Best Grocery Delivery Service

Best: Peapod

Second-best: Safeway

Whichever delivery service you may choose, there’s no longer any reason to venture outside of your home for groceries. That fool’s errand requires time spent drawing up your lists, commuting to the store, rummaging through the aisles, and waiting in checkout lines. No matter how far away your supermarket may be, that’s at least 90 minutes down the drain.

Two other advantages are inventory control and cost control. A good interface keeps track of all the groceries you’ve ever ordered, so all your staples and favorite things are sitting right there before you on a computer screen. The database keeps you from forgetting that, oh, you ran out of raisins or basil.

On the cost front, delivery wipes out the whole impulse-purchase problem. When you’re ordering food from a computer terminal, you tend to skip those gourmet figs and all things covered in yogurt.

The only thing you need to do now is choose who’s going to do the delivering—Giant’s Peapod service or Safeway. And that’s a pretty easy call.

Web Interface

Peapod: This is a delightful, easy-to-use digital instrument. The aisle-browsing feature, in particular, gives at-home shoppers a great feel for the immensity of options at their fingertips.

Safeway: Not bad either. Biggest drawback is that the items for sale aren’t packaged in a shopper-friendly way. For instance, if you want to buy 1 1/2 pounds of deli turkey, you can’t really do it because the units are only sold by pounds. You can send a note to your “personal shopper,” who presumably would measure out the extra half-pound, but this never worked on any of the times we tried it. By contrast, Peapod itemizes deli meats and cheese by the 1/2 pound.

Price

Charges for both options vary by delivery time.

Peapod: The delivery fee goes down the more you buy. For orders that exceed $100, it’s $6.95, and you can save a buck on that if you pick certain four-hour delivery windows or off-peak times. For orders between $75 and $100, it’s $7.95, and for under $75 it’s $9.95. Minimum $50 order. Also, if you pay directly through your checking account, all of those fees go down by $1. Tips are optional.

Safeway: The charge for a two-hour window on Sunday—at least when we ordered—was $12.95. The service’s Web site indicates that you can pay as little as $6.95 for “selected delivery” times with an order of $150 or more.

Though Safeway’s fees appear much more costly, the service doesn’t accept tips, which pretty much evens things out on this front. We give Peapod a $5 tip every time.

Reliability

Peapod: Usually quite reliable. We’ve had some trouble with Sunday afternoondelivery, presumably because everyone wants their stuff in the morning, but it’s only happened maybe twice in a year. Peapod, too, usually brings everything we’ve ordered, though the eggs have a tendency to break. Not just a tendency, actually. Pretty much every time, we toss out two or three eggs that have cracked and bled into the carton.

Safeway: This is a significant point of differentiation between the two services. Safeway gets low points on reliability. Drivers show up on time, but they frequently leave bags on the truck or just forget to bring stuff we ordered. There were just too many instances with the Safeway service in which we had to go the supermarket after getting our delivery.

Quality of Produce

Peapod: Not bad. The Peapod shoppers seem to put some thought into their produce choices, so you end up with the sort of stuff you’d put into the cart yourself. When you order bananas, for instance, the shoppers tend to choose the green ones, so that they’re not overripe by the time you eat them.

Safeway: Not quite as diligent as the Peapod people in this category.

Overall

Peapod, hands down.

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