Ring the Buzzer: Subscriptions and Deliveries for City Families

Subscription services are booming. From household names like Instacart and FreshDirect to delivery from local groceries, there are probably several options in your neighborhood. Subscriptions and delivery services are especially valuable for city parents who may not have space for bulk quantities of toilet paper or a car to transport a huge grocery haul. And offer any parent (not just urbanites) the option to free up some time in the week and they’ll probably take you up on the offer.

In addition to ultra-practical deliveries like milk and eggs there are other subscriptions focused on toys, activities, and other fun deliveries for your kids. We’ve got a roundup of all of them below, organized by offerings and ranked for ease of use and value. Included are options for making breakfast a breeze (anyone with kids in school knows how hard it can be to get out the door in time), making a dent in food waste with a CSA box that delivers ugly (but perfectly delicious) produce, meal kits, and STEM learning activities.

Jump to: Groceries, Amazon Offerings, Meal Kits, and Other Fun Subscriptions

Get Groceries

Delivery services for produce, nonperishables, snacks, household goods and other essentials. Easy-peasy.
Delivery Service FeesLocations
imperfect foods logoImperfect Foods has a mission to reduce food waste. Subscribe to receive a box packed with not-quite perfect produce and surplus groceries for a lower price. Feel good that you're diverting food waste! Boxes are customizable before each delivery.$4.99-5.99 delivery feeMost of the US
boxed-logoBoxed deliveres bulk products with no membership fee. Think jumbo household cleaners, eggs by the two-dozen and anything else you might pick up at the warehouse club.Free shipping on orders over $49 (otherwise $6.99) or always-free shipping with Boxed Up upgrade ($49/year).Contiguous United States
thrive market logoThrive Market offers top organic & non-GMO brands at up to 50% off right to your doorstep.$5/month membership and discounts on organic and clean eating name brand stuff. $5.95 shipping on orders less than $25.Contiguous United States
Place Instacart orders from your favorite local (participating) grocery and get delivery in as little as an hour! Stores vary according to delivery area. Some offer alcohol delivery!$7.99 for one-hour delivery or $5.99 for two-hour or more delivery. Annual membership of $149 unlocks free delivery on all orders over $35.5,500 cities across the US and Canada
FreshDirect might be the OG grocery delivery service. They boast "the freshest groceries delivered to East Coast cities" and even extend delivery to the Hamptons and Jersey Shore if you're lucky enough to be there in the summertime.$5.99-$7.99 delivery fee depending on location with $30 order minimum. $149 annual membership unlocks free delivery, custom delivery time, and special offers.East Coast cities like NYC Boroughs, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and others.
Brandless boasts household items focused on sustainability, simplicity, and clean ingredients. Get everything from a silicone spatula to tree-free napkins to cashews. You can also build custom subscription boxes for recurring delivery of your favorites.Free shipping on orders $48 or more, $6.95 otherwise.Contiguous United States

Amazon Does it all

Amazon has several services offering everything from arugula to laundry detergent. We've got mixed feelings about the mega-brand, but have to admit their delivery options to Prime members are practical and efficient. Plus, they've started a pilot program to offer grocery delivery to SNAP/EBT users and that's something.
Delivery Service CostLocations
PrimeNow offers groceries, gadgets, and household goods with 2-hour delivery shipped from the Amazon warehouse near you. Many cities also offer deliveries from Whole Foods now that the two have married. Order using the slick mobile app.Free delivery with $35 minimum; Prime membership required.78 cities in the US
Subscribe & Save is set-it-and-forget-it style subscriptions of essential nonperishables and household items like toilet paper and dishwasher soap. Choose frequency of each item and be prepared to receive bulk orders.Prime required; free delivery. 5 subscriptions per month unlocks an additional discount on items.Wherever Amazon delivers
Amazon Fresh offers grocery delivery similar to PrimeNow plus pickup options free to Amazon Prime members. No annual membership required to shop with a New York-issued SNAP EBT.Free 2-hour delivery on orders of $35 or more in most locationsSelect cities
Prime Pantry is just that: household pantry items available in standard sizes if you don't need a 10-pack of shampoo (a la Subscribe & Save). Weekly coupons available and EBT accepted.Free delivery with $35 order; $5.99 for smaller orders. No annual Prime membership required for SNAP EBT customers.Wherever Amazon delivers

Many of these subscriptions are gift-able! Next time you need a gift for a city family, consider a subscription box. They really are gifts that keep giving—month after month.

Meal Kits

Running out of time to cook but still want fresh, good food at dinnertime? A meal kit might be just the ticket.
Delivery Service CostLocations
Yumble provides heat & eat kids meals to your doorstep. Choose the meals (and quantity) you want to receive each week from menu options like Cheesy Mac & Trees and Tex Mex Taco Bowl.Meals start at $7.99. Free delivery!East Coast & Midwest
Daily Harvest started with smoothies and now offers harvest bowls, soups, and other fruit- and veggie-focused meals that are ready to eat in minutes. Perfect for that elusive healthy breakfast.Cups start at $6.99 each. Ships free.Delivers to "95% of the continental United States."
Hungryroot delivers curated foods that match your eating habits. Choose a box size and expect to receive most of your weekly groceries inside plus snacks. Ingredients come with serving suggestions and recipes but this service is more open-ended than other meal kits. Accommodates a variety of allergies and diets.Boxes start at $69Delivers to most zip codes in the 48 contiguous states
Pick a Martha & Marley Spoon meal plan, create your menu, and receive a box of fresh, high-quality ingredients each week. Lemony Spinach Gnocchi Bake with Basil and Pine Nuts, anyone?Meal plans start at $49.99 for 2 people with $8.99 shipping.Most of the contiguous United States
Sun Basket is the meal kit service for organic and clean eating. They source 100% organic produce and offer a variety of menu options from full meals (like Puerto Rican arroz con pollo) to breakfast, coffee, lunch choices, and even orders of antibiotic- and hormone-free meat.Meal plans start at $51.96 for 2 people. $5.99 delivery fee.Most of the contiguous US.

Other Fun Subscription Services

You and the kids will love these subscriptions of crafts, snacks, clothing, and other fun reasons to get excited about the buzzer ringing.
Subscription CostLocations
Snack Crate delivers monthly snacks but not just a jumble of stuff: each box is themed around a different country! Dive in to Denmark or the Philippines via your taste buds. These make for a fun family activity!Starts at $14 for a mini box of 5 snacks. Ships free worldwide!Worldwide!
KiwiCo makes fantastic art- and science-focused subscriptions for every age. Each activity enables creative, hands-on (screen-free!) projects like Volcano Slime, Robots & Coding, and Handmade Soap. Available as subscription or purchase a single crate.Prices range from $15–$25 per month depending on crate. US, Canada, most of Europe, and Australia
Rockets of Awesome is a kids clothing subscription (and online store) that learns your kid's style and delivers a box every season. Try on everything, keep what you like, and mail back the rest!Full box total is $150 plus tax if you decide to keep everything. $20 styling fee if you keep nothing.Continental United States
Kidbox is a one-for-one kids clothing subscription that mails 7 personally styled boxes each year. Each full box kept initiates an item of clothing donated to a child in need!Starts at $58 for 4 items if you keep everything.Continental United States
Nike Adventure Club mails your kid new shoes and a get-moving adventure to go with it! Just before shipment, you'll get an alert that it's time to pick a style and size. Choose from Nike and Converse brands, and recycle old shoes in the included bag.Starts at $20/month for 4 pair.Continental United States

Budget Considerations

Bear in mind, delivery comes with a cost, and ordering groceries means you won’t be able to shop with coupons or food stamps. There’s talk (and a new pilot programs via Amazon) of EBT and SNAP benefits being extended to online grocery ordering and delivery, but even if you don’t use food stamps, you might still be operating under a budget that doesn’t have room for delivery fees and courier tips. Some services have a flat fee for deliveries and some offer free delivery after you reach a minimum order amount. The value is personal; is the time saved worth the money spent to have your pork chops and sweet potato fries delivered? If the convenience offsets the cost, you’ll love subscription services.

Waste Considerations

One final observation about subscription boxes: they come in, you know, boxes. With wrappers and inserts and packaging galore. Subscription boxes and even some grocery delivery services generate a lot of waste. Meal Kits can be especially offensive, so they might not be a good option if you don’t have access to recycling services in your city. Thankfully, brands are getting wiser about packaging and are using fully recyclable or compostable materials.

Subscription services and grocery delivery can shoulder the brunt of your shopping lists and make your busy life as a parent more manageable. The question is what you’re going to do with your extra bit of time—explore a new corner of your city, perhaps?