Whereas grocery shopping is regularly touted as a key reason for owning a car, we noted last year that there are many ways to get groceries home without driving. One of the ways we suggested was to take advantage of online grocery services that offer home delivery. Peapod operates in Princeton- offering home grocery delivery for $9.99. But Princeton residents now have a choice, with the launch of FreshDirect in Princeton!Princeton residents have been receiving mailshots explaining the service with coupons worth up to $100 of free groceries. To use the service, customers go online at www.freshdirect.com, create an account, and select the groceries that they want. The groceries are then delivered straight to your home, during a selected timeframe- for a fee of $7.99. There is a minimum order of $30. The service has been operating for years in New York, leading the New York Times in 2005 to call the FreshDirect truck “the state bird of the Upper West Side“.
FreshDirect offers an alternative to driving to a supermarket, and is therefore a potentially valuable service for people looking to reduce driving and shrink their carbon footprint. (Transportation is the major source of greenhouse gases in Princeton, and one FreshDirect van can replace multiple personal auto trips.) So how many people are likely to make use of the service? It’s likely to be particularly popular among students- who have a lower rate of car ownership- and seniors, for whom driving may bring extra challenges. For people trying to live car-lite or car-free, FreshDirect also offers a convenient way to get lots of bulky goods delivered to their home.
How big a problem is the $7.99 delivery fee? If you have to drive anyway, stopping at a supermarket on the way home brings very little marginal cost compared to having to pay for grocery delivery. But if people are considering ‘down-carring’ from two vehicles to one vehicle, there are substantial savings available, even after accounting for weekly grocery delivery:
- 52 home grocery deliveries at $7.99 per week = $415.48 per year
- Estimated cost of annual vehicle ownership (from AAA) = $9,122 per year
- Saving from switching from personal car to home delivery = $8,706.52 per year
For some people, selecting groceries from an online catalog is less stress and bother than visiting the store. For others, managing the online interface is a pain in the neck and they might prefer to inspect the goods before buying. Online groceries are also not necessarily cheaper than groceries from the store- and people may feel loyalty to great local stores like McCaffrey’s and Whole Earth Center. But choice is always a good thing, especially when it brings the possibility to reduce car use and traffic.
Do you have any experience of using an online grocery delivery service? We’d be interested to hear about whether it works well for you…Please leave a comment using the form below.