We shop differently in 2021. The best online grocery stores are taking the place of the weekly pilgrimage to the farmers market, the after-work dash to the butcher, the biweekly trips to the local supermarket and the Asian market that stocks the good brand of sesame oil. The pandemic upended our shopping habits, and while we’re happy to be back chatting with our cheesemonger, online grocery shopping is still undeniably…convenient.
It’s especially convenient if your needs aren’t always served by the local Safeway, where you might come across 19 different breakfast cereals—and none of them cater to your gluten intolerance. For those who follow a certain diet, want a specific brand of fonio, or seek sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients, smaller, specialty online grocery stores offer a wide selection of items that you probably won’t find at your neighborhood bodega—or Fresh Direct, Instacart, and Amazon Fresh. Below, we’ve rounded up the best online grocery stores where BA staffers fill their virtual shopping carts.
Weee!, the online retailer selling Asian and Hispanic groceries, is just as fun to use as it is to say. Enter your zip code on the homepage to unlock a whole world of fresh ingredients, from pork belly to Chinese pears, which are delivered the next day to loads of towns and cities across the U.S. If you happen to live outside of their metropolitan zones, don’t fret! You’ll still have access to thousands of shelf-stable pantry staples, like Indonesian Mi Goreng, my go-to instant noodles since ye olde Australian boarding school days; this easy-to-prepare Japanese Curry mix; and the sweet-savory Taiwanese BBQ sauce that turns literally any meat or vegetable into dinner. Subscription-skeptical like me? Great news: You don’t need one! —Ali Francis, associate editor
Thrive Market actually makes shopping for health-forward groceries…fun?? Its user-friendly website and app are designed to make your life as easy as possible no matter what your dietary and lifestyle needs may be. Thrive operates on a subscribe-to-save model, like Costco: You pay a monthly membership fee, which unlocks discounts of up to 30% off prices you find elsewhere. It wasn’t long before Thrive Market’s subscription service saved me from overpaying for my favorite specialty snacks and organic foods, like this sustainably caught tinned mackerel or my go-to chickpea pasta. Did I mention their life-saving recurring delivery option? You can get your favorite goods automatically shipped when you’re running low without having to lift a finger. —Mehreen Karim, recipe production assistant
I subscribed to Imperfect Foods last winter, when I was trying to limit my trips to the grocery store, and I’ve been using it nearly every week since. The online grocer specializes in products that might otherwise go to waste: yes, “ugly” fresh produce but also odd-sized fish filets, mislabeled non-perishable goods, and sweet snacks made out of pretzel bits, broken almonds, and other leftover odds and ends. But the real reasons I keep using Imperfect are its flexibility, pricing, and reliability. There’s no subscription fee, you can completely customize your order each week or go with a pre-loaded box, and you can skip weeks without penalty any time. Also, just about everything is cheaper than its equivalent at my local grocery store in Brooklyn. And unlike the grocery apps which charge a premium and have limited delivery time slots, Imperfect drops my box right on my doorstep every Thursday afternoon, and they scoop up the ice packs and packing materials from last week’s box too. The whole experience makes me feel both virtuous and completely coddled, which is pretty perfect for me. —Amanda Shapiro, editorial director
Snuk sells a huge, well-organized array of global foods by region, from North Africa to Eastern Europe, or you can go hunting for that very specific Turkish pistachio you heard was way more flavorful than the California ones (it is). FYI: Snuk has 12 types of couscous, one of which is tomato!!! The pantry essentials I stock up on: this sherry vinegar that I know they use in the salad dressings at Cervo’s (expensive, but a dash goes a long way), Soom tahini, and gochugaru chile flakes. Stuff I’ll impulse buy: Cellar Door’s (spicy!) cocktail cherries; these Greek cheese crackers, based on the black cat packaging alone; and blue corn masa, hard to find! (Use it to make cornbread, tortillas, and the scones from Mother Grains.) —Alex Beggs, senior staff writer
I love a farmers market, but what I do not love is rising early on a Saturday to fight for the juiciest tomatoes. Luckily for me (and others who live in the New York City area), Farm To People offers the best of local farms via home delivery. You can opt for a seasonal produce box or shop à la carte for fruit and veg as well as rainbow eggs from Ironbound Farm’s pasture-raised hens, free-range lamb from Stryker Farm in Pennsylvania, and whole wheat bread flour from Farmer Ground Flour. Farm To People offers free delivery with a minimum order of $50. You need to finalize your box two days before delivery, so it does require some advance planning—all of which I do from the comfort of my bed on Saturday mornings. —MacKenzie Chung Fegan, senior commerce editor
I used to spend way too much time at my local store reading the ingredient lists of each and every product. Not anymore. Now I tackle the bulk of my shopping list at Bubble Goods, where every item—including these Dam Good English Muffins and my favorite chocolate-hazelnut cookies on Earth—have been vetted for things like dyes, gums, and preservatives. Are you vegan? Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Bubble makes it a cinch to shop according to different dietary needs. But what I really love about them is that they make it easy to add to my robust hot sauce collection. I’m very into this garlicky green sauce right now. —Tiffany Hopkins, commerce writer
If Umamicart had a physical store, I’d move apartments just to live on the same corner. As Stefon would say, this perfectly curated Asian grocery store has everything: You’ll find all your Asian pantry favorites, like Laoganma chili crisp and black vinegar. Also here are newer brands with Asian American founders, like Fly By Jing (and its very fly Zhong Sauce). But what truly sets Umamicart apart is its selection of fresh Asian produce and cuts of meat—where else can I get fresh perilla leaves, pickled mustard greens, and paper-thin slices of hot pot meat in one place? Throw in a bag of shrimp chips and a multipack of Neoguri instant spicy seafood noodles and I’m in Asian supermarket heaven. Umamicart is only available in select cities on the East Coast currently, but they’re rapidly expanding. Plus, now through September 12, Umamicart is running a Mid-Autumn Festival promotion: Spend $59 or more, and they’ll throw in a free jar of Fly By Jing chili crisp and donate two pounds of food to Heart of Dinner to combat food insecurity and social isolation within NYC’s elderly community. —Christina Chaey, senior food editor
Are you torn between wanting to shop with your conscience and the nagging belief that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism? Well, same. Still, I like to support brands that I believe are doing good and important work whenever I can, and Hive makes that really easy. They vet the products and producers they carry, not just for quality and taste, but for their social and ecological impact as well. When you add a product to your cart, a little banner appears to explain how that pickle jar was made with zero waste products, or that your new favorite baking mix was made by women who’d had trouble finding work because of their educational and personal backgrounds. Am I saving the world each time I order groceries online? Meh, probably not, but at least I’m snacking guilt-free. —Nico Avalle, digital production assistant
H Mart is great for all your everyday Korean grocery needs, but if you’re looking for artisan products that are a cut above, check out Kim’C Market. There you’ll find 100% pesticide free tangerine juice from Jeju Island, organic shiitake mushroom powder, and, most notably, high-quality, single-origin rice that is served by the likes of Cote and Atomix. At $23 for five pounds, yeah, it’s expensive—but it’s also freshly milled by Kim’C and shipped out to you on the same day. Good luck finding that at H Mart. —MacKenzie Chung Fegan, senior commerce editor