What’s the Difference Between Amazon Subscribe & Save and Amazon Pantry?

A tiny shopping cart full of boxes on top of a laptop keyboard.
William Potter/Shutterstock

Amazon offers both a “Subscribe & Save” and “Pantry” service. They’re similar, but one typically saves you more money, while the other sends your groceries faster. Those aren’t the only differences, though—let’s break it down!

What You Get From Both

Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” and “Pantry” services have a lot of overlap. With either service, you can buy at least some of your household items without setting foot in a store. You also have to wait longer than you would if you’d gone to the store, as neither offer same-day shipping.

Your patience is rewarded by the convenience of ordering stuff you need from any internet-connected device, and getting it delivered to your doorstep…eventually.

Now, that we’ve covered how the two services overlap, let’s discuss the differences.

What Is Amazon Subscribe & Save?

Glad trash bags with the Subscribe and Save option on Amazon.com.
When you subscribe, you can save 72 cents (even more if you subscribe to other products) on this order.

One nice thing about Amazon is it does an excellent job of clearly naming its offerings. In the case of Subscribe & Save, you pick an item—like toothpaste or shampoo, for example—to be delivered regularly. You choose how often Amazon sends you the item—such as every month, every three months, or every six months—and you get a discount against the total cost of the item.

The more subscriptions you have, the more you save, overall. If you have five or more active subscriptions, you get 15% off the total cost. Fewer subscriptions nets a smaller discount. If you’re a Prime Member, you get additional discounts on some items like diapers and baby food.

Another advantage of Subscribe & Save is it has a broader selection of product categories than Amazon Pantry. You might think services like this are intended for basics or groceries, but that’s not the case. While you can subscribe to items like dishwasher pods (don’t eat them, please) and paper towels, you can also order regular deliveries of mascara, dog treats, or painkillers.

Subscribe & Save does have a few downsides, though. For starters, the price of an item can change between the first time you subscribe and future orders. You might sign up because of a great price on paper towels, only to find they cost more than your local grocery store six months later. Fortunately, Amazon emails you before shipping and keeps you updated on prices.

The way the process works is another downside, though. You choose how often Amazon sends new shipments, but you might get your timing wrong. For example, if you choose every two months for trash bags and run through your existing supply sooner, you have to make a choice. You can either wait for the shipment or grab some at the store, and tell Amazon to skip the next delivery. You can also order trash bags from Amazon outside Subscribe & Save, but you won’t get the discount, and you’ll be at the mercy of whichever shipping option is available (Prime or otherwise).

What Is Amazon Pantry?

An Amazon.com order page showing $40 of items and free shipping.
You have to spend at least $35 to get free shipping unless you subscribe to Pantry Prime.

Amazon continues its trend of “exactly what it says on the tin” with the Pantry name. Amazon Pantry limits you to ordering only nonperishable grocery items—you know, the stuff you might store in your pantry. Think cereal, cookies, and potato chips. It’s not a perfect analogy, though, as you can also order office supplies, pet food, and other stuff.

What separates Pantry from Subscribe & Save is both the speed and frequency of your deliveries. Items you order from Amazon Pantry arrive right away (albeit, not as fast as Prime speed). Typically, Amazon promises four to six-day delivery or ground shipping. And if you want more of something, you have to place a new order.

The downsides to Amazon Pantry involve the cost. If you want free shipping, you have to order at least $35 worth of Prime Pantry items; any less, and you have to pay a $6 shipping fee.

Amazon does offer a Pantry Subscription service. For $5 a month you get free shipping on your Pantry orders, as long as you spend at least $10. Again, if you spend less, you have to pay the $6 shipping fee.

Also, unlike Subscribe & Save, Amazon Pantry requires a Prime subscription. So, if you aren’t already a Prime member, you add another $120 per year to the cost of your groceries.

Amazon Pantry isn’t available everywhere yet, either. Notably, you can’t use Amazon Prime in Alaska or Hawaii. And if you live in a college dorm or depend on Amazon lockers, you can’t use Amazon Prime, either. That’s a shame because college students without a car would really benefit from this service.

Which One Is Best for You?

A cartoon of an Amazon delivery truck pulling up to a house, with a woman standing in front dressed as a superhero, and her child and dog playing in a pile of leaves.
Amazon implies that subscribing makes you a super parent. You’re probably already super. Amazon

Probably the easiest way to figure out which service is best for you is to determine which one is available to you. If you don’t have (or don’t want) Amazon Prime, or if you can only receive deliveries at a P.O. box, you can’t use Amazon Pantry. So, Subscribe & Save is the best choice because it’s the only choice.

If you can use either service, want the best prices, and don’t mind waiting a bit longer to receive your order, Subscribe & Save is probably the best option for you.

However, if you need your groceries sooner, are less concerned with price, and more interested in avoiding the hassle of the grocery store, Amazon Pantry might be the service for you.

Subscribe & Save is mostly about discounts, while Pantry focuses on short-term convenience. As long as you approach the two with that in mind, the next step is to check what’s available in each service. You might find items you need in the Pantry that aren’t on Subscribe & Save, or vice versa.

Of course, if you pick one service, it doesn’t lock you out of the other. If you see benefits in both, use both. For some people, it might make sense to set up a slower subscription for items you need less frequently (like toothpaste), and then order the things you need more often from Amazon Pantry.

It’s unlikely either option will entirely save you trips to the grocery store—Amazon simply doesn’t carry everything you might need for your home.

But whether you Subscribe & Save, order from Amazon Pantry, or both, any amount of time you save by avoiding the grocery store is time you can spend doing more enjoyable things.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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