What to Know Before You Try Grocery Pickup

If you’re the main grocery shopper for the family, you might be growing tired of the weekly — or sometimes biweekly — trips to the grocery store. Maybe you’ve got a kid or two in tow, making the job of maneuvering a cart through the aisles comparable to the toughest of HIIT classes. Or maybe your work schedule makes shopping opportunities few and far between.

Enter grocery pickup.

“Grocery store pick up is a good option for a lot of people,” said Caitlin Self, a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, certified nutrition specialist and creator of the Frugal Nutrition food blog. “It can save a lot of time.”

Ordering your groceries, she says, saves you the time and gas if you’re driving to and from your local grocery store.

“If you’re someone that has time during a public transit commute or while breastfeeding or a virtual meeting that you have to be there for but not really participate in, these are the times that you can pull up a phone app and get your grocery shopping taken care of,” Self says. This way of shopping also helps you avoid the impulse buys and the products displayed on the ends of aisles that can sometimes find their way into your cart, increasing your overall shopping bill, she says.

But it’s not a panacea. There are a few things be aware of prior to adding items to your online cart for a grocery pickup.

Popular Stores That Offer Grocery Pickup

This service doesn’t always come for free. Although some grocers offer pickup for free, others charge fees, many times based on how much you spend. Fees for grocery pickup services range in price, but they tend to be cheaper than grocery store delivery services. In general, regional grocery chains charge more than the big box alternatives.

Keep reading to learn more about the fee structures for some of the most popular stores that offer grocery pickup.

How Do Pickups Work at Amazon?

It’s hard to believe that Amazon started out as an online bookseller, because now the retail giant sells everything, including groceries through a partnership with Whole Foods. Simply add your groceries to your Amazon cart, choose a time slot to pick them up, and head to your nearest Whole Foods to retrieve them. They’ll only charge you a fee if you spend less than $35.

[See: 10 Money-Saving Websites to Check Before Shopping.]

How Do pickups Work at Walmart?

The popular big box store — Walmart — offers its curbside grocery pickup for free. You just need to place an order online and choose a time slot, then Walmart employees shop for the order and will bring the groceries out to your car at the allotted time.

How Do Pickups Work at Aldi?

If your order Aldi order costs more than $35, the grocer charges a nominal fee for its grocery pickup service; it charges a heftier fee for orders less than $35. To get the groceries, all you do is place an online order, choose a time slot, pull into the designated pickup area and follow the directions listed on the posted signage.

How Do Pickups Work at Target?

Grocery pickup is available through Target’s app, and this service is offered for free. Target can usually process your order within two hours but it can take up to six hours. When your order is ready, you can head inside to Guest Services or to the designated parking area. If you order an item that must first be shipped to the store, keep in mind that that can take anywhere from four to seven days.

You Might Miss Out on the Best Deals or Produce.

If you’re on a tight budget or you’re picky about your produce, you might consider whether grocery pickup is the best option for you.

After paying for any fee associated with the grocery pickup, you could also miss out on savings with a pickup service.

“If you want to cost compare — to squat down and look at the things that aren’t on that prime shelving space that are going to be cheaper — you don’t really have that option,” Self says, adding that this could be mitigated by doing some research about the best budget-friendly brands.

Using a shopper in a grocery pickup service also eliminates your ability to choose your produce and meat. “You don’t get to choose the freshness or ripeness of produce,” she says.

For instance, she says maybe your shopper chose a bag of spinach due to expire tomorrow, but you were planning on using it three days later. Or maybe the shopper got you some avocados that you wanted for tomorrow’s dinner, but they won’t be ripe for another seven days.

“That’s a downside for a lot of people,” she says.

Still, for people who are flexible with the timing of their meals and have some wiggle room in their budget, a grocery pickup or two can still be a net positive, Self says.

[SEE: Top Meal Delivery Services for Prepped Meals in 2022.]

It’s Important to Keep Track of the Time

In addition to creating an online grocery order and paying for it, you’ll also have to select a time slot in which you’ll pickup your items.

Different stores have different policies when it comes scheduling your time slot for your pickup; there are also different policies for being late for your pickup or being a no-show. To avoid any hiccups with your order, it’s best to be punctual. If you miss your pickup window, be sure to note the grocery store’s policies, which might range from calling you to reschedule to canceling your order and refunding you.

As you consider grocery store pickup, you’ll also want to take into account the time of year and day of the week.

“Anytime you expect it be busy at the grocery store, you’re also probably going to have difficulty getting a grocery order quick,” Self says.

The days leading up to Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, July 4th are usually pretty busy at grocery stores, so you can imagine that those days might be more difficult to get a pickup order as well. In general, Saturdays and Sundays are busier than weekdays, so you might find that grocery stores are slower to prepare orders on those days.

You Probably Won’t Need to Tip Employees

If you’re comparing the grocery pickup services to some of the most popular delivery services, grocery pickup tends to be cheaper because most stores prohibit their employees for taking tips.

There are pros and cons to nearly everything, and at the end of the day, getting your groceries via pickup or the old fashioned way depends on your values: Do you value your budget or your time more? If it’s the latter, grocery pickup might be a great service for you.

More from U.S. News

12 Best Discount Shopping Apps

Best Bill-Splitting Apps

How to Save Money When Grocery Shopping on a Budget

What to Know Before You Try Grocery Pickup originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 08/03/22: This article was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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