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Cheaper, better, convenient: these may seem like buzzwords, but as grocery prices are rising and most of us are busy, they are more than that. I started ordering grocery delivery at the beginning of the pandemic- but I’ve also often questioned if it’s worth it.
While I can usually get the brands or products I want from my grocery store, I cannot tell you how many examples there are of products for sale with a steep price tag. But can companies like Boxed and Amazon solve that?
In short: no. But can buying groceries in bulk- especially essentials- save you money? Yes. For those reasons, I’m comparing buying groceries on Amazon vs Boxed to see which company offers the best prices, selection, and delivery.
You’d be surprised by what I discovered- and how the answer to “is it worth it” is not as simple as an easy yes or no.
Main Differences Between Amazon vs Boxed
- Amazon offers fresh groceries through Amazon Fresh and bulk groceries separately, whereas Boxed sells bulk groceries for both fresh and shelf-stable products
- Amazon Prime membership provides free shipping, movie streaming, priority shipping and discounts, whereas Boxed Up memberships provide free shipping and free products and are less expensive.
- Amazon has better search filters, whereas Boxed is a more streamlined shopping experience
Bottom Line Up Front Summary
Boxed and Amazon both offer bulk groceries online- and that’s a tempting way to slash grocery bills. From pantry staples to fresh and frozen products, it’s great to see options like these two companies for both savings and convenience.
At the same time, Boxed and Amazon offer different experiences- and I recommend shopping with Amazon over Boxed.
Amazon allows you to buy bulk pantry items, while Amazon Fresh allows you to shop for everyday fresh and frozen items you might in regular stores. I also like the individual customer reviews, plus the fast delivery and easy tracking.
With a more seamless customer service experience, I think you get more bang out for your buck when shopping with Amazon over Boxed.
But due to the extensive complaints with Amazon Fresh, I would stick with using Amazon bulk and regular listings for shelf-stable items- and buying fresh groceries elsewhere.
Review: Is Boxed or Amazon Better for Groceries?
Read on for my honest review- and what you can do to save money on your next online grocery shopping order.
Boxed and Amazon may seem to offer the same bonus- groceries in bulk at the tip of your fingers- but they have a very different company history. Here’s how their experience and mission differ- and what may impact your shopping experience.
Boxed employs just over 400 and started small. What began as a delivery service for New York City, New Jersey, and Boston has blossomed into a bulk grocery online store for the continental United States. They’ve always been e-commerce based.
Like Amazon, they have fulfillment centers (albeit far less) where your groceries come from. An interesting tidbit is that Boxed may be getting some of its goods from unused Costco stores. That said, Costco and Boxed are otherwise not affiliated. They’ve been serving customers since 2013.
Amazon hardly needs any introduction, as the fourth tech company to reach $1 trillion in market value as of 2022. But what I’m interested in comparing is its two main grocery services that most closely resemble Boxed: Amazon Bulk and Amazon Fresh.
I’ll provide more details later, but Amazon Fresh started in 2007, with physical store locations opening in 2020. It’s not clear when shelf-stable bulk products were sold, but wholesale items have long been part of Amazon’s strategy.
With its acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon is trying to take more and more slices of the grocery market.
While I love seeing more independent businesses and competition in the grocery market industry, I still have to give a slight advantage to Amazon.
With a physical store presence and more experience in the delivery business, there are more customer options. On the other hand, I like that Boxed specializes in grocery delivery.
The Shopping Experience
I’ve done plenty of grocery shopping both in stores and online- and something always strikes me: the user experience. That is, I notice when a company either goes out of its way to make finding what you need easier or makes it more challenging.
But the user interface isn’t the only key difference between Boxed vs Amazon. While everything is one place for Boxed, Amazon shoppers may find themselves switching back and forth between Amazon Fresh and Amazon Bulk.
Boxed is a one-place shopping experience. After giving your email address and signing up (to avoid further pop-ups) you’ll be greeted with a fairly organized catalog of grocery and home or health products. I like that you can sort by categories, but also best sellers, free samples, and featured brands.
One thing I’d change is to add more filters- including filters by price. But besides that, it’s a fairly intuitive and user-friendly shopping experience.
If you’re looking for an experience most like Boxed, you’ll need to shop on Amazon Bulk and/ or Amazon Fresh. Amazon Bulk includes wholesale items that are shipped out, while Amazon Fresh is more like a fresh delivery service like other grocery stores- mostly normal and smaller-sized packages.
Both platforms are easy enough to maneuver, and while I’d say that Boxed provides more of a grocery store feel, Amazon excels with its filter system.
You can sort by everything from food type to price, nutrition, and more. The trickiest part is going back and forth between the two to buy what you need- and you aren’t going to find much wholesale for fresh or frozen items.
The better platform honestly comes down to personal preferences and needs. On one hand, Boxed captures the grocery store experience better, with all items in one location and a clean interface.
But Amazon’s Bulk and Fresh has far more powerful tools- like filters- to find what you need, even if you aren’t sure exactly what you’re looking for.
What You Can Buy
If you’re looking for ways to stock up on boxed or canned staples, it’s safe to say that Boxed and Amazon both deliver. With a wide inventory, how do these two services compare? While they have a lot in common, there are still some distinct differences that could change your mind on whom to shop with.
Boxed covers all the basics. You can find snacks, candy, chocolate, beverages, pantry staples, fresh products, frozen products, breakfast items, baby food and supplies, and even items for pets, home, and health.
Think of it as a mini Amazon: there aren’t as many listings, but you can get products to cover all your essentials.
Brand names are king with Boxed, and you’ll have no trouble finding a favorite brand with their featured brand’s tab. Another thing that surprised me? While there’s an emphasis on regular and conventional products, there are some organic and natural products too.
Meat and seafood are a fairly small- and specialized selection, with unique options like Nordic Catch bundles. It’s not the best place to stock up on staple meat, seafood or dairy, though- there simply isn’t much available.
You don’t need me to tell you that, for better or worse, Amazon has a massive inventory, especially when you’re combining Amazon Bulk, Amazon Fresh, and the main Amazon search engine. You can find everything and anything from bulk shelf-stable groceries to fresh produce, dairy, and more.
And while a company like Thrive Market caters more to specialty lifestyles like keto, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, Amazon has many products in all of those categories as well.
Their meat and seafood lean more toward name brands and off brands and conventional, everyday use. While I’d love to see them expand their list of organic options, there’s something to be said for the sheer variety- and options like hormone-free meat.
While Amazon isn’t perfect, its selection for bulk and regular groceries accommodates more dietary needs and has more variety. Boxed is a solid choice for pantry staples- but a bit weaker for some other categories.
Is Amazon Prime worth it? What about Boxed Up? Both memberships have their perks- but underutilized memberships are also a way these companies make a nice profit.
Here’s why I would- or wouldn’t- recommend signing up with a membership with either- and just how much these perks do to improve the shopping experience.
Boxed Up is not required, but I think the membership is worth it if you’ve tested Boxed and plan to order more. It costs $49 a year (with a discount for the first year).
With that amount, you’ll get free priority shipping, free items, discounts, and deals on hotels. Aside from that, there’s also the often to opt for Autosave on individual items. Select an item, select how often you want to have it delivered, and you’ll be awarded a discount of 5 percent every time.
Amazon Prime is something you’ve probably at least heard of. In my experience, it’s worth it if you buy from Amazon frequently- groceries aside. The reason is that Prime provides free shipping on orders and priority shipping.
With something like bulk items, you may be waiting a lot longer for your shipments without them. Prime costs roughly $15 a month (excluding taxes) and can be canceled anytime.
You’ll also get access to video streaming, music and books, and occasional discounts. I also like the Amazon subscribe and save feature for individual items.
You can do it for any eligible item- just set up how often you want the product shipped to save 10 to 15 percent each time. While I don’t use it, it’s a good idea if you frequently buy one item and are always running out.
In many ways, Boxed mimics Amazon’s subscription model. Both platforms have separate options for memberships and saving on individual items. Both services also have pretty solid perks.
However, Amazon’s Prime gives you more benefits- and also costs a lot more than Boxed Up. Both Prime and Boxed Up are 100 percent optional- but probably both worthwhile if you plan to order more than occasionally.
Pricing and Discounts
The number one reason a lot of us buy bulk groceries is to save money. So I wanted to see what incentives Boxed and Amazon offer for doing just that. From average sticker prices to sales, deals, and promos, both Boxed and Amazon can be helpful- but only if you know how to shop wisely.
Boxed is less expensive than average grocery stores- and the promotions help. Some categories- especially pantry staples like cereal- are especially competitively priced.
I also love the free items, the weekly deals, and the many ways to save. Boxed isn’t the cheapest place to buy wholesale, but there are some solid deals.
Amazon has ways to save- from their membership perks and autosave to the sheer extent of their inventory. The problem? On average, Amazon tends to be more expensive on several items than Boxed.
Not only did I notice increases for staples like cereal, but there’s also the problem of Amazon Fresh delivery fees and smaller packages. Safe to say, you’ll probably spend more on Amazon than you would with Boxed.
On average, most products cost less on Boxed than on Amazon- and that’s not even to mention some of the free items.
Shipping and Customer Service
How your food arrives- and just how well customer service responds to complaints- makes a big difference in the experience of ordering wholesale.
Here’s a little insight into the main differences between Amazon vs. Boxed grocery delivery- and just how well each service lives up to its promises.
Boxed shipping is free with membership- or priced per order. It’s easy enough to track your order, but unfortunately, packages often arrive damaged, according to customers.
It’s likely a combination of delivery issues and poor customer service response rates that resulted in Boxed’s F rating on Better Business Bureau- and very split reviews on other sites.
Amazon is imperfect- and there’s no doubt that regular shipping has been hampered, like Boxed, by COVID-related supply chain issues.
While the Bulked delivery service doesn’t have many specific complaints, more customers than not are dissatisfied with Amazon Fresh. Missing items, high prices, and more are just a few reasons.
Winner: Amazon Bulk
The problem: a lot of delivery companies are struggling with supply chain issues, and it shows. But it’s clear to me that buying with Amazon regular and bulk listings is going to offer a far better experience than either Amazon Fresh or Boxed.
If shopping for shelf-stable items from Amazon Bulk doesn’t quite sound like what you’re looking for but you also don’t love Boxed- there are several alternatives to consider.
I love that we’re getting more online grocery and bulk options to save money in these financially tight times; it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for you.
For an Amazon Fresh Alternative, Try Thrive Market
Thrive Market isn’t a place I’d recommend for bulk groceries- but it is an alternative to Amazon Fresh. While it does require a membership, the membership is a reasonable price- and gives you access to a wealth of unique and popular natural, organic, and other products.
From the keto diet to vegan diets and gluten-free diets, it’s one of the best ways to buy specialty foods online. Shop Thrive Market Here.
For a Boxed Alternative, Try Costco Online
One of the best alternatives to Boxed is Costco. While their services are by no means flawless, you can shop in stores as well to get great deals for packaged goods, pantry staples, and fresh and frozen foods.
I’d upgrade to at least basic Costco Membership to sidestep the 10 percent to 20 percent extra charges on online purchases. Shop Costco Here.
For a Budget-Savvy Alternative, Try Walmart Bulk
Walmart is a good option to stock up on practical condiments and products like soup, bread mixes, condiments, and other non-perishables.
You get an option of both brand names and Walmart products- all with additional ways to save, whether that’s through the Walmart Plus Program or weekly deals. While the selection isn’t unique, it is practical for buying larger versions of your favorite products. Shop Walmart Bulk Here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Boxed may be mentioned alongside Costco, but they are technically competitors. However, an interesting fact is that Boxed does have a connection with Costco. When your order from the Boxed app, you may be buying resold products from Costco, according to a Wired report.
In that same report, it was also hinted that Boxed and Costco communicate with each other. That includes following consumer trends and general market insights.
Still, it’s important to stress that Costco and Boxed are not the same company, nor are you directly supporting the same company when you buy from Costco.
Answer: Amazon Fresh is known for its fresh grocery delivery service- but if you want to buy in bulk, there’s a separate Amazon Bulk section to shop from. This section includes shelf-stable boxed goods, from snacks to pantry favorites.
Meanwhile, Amazon Fresh tends to focus on standard sizes and includes products like dairy, meat, and other perishables. Buying Amazon bulk items doesn’t require any memberships or subscriptions and works about the same way buying anything from Amazon does.
Answer: Buying in bulk is often a way to save money but not always! After working in the food industry, I’m passionate about issues like food waste, and that’s when you have to be considerate about buying bulk food.
Bulk food like shelf-stable packages and canned goods is usually not a problem- but be careful when buying fresh foods in bulk. Another mistake is not bothering to compare prices.
While bulk foods are usually cheaper, they aren’t always in every case. One way companies like Boxed make profits is by adding a little extra cost to some products for a higher profit margin. So while bulk buying is usually economical, you have to shop wisely.
Answer: Boxed offers a membership, but it’s not required to shop with them. The problem? If you skip the Boxed membership, called BoxedUp, you’ll face shipping charges and slower shipping. For this reason, if you’ve tried Boxed and enjoyed it, it may be worthwhile to pay for the membership.
The BoxedUp plan costs $49 a year (with a promotional price of about half that of the first year) and gives you many benefits, including free items, early access to items, free shipping, priority shipping, and even hotel discounts.
It’s great that Boxed offers both an option to save money- and to shop without the membership fee if you don’t think it matches your needs.
Final Verdict: Give Amazon Bulk a Try
Amazon offers options for buying bulk groceries and fresh groceries- and the combination together is a better experience and value than shopping with Boxed.
Amazon delivery- especially with Prime- is usually fairly reliable and speedy. I argue there’s more transparency with ample customer reviews on individual items.
At the same time, shopping on Amazon (even Amazon Bulk) can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s best to go in with a plan or list before you shop.
For now, I have to say skip Amazon Fresh. You’re not saving any money (you may be spending more than your local store!), and the customer service leaves a lot to be desired.