Busy days used to mean a drive through the nearest fast food joint for dinner, but new delivery apps are making it easier than ever to prepare your own dinner — even when you don't have time to get to the store. The food delivery trend is resonating with busy home cooks who don't mind paying for convenience, and services that deliver food and drinks across the United States are growing. From the operations that get drinks to your door in under an hour to companies that assign you a personal grocery shopper, here are some of the most convenient online services that deliver food (and alcohol!) right to your door.
- How It Works: Drizly delivers beer, wine and liquor in various cities, including Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and New York. A few taps of this app and the company routes orders to retailers, who are charged monthly fees to be part of the program. Underage drinkers are weeded out through Drizly's proprietary ID scanning technology. It's the only app approved by alcohol control boards.
- Pros: You get your drinks, including mixers, delivered within the hour. It's handy if you're having an impromptu gathering and have no time to get beverages. The app is also available in the most cities so far, compared with companies like Minibar and Saucy.
- Cons: Some cities have delivery fees, and the app doesn't offer much in the way of descriptions. You've got to know what you want before you buy.
- How It Works: Instacart gives you the ability to shop from local grocery stores (the app doesn't warehouse their own stock) from the convenience of your smartphone or laptop. You're assigned a personal shopper who picks up and delivers your groceries on the same day. You also get to choose which stores to shop from, including Whole Foods Market, Kroger and Costco (even Target!). The service is available in most metropolitan areas. Customers are charged $3.99 for two-hour delivery or $5.99 for one-hour delivery when you spend $35 or more. Shoppers can choose to join the Instacart Express membership club and get free delivery on two-hour and scheduled orders over $35 for $99 per year.
- Pros: Delivery is free for your first order and shoppers can access Costco goods without a membership. It also frees up time you'd otherwise spend grocery shopping.
- Cons: You're paying for convenience, so expect some items to be cheaper in store than what you're paying. There are no coupons allowed, so if price is of the utmost importance you may be disappointed with the final bill.
- How It Works: AmazonFresh offers a large selection of grocery items, everyday essentials and local products in areas like Seattle, Philadelphia, Northern and Southern California and New York. Same day and early morning delivery gives shoppers the choice of doorstep delivery, with goods dropped off in thermal bags (you don't have to be home!), or attended delivery, where the delivery is made right to your kitchen. The $299 Prime Fresh yearly membership, which includes the benefits of an Amazon Prime account, offers premium grocery delivery with reduced prices on thousands of items.
- Pros: Orders over $50 get free same day and early morning delivery. Searching for grocery items online is akin to shopping on Amazon — user reviews included. The Amazon Dash gadget (available by invite only) scans the food items you use most often, making cultivating a shopping list efficient and easy.
- Cons:The membership fee is steep and it's only available in limited places.
- How It Works: Need a wider variety of options to choose from? Enter Postmates, an app-based service that will deliver goods from any local store or restaurant to your home or office. Headquartered in San Francisco, you can get items like groceries, take-out, flowers or dry cleaning delivered to you in over 100 cities, including Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis.
- Pros: The delivery fee starts at a reasonable $5 (plus tip), and your goods are guaranteed to arrive within an hour. You can even track your courier's location with the easy-to-use app. Need to communicate extra directions to your delivery person? Simply call them via the app to give necessary updates to your order or location.
- Cons: A 9 percent service fee is added to every order, which can add up for a particularly expensive or large delivery. While you're given an estimated price when you place your order, the final cost that is charged to your card may differ — something cost-conscious users may balk at.
If you want your produce and other food "as fresh as you can get," you may need to balance the food delivery trend with a trip to your local farmers market. However, when you're starved for time and just need a few groceries or some wine, these apps and services are here for you.
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