A Comparison of Bay Area Grocery-Delivery Services

Apr 10 at 11am

By Peter Lawrence Kane

San Francisco has a host of ways to get food from grocery shelves to your already-overcrowded crisper. There’s already a dizzying amount of choices, so I’ve broken down the services for you by where they deliver, when you can get deliveries, how much it costs, and the pros and cons.

Who: Amazon Fresh

Where: Although the green trucks feel ubiquitous, not all of San Francisco is covered (and Amazon is currently very tight-lipped about where they deliver).

When: From its site: “Place your order by 10 a.m. and have it by dinner, or by 10 p.m. and have it by breakfast.” (Again, slightly opaque).

How Much: Free same-day or early morning delivery on orders of $35 or more, but you also have to pay for Amazon Prime Fresh after the 30-day free trial runs out.

Bonus: Amazon is the Everything Store. It has everything, for cheap.

Potential Drawbacks: Since it’s a subsection of Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh is only free for 30 days, at which point continued membership is a whopping $299. Amazon is also occasionally regarded as the epitome of evil, and the reason why we can’t have nice bookstores.

Who: Good Eggs

Where: SF, and surprisingly broad sections of the East Bay, the Peninsula, and Marin, including some of the ‘burbs.

When: Highly variable depending on location, but generally afternoons and evenings.

How Much: Home delivery is free if you’re flexible on time, or $3.99 for a given one-hour window, and there are also 13 pickup locations around the Bay (also with variable time slots).

Bonus: Are you a hardcore locavore? This delivery service is the one for you. Every single thing about Good Eggs is transparent and sustainable, and its site is the most user-friendly of the lot.

Potential Drawbacks: Being eco also means being patient when farmers don’t have asparagus every day. And if you’ve built up a cordial relationship with that gorgeous vendor at the farmers’ market, you might find yourself breaking up with him. Plus, baking soda and bourbon don’t grow on trees, so you have to get them elsewhere.

Who: Google Shopping Express

Where: San Francisco and the Peninsula (and, right now, nowhere else).

When: Same-day delivery, with three time windows (9 a.m.–1 p.m., 1–5 p.m., and 6–9 p.m.). Orders arrive via Prius.

How Much: New members can currently get six months of free, unlimited delivery if they sign up by June 30, 2014. Otherwise, non-members pay $4.99 for each store from which their order is coming.

Bonus: From Blue Bottle to L’Occitane to Guitar Center, you can have it all, as more retailers join. You can also scope it out without buying anything (unlike Amazon, which steers you towards creating an account before revealing much), plus Google offers comparisons. And it’s an app.

Potential Drawbacks: The site is organized more like an advertising circular than a straight-up list of categories. And payment is by Google Wallet only.

Who: Instacart

Where: Instacart sends personal shoppers to Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods, Safeway, and Costco, and delivers to the Bay Area (as well as Boston, New York City, D.C., Philly, and Chicago).

When: 9 a.m.–midnight (depending on store hours), with delivery in under two hours. The website claims their record is 12 minutes.

How Much: $3.99 plus the price of groceries. Or, with Instacart Express (free for 14 days, then $99/year), every order above $35 is free, although nice people always tip.

Bonus: Instacart claims its shoppers are “experts at picking produce and other perishables,” and the desired ripeness level can be specified in the notes. Instacart Plus uses discount suppliers to undercut the chains’ prices. Yes, they’ll deliver alcohol. Double yes, they just added Rainbow.

Potential Drawbacks: Instacart sets its own prices, so you might not realize when you’re paying more for something than if you’d just gone to the store yourself.

Who: Mollie Stone’s Mollie Bus

Where: The Mollie Bus brings shoppers home along with their groceries. The Pacific Heights store has a three-mile delivery radius, while the Castro store only delivers within the immediate neighborhood “up to the border of Twin Peaks.”

When: 11:15 a.m.–6:45 p.m. daily (Pac Heights) or 11 a.m.–8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. weekends (Castro).

How Much: Free with a minimum purchase of $25 (Pac Heights) or $30 (Castro). Your receipt is your bus ticket.

Bonus: Getting to see who lives in what mansion (Pac Heights), or possible hard cruises (Castro).

Potential Drawbacks: You’re at the mercy of the other riders (Hope you like small talk). And you actually have to ride along with your groceries. Also, the Mollie Bus drops you at home with your heavy groceries, but sorry lazy asses, it won’t pick you up.

Who: Safeway

Where: Almost everywhere in the Bay Area, and in most major U.S. cities and suburbs.

When: Different delivery windows are available (1-4 hour delivery windows) to schedule delivery. If you order by 3 a.m., groceries will arrive on the same day between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. If you order by 8:30 a.m., it’ll get there from 4-10 p.m.

How Much: $9.95 for an order of $150 or more and $12.95 for less, but choosing a wider delivery window can save you up to $6.

Bonus: Including five “participating products” in your order means delivery is free. Also, everything you’ve ever purchased with your Club Card is stored, which smooths out the ordering process if you buy the same sherry and cat litter over and over.

Potential Drawbacks: The online and brick-and-mortar prices can be different (so you’ll only get an estimate if you’re ordering a few days ahead of time), replacement items aren’t always what you expect (you can change settings to not receive automatic replacement items), a fuel surcharge may be added, and this particular giant corporation loves to spam you.

Top image via Thinkstock

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