Buying Groceries on Amazon.com

Boy, it's getting expensive to feed the fam. And mine loves to eat, so asking them to go on a Ramen noodles diet is kinda out of the question. So this summer I'll be looking for creative ways to save some cash at the grocery store. I'm hoping to answer some burning questions like do coupons really work or are they more trouble than they're worth? And will I save on gas and time buying my groceries online? What about farmer's markets? Do you get a better deal on zucchini there than at Giant?

My first question: Do you get better deals shopping for bulk groceries on Amazon.com versus a local brick-and-mortar shopping club like BJ's Wholesale Club?

The answer: No.

With gas prices threatening to go over $4 a gallon and Amazon.com's good deals on books, it seemed like there could be a real cost savings on their groceries, which are all sold in bulk sizes. But BJ's had better prices even with its $45 annual membership fee and the amount of gas I spent getting to the Alexandria store. The price differences were dramatic despite Amazon.com's Subscribe & Save program, which gives you a 15 percent discount and free shipping when you sign up for the free service. The only thing I lose is the time I have to spend getting to BJ's and browsing through the large warehouse's aisles.

Take diapers, something I buy a lot of for my 4-month-old. A box of 228 Pampers Baby Dry were $42.49 at Amazon.com versus $36.99 at BJ's. That's a more than $5 price difference. No deals on non-perishable food either. Amazon.com sells a pack of six 16.3-ounce jars of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter for $15.12, which is 15 cents per ounce, and BJ's sells a pack of two 48-ounce jars at $7.69, which is 8 cents per ounce. That's almost a 50 percent price difference. Paper products were no different. Amazon.com sells a 40-pack of Charmin Ultra Soft for $41.49, which comes to about $1.04 per roll. However BJ's sells a 30-pack of the same kind of toilet paper for $18.49, which is 62 cents per roll. Definitely getting a better bathroom experience at BJ's. I could go on and on.

If you're out for bigger bulk than what BJ's and other shopping clubs have to offer and you ignore prices, Amazon.com is the winner. Like getting a pack of 40 rolls of toilet paper versus BJ's puny 30-roll pack. But when you buy groceries from Amazon.com, you really need some good storage and a long-lasting love of the item you're buying.

The only advantage I could see from Amazon.com's Subscribe & Save program was that the company can automatically send you items at intervals of your choosing. So you could set yourself up to get a shipment of toilet paper every month or every two months, all the way up to every six months. And the company promises that you can withdraw yourself from the program at any time if you find yourself bursting at the seams with Charmin.

Have you shopped for groceries on Amazon.com? What was your experience? How are you saving money on groceries? Are you buying in bulk? If so, where do you buy? Post a comment below. And if you have any shopping conundrums, just send them to shoptoit@washingtonpost.com and I'll try to help.

By Tania Anderson |  May 22, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Grocery Deals
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Comments

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I agree that most of the Amazon groceries are not much of a deal, but I did sign up for the Amazon subcription service for my vitamins. The vitamins I buy are vegan and hard to find locally. Not only are they less expensive on Amazon, I don't have to remember to buy them because Amazon automatically ships a new supply to me.

Posted by: Thrifty | May 22, 2008 9:35 AM

Online shopping for food items is more useful for items you can't find in your own backyard - spices, specialty flours, etc.

Posted by: Kate | May 22, 2008 9:51 AM

The biggest deal you'll get on fresh foods is at a farmers' market. Plus, you'd be giving your money to a small local farmer instead of a huge corporation, and reducing your carbon footprint by slashing the distance your food has to travel. I'd love for you to do a post on local farmers' markets (addresses, dates/times, specialties). That's where the real deals are to be had, and for far cheaper.

Plus, like many Washingtonians currently paying rent on a smallish apartment, I have absolutely no room to store 40 rolls of TP.

Posted by: rena | May 29, 2008 11:36 AM

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