Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lowering the Cost of Living in Hawaii with Online Shopping

Shopping for fresh produce on Hawaii Island is a delight. The huge selection of fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb raised on Hawaii Island makes many healthy foods abundant and affordable.  Shopping for organic grains, oils, and health supplements not grown on the island, however, is a major challenge. We have waited for weeks for health supplements and organic grains to be available in island stores. The lack of merchandise and high prices have led us to shop online for our “mainland health foods”.

Perishable foods from the mainland have to be transported a long distance in refrigerated containers. The cost of shipping increases the prices of imported goods by 25% to 75% and the products are usually close to being out of date. Even non-perishable organic foods are often quite old by the time they show up in our island’s stores. We assume this is because they are warehoused on the mainland before being shipped to Hawaii. We have been buying from Amazon for years, but during the past year we have increased our food and supplement purchases from them. Amazon has slowly added a large selection of organic health foods and they have also provided a new way to dramatically lower the cost of transporting the goods to Hawaii.

When we purchased an Amazon Kindle last year, we received a month free of “Amazon Prime”, which costs $79 a year to join after a free month.  The first month we found so many good deals on organic grains with free shipping that we decided to join. We were sure we could save the $79 over the course of a year just on shipping costs. (Amazon Prime also includes other stuff like a Kindle library, free TV shows, movies, etc.).

The online prices for Prime seem to change frequently and shipping is sometimes free one day and not the next, so we watch closely. For foods that we eat frequently, like rice and pasta, we order them by the dozen.This strategy has allowed us to buy pastas, rice, and flours, for up to 66% less than any store on the island; a package of organic rice pasta is $2.75 versus $6 from the local health food store when they have it. Some products come to us directly from the mill or factory, so the food is extremely fresh. Even better, the packages are delivered by FedEx, UPS, or USPS to our doorstep so we do not have to pay for gas to go buy it.

We have a list of things we buy repeatedly,so when we see a good price with no shipping costs, we make the purchase. Since we shop regularly, we created a Hawaii Amazon Food Store with the health supplements and food products we buy.

Recently, we tried buying something different then food online, something much bigger. We have been planning to replace our mattress for over a year.  Our last bed cost $2000, so even though we have been uncomfortable for some time, we have been reluctant to spend money to buy a new one. We wanted to try out a memory foam mattresses, but the ones advertised on TV are about $1500 and even the cheaper versions are about $800 for a 12 inch thick queen-size mattress.  We considered the choices at COSTCO and wondered how we would ever get the huge, heavy box home. Since we have never tried this type of mattress, and some online reviewers complained that they made them hot at night, we were concerned about investing in an unknown.

On a whim, we searched on Amazon Prime, and were surprised to find a 12 inch memory foam mattress with great reviews and free shipping to Hawaii for $388.99.  The price seemed unreal compared to what we had seen elsewhere, so we ordered it. Four days later, a huge box arrived and was carried in by a very strong FEDEX guy. Having read the reviews, we knew not to open the box until it was in the bedroom. We managed to push the box up the stairs and when we cut it open, out flopped a tightly packed, thin roll of foam. When the binding was cut, the foam instantaneously expanded into a queen size square.

After an hour, the mattress had risen almost 10 inches and by evening it was fully expanded to 12 inches. Our house is warm, about 85 degrees, so that helped the foam to expand quickly.  The mattress is the most comfortable we have ever slept on in our life and we are having excellent nights of sleep.

Even on a remote island, there are ways to “shop” and get low cost deals that improve our health and the quality of our life in Hawaii.


Phoebe Dylan said...

Great article. I have been using Amazon Prime since moving to Hilo and find extremely useful, even though my sweet mailman thinks I am nuts! I love your blog. It has been a great source of information.

messtime said...

Yes, Thank You. I read your blog all the time and have had it bookmarked for a long time. Lots of useful quality information. Hope your store works out for you. gg

Kanani said...

I really like this article. I am def. gonna check it out, i just inherited my nephew's kindle fire. I still need to figure out how to use it properly...

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