The easy answer is a big fat NO – which surprised me because many frugal friends have raved about Amazon’s grocery prices, which don’t require coupons. But a price comparison of 24 common grocery staples between my local Stop & Shop, BJ’s Warehouse club, and Amazon Grocery gave Amazon just one clear price winner. (On ultra pasteurized milk. You know, the kind that does not need to be refrigerated before you open it?) Stop & Shop had the lowest price on six items and BJ’s won 10 price categories. Prices for another 10 items were tied at Stop & Shop and BJ’s. For this comparison I looked at Amazon Grocery prices, not prices at AmazonFresh, a grocery delivery service that is only available in Seattle.
I compared grocery prices on a selection of meats, produce, dry goods, and treats by calculating the cost per unit of each item. In some cases, I multiplied the cost per unit by how many units that item is typically sold in. For instance, the per ounce cost of tortilla chips at Amazon was $.18. But you cannot buy a single ounce of chips. Usually, chips come in bags that are 14 ounces or more, not including snack sizes.
If I had purchased the same items at each store, my cart would come to:
- Stop & Shop $80.33
- BJ’s Warehouse $70.91
- Amazon Grocery $194.94 – and this doesn’t include shipping!
Buying the groceries at Amazon is twice as expensive as the other two options, making it a true splurge. Plus, Amazon did not have a few items available, like Broccoli and onions. Many of the items at Amazon were expensive because of the need to preserve the edibles while shipping. A whopping 8 of the 24 items need to be refrigerated or frozen, and delicate items, like fruit, require special packaging so as not to damage the flesh. Another downside was the glut of packaging buying groceries on Amazon Grocery would create. Most of the items I looked at were sold through various third parties, which means receiving a separate package for almost every item you buy.
The upside to grocery shopping at Amazon is a plethora of organic and all-natural brands to choose from, exceptional selection in certain areas, like meat, and the convenience of grocery shopping online. No pesky lines to deal with or winter weather to plow through.
Until AmazonFresh delivers nationwide, the more important comparison is between BJ’s and Stop & Shop (or wherever you regularly buy food). The warehouse club groceries are almost $10 cheaper – a nice 12% discount. But keep in mind that some of those savings will inevitably be washed away by the requirement to buy so much more than you can digest. Are you really goes to consume all six heads of lettuce before they turn to slime? Do you have space for 20 pounds of flour? Plus, joining BJ’s costs $50 a year. Costco is also $50 a year and Sam’s Club is $40. Do you shop enough to make back your membership?
If you are a savvy grocery shopper and stock up at your local market when prices are low, you can easily make up for the slightly lower prices at a warehouse club. Beyond price, the distance to each store, the quality of your experience there, and the chance you will be sucked into impulse buys at each store will push you to shop at one place over another.
If home delivery is important, try a grocery delivery service like Peapod, FreshDirect, or check if your local market offers it. Coupons are often available for your first order and shipping may be waived if you hit a minimum tab. For now, reserve Amazon Grocery for splurges or specialty items.