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Is it cheaper to buy groceries online?

How to Save Money on Online Groceries

Here are some ways buying groceries online can be cheaper:

  • Organization. Keep a list, plan exactly what you'll need and buy just those items. Many sites have menu-planning and recipe tools with ingredient lists. Some keep track of what you buy frequently, so it's easy to check whether you need more.
  • Impulse control. If you're not in the store, you're not tempted by things you don't need. This lack of temptation especially saves money if children accompany you.
  • Bulk purchasing. Sites such as offer discounts for large quantities of certain staples, like grain and coffee.
  • Sales. Browse the Internet for promotions, sales and coupons. (Some stores, such as supermarket chain Harris Teeter, offer online shopping with curbside service that will scan regular coupons when you pick up and pay.)
  • Custom shopping. If you're looking for pricier gluten-free, organic or "green" products, online shopping can help you get the best deals for them.

If time equals money, buying online will definitely help you save. You browse by searching the store's Web site -- no more wandering the aisles or tracking down a store employee for help. You comparison shop without driving from store to store. Checkout takes a click or two, which means no more standing in line. Nor do you have to carry your bags and load them into your car. They'll be shipped to your home, or someone will meet you at the curb.

The downsides? You can't get everything you need from an online grocery site where shipping takes a few days. Most of those sites don't sell fresh produce or dairy items, so you'll have to go elsewhere. Some insist that you buy in fairly large quantities, so storage can be a problem. Lastly, with online local shopping and curbside pickup, you may be able to get everything on your list, but your personal shopper might not be as picky as you would be when selecting, say, fresh produce.

The consolation is the time and money you can save.