By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer Published Jan 26, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Gone are the days when you could rely on the milk man to deliver your weekly supply of dairy products.

But, that doesn't mean the convenience of home delivery has come and gone. In fact, in the past few years, it's actually begun to expand, largely due to the ease of online ordering. Large national grocery chains like Meijer and Safeway are hopping on the bandwagon in an effort to compete with the likes of Netgrocer and Amazon.com.

And other grocers are sure to follow. According to survey data gathered by the Food Marketing Institute in 2010, 32 percent of respondents indicated that their primary grocery store offered online ordering, and 28 percent said they had done at least some online ordering at those grocers.

I know what some of you are thinking: how lazy do you have to be to order your groceries online? But let's be honest. We all have to eat. Yet, people lead busy lives, and sometimes grocery shopping just seems like a time-consuming chore. For others without reliable transportation, it's simply more convenient to let someone else do the shopping.

But, is online shopping practical? Or is it just a waste of money? Experts suggest that grocery delivery can actually prevent unnecessary spur-of-the-moment purchases, saving consumers money. In addition, ordering at least some staples online on a regular basis can dramatically shorten the length of weekly grocery shopping trips. Plus, there's something at least remotely appealing about the prospect of abolishing the lugging of packages and wrestling with the kids in the cereal aisle!

So, for those living in Milwaukee, what are some options?

Probably the largest and most well-known among online grocery services is Peapod. Based in Skokie, Ill., Peapod has performed more than 18 million home deliveries since forming in 1989. It offers such delivery in three states in the Midwest – Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Practically anything you can get at a real grocery store can be delivered through Peapod, from soft drinks to fresh produce, alcoholic beverages, meats, fish and even a selection of organic dairy, produce, meat and prepared products. Just find your grocery items online and, for a fee (between $6-10), you can have them delivered right to your doorstep, often as soon as the next day.

Other specialty services may not offer the broad selection of Peapod, but cater instead to consumers' desire for the best in fresh, local products all year long. Brewer's Organics is a new service which just launched this January in the greater Milwaukee area. They provide consumers the option to order various-sized boxes of USDA organic fruits, vegetables or a combination of the two, delivered to home or office on a weekly or every other week basis.

Customers have the option to customize their boxes based on individual preferences, add additional groceries, change delivery weeks, put accounts on vacation hold or cancel deliveries via the Brewer's Organic user-friendly website.

Even better, with every purchase consumers help to support the local community, since Brewer's donates a portion of their sales, along with extra produce and selected "items of the week," to the Hope House and Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee. Brewer's Organics requires a one-time$25 registration fee with the first delivery, after which consumers pay only for the produce they've ordered on a weekly basis.

Similarly, Braise home delivery aims to "bring the farmer's market" directly to consumers' front doors. Focusing on locally produced products, their brand new home delivery program is designed to offer year-round delivery service of all things local, including meat, dairy, dry goods, prepared items and of course, fresh produce. Designed to meet the needs of a single person or a large family, the program offers flexibility in ordering on a week-to-week basis.

Whereas a traditional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program pulls from a single farm and often requires a weekly pick up at a designated location, Braise sources items from several farms and delivers them to a member's home or office, while offering a wider range of products from all over the state.

Add services like NetGrocer, and Milwaukeeans have a fairly robust set of options for ordering edibles online. And, while it's true that home delivery options aren't necessarily for everyone, it makes sense to consider your options – especially if you're among those who don't want to take the time to wrangle with grocery store lines and clipping coupons.

Do you use a home delivery service for your groceries or produce?

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer

Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.

Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.