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Peapod makes online grocery shopping a snap

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Going to the grocery store musters mixed reactions. For some, it a chore and a bore, but for others it's an enjoyable – even relaxing – activity. Many shoppers who fall into the former category have found reprieve in online grocery shopping.

Although the service has been available since the late '80s, it has become increasingly popular in more recent years.

Peapod, an online grocery delivery service based in Skokie, Ill., was founded in 1989. It was originally called IPOD, which stood for Information and Product On Demand, but the founders eventually changed the name to the more-consumer-friendly Peapod.

Prior to 1996, Peapod was a partnership with Jewel Osco in Chicago. Today, it is no longer connected to Jewel and delivers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Many online grocery delivery services have also cropped up since, including Amazon's PrimePantry.

The biggest benefit to buying groceries online is the convenience of doing it from a computer and not having to physically go to the grocery store to shop and wait in long lines at the register.

Lisa Roe started ordering groceries from Peapod because she and her boyfriend have different work and volunteer schedules and found it difficult to grocery shop together.

"I was leery at first. I thought you needed a membership to shop at Peapod," says Roe.

No membership is required to shop at Peapod. However, there is a delivery fee and a minimum order of $60. Delivery charges range depending on the total cost of an order. For orders between $60 and $75; the cost is $9.95. It's $7.95 for orders between $75 and $100 and $6.95 for orders over $100.

Shoppers can peruse by items or "browse the aisles." Peapod offers produce, meat, seafood, natural / organic items, and health and beauty care products. There are national brands like Duncan Hines and Green Giant as well as cheaper store brands including Peapod's own line of groceries. Prepared meals are also available.

After completing the shopping, customers pick a delivery date and time based on their personal schedule and Peapod's availability. Often, groceries can be requested for the next day, especially if customers are flexible with the two-hour time frames. Groceries can also be ordered up to two weeks in advance.

Customers do not have to be home to receive their groceries, but Peapod has to be informed of this. All Peapod items are handpicked and if the items are going to sit out for any period of time they are packed in special temperature-controlled containers.

"If you order unattended delivery, they pack all your cold items in a cooler with dry ice. We take that dry ice and do fun science experiments with the kids," says Elizabeth Moen, a mother of three in Bay View who uses the service every few weeks.

Peapod accepts coupons and offers weekly specials. The prices are comparable to what one would pay at a Pick 'n Save – maybe a little bit higher in general. For example, a jar of Jiff natural peanut butter was 15 cents more expensive than what it cost at Pick 'n Save, but shoppers have to determine if the convenience is worth paying a bit more.

"Prices can be a bit higher than regular grocery stores. However, the sale items and generic Peapod brand are great and very reasonable. Plus, they're always emailing with discounts on the delivery fee," says Moen.

The online shopping process at Peapod is very easy. New customers enter a ZIP code and start shopping immediately. Payment is made at the end of the shopping experience and the date and time of delivery are determined.

Shannon Knapp, a mother of six living in Bay View, orders household and staple items through Amazon. There are no shipping or delivery fees for AmazonPrime members.

"It's often cheaper than the store because they offer discounts for automatic shipments and they have savings clubs you can join," says Knapp. "I love that I can have a thought pop in my head, click and it's on its way. And now we are never out of toilet paper."

Online grocery shoppers also appreciate the lack of impulse buying that is more likely at a brick and mortar grocery store.

"By shopping online, you're not hitting those end caps which is where they take all your money. And there are no taste testers there to tempt you to buy something," says Toni Spott.

Spott says she uses the service every few weeks because she likes to supplement with food from local grocers and farmer's markets. However, she says she has been surprised and impressed with the high quality of Peapod's meat and produce and therefore uses it more often than expected.

"The vegetables are perfect. Crisp, fresh, amazing. I really didn't expect that," says Spott. "I've had minor issues in the past but the customer service is great and they do not hesitate to replace or refund your item immediately. I have nothing but good things to say about Peapod."

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