September 17, 2011

Grocery Shopping at Amazon.com

I do a lot of shopping online at Amazon.com nowadays.   I've always done a fair amount of shopping there but now I buy stuff pretty regularly.   Most of the the stuff is just miscellaneous 'stuff' like a used video game or some item for the house.    Lately I've started buying some groceries at Amazon too.  I was surprised to read today that someone thought groceries are one of the things you should never buy at Amazon.   Buying groceries at Amazon is a hit or miss type of deal in my experience.   Their prices can be great or awful, it all depends on the grocery item in question.   However I have found a couple grocery items that I can get at Amazon for cheaper than anywhere else.

From what I've seen they have the better values in dry goods or canned items.    They do not seem to carry fresh food perishable items such as milk, eggs and bread which is no surprise given their setup.  

Best prices are with their Subscribe & Save feature.   If you're not familiar with the Subscribe & Save system at Amazon then this is how it works:   You sign up to buy an item on a regular reoccurring basis, like every 1,2,3 or 6 months.  You get a discount price (seems 15% cheaper on groceries)  Shipping is free.   You can cancel the subscription at any time as well as change the timeframe or quantity that you order.    The shipping is not 2nd day and can sometimes be slower than typical for even ground shipping so don't expect it to be fast.   However if you've got it scheduled in advance that shouldn't be a problem on future shipments.

Free shipping option of some sort is a key.    We have free prime shipping on Amazon right now.   The subscribe and save purchases also have free shipping.  Otherwise you can get their free shipping options by buying $25 or more. 

You absolutely have to shop around.    Do not just assume that the prices at Amazon will be cheaper in general or you'll be in trouble.   When I compared prices between Amazon and local grocery stores the Amazon prices were usually higher than the cheaper grocery store options.   However I did find some items where Amazon was definitely cheaper.

You may be able to do better with sales and coupons at the local grocery store.    Amazon may have some good prices on some items but they don't often put out sales and they don't take coupons (as far as I know).   Your local grocery store may put on a good sale deal and they almost all take coupons.   If you're willing to do a little more work to watch for sales and/or clip some coupons then you could get a better deal than a normally cheap Amazon price.


Case study #1  : Coffee

I buy Folger's coffee.   I'm not very particular in my coffee.  I like my coffee to contain caffeine and I like it hot.

Here are the prices that I found for Folgers :



cost size cost/size
Winco $8.68 25 $0.35
Fred Meyer $10.73 25 $0.43
Albertsons $10.99 25 $0.44
Costco $12.49 48 $0.26
Amazon $18.33 67.8 $0.27


As you can see for this example the coffee at Costco is just a little cheaper / unit size compared to buying at Amazon.   If I didn't have a Costco membership then the Amazon price might win out here.   Still Amazon isn't the winner here for me.

Case study #2 : Lorna Doone cookies

I like Lorna Doone cookies.   I eat too many of them. Costco does not carry Lorna Doone cookies so thats why I don't have a price for them.



cost size cost/size
Winco $3.78 10 $0.38
Fred Meyer $4.59 10 $0.46
Albertsons $4.79 10 $0.48
Amazon $15.15 60 $0.25


For my cookies I'm a lot better off shopping at Amazon.    Amazon's price is 34% cheaper than the next cheapest and almost half the cost of the most expensive.   I do have to buy in a bulk package which could be a negative if I didn't eat cookies fast enough.  I guess I'll just have to make sure I continue to eat too many cookies so they don't go stale on me.


Case Study #3 : Cheerios

When I went to Winco they happened to have Cheerios on sale for $2.28 for a 40 ounce box.  I think.  I'm not sure if I wrote that down right cause it is less than half the price of anyone else.  I'm also not sure if I wrote down the price or size at Albertsons cause if I got it right they're a lot more expensive than anyone else.   It could be there is such a wide range in prices for Cheerios.  Anyway, excluding the sale price at Winco I found the following prices for Cheerios :



cost size cost/size
Fred Meyer $2.69 14 $0.19
Albertsons $5.79 14 $0.41
Costco $5.97 37 $0.16
Amazon $8.38 35.6 $0.24

Amazon is only middle of the pack pricing for Cheerios.   Again Costco is the winner and they are 33% cheaper than Amazon. 


Overall I would conclude that Amazon's prices for these kind of dry goods are better than the normal grocery store prices but not as good as Costco prices and potentially beat by grocery store sale prices.

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