11 Grocery Items You Should (Almost) Never Buy Online

MANAGE MONEY - BUDGETING
Save yourself from buyer's remorse by keeping these grocery items out of your virtual shopping cart.
Updated Feb. 21, 2024
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man doing his grocery shopping by internet with a laptop

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Online grocery shopping is here to stay. Roughly half the U.S. population (150 million people) are now using such services, according to Statista.

Whether ordering through an app like Instacart, a service such as Amazon Fresh, or an online option tied to their local grocery store, shoppers are using online shopping to cut the cost of groceries and increase convenience.

Despite widespread availability, there are still some items you shouldn't buy online. Following are 11 grocery items you should still head to the store to inspect yourself.

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Avocados

sola_sola/Adobe fresh sliced avocado on wooden table

Produce can be tricky when ordering online. Due to time constraints, your shopper might not be as careful as you would hope when choosing the best avocados.

Plus, the shopper won’t know your plans for the avocados. If you want to make a big bowl of guacamole tomorrow, you’ll want ripe avocados. If you plan to eat them throughout the week, you may want harder fruits that will ripen over the next few days.

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Eggs

Brent Hofacker/Adobe raw organic brown eggs

Eggs are easily damaged, and your shopper might not take the time to inspect your carton before putting it in the cart.

To avoid wasting money on cracked or damaged eggs, head to the store yourself when it’s time to replenish your supply. That way, you can ensure you’re buying a carton with no damaged goods.

Fresh flowers

ProstoSvet/Adobe a vase of tulips on a wooden table

Many grocery stores now have excellent florists in-house. However, flowers are delicate and susceptible to damage in transit.

Florists who do deliveries themselves take extra care and devote ample space in their vehicles to ensure arrangements arrive in perfect shape. Your typical Instacart or Amazon Fresh driver likely doesn't have the space or time to devote that level of care to your flowers.

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Rotisserie chicken

FomaA/Adobe rotisserie chicken served with lemon

A rotisserie chicken can be the perfect dinner for those weeknights when you don’t have time to cook. But that doesn't mean you should order rotisserie chickens online.

This is another situation where some thorough inspection is required. You want to ensure you get a large enough chicken to feed your family and that it's not burned or dried out.

Fresh fish

Nitr/Adobe fresh fish fillet with ingredients for cooking

Unless you know you will be home to take in your fresh fish and get it properly refrigerated the instant it's delivered, leaving this food off your list of online orders is a good idea.

Feel free to order as many cans of tuna as you want, but raw fish is a different story. It can be compromised if it spends too long out in the elements. It’s much safer to pick up fish yourself and bring it home immediately.

Berries

pilipphoto/Adobe blueberries in the basket

Berries — including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more — are sweet and tasty. Unfortunately, they also tend to smoosh and bruise easily and are prone to growing mold quickly.

If your online shopper doesn’t thoroughly investigate the carton they grab for you, you may have to toss out many of your berries.

Tomatoes

Mara Zemgaliete/Adobe fresh red tomatoes

Tomatoes are another tricky produce item that you’ll want to inspect yourself at the grocery store. Getting a bag of tomatoes that are squishy and past their prime or covered in bruises can put a damper on dinner plans.

Even if your shopper inspects the tomatoes at the store and picks out a few good ones, they can be easily damaged in transit. So, it’s best to do the tomato shopping yourself.

Lettuce

Melica/Adobe single lettuce head

Lettuce is particularly susceptible to damage during transit. If it’s sitting in a car or exposed to heat for too long, it’s easy for a nice head or bucket of lettuce to transform into a gooey, wilted mess. That doesn’t exactly make for an appetizing dinner side.

For salad ingredients in general — like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers — it's typically best to gather the goods on your own.

Popsicles

Vasiliy/Adobe light popsicle made of oranges

You’re taking a gamble ordering anything known to melt quickly through an online grocery service — and popsicles can leave you with a particularly sticky and challenging mess.

While ice cream often comes in a tub and may take longer to melt fully, popsicles typically only come in plastic wrappers and may be inedible if they melt too much.

If you don’t know that you’ll be home to get your delivery or can't guarantee it’s being shipped with ice packs, it’s better to go out and get these frozen treats yourself.

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Fresh bread

Ivan Kmit/Adobe sourdough bread

There’s nothing quite like a fresh baguette. However, you might want to pop into your local bakery to grab a loaf rather than relying on an online shopping service.

The bread your online shopper grabs from the grocery store may be labeled “fresh,” but there’s no guarantee that it hasn’t been sitting out all day. When buying in person, you can give it a nice squeeze to ensure it’s fresh.

Sandwiches

koss13/Adobe sandwich with chicken salad tomato

Your local grocery store may advertise ready-made items such as sandwiches or salads, but these are also products that you’ll want to see in person before buying.

You’ll be better able to assess if the sandwich looks appetizing in person. Plus, you can check out the “sell by” date to make sure you’re not getting something that’s been sitting out all day.

Bottom line

highwaystarz/Adobe driver delivering online grocery shopping order

There are plenty of items you should feel comfortable buying online — from canned and jarred foods such as peanut butter and tuna to household items such as toilet paper and paper plates.

Online shopping can save you time and, in some situations, even help you keep more money in your wallet. However, be wary of buying fresh items — such as produce, bread, and ready-made meals — online so you don’t waste money on unusable products.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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