quality, healthy food. Signing up and shopping is a breeze. You start by taking a simple quiz about your eating habits, dietary restrictions and food preferences. Then, Hungryroot will fill your cart for you with ingredients for several chef-prepared recipes as well other snacks and groceries. Set a delivery day and wait for your groceries to show up at your doorstep.

If you don't want the options that Hungryroot selected, it's easy to modify them. You can peruse other recipes and add all of their ingredients with just one click. Or you can forego recipes entirely and simply browse their products, which include packaged goods like condiments and cereals. They also offer prepared ready-to-eat foods, like tuna salad and chicken burritos. 

Hungryroot's focus on nutritious food means that you'll see a more limited selection than you would get at the local grocery store. Delivery is completed within a certain window, though you can't narrow it down to certain hours like some other grocery delivery services. Hungryroot may not entirely replace all your grocery shopping needs, but it's a great, convenient way to get quality produce and meat.

Try Hungryroot now

Best grocery delivery services: FreshDirect

(Image credit: Fresh Direct)

6. FreshDirect

Specifications
Locations: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington D.C. (check availability)
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: $5.99-$15.99 with minimum order of $30; free with Delivery Pass ($129 per year, $79 for six months or $39 for six months of midweek deliveries)
Delivery times: Same day to one week
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, alcohol in some areas
Reasons to buy
+High-quality groceries+Prepared meals and meal kits
Reasons to avoid
-Limited coverage area

FreshDirect is limited to a handful of Northeast states and offers those areas high-quality produce, meat, seafood, cheese, baked goods and pantry staples. They also make their own brand of meal kits and prepared meals — you could buy an entire Thanksgiving meal, as an example. You can also buy farmshare boxes, fresh flowers, household goods, personal care items and alcohol in some areas. Because their goods are top-notch (and often organic), their prices reflect that so you may experience some sticker shock.

If you’re in New York City, you can also use their Express service to get groceries the same day. And in the summers, FreshDirect expands its coverage zone to the Jersey Shore and Hamptons. Their fees are high, depending on the specific area, as is the monthly and yearly passes. But if you want quality groceries, you have to pay for them.

Try the FreshDirect service now

Best grocery delivery services: Peapod

(Image credit: Peapod)

7. Peapod

Specifications
Locations: New England and mid-Atlantic states (check availability)
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: Varies by order total; free with PodPass ($119 per year, $49 for three months, $69 for six months) with minimum order of $100
Delivery times: Next day to two weeks
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables
Reasons to buy
+Great sign-up deal+Double coupons
Reasons to avoid
-Limited coverage area

Peapod is one of the first of the best grocery delivery services, though it’s not in many regions right now. They recently pulled out of the Midwest and the Washington D.C. area. Peapod offers all the standard groceries like fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, dairy and pantry staples but also their own brand of meal kits. There’s decent savings to be had, too: They double manufacturers’ coupons up to $0.99. Be sure to sign up for their emails, which also tout special deals.

When you first sign up for Peapod, you can save $20 off your first order and get 60 days of free delivery with the promo code 60DAYSFREE. After that, you can get free delivery with PodPass, but only by ordering over $100. Otherwise, the delivery fee varies by your order total and the day and time you select.

Try the Peapod service now

Best grocery delivery services: Shipt

(Image credit: Shipt)

8. Shipt

Specifications
Locations: The Southeast, parts of Texas, Chicago (check availability)
Membership required: Yes ($99 per year or $14 per month)
Shipping fee: Free with minimum order of $35
Delivery times: 1 hour to two weeks
What you can buy: Groceries, non-perishables, alcohol in some areas
Reasons to buy
+Shop at favorite stores+1 hour delivery
Reasons to avoid
-Requires membership

Shipt is similar to Instacart but requires you to sign up for a membership, which comes with free shipping on orders over $35 (for smaller orders, the fee is $7). Shipt has a somewhat limited coverage area versus the other best grocery delivery services, but still offers convenience and decent prices. They promote weekly sales, coupons and deals (including buy-one-get-one-free) if you’re looking to save on your grocery budget.

Like Instacart, you get a personal shopper who will pick up the items on your list from various local stores, including Kroger, Target and CVS. In some areas, you can even get alcohol. If your personal shopper has questions about substitutes, they will contact you to discuss adjustments to the order. Once you place an order, you can get your items as quickly as within the hour or schedule the delivery in the next two weeks. 

Try the Shipt service now

Imperfect Foods grocery delivery

(Image credit: Imperfect Foods)

9. Imperfect Foods

Specifications
Locations: West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast and all along the West Coast
Membership required: No
Shipping fee: $4.99-8.99
Delivery times: Weekly and bi-weekly
What you can buy: Produce, meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, pantry, household, beauty
Reasons to buy
+Affordable products+Smart pre-filled cart with ability to remove and add items
Reasons to avoid
-Not every name brand or item is stocked

Imperfect Foods is one of several grocery delivery services that sells, well, what it name implies. That could anything from slightly bruised apples to weirdly shaped carrots. As they say, they stock groceries with "cosmetic quirks, irregular sizes, or are just surplus." You may struggle to see what's actually imperfect about the groceries you get, since they're still good quality and sustainable, to boot. Imperfect Foods also offers exclusive sales and deals that you won't find anywhere else.

Once you sign up, you're assigned a delivery day. Then, you have a certain shopping window. A great feature of Imperfect Foods is that they "pre-fill" your cart with items you might like. You can always add and remove your choices during the window. And if you don't need groceries a certain week, you can skip a delivery. 

Try Imperfect Foods now

How to choose the best grocery delivery service for you

The first thing to do when deciding which is the best grocery delivery service for you is determining which are available in your city or area.

If you want to find out which of the best grocery delivery services is in your area, here’s a handy list to check for availability. Just visit these links, enter your zip code or address information to learn which grocery delivery service will bring groceries right to your door.

Once you’ve narrowed down the list to the best grocery delivery services in your area, consider what you need to buy. If you need fresh produce and meat, you should go with Amazon Fresh, Walmart Grocery, Instacart, FreshDirect, Peapod, Shipt or Amazon Prime Now. If you only need non-perishables, consider Google Shopping or Prime Pantry. 

You may also want to consider the quality of the groceries. If you want organic produce, we recommend FreshDirect or Prime Now (which sells Whole Foods produce). If you want to shop at your favorite store, go with Instacart or Shipt. If you want to buy pre-made meal kits, check out Peapod and FreshDirect. If you’re all about a budget, Walmart Grocery may have some of the lowest prices. 

Grocery delivery alternatives

With so much demand for the best grocery delivery services right now, many of the providers on our list are experiencing delays. It's often hard to find open delivery slots, as well.

Other businesses, as well as new enterprises, are starting to step into the avoid. Panera has expanded from delivery of its usual menu of sandwiches, soups and salads to offer pantry essentials including milk, fruit and vegetables and their signature bread items. The goods are priced competitively to similar items found in supermarkets.

The self-driving startup Nuro recently received approval to test its driverless delivery robots in California. The company has already tested driverless delivery in Arizona and Texas and will now expand into nine Bay Area cities. Their service focuses on "last mile" deliveries — groceries, laundry, take-out orders, etc. Down the road, Nuro's robots could bring your supermarket order to you.

Kelly Woo

Kelly covers streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.