DENVER — Online grocery has popped up in recent years. I used to think it was ridiculous. 

After all, why would anyone want to pay someone to do something they could easily do on their own? (It costs $4.95 at King Soopers, for example.) 

The answer is, quite simply: convenience.

Recently, I was pushed over the edge and tried it out. There were two factors in my decision to test the waters. 

Number one, King Soopers had a special Pick Up (formerly Click List) of $20 off a pickup order, and I'm a sucker for savings. Around that same time, my husband told me that a co-worker of his had tried it and called it "life-changing." The pick-up fee was also waived for the first three online orders.

I figured I'd do an order, save $20, and that would be the end of it. 

But that was definitely not the end of it. I've now been ordering my weekly groceries online for several months. 

I have two children under 4 years old, and the convenience and quickness of the online ordering sure beats shopping with them for a week's worth of groceries. (I love them dearly, but anyone with small children will tell you it takes about four times longer)

Here are the basics of how it works at King Soopers (which is where I do most of my grocery shopping):

  1. Add items to your virtual cart
  2. Select a one-hour time frame for pick up and then select checkout.
  3. When you pick up your order, go to the designated spots, call the number on the sign and let them know where you're parked. Within a few minutes, an employee will be out with your groceries. They'll even load them into your car and you'll be on your way in minutes.

It's easy, convenient and  time-saving. I also realized some other benefits I had never considered, but realized after giving it a try:

1) No more wondering whether you're out of something or not.

Is there milk or orange juice in the fridge? Can't remember? While you fill your online cart, you can easily check your refrigerator or pantry so you don't buy stuff you don't need. You’ll never get to the store and realize you left your list at home.

2) No more (or at least less) impulse buying.

There's much less inclination for impulse buying when you're shopping online. You don't see those products on the end display or walk past those sweets you know you don't need but end up buying anyway.

3) You'll stay on-budget.

As you add items to your cart, there's a running total. While it does not factor in digital or paper coupons or any of the, "Buy 5 Save $5"-type deals, it does give you a worst-case scenario for your grocery bill. On a few occasions, I removed items from my cart because the total was getting too high.

4) Cost comparing is a cinch.

It's easier to cost compare and search for-sale items. You can browse the store ad and put items into your cart as you go. It's also easier to see whether you have coupons for the items that are on-sale, which helps to maximize your savings.

5) Substitutions are readily available.

When you place your order, you can choose whether to allow substitutions on products that might be out of stock. I usually say yes, but some folks might want to say no because they prefer a specific product or brand. Or you might only be buying an item because it's on sale at a really good price.

King Soopers (as of this writing) will price-match on substitutions. For example, I ordered two small containers of Skippy peanut butter, but received one larger container for the price of the smaller container. They've also done it with cereal. For example, they were out of the small box of Honey Bunches of Oats, so substituted the larger box for the price of the small box. When I ordered the store brand of taco shells, I was given a name brand for the store brand price.

6) You can customize the heck out of them.

There's a place to put notes for each item. For example, you might want green bananas because you don't plan to eat them right away. If you're buying lunchmeat or other produce, you can specify the amount in the notes. You can also specify substitutions. For example, I had a cheese pizza in my cart and put in the notes to only substitute with pepperoni because I know my children won't eat the supreme or meat lovers pizzas.

7) Mistakes are made, but King Soopers makes up for it.

Of course, the system is not perfect. One time I got home, and after unpacking everything realized I didn’t get the toilet paper that I ordered and had paid for. When I called, they offered to deliver it for free later that evening, which they did.

On another occasion, I was charged for an extra jar of pasta sauce and given a supreme pizza instead of the cheese pizza I ordered. Since I had to return to the store, they refunded me for the wrong products and the $4.95 pickup fee.

And on more than one occasion, I ended up with one banana instead of one bunch, which is what I really wanted.

How it works and what it costs

Right now, Pick Up costs $4.95 per order, but that fee is waived for the first three orders. There's a little bit of planning ahead required because you have to submit your order four hours before you want to pick it up. So if you want to pick it up at noon, you'll need to submit the order by 8 a.m., but you could also submit your order up to three days in advance.

Shoppers should also know that they have to pay with a credit card or debit for pick up orders. Cash, check, and gift cards or benefits such as WIC and SNAP cannot be accepted. If you want to use those forms of payment, you'll need to shop and purchase in store. You can find answers to other commonly asked questions here.

Other pickup offerings

Many other stores also offer grocery pickup. Walmart advertises its free pick up, which operates very similar to the King Soopers service.

Safeway has Drive Up & Go. According to their website, they offer a six-hour pickup window. There's a minimum order of $49 and it costs $3. That fee is waived for orders over $150.

Target offers Drive Up, but only for nonperishable items. It's free and shoppers can use their Cartwheel offers on their online orders.

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