The Major Differences Between Amazon Fresh, Peapod, FreshDirect and Instacart

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The benefit of ordering your groceries: no lines, no heavy bags and no danger of bumping into someone you know without your mascara on. But do these services, well, deliver? We took them for a test drive to find out!

For our sample cart, we comparison-priced this list with four popular services: gallon of milk, dozen eggs, pound of chicken breasts, container of Greek yogurt, head of romaine, pint of blueberries, box of Kashi cereal, two rolls of paper towels, pound of sirloin steaks, block of cheddar, loaf of sandwich bread, jar of peanut butter, bag of coffee beans, carton of orange juice, pound of spaghetti and a pint of ice cream.

Amazon fresh

Amazon Fresh: Available in many cities nationwide and parts of California

How does it work? Amazon fans will recognize the site's familiar interface and annual subscription model ($299 a year gets you unlimited grocery deliveries over $40 and Prime membership). It also allows you to order artisanal products from nearby shops.

What's the ETA? Same day if you order by 10 A.M.

Our bill: $70.02

Is it for me? You can buy your groceries, local chocolates, and, heck, a new TV from the same site ( a great night, huh?). The food arrived in good shape, but $300 is steep unless you use it a lot.

freshdirect

FreshDirect: Available in the NYC metropolitan area, plus parts of the mid-Atlantic

How does it work? Surfing FreshDirect's site feels a little like strolling through a high-end market—you'll find most of the basics, plus some things you didn't know you needed. Depending on your location, the minimum order is $30 to $99, plus a $5.99 to $15.99 fee.

What's the ETA? Next day

Our bill:

$71.21

Is it for me? Green market fans will feel at home here. FreshDirect has an in with local farms, so you can score top-quality specialty produce, like heirloom apples and foraged mushrooms.

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Instacart: Available in 26 states and cities like Atlanta, Boulder and Washington, D.C.

How does it work? Think of Instacart as a personal grocery- shopping service: Choose one of a handful of local stores, place your order (of at least $10) and let someone else cruise the aisles for you. The convenience will run you between $5.99 and $8.99 per order.

What's the ETA? One to two hours

Our bill: $73.04

Is it for me? If you need it now, or want specific stuff from a certain store, Instacart is all over it. That said, the extras— surge pricing when the service is busy, and a suggested 10 percent tip—can add up.

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Peapod: Available in New England, mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic and the Midwest

How does it work? Peapod offers all the mass-market, conventional brands you’ll find in a regular supermarket, while other services skew more high-end. The delivery fee is $9.95 for orders between $60 and $100, and $6.95 for orders above that.

What's the ETA? Next day

Our bill: $61.33

Is it for me? Bargain shoppers, take note: Peapod doubles manufacturers’ coupons up to 99¢. The selection of specialty items is thin (mozzarella: yes; burrata: no), but it’s great for necessities.

-- By Beth Janes and Julia Mullaney