Tried and tested: Amazon's online-only grocery store, AmazonFresh

Banu Ibrahim
Updated 4th January 2018

Story highlights

  • We tested out AmazonFresh's online-only grocery service for all of our shopping for 90 days. Here's how it turned out.

The boom of online grocery shopping is hard to escape. Companies like Instacart and FreshDirect have created entire business models based on it. Major companies like Google have gotten on board, offering services to those who live in various metropolitan areas across the US.

One company going head-to-head with all those other services is Amazon.

Back in 2007, Amazon began testing the service, going through various iterations of grocery delivery services under the name Amazon Fresh (starting at $14.99; amazon.com). The main concept, however, has always stayed relatively the same. Amazon Fresh sells both name-brand and local goods through its site, which operates exactly as Amazon.com does. There you can add items to your Fresh cart, which can include fresh produce, non-perishable foods or household goods. Once you're all set, you reserve a delivery time and a delivery person will bring your groceries to your doorstep in temperature-controlled totes. It's available now in more cities than ever before, shipping to Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, parts of California, New York metro, northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, northern Virginia and soon London.

One of the drawbacks to the original program was Amazon Fresh's $299 per year membership fee. Recently, however, the online retailer slashed the price to a more budget-friendly price of $14.99 a month for existing Prime members. This includes free shipping of all of your goods to your doorstep. In total, that's a little under $25 a month for both membership fees (Fresh and Prime). But if you don't want to start shelling out cash without trying out Amazon Fresh first, the company offers free trial promotions.

Using a mix of a 30-day free trial and two months of a paid membership, I switched over all my grocery needs to Amazon Fresh for a total of 90 days. My hope in going completely digital on my shopping experience was that I would end up saving energy and money. In my area of New York City, I'm surrounded by primarily bodegas and a few grocery stores that have severely marked-up prices. Escaping my area to go to a more affordable store requires subway rides there and back. The biggest drawback with this is that I can only buy as much as I can carry, which could mean multiple trips per week, depending on my shopping list. Plus, I'll admit it: I'm the kind of shopper that loves to impulse buy. And doing that multiple times a week can add up.

So with that in mind, I made the switch to digital. Over the course of 90 days I've placed seven orders through Fresh, most of which were fresh produce orders and larger bulk items like rice and oats.

Pros

Since opting in to Amazon Fresh, I've been able to capitalize on products that I know will be expensive in other places but are pretty marked down on the site. My go-to in almost every order has been Martin's 18-pack of eggs for $3.55. To keep things in perspective, I once spent $7 on a carton of 12 eggs at a bodega near my apartment (yes, this really happened). In my past seven orders, I've never received a broken egg -- which is a real feat, considering I've been known to break them en route from a traditional grocery store to my apartment.

Also my favorite spice jars from Maya Kaimal are cheaper through the Fresh service than they normally are in a grocery store. And because they're coming straight to my doorstep and I don't have to worry about their weight, I can order them in bulk to stock my pantry. But the real bonus as an avid impulse shopper was that I had to map out exactly what meals I was having during the week, and when, in order to prepare a grocery list a day or two in advance of delivery. As a result, I became more conscious of what meals I would be prepping and began to shop for healthier, more sustainable items. This process also left little wiggle room for any out-of-the-norm purchase. (Although I'll admit that a few snuck into my cart.)

But where Fresh has really saved me time and energy is during bigger events and holidays. This year I hosted a housewarming party and did all my ordering through Amazon Fresh, sparing me a trip to the grocery store during a hectic shopping week.

All in all, items are exactly what you assume they should be. Produce is fresh, delivery is consistently on time, and I have had yet to experience any missing products from my shopping list. And compared with other delivery services — which may not charge a membership rate but will charge delivery fees — Amazon comes out as one of the cheapest options, even if you're factoring in the total membership dues of $25.

Cons

The service isn't perfect by any means. In the seven orders I've done, I have had two snafus: a pierced bag of oats and a broken bottle of hot sauce, self-contained in a plastic bag. And a major disadvantage of the service is that you don't get to choose your produce before you buy it. For example, Amazon does let you choose between "ripe" and "not ripe" avocados, but you won't be able to do a quality check before you buy either option. Most produce does come in optimal quality, but if you're a picky produce person like myself, it may be tough to not be able to squeeze that avocado before you put it in your shopping cart.

In addition, if you're in a time crunch you might not be able to purchase your goods and have them delivered soon enough. So with that, I have to (finally) admit that I broke my own rule and went shopping at a local store once during my 90 days. Delivery windows usually aren't immediate, making day of or next day shopping tough. If you need produce quickly, it might be better to just order groceries at your nearest supermarket

Final Thoughts

This service isn't for everyone. For instance, I do find a lot of enjoyment in going to grocery stores and farmers markets to shop when I have time. But even though that's the ideal, there are a lot of factors that prevent me from doing so, most of them boiling down to time and money. Amazon Fresh saved me both, which is invaluable.

I could definitely see this being a helpful resource to those who have limited time for grocery shopping, whether it's because they're working parents or because their lifestyle just doesn't allow for much downtime. If that sounds like you, this may be a real game changer in your life — at least it has been for mine. Over the past 90 days, it's become my go-to grocery store. And as long as the quality of food and the convenience remain at the same level, it will stay that way.

If you want to sign up for an Amazon Fresh or Amazon Prime Membership, click here. And start shopping!

Note: The prices above reflect the listed retailer's price on the date this article was published.