The Scruff Muffin checks out my latest Amazon Prime Now delivery.
So, this has been an …. interesting … summer.
It started with a freak accident that had my car unexpectedly becoming best friends with a stranger’s tree. The car would need some bodywork, but miraculously I was unharmed.
(Or so I thought. Much later I would discover a sore spot on the back of my head and be checked for concussion.)
So I bounced out of the car and talked to the owner of the tree. (Miraculously, the tree did not seem to be harmed, either.) He (the man, not the tree) very nicely let me sit on his porch while I waited for Triple A, bringing me soft drinks and letting me use his cell phone charger. I waited for several hours in the sun on one of the hottest days of a hot Southern summer.
But, I didn’t mind – too much. I was happy to be alive, happy to be uninjured.
You know that feeling of relief you get when you survive something bad? The comfort you take in that certain knowledge that the worst is over with, from that point on things can only get better.
I’ve watched my share of Final Destination movies. I should have known better. Death does not like to be cheated, and neither does Fate. Fate had intended for me to be at least a little bit injured, not sitting on a porch drinking Dr. Peppers and talking on the phone to my friends.
Maybe it was the sun, and the heat.
Maybe I was concussed.
But when my good friend Rob drove by to check on me, I stood up to greet him and his girls … and gracefully nose dived off the porch, onto the concrete. I can still remember the looks on their faces, their three mouths in perfectly round O’s of horror, right before I went splat.
Long story short … left shoulder sprain, left ACL sprain, bruised and banged up right knee, two “moderately displaced” and fractured ribs, and assorted scrapes and bruises.
And that’s when summer really got interesting.
I could tell you about being turned away my first visit to Urgent Care, because they were dealing with yahoos who had burned themselves or blasted off body parts with fireworks and firecrackers. (Yep, this was over the Fourth of July, and I do live in the South.)
Or I could talk about how I ran a nice hot bath with Epsom salts, thinking that would feel so good to my aching body. And it did! But once the water started to cool, I realized with my useless left arm and a left knee too swollen to bend, I couldn’t get out of the tub.
I could tell you about the adventures I had putting on socks.
We’ll save those stories for another day. Right now, let’s talk about food.
Specifically, how do you acquire food if you have no transportation? It’s an issue thousands deal with every day; I had just been privileged enough to never have to ponder the issue before.
Even if I had transportation, with my injuries and pain meds I wasn’t supposed to be driving. And while I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of a nice grocery (so many people in Charlotte aren’t), even uninjured there’s only so much stuff I can lug home at one time.
The answer appeared to be delivery.
Charlotte has several grocery delivery services, including Instacart and Shipt. The advantage of these two services is you have a “personal shopper” who will shop at your regular grocery – Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Publix, etc. This means you’ll have access to all the same products you normally buy. Important for vegans, who may buy more specialty products like non-dairy yogurt, and often much more produce!
Instacart and Shipt both had great reviews. They were also running special offers for first-time customers. I was very intrigued – until I read the small print and saw I’d be signing up for a $99/year membership! I did NOT plan to be needing the service for an entire year!
So I investigated Amazon Prime Now. (Note: Amazon Prime Now is a “2-hour” grocery delivery service only available in certain areas of the United States – currently 35 cities. Do not confuse it with Prime Pantry, which is Amazon’s canned/dry goods delivery service available in all markets.)
The disadvantage: I was limited to the groceries Amazon has stocked in their North Charlotte distribution center.
The advantage: I already had an Amazon Prime membership, so ordering for only a few weeks wouldn’t require signing up for anything new or cost me anything extra.
I decided to roll with Prime Now!
(Full Disclosure: I eat a lot of fresh fruit, get most of my greens through green smoothies, and do most of my cooking from scratch. Therefore, I did actually have a pantry and freezer full of food but they were mostly – ingredients – and with only one fully functioning arm my cooking prowess was limited. And the trouble with perishables is, either they get eaten or they perish. Even if I eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, at some point I’m going to need more bread for the sandwiches and more almond milk to wash them down with. I was never in any danger of actually starving. I could have survived for weeks eating only tinned beans – I just didn’t want to do so! I fully recognize I am a lot more fortunate than others might have been in a similar situation.)
Prime Now Review – The Good
Please Note: This is a vegan blog (if you didn’t guess that by the name and tagline – VegCharlotte – Living Vegan in Charlotte, NC.) Amazon Prime Now definitely offers a lot of choices for omnivores, so if you live in a mixed household or are splitting an order with an omnivore friend, there are tons of choices for them! For purposes of this blog, I am going to focus only on vegan choices.
BASICS: Obviously, a lot of Prime Now’s appeal is to deliver the basics and save busy people from making a quick run to the store for just a few common, everyday items. Orange juice, bread, cereal, toilet tissue, peanut butter, jelly, pet food, feminine hygiene products, diapers, wine, beer … Prime Now has you covered.
FRUIT. I was so worried about fresh fruit! But Prime Now offers a really nice selection of the more standard fruits. Bananas, red and green grapes, mandarin oranges, avocados, tart apples (Granny Smith), and sweeter apples (Gala, Fuji). An assortment of berries which can change depending on what day you order (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries – sometimes organic, sometimes not). Personal size watermelons. Kiwis. Limes … Overall, Prime Now did me good on my fruit!
FROZEN FRUIT: Lots of frozen fruit as well. Mostly Whole Foods 365 brand.
ALTERNATIVE MILK: I was able to order my regular refrigerated Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened and Vanilla Unsweetened, as well as So Delicious Original Coconut Unsweetened. In addition to Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain Soymilk (used for yogurt and cooking) and an antiseptic package of unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze. They also have plenty of the sweetened “milks”. (I may sound a little obsessive here, but I use various plant milks for my smoothies and I was drinking a lot of smoothies during my healing time.)
VEGAN PREPARED FOODS: I was surprised how many offerings were available! Most of the Amy’s chillis … and Amy’s soups … a lot of Amy’s frozen meals (mostly vegetarian, not vegan, though) … Imagine and Pacific brands vegan soups … Tasty Bite microwavable Indian entrees … Kashi Bowls frozen Sweet Potato Quinoa … Healthy Choice frozen Cauliflower Curry … Healthy Choice Mango Edamame …
VEGGIE “MEATS” AND “CHEESE”: Selection varies, but on the days I ordered, Prime Now usually had some flavor of Tofurkey slices and 3-4 Gardein selections (typically 7-Grain Crispy Tenders, Meatless Meatballs, Chipotle Black Bean Burgers, and Crispy Chick’n Patty). There were also usually several Morningstar Farms selections – although I did not see any of Morningstar’s vegan offerings. Prime Now also carries Daiya cheddar and mozzarella style shreds.
BEANS, BEANS, BEANS: A lot of organic bean choices, both dried and canned.
PRICING: Price was surprisingly competitive. Yes, it’s more expensive that going to the store and shopping the sales and using your coupons. But base price was what I’d expect to pay or sometimes a little less. I also noticed Prime Now sometimes puts things on “sale” when they are running low on stock (one or two left). I got a nice break on Sheba cat food that way.
BULKY ITEMS: Amazon Prime Now (or Amazon Same Day, or just plain Amazon) is great for heavy or bulky items like cat food, dog food, cat litter, toilet tissue. Anything that would be heavy or awkward to carry home on foot, bicycle, or bus.
ALL KINDS OF THINGS BESIDES FOOD: (Including dog toys – Scruff often got a treat to make up for the shorter “hobbles” we took. Above, even with “chew guard technology” Scruffy the Mighty Toy Destroyer removed all five squeakers and both the rooster’s eyes within 15 minutes.)
Leave your laptop charger cord at work? Have no fear; you can order one to be delivered in just a few hours. Forget to buy a birthday gift? Prime Now has Kindles, toys, games, jewelry, and Instapots. Have an urgent need for fresh undies within the next few hours? I won’t ask why, but Prime Now will deliver new undies to you. It does seem like the music and book section could be more robust, but I think the items were curated with an eye towards gifting. (After all, you can get many books and CDs Amazon Same Day Delivery – and if worst comes to worst, Two Day Prime.)
DELIVERY: Like Uber or Lyft, you can track your delivery person in real time, see the route their car is driving and when they are getting close. The driver will also ping your phone when you are their next stop. A tip is suggested but not required, and Amazon doesn’t bill you for the tip for 24 hours. So you can adjust it after delivery, if needed – I never needed to. All the drivers I encountered were extremely nice, helpful, friendly – and a bright spot in a temporarily home-bound existence.
Prime Now – What Could Be Better
FRESH VEGETABLE PRODUCE: Prime Now does offer onions and potatoes. Most of the other veggies, however, tend to be bagged, non-organic salads (Fresh Express Iceberg Garden or Italian) or items you might add to a salad (cucumbers, grape tomatoes, baby carrots). They really need to add some organic, leafy greens (maybe spinach or kale), perhaps some occasional broccoli or green beans, some sweet potatoes, and some slicing or Roma tomatoes. I depend on my daily green smoothies, so the lack of leafy greens was the biggest flaw I found in Amazon Prime Now.
A BETTER SEARCHING/SORTING/INDEXING SYSTEM: This is kind of weird, because regular Amazon is awesome with their searches and indexes. Prime Now is a little more primitive.
When I searched for “Vegan,” I found Earth Balance Buttery Spread, Earth Balance Buttery Popcorn, vegan jerky, vegan protein powders.
But I also found Birds Eye Frozen Broccoli (technically vegan, but not exactly the kind of thing I was looking for). And technically irrelevant, if the search isn’t also going to show fresh bananas and avocados.
A search for “vegan” also turned up items that were decidedly NOT vegan – Rice-A-Roni chicken pasta mixes, Frito Lay Cheese Mix, Halo Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe for cats. Meanwhile, items like tofu and Gardein did not show up. I found them only when browsing the “Meat” category.
Likewise, if you are looking for frozen fruit or veggies, when you go to the “Frozen Food” tab, your only choices for filtering are Breakfast Foods, Ice Cream, Meals & Entrees, Meats, and Pizza. If you’re searching for anything else, say frozen fruits or vegetables, you’ll need to do several searches, using different keywords. For example, frozen peaches and frozen pineapple won’t show up in the results for frozen fruit.
Prime Now carries tofu (left), but not tempeh or vegan mayonnaise (right).
A FEW MORE VEGAN ESSENTIALS: Prime Now offers tofu – I’d love to see tempeh as well. So Delicious non-dairy yogurt (they already carry So Delicious “milk.”) And some variety of vegan mayo! (Prefer Vegenaise, but would settle for Just Mayo or Hellman’s vegan version!)
NON-DAIRY ICE CREAM: Ice cream is a HUGE category on Prime Now, with Ben & Jerry’s as a featured brand. So it’s a bit perplexing Prime Now did not have any of B&J’s nine non-dairy flavors. I only found one non-dairy ice cream (Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge). I think I did see some fruit popsicles and Outshine bars.
LESS WASTE: Items from Prime Now come delivered in big, brown paper bags. Sometimes, only one item per bag! Perishable items are packed in insulated foil bags – again, often only one item per bag! Maybe Amazon has to do it this way, for now, to get items to shoppers as fast as they can. But I’d love to see a few less bags, and maybe several different sizes of the insulated foil bags.
A Final Word About Prime Now’s “2-Hour Delivery”
IT’S NOT REALLY TWO HOURS. As in, not two hours from the time you place your order. You get delivery within the two hour time slot you choose. So, if you order at one, and time slots are available, you can choose to receive your delivery between two and four. However, if the time slots aren’t available, you might have to choose the four to six slot or the six to eight slot. Or, for $4.99, you can bump your order up and choose from an hourly time slot (say, between two and three).
Lesson One: Order early.
Lesson Two: If there are no more time slots available, wait awhile before giving up and scheduling your delivery for the next day. Time slots often open up as more drivers become available.
Would I Recommend Amazon Prime Now?
If you already have a Prime membership – heck, yeah!
Have an emergency? Run out of onions for your seitan pot roast? Need milk and juice and cereal and waffles and syrup for that surprise weekend visit from your family? Forgot your friend’s birthday and need a bottle of wine and a quick gift? Ran out of both diapers AND cat litter? Might as well take advantage of this little Amazon perk. It’s there for you.
Prime Now works quite well for the SHORT term – if you are having temporary transportation issues, or injured, or recovering, or have the flu, or … Prime Now really does have most of the basics – even vegan basics – covered. If yours is a short-term situation, and you already have a Prime membership, I’d strongly advise looking here before signing up for another service.
If you need grocery delivery help for the LONG term – You may want to look into another delivery service.
Prime Now does a good job of the basics, but eventually, you’ll be yearning for a little more variety.
And currently there are still flaws – most notably, the lack of organic leafy greens for salads and smoothies.
Also, if you use a personal shopper service like Instacart or Shipt, you’ll be able to take advantage of in-store sales and promotions. If you are looking for a solution that covers months instead of just weeks, these savings could add up.