Shopping has changed dramatically in the age of the internet, offering choices, variety and convenience unimaginable, say, to the Ingalls family. You can have your groceries delivered to your door, wander the giant aisles of the club stores, or stop as needed at your neighborhood grocery. Do you ever wonder if you could save money by shopping somewhere else? Caregivers, home care aides and loved ones can decide whether price, convenience or familiarity are their shopping guideline. So this week, we present our Grocery Shopping Showdown, where we compare the prices of three common items at three different stores. Let the showdown begin!
We chose three common items that most households of every size buy on a regular basis: laundry detergent, coffee, and paper towels. The prices shown are before tax and any delivery or shipping fees. We chose Amazon, Costco, and Ralphs to represent San Diego’s shopping landscape, and the following three items which are available at all three stores:
- Gain Ultra Original Powder Laundry Detergent
- Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels
- Folgers Classic Roast Coffee
Membership fee: Gold Star Membership at $55 per household or Executive Gold Star Membership at $110 per household, which includes 2% cash back each year.
Home Delivery: No
Pros: Access to Costco Gas Stations, Pharmacy, Optical and Tire Departments, all offering discounted prices to members.
Cons: Huge parking lot, lots of walking required, must buy bulk quantities
- Gain Powder, 206 oz. for $19.99: 7 cents per ounce (plus tax).
- Bounty, 12 rolls (regular size, not Huge, Giant or Mega size) for $19.99: $1.67 per roll (plus tax). (Select-A-Size means no per sheet pricing.)
- Folgers, 48 oz. for $10.99: 23 cents per ounce (plus tax).
Membership fee: Amazon Prime is $99 per year, though it is not required to buy from Amazon
Home Delivery: Yes
Pros: Prime membership includes free two-day shipping, $5.99 flat rate Prime Pantry shipping, and one-hour delivery Prime Now, only in certain cities, plus Prime Video, Music and Photos, Prime Early Access, Kindle First, and Amazon Elements, the ‘house’ brand. Two adults and four children per household can access Prime.
Pros: Shop in your pajamas with laptop or phone, never interact with a cashier again
Cons: Non-Prime items are shipped ‘slow boat’, no fresh produce unless you live in a Prime Now city.
- Gain Powder, 206 oz. for $33.69: 4 cents per ounce (plus tax) – free standard shipping but not eligible for Prime shipping.
- Bounty, 6 rolls (regular size, not Huge, Giant or Mega size, not available in a 12-roll package) for $12.99: $2.17 per roll (plus tax). (Select-A-Size means no per sheet pricing.)
- Folgers, 30.5 oz. for $7.49 (only available through PrimePantry): 25 cents per ounce (plus tax):
Membership: No. Manufacturers coupons and store coupons apply, though.
Home Delivery: Yes, via Instacart which offers one-hour delivery of grocery orders
Pros: Coupons, assistance bringing your bags to your car, generally not a madhouse
Cons: typical retail pricing schemes
- Gain Powder, 45 oz. for $6.49: 4 cents per ounce (plus tax)
- Bounty, 6 rolls (regular size, not Huge, Giant or Mega size, not available in a 12-roll package) for $15.99: $2.67 per roll (plus tax). (Select-A-Size means no per sheet pricing.)
- Folgers, 30.5 oz. for $8.99: 5 cents per ounce (plus tax)
Judge’s decision: Costco wins on pricing, and if walking through a huge store and parking lot, and then owning bulk sizes of everything are not a deterrent, then the $55 membership is well worth it. If convenience and ease of delivery are most appealing, then Amazon is the best choice, because you might never have to interact with a human to receive all your items. Shoppers do have to plan ahead to fill a flat-rate Prime Pantry box, so running out before the next delivery is a risk. The shopper who likes to buy in small quantities, who waits to run out before buying again, and who prefers the manageable size of a traditional grocery store will do well at Ralph’s. Just remember to bring your reusable bags with you!
PS: if you’d like to know more about the manifold benefits of Amazon Prime, this article from Tom’s Guide is a great primer.