Apr 12, 2016 - Things to Do

Your guide to Charlotte’s grocery delivery options

harris-teeter-delivery-truck

harris-teeter-delivery-truck

Every time I run into Harris Teeter with my 5-year-old, I inevitably return with at least $10 worth of groceries that are dubious purchases at best. (Did he really need that snack pack of Oreos when we were making chocolate chip cookies later that night?)

I’ve found ordering online and either picking up groceries or having them delivered allows me to be more disciplined in my purchases and follow my meal plans more closely.

So far, grocery delivery options have been pretty limited in Charlotte (a contrast to restaurant delivery options), but Amazon’s announcement last week that it’s bringing same-day delivery on thousands of items for Amazon Prime members introduces an interesting option for those of us who prefer to avoid crowded stores.

Here’s a guide, with pros and cons, to grocery delivery options in Charlotte:

Amazon

Let’s start with the new kid on the block. Amazon Prime will run you $99 for an annual membership. That will get you free same-day delivery on orders of at least $35 as long as the items are Prime eligible.

Pros: Imagine you only use Amazon Prime shipping for the groceries (unlikely) and buy items once a week. That translates to less than $2 per delivery. That’s a pretty good value. 

Amazon has really beefed up its “Pantry” options in recent years. You’ll find shelf-stable products, like Kind bars, coffee, Pop Tarts, pasta, soups and spices at mostly reasonable prices.

Cons: The most obvious mark against Amazon’s grocery options is it’s not a good option if you’re mostly shopping for fresh meats and produce. This could definitely change in the years to come as Amazon invests more in its warehouses and supply chain.

Same-day delivery does have some limitations. You’ll need to get your order in fairly early in the day, though that’s not unique among grocery delivery services.

Bottom Line: If you’re on the fence about purchasing Amazon Prime for services like video streaming or diaper delivery, adding in same-day delivery for certain grocery items is a good incentive. Just realize its limitations.

prime-same-day-map
Photo via Amazon

Harris Teeter

The veteran in Charlotte’s grocery scene started investing in this area before many of its competitors, and it provides good online ordering options. Harris Teeter has Express Lane — my go-to — which lets you order groceries online and have them delivered to your car the same day as long as you place your order by 3 p.m. There’s also a grocery home delivery option, but pricing is more opaque (more below).

Pros: You can order online through desktop or mobile app. The app is pretty intuitive and will give you recommendations based on past orders. You’ll also have access to all of the current sales. Just watch because if you order on a Tuesday but want pick up or delivery on a Wednesday, the sales change and your price won’t necessarily be accurate. 

Unlike other delivery services, you’re getting access to all of Harris Teeter’s products, so getting fresh meat and produce isn’t an issue. You can also use coupons, which will be applied to your next order. Express Lane runs $99.95 annually, which is a similar cost to Amazon Prime (under $2) if you place an order once a week.

HT-Express-Lane-pickup

Cons: Harris Teeter has grocery delivery available in many of its markets, and you shouldn’t have an issue if you live in Charlotte. Pricing is a whole different issue since it will cost you a different amount based on where you live since Harris Teeter contracts this service out.

It’s not uncommon for next-day delivery to be unavailable, so this isn’t a good option if you need something quickly. Subscribing for a monthly or yearly delivery service is an option that will save you some money, but it’s still pretty expensive. 

For instance, I live in Quail Hollow, but delivery will still run me about $15 an order. That’s even assuming I subscribe monthly and place an order about once a week.

Bottom Line: Express Lane is your best option on this list, unless you’re truly homebound and can’t drive to the grocery store. Home delivery is still a work in progress that hopefully will improve in the near future.

HT-Express-Lane

Shipt/Publix

Shipt launched in Charlotte last fall and is the option for you if you’re a Publix die-hard. I tried it out soon after launch and thought it showed potential if some tweaks are made. You have to become a member with a monthly subscription ($14) or yearly ($99), which gives you access to free shipping on orders over $35.

Pros: You can get your groceries delivered pretty promptly. Shipt contracts with individuals — very similar to the Uber model. My shopper was on time, polite and even brought the groceries into the house for me. She texted beforehand to assure me she was on her way and had found everything on the list.

Cons: The search function on its app isn’t “smart,” so you aren’t offered options as you start typing in what you’re searching to buy. Value is also dubious. You have access to any Publix items, but since the two companies aren’t official partners, you can’t compare prices directly to the grocer’s advertisements. Overall, I found the prices for staples higher than I would usually pay by searching for sales.

The Bottom Line: This is probably the most cost effective and quickest option, particularly if you like Publix. The downside is an app that still needs some work and grocery prices that aren’t as transparent as they could be.

Shipt grocery delivery Charlotte
Photo via Shipt

Walmart

The nation’s largest retailer is experimenting with grocery delivery (just not in Charlotte yet), but if you’re a fan of its rock-bottom prices, you can order online and have groceries brought to your car. You won’t avoid the mad house that is the Walmart parking lot, but you will avoid the madness inside.

Pros: Walmart wants to start owning this segment, and it’s prepared to invest on the front end by offering pickup service for free. Same-day options are available, and they’re currently running a coupon for your first order. Pickup is available until 11 p.m., the latest option.

Cons: There aren’t as many Walmart locations across the city as Harris Teeter, so you’ll probably have to drive farther than if you opted for Express Lane. 

Bottom Line: This is probably a taste issue. Walmart has low prices, but ultimately divides people when it comes to quality. If you’re buying a lot of shelf-stable products like cereal or tea, this is a more attractive option.

Walmart Grocery
Photo via Walmart

Other options

Expect more options in the next year or two. Will startup darling Instacart expand south? In the meantime, here are a few other stores/services that provide some options.

  • Fresh Market: Order party trays online for in-store pick up.
  • Whole Foods: Order hot meals and catering online for in-store pick up. 
  • Uptown Errands: This business runs other errands as well, but they’ll offer services including grocery shopping for $30/hour. They also offer membership packages, starting at four hours for $100/month.

Have another suggestion for grocery pick up or delivery? Send us a note.

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