The Pros and Cons of Buying Groceries Online and Tips to Save Money

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pros and cons of buying groceries online

It wasn’t that long ago when everyone was doing it.

The milkman was doing it.

The baker too. 

And the iceman always rang twice on Thursdays. 

There’s nothing revolutionary about home-delivered groceries. 

My mum tells a story that as a young girl came across her neighbour’s loaf of bread, waiting warm and fresh in the sun on the porch. When the neighbours got home they found their bread hollowed out, only the crust remaining. 

A friend, who isn’t that much older than me, reminisced about the milk being delivered by horse and cart. Waaay back in the 70s.

Online shopping hasn’t revolutionised grocery buying, it’s brought back a centuries-old service. 

The Pros and Cons of Buying Groceries Online

Is buying your groceries online frugal? Should you do it? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

The Pros of Buying Your Groceries Online

1. Save time

Who would have imagined you could buy groceries in your undies before you’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning?!

Or on your commute on the way home from work.

Grocery shopping online can save you hours every year. No more navigating traffic. No more queues at the checkout. Spend 5 minutes shopping online in comfort instead and have your groceries arrive at the front door.

To make it even easier, you can save shopping lists and favourite items in your online account, which means orders can be done in a couple of clicks.

2. Shop within your budget

No more keeping a running tab on your calculator while you shop or putting things back at the checkout because you’ve gone over budget.

When you shop online, you can see how much your total shop adds up to before you buy.

Check out the catalogue specials as you menu plan to see if there’s anything that will save you money. Just be sure to check it’s a real bargain (see below).

3. Save your sanity

“Muuumm, can I have…”

I’m a big fan of shopping with kids. It teaches them important life skills. But every second is sheer torture. It’s hard enough to do the shopping with young kids, but getting out of the house with newborn babies can be near impossible.

For millennia, we had support systems for mums with new babies. Extended family or the community would help out so that mum wasn’t doing everything alone.

And most of your groceries were delivered.

While the support systems are, unfortunately, not there for many of us anymore, we do have online grocery shopping.

4. Comparison shop with ease

Here’s a trick a friend showed me when using the online shopping.

Search for the item you need and then sort the list by unit price from low to high as pictured below. It’s easier to see which item is the best price.

compare unit price online

Last week there was a half price catalogue special for extra virgin olive oil. Great buy right?!

But a quick search shows there are 4 other brands that are cheaper than the half-price special. If you are shopping on cost alone, it pays to double check the unit price, compare and save.

5. Reduce impulse buys

Shopping online reduces browsing, which reduces the temptation to impulse buy. Not only do impulse buys increase your grocery bill, they can go to waste because you don’t have a plan to use them.

Or impulse buys can go to ‘waist’ if it’s junk you’re buying.

 (Putting Tim Tams at half-price on the end caps should be banned – I have no impulse control!)

6. Save your petrol

I can walk to the supermarket with my nanna trolley but if you have to drive any distance, or driving means city traffic, then delivery can save you money on petrol, especially if you get free delivery.

7. No crowd, no queues

I have a confession to make: I get trolley rage. Nothing aggressive, I internalise it until I can feel the blood alchemize in my veins.

Inside my head: Do you really think the middle of the supermarket aisle is the best place to have a phone conversation?! At least move your trolley so that the six of us behind you can get past!

Reality: “Excuse me, please” [tight smile].

Deep breaths.

Then there’s the anxiety the supermarket environment can bring on.

A big cement cavern without natural light.

A dodging mess of people and trolleys and little kid trolleys up the back of your ankles.

Loud noises. Radio advertising. Bright lights.

An overstimulating visual cacophony of stuff to filter out in order to find your favourite brand of tea!

Deep breaths.

If you can relate, then you know it’s better for your health to buy online while you’re sitting in the back garden, listening to the bees in the marigolds and sipping your tea.

The Cons of Buying Your Groceries Online

1. Delivery costs money

Just say you get your groceries delivered once a fortnight. Woolworths online uses a sliding scale delivery cost, depending on how much you spend, so if you’re in the $6 bracket, that adds $156 a year to your grocery bill. If you’re on a tight budget, that’s $156 too much.

There are ways to reduce or eliminate the delivery costs:

  • Check the minimum shop amount to qualify for free delivery. Shopping less frequently and taking advantage of bulk specials can mean you benefit from free delivery.
  • Take advantage of special free delivery offers.
  • You can use delivery saver if you want to shop every week and spend over $100 per week.
  • Opt for click and collect.

2. You don’t get to browse the in-store reduced to clear items

Some of the best supermarket bargains are the markdowns that are close to their use-by date. Buying reduced to clear meat, bread, dairy, vegetables and other items that you need can save you money. But you don’t see those markdowns when shopping online.

3. You Can’t Pay Cash

I’m a big fan of using cash to buy groceries.

[Update: used to be. Not much cash is being used these days. I have opted for a prepaid card to help compartmentalise spending].

Budgeting and shopping with cash can save you money because you’re not able to go overboard with spending when you only have a limited amount of cash in your wallet. Unfortunately, cash is not an option when shopping online.

4. You can’t read the nutritional panel/ingredients list

[Update: this issue has been resolved for the majority of products.]

I’d like to say I make everything from scratch, but I don’t, so the next best thing is to check the ingredients and nutritional panel on packaged food. This is particularly important if you have allergies.

5. Not all store offers an online service

Aldi, I’m talking to you here.

If you save money on groceries by shopping at Aldi, then the convenience of home delivery is not going to work for you…until Aldi jumps onboard (or is that online?).

And if you prefer to shop at your local farmer’s markets, for example, you don’t get the same convenience.

6. You don’t get as much exercise

This downside came from my son. When I announced we were trialling home-delivered groceries, my 7-year-old’s first reaction was: “you need the exercise.

Thanks, son.

I used a free app on my phone and counted 1,000 steps just walking around the supermarket. We live close by, which means I walk there and back, so that’s about 4,000 steps not taken if we get home delivery. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re looking to increase your physical activity.

7. Everything comes in plastic bags

When I shop in person, I take my little grandma shopping trolley and throw everything in without plastic bags.

Home-delivered groceries all come in plastic. And if you get produce, all that comes in plastic too. So home delivery might not be for those who are trying to reduce their plastic consumption.

8. You can’t check the quality

Do you like to pick through the tomatoes for the best one, feel your avocados and examine every meat tray before making a selection?

With home delivery, you get what you’re given. Sometimes the picker does a great job, other times their idea of fresh and yours might differ.

For a long time, I resisted home delivery for groceries, figuring it wasn’t worth the delivery costs for us. Then I trialled it because the first delivery is free and while I was happy with the service, it’s not something we need at the moment. If life got busier, maybe I will change my mind. I know that service is available if I need it.

[Fast forward to 2022, and we use online grocery shopping every week.

If you’re thinking about home-delivered groceries, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you, take advantage of the free delivery on your first purchase (there are conditions, check them out) and see if it works for you. 

pros and cons of buying groceries online


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  1. Great list of pros and cons. At certain times in my life online shopping has been a lifesaver. It is great if you have newborn babies! I don’t use it at the moment – my youngest is now 4 – for many of the reasons you list. The advantages and disadvantages need to be weighted against your stage of life.

  2. I have never bought groceries online, but I know people who do that and find it convenient. For me, going grocery shopping is like taking a break from work and going for a walk, so I don’t mind it at all.

    1. I can relate. When I’m in the checkout, and the server apologises because I have to wait I say ‘please take as long as you like, I’m enjoying the break and just being able to stand here!’ :)

  3. I have used groceries on line but would like to add another “con” to the list. You are not allowed by the delivery driver to check your order. They won’t wait around while you check off items on a list to make sure you have everything. And not infrequently there are several items not available but you don’t know until they are not delivered (money is adjusted ok). So it’s a mixed bag, you have to take the good with the bad. Older people would benefit from this and not having to lug bags around.

  4. i use online shopping but do not use it for purchasing fruit & veg..meats…etc…i get either a delivery or click and collect depending on the spend…i prefer choosing those things myself to ensure freshness and long shelf i prefer harris farm markets…butchers etc for fresh produce…i save time and money by doing it this way…it might only be minimal but it really does help…

  5. Hello Melissa, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think buying groceries online could be a very good idea. Nowadays everyone has a busy schedule so it’s a very good idea for buying groceries online. It could make their life easier. Keep Sharing..:)

  6. I am thinking of trying on line. As I have trouble walking and use a walking stick and get a trolley to hold onto, but I feel I need to keep trying as it gives me a reason to get out but I am Eighty this year and will have to try it and see.