Grocery Delivery 2021: Target Is the “Pay Less” Leader, But With a Delivery Fee

Last February, I wrote a shopping comparison report looking at in-store shopping at local grocery stores, including co-ops like Seward and national warehouses like Costco. As I wrote then, Costco was the winner-winner five dollar chicken dinner.

It’s been a year, and I apologize for not writing as frequently. The global pandemic has really taken a toll. And speaking of Costco, I was one of those folks in the lines blocks long trying to pick up toilet paper for my friends and family. Gosh! Remember that?

Panic! at the Costco. Photo taken by author on March 17, 2020.

So now we are in the beginning of the end of this thing, and many folks have started to change their routine to shop online or in-app and get their groceries delivered.

I know there are a lot of moral and labor relations quandaries with this area of the grocery industry. I, for one, would love to see delivery workers correctly labeled under Minnesota state law as employees, and get the benefits and overtime that come with that classification. There are also union-busting moves by several of the big players, so labor relations can be a huge issue for workers and consumers alike.

I am not a labor expert. I was a member of UFCW when I worked at Rainbow Foods, but I never was involved in my union there. Now my Rainbow is a Kowalski’s.

Setting all those quandaries aside, I wanted to help answer the simple question of which delivery service is most affordable for working families and those who don’t feel comfortable shopping inside an indoor grocery store with strangers all around.

Short answer: Target has the lowest prices. Long answer: It’s complicated, and depends on what you are buying and what your cart total is compared to any delivery fees. For example, Amazon is free delivery after a cart total of $35, while Target charges $10 flat for delivery orders after a free trial. As it happens, Amazon has the highest prices and Target has the lowest prices of the group that I sampled.

Check out the entire Google spreadsheet, including absolute and relative prices and different scoring methods. I priced Costco, Amazon Fresh (not Whole Foods), Cub, and Target. Costco and Cub use the Instacart delivery network, while Target uses its own Shipt delivery service. Amazon uses temp worker Amazon Flex drivers.

I invite you to check out the whole spreadsheet. I saved time by only using the top 10 items from last year’s list of cart items that folks voted on. These 10 items were combined about 47% of the total weighting of the index.

Let’s check out the top three items — milk, eggs, and mozzarella cheese.

Target has the lowest price on both milk and eggs. In reality, Amazon Fresh, Cub, and Target all charge $2.99 per gallon of 2% low-fat milk. For eggs, you can pick up a 18-count carton for just $1.99, cheaper than the competition.

As I was working on the graphics for this piece, Target dropped the price on milk. So they may be the low price leader now there.

The price of 2% low-fat milk at Target dropped from $2.99 to $2.79 during the writing of this story.

But when it comes to the classic, shredded mozz, Costco had the five pound deal. With free delivery, you can get a five pound pack for $16.16, which is $3.23 per pound. On the high end is Cub, at $4.75 per pound.

Different folks will have different grocery needs, and this reduced weight index may not at all match what you like to buy for your household. The great thing is, you don’t have to go in-person to compare prices! This whole project just took a few hours and hopefully we are all more nourished for the experience!

Leave a comment if you would suggest another delivery service, have any particular items that you really would recommend, or want to speak to your own experience as a grocery worker or deliver worker.

Stay warm and stay well!

Conrad Zbikowski

About Conrad Zbikowski

Downtown Minneapolis resident covering local issues including parks, transportation, zoning, and development.

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