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Are Grocery Delivery and Pickup Good Options for Military Families?

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woman shopping for groceries
(Ericka A. Woolever/DVIDS)

Should you be using grocery delivery and pickup options?

First, make sure that the options are even available at your installation. We know that not every base allows delivery and that not every area is, shall we say, robust enough to support grocery delivery or even reliable Amazon Prime two-day shipping.

But if we assume you are living in an area that offers these services, the conversation about whether the services of Shipt, Instacart or even grocery pickup are worthwhile is a real one.

There are many things to consider, ranging from cost to actual convenience -- and, of course, safety.

Cost

Instacart and Shipt are both options in a lot of places. Basic Instacart is free, but its membership service, Instacart Express, costs $99 annually or $9.99 per month. The express membership's benefits include an unlimited number of free deliveries on orders over $35 and avoiding the higher fees during peak hours that non-members pay.

For those who don't have a membership, the delivery fee is $3.99. There is also a service fee that varies based on the price of the order. Delivery order minimums vary by store and region, but most are going to a $35 minimum -- to make it worth the shopper's time.

Shipt has similar pricing, with a $14.99 monthly membership fee after a free two-week trial. It also waives the delivery fee for orders over $35.

Both apps have exclusive sales options for their shoppers that can help "redeem" the membership fee with savings.

Convenience

The convenience alone may make the service worth it for military families, even if you pay for it.

Army spouse Jessica Hall explained how she used Shipt when she lived near Fort Hood, Texas, "I used Shipt during our last deployment, and it was AMAZING. Although they do mark up prices, [it's] worth it for the convenience."

Outsourcing things can make our lives more efficient -- and help us stay sane. But there are times when having your groceries delivered isn't actually easier than going shopping yourself. That includes times when items are not available at your store or a last-minute substitution by the delivery service causes you to have to run out anyway or dramatically change dinner.

But using these services can help you eliminate extra errands, particularly the kind that children and spouses cause. For example, if you receive a message through the Remind app from your child's teacher asking for glue stick donations, you can check who has a good deal and have them on your doorstep the same day.

Or when your spouse texts you that they need Gatorade for the range, you can add that to your shopping list. My most brilliant idea ever was having soda, a sandwich platter, chips and cookies delivered to my house to feed the movers lunch when I was the only adult there to supervise the packing.

Pickup vs. Delivery

I rejoiced the day we arrived in Pensacola, and I learned the local Walmart had grocery pickup. It was heaven. I saved money, time and meltdowns with my toddler by using that service. When we moved to Georgia and more stores offered pickup, things got even better. Yes, there are times when picking up groceries is more convenient than having them delivered. Let's not forget how, just a few years ago, we had to go inside the store every, single time.

Jessica Lynn, an Air Force spouse navigating through a deployment with three kids, said that, though she loves grocery shopping, she was willing to try free grocery pickup at her local Smith's.

"I 'shopped' online, picked everything I wanted, and the best part is that I could add to my list throughout the week," she said. "If they were out of something, they sent me a text about an hour before pick up, and I decided [whether] I wanted the new item or wanted to cancel the product."

But the real benefit was the pickup, she said. "My kids stayed in their car seats, and the employee came out to my car with all of our groceries. I miss just running into the grocery store, but with my husband deployed, it just wasn't an option. Grocery pickup is the safest way to shop right now for our family, and leaves that area of my life stress-free."

Safety

Having someone deliver groceries or other items to your house is pretty harmless, especially if they are keeping you up to date on when they are delivering and the common practice is to leave it on your front porch. But there's always some risk.

Both Shipt and Instacart take this seriously. Shauna Hill is an independent contractor for Shipt and says she feels confident in the company to make changes and modify delivery procedures as potential issues arise. "I've always felt 100% safe during my shopping and deliveries. Shipt has been amazing at putting in contactless delivery procedures," she said.

Is having groceries, or other products you need, delivered to your house worth it? Only you can answer that question, but it's definitely worth a try.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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