Has the pandemic changed grocery shopping PLUS 5 tips for online shopping

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For those of us that grew up tagging along with a parent to the grocery store, having groceries magically delivered to our front door seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. But since the pandemic began, times have certainly changed.

Statistica.com reports that in 2015, only 8 percent of U.S. consumers were likely to buy groceries online. Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger are among the most popular online grocery stores. According to a study by Coresite, nearly 37 percent of internet users purchased groceries online in 2020. Numbers show this is sticking as Statista reports 31% of shoppers using online grocery shopping for 2021. A third of shoppers is roughly equivalent to 93 million purchasers, according to the US Census Bureau.

Despite a large number of shoppers, spending is not that high. According to Coresite’s survey, “41 percent of shoppers bought “a small amount” of their groceries online, and 31.4 percent purchased “almost none” of their groceries online. Just 15.8 percent said they bought “some” of their groceries online in the previous 12 months, while 6 percent purchased “most” and 5 percent bought “all or almost all” of their groceries online.” The market is adding occasional shoppers, the study suggests.

Not surprisingly, shopping for groceries online is more common in among parents and upper-income adults. Nearly 20 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 and 18 percent of adults with an annual income of $100,000 or more buy groceries online. Most shoppers cite convenience as the biggest reason for online shopping.

We asked a couple dietitians how the pandemic and online shopping has changed their food shopping habits. Online shopping is a definite fit into their busy schedules!

    • As mentioned above, online grocery shopping is a convenient option for many and may fit the bill for those with limited transportation or limited time. Jamie Lee McIntyre, MS RDN, Corporate Wellness and Media Dietitian - www.JamieLeeRDN.com - notes, "As a busy working mom providing for a family of four, I rely on grocery delivery services, like Instacart, and highly recommend this to my corporate clients with busy schedules as well. While you have less opportunity to use coupons, you can budget by watching the live total add up as you add items to your cart. You can still make the most of sales as well. It also reduces the likelihood of impulse buys like candy, chips, and marked down baked goods.”  Studies show that impulse buys are fewer when people shop online.
    • Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, Owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition LLC, commented, “I use Instacart very often for grocery shopping. I've been using it for the past year and it is super user friendly, quick, and has a ton of options. You can order from many different stores - several grocery stores like Big Y, Shoprite, Aldi, Costco, and even pharmacies like CVS. I found the website much more user-friendly than Peapod for Stop & Shop and the prices were not as jacked up. You can even pay ~$100/year for membership (similar to Amazon Prime) and then get free delivery for all your orders. You only pay a tip for the driver. One of the best benefits is that you can order and receive your order within an hour or two. You get updates on your order/delivery status and if there are any substitutions needed, you have the option to choose an alternative product.

5 tips for using online shopping:

  • Shop around to make the best choices for your area. Stores are competitive with pricing, and most offer some form of online shopping. Here are a few popular ones to consider:
    1. Target and Walmart have online delivery as well as pickup services. 
    2. Amazon has Fresh and Whole Foods delivery services. 
    3. Instacart offers shopping to many local stores. 
    4. DoorDash and UberEats offer shopping services as well as food delivery. 
    5. Peapod is in the northeast and offers next-day delivery. 
    6. Many meal kit delivery services like Gobble or Sun Basket provide reliable prepared meal delivery, which is great for older folks or people who are busy or less mobile. 
  • Use the mobile app for the store to keep a virtual list, adding things as they run out. This helps you make fewer orders or trips to the store, which may lead to impulse purchases. 
  • Make a grocery list to reduce impulse purchasing. It is even easy to make a list with an online shopping cart. You can view all items chosen and then delete items to stay on budget. A quick comparison shows how easy it is to see that soda, cookies, and many highly-processed items are more expensive by the ounce than many minimally processed foods. Choose store brands and specials to save more. 
  • Search aisles or keywords and pay attention to sale prices. When you see protein items on sale you can add them to your cart and then pair them with seasonal veggies, bulk bags of whole grains, and potatoes to help lower the food cost. 
  • Many stores have meal kits and prepared items to help on busy days. These even provide great meal ideas!
  • If you are close to farmer’s markets they can be a great source of locally grown, seasonal product to make meals affordable and outstanding. These don’t deliver but they make shopping in person more fun! By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/754619/online-grocery-shopping-by-age/
  2. https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/study-number-online-grocery-shoppers-surges
  3. https://news.gallup.com/poll/264857/online-grocery-shopping-rare.aspx
  4. https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2019/03/fewer-grocery-trips-fewer-checkout-line.html?page=all
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