Clark Howard: Does Online Grocery Save You Money?

2/24/2011 16:03:26 PM

A new online service says it’ll save you money and time by shopping for grocery staples online. But how well does it really work? Consumer Advisor Clark Howard puts the claims to the test.

Mary Strikalski loves coupons.

“I love to get the Sunday paper and I love to clip coupons and I think that there are a lot of good deals out there. Then, when I start to run late, I leave them at home or I leave them in the car and I end up not using them,” said Strikalski.

Most of Strikalski’s coupons expire before she remembers to use them. She said that’s why she likes

Alice -- named after the housekeeper on the Brady Bunch -- helps people like Strikalski be more efficient. The website promises to apply coupons automatically and eliminate those emergency trips to the store. And shipping is free.

“The convenience of not having to go to the store and having it delivered to your house I think would be a real benefit,” said Strikalski.

“But what about the price? Alice claims you’ll save money compared to other online sites, but what about traditional stores? We went to find out,” said Clark.

Clark looked at 10 easy to find items on and compared them to the prices at Wal-Mart and Target.

Of the 10 items, tied for the lowest price with Target and Wal-Mart on one item -- Reynolds Wrap.

On eight of the 10 items, was the most expensive -- but not by a lot.

If you bought all 10 items, here’s what it would cost:

At Wal-Mart: $38.64

At Target: $38.96

At $43.41

Strikalski said shopping at Alice has a hidden benefit -- it reduces the impulse purchase at a SuperCenter.

“You end up going in for groceries and coming out with an ottoman, so sometimes that’s not such a good thing,” said Strikalski.

“So what’s the verdict? If you’re like me and you prefer store brands to save money, keep doing that,” said Clark. “But if you’re an impulse shopper and you’re going to buy things you don’t need, this will end up saving you money even if it’s a little bit more for your basket of goods than shopping at Wal-Mart or Target.”

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