An online grocery order, while convenient, creates large amounts of waste that could easily be avoided by foregoing the services and shopping for yourself. #nowastekitchen

Why an Online Grocery Order is Wasteful

An online grocery order, while convenient, creates large amounts of waste that could easily be avoided by foregoing the services and shopping for yourself.

I know online grocery order services make things easy, and I am guilty of taking advantage of the convenience myself. But have you ever stopped to think about how wasteful online ordering can be?

The first time I did an online grocery order after being conscious about the waste my family creates, I was stunned. There was so much waste just from a simple grocery run.

Of course, I now bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, but I forgot just how many plastic bags one trip can create.

Online grocery shopping may save consumers time, but it also could waste more food and money than shopping in-store


Originally Published On: February 19, 2019

Last Updated On: June 16, 2020

Online Grocery Order Pickups

So, I am a cheap frugal person. I hate paying for shipping and unnecessary fees. Because of this, I’ve only ever done grocery pickup when I do a big online grocery order.

The first time I did this with my mom when we were visiting, we thought it was great. Ryan had fallen asleep in the car, so we didn’t have to even wake him to go in the store.

Then I saw the way everything was packaged. Each plastic bag had only 2-3 items in a bag, meaning we ended up with so many more bags than needed. In addition to that, each piece of produce was in a plastic produce bag inside the plastic shopping bag.

I’ll admit, even since starting our No Waste journey, I have used this a couple of times. In the summer, Justin and I were in Orlando and drove from there to pick up my cousin at the airport in south Florida, then did our grocery pickup on the way to our timeshare condo. We loved not having to leave the beach to get groceries, but it still made so many bags.

Back of an open vehicle waiting to have groceries placed inside

Online Grocery Order Delivery

Many grocery stores are starting to deliver your groceries when you place an online order. This almost always comes with a fee, which is why I’ve never done it. While it may seem more convenient, the delivery service adds it’s own array of waste.

Large delivery trucks tend to use more fuel than your small family car would use to get to the store and back. And for those who use the shopping programs that have a personal shopper, there’s a chance they don’t know the most efficient way to get to your home, and drive further than you would.

Maybe the fuel usage is negligable, since you would be driving to the store versus them driving to you. But, the waste would still potentially increase depending on how the groceries are packaged. When they are put onto a truck or into a vehicle, there often needs to be some type of container.

Most of the time, these are plastic bins for holding your plastic bags full of groceries. Maybe they’ll continue to reuse the bins, but they will get damaged quickly and then become waste.

Close up of groceries in yellow plastic bags

Substitutions and Taking Conrol

Grocery Substitutions

When ordering online, there is a note that substitutions are possible. The few times I’ve ordered groceries, there has always been at least one substitution. Once, that was such a different product that it wasn’t usable for what I needed. So now this created waste because I either had to figure out how to use the product or get rid of it. And it left me still needing to drive to the store to replace the item.

Take Back Control

When you go to the grocery store, you have so much more control over the entire experience. You get to control what type of bag your produce is stored in. You control whether you bring reusable bags to avoid plastic shopping bags. And you control exactly which products you are purchasing.

Stock changes frequently at the stores, so it’s hard to know what will be there when you order online. It’s much easier to be in the store and choose a substitute if you need one than to rely on someone else. Only you know you and your family’s preferred tastes.

Cut fruit in plastic containers on refrigerated shelves

More No Waste Kitchen Ideas

30 thoughts on “Why an Online Grocery Order is Wasteful”

    1. I will admit, I have done it a time or two when we were driving to a condo and picked the groceries up on the way because I didn’t trust leaving my vehicle full in the parking lot and the grocery store was 45 minutes from the condo. But it’s crazy the amount of waste that comes from this and that’s the only time I’ve ever done it.

  1. I am so guilty, I do all of my grocery shopping online purely for the convenience, with two kiddos under 3 and working 50+ hours a week it is purely out of necessity some weeks. But I totally agree with the waste of the plastics bags….everytime I think why the hell did you double bag everything! Does anyone know the purpose behind why these delivery companies require the shoppers to use so many bags?

    1. Wow, you do have a lot going on! My boys are in preschool and kindergarten now, so I try to go when they are at school, otherwise, they want everything they see! From what I’ve heard, at least with the grocery pickup from the stores (not the personal shoppers) the products are all grabbed by employees from each department, so they bag what they have and add it to your order. So it isn’t just one person doing the shopping, it’s many.

  2. I have never done online shopping. It sounds convenient but for me I love picking out my fruits and meats. I also rarely take plastic bags and I am striving to remember my reusable ones!

    1. I like to pick mine out too. Although the couple of times I did pick up, they did a good job of picking decent produce out. We keep the bags in the truck, so they are always with us. And once we empty them, I hang the bags on the handle to the garage so the next person to go out puts them back in the truck.

  3. I have only used it once or twice and honestly as much as I hate grocery shopping I dont trust other people to pick my food out

    1. It definitely leaves you at the hand of the ones picking out the food! You don’t have control over the food or the way it’s packaged, either.

  4. I have NEVER done online grocery delivery, and now I am glad. With two stores within walking distance of our house (0.75 mi and 1 mi away), I tend to go (walking if I can!) as soon as the girls are off to school, with my own reusable bags. This way I get there mid-morning when they put new stuff out on the clearance piles – great way to get stale bread for breadcrumbs and stock up on meat (often organic!) super-cheap to put in the freezer or cook that night. And I like to think I’m helping to save on food waste along with saving us money! 🙂

    1. Awesome! We don’t walk since we are usually shopping for two weeks at a time so too much to carry. But we like to go on Mondays which is the day our local store restocks and we can find the deals, too!

  5. I have never ordered groceries online! It sounds so convenient, but I enjoy shopping and am super picky about my produce. My sister loves getting her groceries delivered but she lives in a big city and it’s very convenient.

  6. Your blog looks really great and inviting. About this, I’ve never tried groceries online and reading this article made me feel glad I didn’t. Agree with the fact that it’s lazy though it’s convenient.

    1. I held off for a long time, but caved for the convenience once. Then I was shocked at how many bags were used for so few items.

    1. I’m with you, sometimes just walking the aisles of the grocery store can be a vacation, especially when I can go without my kids!

  7. We only really online order when my mother’s disability is really playing up (she doesn’t like any of us going on her behalf, I think she just likes the control!) but here in the UK you have to pay extra for plastic bags and even more for online orders so we just don’t select that option and just empty the crates the delivery driver uses into reusable bags to get them downstairs into the kitchen. But we always prefer shopping in person. My favourite thing to do in store is spend any spare change I have and buy food for the shelter collection that’s on the way out of the store; can’t do that online!

    1. I wish we had the option for no plastic bags, I would do the same and opt out using my own bags. Obviously, something like having a disability is extenuating circumstances and times when the online ordering is great.

  8. I get how it can totally make things easier when you have kiddos but I have never done the online ordering. I love that they have stores that will reward you here for bringing your own bags.

    1. The stores I shop at don’t reward for bringing in bags. I actually have trouble sometimes with them not knowing what to do with our bags, but we push on anyways with our reusable bags.

  9. I have been doing a lot of both lately. I have done the drive up and pick up, as well as the delivery. I’m a mom of two, that works from home. I do enjoy the convenience of it. When I go to the grocery store, I try to always remember my reusable bags.

    1. I totally understand the convenience! I also work from home with two kids, but luckily they are both in school so I can usually sneak in my grocery shopping while they aren’t home. At least you do the reusable bags when you go!

  10. You’re absolutely right especially when it comes to product substitutions, often I don’t like the subs product they put in the cart…

  11. I’m totally with you on this and during the height of the pandemic it was very popular. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $5-15 extra for stuff I could get myself.
    I’m also a very finicky shopper so the idea of someone just grabbing stuff off the shelves, especially fruits and vegetables, doesn’t appeal to me.

    1. I agree. I understand why people wanted to at the height/outset of everything. We did a couple of times, but it just isn’t worth it. Especially when they are out of things and I could make my own substitutions or change a meal but they don’t do that for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *