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Twenty-one fresh food delivery services that can help you save

Groceries can be an unexpectedly large expense for any budget. Using these quick delivery services can help you save by ordering online. 

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    A woman talks to a driver in an Amazon Fresh delivery van in Los Angeles, California, June 14, 2013. Amazon Fresh is one of the delivery systems that can help you save.
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Food delivery services help you stick to your grocery budget, avoid impulse buys, and even save on gas. We've covered some of the best below, and most of them offer free trials. So what are you waiting for?!

1. Instacart

Instacart works by connecting you with a local personal shopper in your area. They handpick the best produce and groceries available, so you can expect the best quality. However, if they cannot find the item you need, most personal shoppers will not send a replacement item.

While many shoppers agree you won't always find the lowest prices at Instacart, most do find that their excellent customer service is worth the slightly higher price tag. With Instacart, you can choose and rate your personal shoppers, compare prices and selection at a range of stores, and even shop at Costco without a membership card. You can schedule delivery within the hour, in two hours, or at a time most convenient for you. They offer delivery in many major cities throughout the U.S.

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You can enjoy free delivery if you pay $99 per year for Instacart Express. Otherwise, delivery starts at $3.99 for orders over $35, and $7.99 on orders under $35. They also charge a few dollars more for delivery during the busiest times of the day, which they call "Busy Pricing." The minimum order required is only $10, and you can get your first delivery for free to try out the service with no commitment.

2. AmazonFresh

For the steep cost of $299 per year, you'll receive unlimited free deliveries on orders over $50, cheaper groceries, an AmazonPrime membership, and a free Dash. Dash is a unique tool that allows you to quickly add groceries to your cart by scanning a barcode or speaking into the device.

AmazonFresh offers prices lower than most delivery services and has an unrivaled selection of products. They can even deliver items from local shops and restaurants. If you already have Amazon Prime, you can enjoy a one-month free trial of AmazonFresh with no commitment. They claim to offer same-day delivery, but usually, you will have to wait one to two days. They currently deliver to most metropolitan areas and are expanding their service area constantly, so check your address to see if they deliver to you.

3. Safeway

At Safeway, you will find prices that are better than Instacart, but not quite as low as AmazonFresh. On the other hand, there are no annual charges — only delivery, which may save you money in the end. They offer $12.95 delivery on orders under $150, and $9.95 delivery on orders over $150. Use code EASY7 for free delivery on your first order.

They do offer same-day delivery, but if you're flexible with time, you can save as much as $6. If you include five "participating products" in your order, delivery is also free. Both Safeway (and Vons, a subdivision) offer a great selection of products. You can also place your order on the Safeway app for added convenience.

4. Peapod

Peapod offers affordable prices comparable to what you'd find at the local grocery store. However, they have the highest required minimum order of $60, so they aren't ideal for last-minute shopping. Delivery costs are $9.95 on orders under $100, and $6.95 on orders $100 or more. If you're willing to pick up your order, they'll only charge $2.95 to pack your groceries for you, but you'll miss out on the convenience of delivery. Peapod serves many major cities in the Northeast, as well as select areas of Wisconsin and Illinois.

5. Local Favorites

Some other notable grocery delivery services that are available in select cities include:

6. Meal in a Box

There are several "meal in a box" options, where the recipes and all the necessary ingredients are delivered right to your door. These meal subscription services can be delivered on a weekly, monthly, or less frequent basis. (See also: The 10 Best Monthly Subscription Box Services). Some of the most popular options include:

7. Restaurant Delivery Services and Takeout

There is nothing easier than ordering a full meal for delivery straight from your computer or smartphone. Several meal delivery services, like Postmates and DoorDash, will also make a stop at your local drug or grocery store. Some of the most popular restaurant delivery service providers include:

How the Services Work

All you need to do is place your grocery order online or through a mobile app. You can even reference previous orders and favorite items for later. Once you place your order, you can schedule a delivery time, and sit back and wait. Most services offer same-day delivery, some within the hour. Your items will be carefully protected and temperature-controlled during transit, arriving fresh and ready to enjoy.

One drawback to online grocery shopping is not being able to pick out your own items. If you are picky about certain foods (like produce), mention that in your delivery notes for your professional shopper.

Will You End Up Spending More?

Online grocery delivery services are not necessarily more expensive than traditional grocery shopping. In fact, many online grocers offer costs that rival or beat your local store's prices. If you factor in that most shoppers spend at least 10% of their budget on impulse buys, you can save quite a bit by shopping online.

When you shop online, you cannot take advantage of any printed coupons. On the other hand, you can find unique online discounts and promo codes that in-store shoppers won't have. Delivery fees are also very reasonable, especially when you factor in what you would normally be spending on gas. To save even more, make sure to only purchase groceries when you have a fairly large order — smaller orders actually incur higher delivery fees.

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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