If you waited until today to stock your prepper pantry, it will cost you an average of 13 percent more to do so now than it would have in late January. That is well above the CPI.
On November 5, we searched the best prices for a shopping basket of 29 typical products preppers might buy from the online sites Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Costco.com, and Samsclub.com. We then compared the average or prices on November 5 with the average prices gathered the same wan ten months ago on January 24. The results follow.
Average Shopping Cart Costs Jumps 13 Percent
- The shopping cart average jumped from $96.67 to $109.24, or 13 percent
- 22 of the 29 items cost more today than they did in January
- Of the 22 products that were more expensive:
- 4 products had seen price increases of less than 5 percent
- 9 products experienced price increases between 5 and 10 percent
- 5 products saw their average price jump 10 to 20 percent
- 4 products saw prices rise 23 percent or more
When we look at individual outlets, instead of averages, the numbers differ. Here are those results:
The cost of our shopping basket at Amazon was well above the other three stores at $155.95, up from $143.70. That’s an increase of 8.5 percent. There’s a caveat, however. Because Amazon uses automated processes to adjust its prices, their prices fluctuate far more than more traditional retail outlets. Their prices ranged from 55 percent cheaper now to 73 percent more expensive. Eight of the products we examined on Amazon.com saw price swings of more than 40 percent.
The cost four our shopping cart at Walmart climbed from 90.81 to 120.02, an increase of 32 percent. While the increase was our largest, note that you can still save $35 by shopping at Walmart.com rather than Amazon.com. Shopping at your local Walmart store can save even more money.
In contrast to its competitors, the cost of our shopping cart at Sam’s Club dropped from $67.15 to $65.35, or 2.68 percent. Of the 29 items in our shopping cart, Sam’s Club had the lowest price on 21 of them. The prices on seven of the products at Sam’s club were unchanged from January. Prices increased to 15 products and dropped on six. Overall, Sam’s price increases were more moderate than its competitors and offset by drops on products like rice, beans, and spaghetti.
The disparity between Sam’s Club and Amazon is shocking. Our cart cost $90.60 less when shopping at Samsclub.com vs Amazon.com. You can get more than twice as much food for your prepper pantry at the same price when shopping at Sam’s Club instead of Amazon.com.
Costco was out of many items, including common prepper goods such as rice, chili, mac & cheese, and instant mashed potatoes. (Note, these may be in your local store, but they were not available online for delivery.)
Because of out of stock situation both this month and back in January, we could not make an accurate comparison between the shopping carts. Of the 29 products we researched, only 15 were in stock now and then. Prices rose on 6 of them, were steady on 8 and dropped on one.
Shopping Advice for Pantry Staples
The higher prices at Amazon.com once again illustrate that they should not be the first choice for preppers looking to stock up on staples by shopping online. The many third-party vendors that sell on Amazon.com and their need to include the cost of shipping in the product cost drives up many canned goods and bulk products. Amazon.com also suffers from the lack of a house brand in food. Many of the best prices we saw were for the various store brands at Walmart, Sam’s Club or Costco.com.
Sam’s Club remains the low-cost provider and would be our first choice for filling your prepper pantry with dry goods and canned goods.
Walmart.com remains a more cost-effective alternative that Amazon.com, but would not be our top choice for prepping due to both the cost and the lack of bulk packages that can be found at the club stores. Walmart is also a good choice for in-person shopping because they are more plentiful than Sam’s Club and Costco.
The Clock is Ticking
If prices have jumped 13 percent since January, we recommend you buy now rather than wait until after the holidays. Food inflation shows no sign of slowing down and shortages are getting more common.
While we don’t recommend Amazon.com for stocking your prepper pantry, it can be a good supplier of last resort because it sources product from so many third parties. For example, if you can’t find lentils online or at your local grocer, chances are, Amazon will have them. So if you wait until the last minute, Amazon may be your best bet.
A few final observations follow:
Costs for canned meat have not increased as much as fresh meat. Given that meat prices are up anywhere from 12 to 30 percent in the past year, perhaps we should be reassured that the average cost of a can of Spam was up “only” 6.56 percent. My guess is that this is because Spam is made from pork and the biggest increases have been in beef products. While Costco did not raise their price at all (eight cans for $20.99) and is well ahead of Walmart and Amazon.com, Sam’s Club is still less expensive, saving you $1 on the eight-pack. Also note that special flavors of Spam, like Bacon or Hickory Smoke, are far more expensive than the classic Spam, so stick to the original.
While the average cost of canned chicken rose just under one percent, if you shop at Walmart.com, you would pay less now than you did in January. Costco’s price remained unchanged. Sam’s Club remains competitive at just a few cents more, but their sales price jumped 18 percent. Amazon’s cost increased almost 45 percent and was far more expensive than the competition, driving home the point that where you shop matters.
Rice and Beans
The cost of canned beans fell with the average cost for a 16.5-ounce can of Bush’s Original baked Beans dropping almost 9 percent and a can of black beans dropping close to 4 percent. On the former, prices at Sam’s Club and Walmart were unchanged while they dropped at Walmart and Amazon.com. For the black beans, prices dropped at Amazon.com and Sam’s club, were up at Walmart, and held steady at Costco.
The lack of 25 or 50 pounds of long grain rice or jasmine rice on Costco.com is a dire sign. Yes, they had basmati rice and smaller containers, but it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and Costco was my source for years. Consider this another sign that if you wait too long, you may miss the opportunity to stock your pantry shelves.