May 18, 2010

Is It Worth It To Shop At Club/Warehouse Stores Like Sam’s, Costco and BJs?


It has been a LONG time since we have had a membership to to a warehouse club store.  So when I got an email question last week about it, I thought, “This is a question for my awesome readers to answer!”

Here’s the question from reader Nicole:

Is it a better savings to buy from Sam’s Club/Costco than to buy food, etc. with coupons? With the membership fee and storage issues, which is a better value?

As of now, we have chosen to skip the warehouse memberships, but from what I’ve heard from others you can get some pretty great deals on bulk meat, dog food, produce, and some other items.

What do you guys think? Why have you (or why have you not) chosen to get a warehouse membership? What are the items that you save the most on?

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  1. I don’t have one, but that’s only because my family isn’t big enough. Any savings I would gain are offset by the food that goes bad before we can eat it.

  2. We have a membership to Sam’s Club and I get a lot of stuff there that I can’t get a deal with a coupon typically. Our dog’s bones are a steal there, bread, some meat, dog food, cat litter.

    Everyone tells me how great BJ’s Club is price wise and they accept coupons but the closest one to me is an hour away, otherwise we’d be members there instead!

  3. It is totally worth it for our family. Granted I’m able to split a membership with my mom so I only pay $20 a year. Also, Sams is only like 7 or 8 minutes away.

    We use Sams for:
    *toilet paper (Charmin for us and the super cheap thin stuff for the kids since it doesn’t clog toilets)
    *laundry/dish soaps
    *cheese (sharp cheddar is easily less than half the price at any store and cheese sticks are the same way too)
    *tortillas (again, about 60-70% less than regular stores)

    *good prices on chocolate chips, flour, sugar, spices, noodles, eggs, butter, frozen boneless skinless chicken breast if I’ve run out of stuff from Albertson’s sales
    *excellent prices on precooked bacon, real bacon pieces, organic spinach, hearts of romaine, frozen dole fruits, frozen shredded potatoes, ground beef

    *we do not buy much fruit there (low quality), canned veggies (higher prices than store brand at regular stores) and we don’t buy much prepared foods in general
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..Eating SLOW =-.

  4. Suzette says:

    I personally think the $40 a year is worth it for my Sam’s club membership. It works out to under $3.50 a month. They have the best return policy and very reasonable extended warranty prices. The produce is always good. Fresh flowers are also very reasonable. I live in a city with about 125,000 people and that is the best place in town for seafood. Their meat department is also excellent. Rotisserie chickens are cheaper than any of the grocery stores. Around Christmas they have big cans of chai tea for about $6. In the grocery store the largest can you can get is about 1/5 the size and about the same price.

    I used to get my dog food there, but have since switched to a brand they dont carry. I was able to get a 350 tablet bottle of generic zyrtec for about $18. I just checked on and I could get 30 tablets for that price. With a sale and a coupon I can probably get 60 tablets for that price. That one purchase more than covered my annual cost.

    There are other items that I find cheap when I’m browsing there. Often times they will have shoes, socks or pillows cheap. That is also where I go when I’m looking for a new book to read and don’t want to wait several days to order something online. Video games are also a little cheaper than other places.

    When I was working as an office manager we got most of our office supplies there also and for a lot cheaper than I could get then at Staples or Office Max.

    Since I started couponing, I almost never buy food there because I can get it cheaper at the grocery store with a coupon. But they are WAY more than just groceries.

  5. [email protected] Loves It! says:

    I think it depends on what you buy a lot of. One of the stores (BJ’s or Costco? I know Sam’s does not) will take manufacturer coupons, so that might be a good warehouse store to consider.

    I love my membership to Sam’s, but we have a business membership through the church, so I am not out any money for it.

    However, I like being able to buy meat, chicken, and cheese in bulk. Sam’s fruits and veggies are always really good, and are (mostly) inexpensive. Their milk is cheap, too.

    I say, if you are good with coupons, save your money and shop the sales w/ coupons at your regular stores. If you prefer to not use coupons, warehouse clubs are an easy, one-stop shop for your main meat/eggs/dairy/veggies/fruits/bread. Just make sure you have plenty of storage if you buy the bulk items!
    .-= [email protected] Loves It!´s last blog ..Hanes is Going Pink! {Giveaway} =-.

  6. Eremita says:

    My Sam’s Club membership is very worthwhile for me. I share it with my sister — we are both families of two. I bake my own bread. The savings in yeast alone pays a big hunk of the membership. Also big savings on paper goods, meat, and the generic vitamins and minerals that our doctors have us taking.

  7. Kristin says:

    I have a membership to Sam’s. I get it for free because I have a Discover credit card that collects points (“rewards”) and I turn some in for a Sam’s membership, plus a $10 gift card once a year.

    Sam’s does not accept manufacturer’s coupons. I’ve found some things to be cheaper there even without a coupon (sugar, flour, cereal, light bulbs, etc).

    Depending on sales, I can usually find diapers cheaper elsewhere, but if there are no good sales at other stores, it’s the cheapest place I’ve found diapers to be consistently.

    I don’t buy meat from there, but I do buy produce. My Sam’s store carries really good quality fruits and veggies at better prices than any other store in my area.
    We also find great deals on books and children’s clothing.

  8. We have a Sam’s membership. I used to think I was saving a lot on paper goods until I started couponing this year.

    but, when my daughter could ONLY use the Member’s Mark diapers because the others broke her out in a horrible rash, it was for sure worth it.

    Now, I make about a quarterly trip there. Kevin buys the tapes for the video camera there; they are way cheaper than anywhere else. I also like the produce and meat deals; even their dairy stuff – like whipping cream, sour cream, cottage cheese and any other cheeses – is good if I’m making a lot of something. (to freeze or to feed a large number of people.)
    .-= jenna´s last blog ..Jenna. May 16. Outlaw. =-.

  9. I have found that we can buy diapers, food, and toiletries way cheaper with coupons at grocery stores and drug stores than we could at a warehouse store. When I find good deals I buy as much as I can of the item, so sometimes I feel like I am buying in bulk, but I get a better price than I could at Costco or Sam’s.

    Another issue that I hate about warehouse club stores is that you always end up buying more than you were planning to. At a grocery store an impulse buy of a candy bar might cost you a buck, but if you impulse buy at a warehouse store it will cost you 10 or 20 or even 100 dollars. We went with some friends to Costco a couple of months ago. They were only planning on buying toilet paper and laundry detergent, but they walked out of there with a cart full of chips, dip, razors and other stuff that cost them about $200! I know some people have more self control than that, but I think it is really easy to waste a lot of money on buying stuff in bulk that you think is a good deal.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Stocking Up =-.

  10. I have both a Sam’s and a Costco membership. Neither one I pay for (I share a membership and the other I get using points). I use both. I didn’t have one for a long time b/c my family is small now I don’t know what I would do without them. I like Costco for their organic veges. In general, their vegs are a great quality. The prices are about the same as a grocery’s regular pricing and you have to buy them in bulk so they add up, but the quality is superior. Sams can be touch and go on the veges. They don’t have good organic veges, but I love buying berries there. Wonderful prices on berries in season.

    Most things I can get cheaper at a grocery during a sale not even using coupons, so you have to very selective. However, they are both great for generic medication. I can get a years supply of ‘zyrtec’ for under 15 bucks. I buy formula at both for way cheaper than the grocery and for me that alone pays for the membership. I also save a lot on cleaning supplies. Sam’s has great prices on beef. I refuse to buy beef at a grocery after seeing their prices. Actually, before my membership I rarely brought it at all for this reason (to my carnivore husband’s dismay). I do Costco for their chicken. They are competively priced and are preportioned which is so helpful for me.

  11. Dolli-Mama says:

    We have a Sam’s membership and I have taken to buying a lot more things there than with coupons at other stores. I have found that if I buy generic at Walmart for canned, boxed, and jared foods (like pasta sauce and veggies) and shop Sam’s for meat, some produce, cheese, milk, paper products, diapers, and baking stuff I come out close to even from when I spent a couple hours a week couponing and chasing down sales. I am expecting twins in 2 weeks and just don’t have the time or energy it takes to coupon and stockpile right now, so this works better for me. I have also been doing alot of “freezer cooking” so the meat and produce I buy never go to waste. Sam’s also has the best price on gas around here!

    I should also mention that the only other grocery stores in my area are a Health Food store and HEB, so it might be different if I still lived close to a Kroger or an Albertsons. HEB is not that great for couponers, except their weekly deals which I do take advantage of when they are good. 🙂

  12. Kristin says:

    I have a Sam’s membership also but only buy specific things and I can get most grocery items cheaper with coupons. Their produce and meat is exceptional in my area. I only buy fruit, bulk meat then break it into small potions and vacuum seal it, organic mixed lettuce, yeast and sometimes their buns which are incredible. I also just bought their pesto and it is the best I have ever tasted.

  13. BJ’s is the way to go. They have their own store coupons which you get mailed to you in a booklet for the month, and then you can also print store coupons from their web site. They are also the only warehouse store I’m aware of that will stack manufacturer coupons with their store coupons. As an example… they sell a 3 pack of Lysol spray… we have used a store coupon along with THREE manufacturer coupons (since there are 3 products in the 3-Pack) to get maximum value.

  14. We do have a Sam’s membership. Very convient for me as I work right down the street from one so I can stop on my way home. We buy the boneless, skinless, chicken there (I am VERY particular as to chicken) and unless there is a very good sale somewhere, it is cheaper. I also buy milk there as it is cheaper. Have gotten some good deals recently on kitty litter, but also like to get that from Sam’s also. In season fruits and veggies are good there too.

    And since I live in SoCal…we buy gas there! That alone is worth the membership to me 🙂

  15. I have a Sam’s Club membership that I split with my mom. One of the reasons I initially didn’t shop there is that they do not accept Visa credit cards (I charge everything on my Visa for the rewards, but I pay it off every month–like a debit card but with rewards). A friend of mine pointed out that you can buy a Wal-Mart gift card (with my Visa) and use it at Sam’s. Problem solved!

    Anyhoo, I shop there mainly for paper products, bottled water, diapers, kitty litter, cleaning products, garbage bags, wine, and gum. Yes, gum!

    I’ve found that I cannot use the bulk medication before the expiration date, so I end up throwing that away. I also end up throwing away produce from Sam’s, so I’ve stopped buying that–except the hearts of romaine lettuce. For six bunches it’s less than $4! Even if some of it goes to waste, that’s still a huge savings. And it’s pre-washed which saves me time.

  16. Lynda Ruiz says:

    We have both Sams and Costco stores, but have just the Sams membership as the Costco stores are so much more crowded and parking is horrendous. Some of the things I get at Sams are milk, eggs, cream cheese multi pak, butter, 5# bags of carrots (for our horses), choc chips and the boxes of the 4 oz fruit cups that my husband loves, decaf instant coffee & Trident. I do get some of those things at the regular stores when they have a good sale and I get meat at Sams when I am there early morning and they have marked some of the packages down. I usually buy meat when it is a loss leader on the cover of the grocery ads. Why pay $5# when I can get it for $2#.

    Since I started seriously couponing a year ago, I buy less at Sams and a lot more at Ralph’s and CVS. Before, I never could imagine why people bought stuff at drugstores because of the high prices. Now, using coupons and EB’s I can get them for free or nearly free. Also, by concentrating on Ralph’s sales and their double coupons (up to a total of $1.00 off and they are the only one), I accumulate more toward their Club rewards such as $.10/gal off their gas and quarterly coupons and rebate coupons.

  17. I think it depends on a lot of things, the size of your family, the distance you have to drive and what you actually save, in relation to the cost of the membership etc. Me, I’m a member of a wholesale outlet for business purposes rather than a warehouse club, so the membership fee isn’t an issue for me. The personal shopping that I do on the side, the things I regularly buy are toilet paper, kitchen roll and pet food and I have saved a lot. You always need to consider storage space but I’ve got a whole cupboard for pet food (and it never stays full for long, thanks to three four-legged friends with voracious appetites!) and I just stick the kitchen roll and toilet paper in the loft ’til I need it. Toothbrushes are also a good idea. They’re always necessary, you have to replace them often and they don’t have a use-by date. And they’re small, so don’t take up much space.

    There aren’t really any universal rules but generally, if you’re saving more than the membership and travel to and from the outlet costs you and you’re not throwing away half the stuff you buy, it’s worth it. Otherwise, it’s not.

  18. Actually, I have found that Sam’s is more expensive than both Walmart and regular grocery store (HEB) prices on just about everything. I have compared prices on, among other items, laundry detergent, tuna, raisins, bananas, and rolled oats, and Sam’s is just more expensive. Add the annual fee, and it is just not worth it. I think people get suckered into thinking they are saving because they buy 36 rolls of toilet paper or 10 cans of tuna, but the per-unit price is not good. The only thing I have found at Sam’s that is cheaper are the 3 lb. bags of natural almonds.

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