Mar 5, 2010

What to Buy at Sam's Club or Costco (Carole)

I've become a pretty decent coupon shopper over the past year and have saved hundreds of $$.  Yippee!  However, I continue to ask this burning question,  "When it is cheaper to shop at places like Sam's Club, Costco or BJ's Wholesale Club?"  Maybe you've wondered the same thing.  Luckily for all of us, Stephanie Nelson, in her very informative book The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half: The Strategic Shopping Method Proven to Slash Food and Drugstore Costs, gives a thorough list of items that are consistently less expensive at club stores.  (pages 110-114)  I thought you might like to know too.

Dairy Products:  eggs, butter, cream, half and half, individually wrapped cheese sticks, egg substitute, both block and grated cheese, milk and gourmet cheese (this last one is usually 1/2 the price of a regular super market).  Mrs. Nelson recommends buying the less expensive block cheese, grating it yourself, putting it in zip-lock freezer bags with 1 TB of flour and shaking it around -- to keep the cheese from sticking together -- and storing it in your freezer.  Also, milk is often a loss-leader at your grocery store and goes on sale about every other week.  So, you can probably buy milk a little bit cheaper, most of the month, at your local grocery store.

Fresh Produce:  Prices are almost always better at the club stores, but the amounts are huge.  Decide if this one works for you.

Baking Ingredients:  flour, sugar, chocolate chips, spices, yeast, real vanilla, evaporated milk, vegetable oil and nuts.  The club cost on all of these items is about 60% less than at the regular grocery store.  Again, large quantities, but these items all store nicely.

Fresh and Frozen Meat, Chicken and Fish:  According to Stephanie Nelson, "Not only is the club price lower, but the grade is also higher."  Well.  Who knew?  Better product for a cheaper price!  You can re-wrap the meats in smaller portions and freeze them if you need to.

Bakery and Deli:  Club store sheet cakes give you about 50% more cake for the same price of a grocery store cake.  The same is true for "bake it yourself" pizzas, pies, muffins, pastries and bagels. 

Plastic Bags, Garbage Bags, Foils, and Plastic Wraps:  Coupon Mom says club stores sell Zip-Lock baggies cheaper than even the dollar stores!  Again, club stores sell BIG amounts of these household items.  My girls will remember the LARGE roll of clear wrap I purchased at Sam's Club when they still lived at home.  In fact, I believe my 14 year old son wasn't even born when I bought it.  I just replaced it at Christmas.  That is a BIG roll and some serious savings! 

Batteries:  Enough said.  Good quality batteries should last from 3 - 5 years just sitting in a dark, room-temperature place like a drawer.  No need to keep them in the freezer.

Frozen Juice, Fruits and Vegetables:  Often these are 1/2 the price of grocery store items.

Household and Paper Supplies:  Here she recommends always buying the club store brand.  If you insist on a particular name brand, then you are better off watching for sales and using coupons at your regular grocery store.  Club stores do not take coupons.

Armed with this valuable information, you can see that a monthly (or quarterly) trip to a club store is well worth your time and money!  I would highly recommend reading this book,  or you can log onto the free website, and figure out her system on your own.  I'll be writing more about this book in the future -- Stephanie Nelson is one smart (and frugal) cookie!


G said...

So it seems to me that you just mentioned everything I buy besides cleaning supplies and diapers. What's left to buy NOT at a club store? Also, some of these tips depend on whether you're willing to go to at least 2 different grocery stores every week. Milk is ALWAYS cheaper at Costco for me than it is at the grocery store near my house. And I'm curious about produce in your neck of the woods because my experience is that often Costco produce is cheaper FOR THE QUALITY, but I would NEVER buy that fancy of stuff. The grocery store is way cheaper for things like apples and oranges, etc.

Carole said...

I agree! I was surprised at how many things would be cheaper at Sam's or Costco. It appears that among the missing on her list are:
canned and bottled food,
frozen meals,
things like peanut butter, mayo, mustard,
sauces (bbq sauce, salad dressing),
juice, soda,
cold cereal,
personal toiletries,
pet food,
toilet paper, paper towels,
kitchen cleaners.
All of these can be much cheaper watching grocery store sales and using coupons.

So, plenty of reasons to still hit a grocery store! I try to only go to a club store once a quarter. I too don't like going to more than one store in the week!

Thanks for the good comment and reading our blog!!

Steph said...

Thanks for the list!

I buy onions, carrots and celery in bulk at Costco and then my husband and I have a chopping party. We dice all the veggies into pea-sized pieces, mix it all together, bag them up (in our ziplock bags we bought at Costco) and then stick them in the freezer. I have instant access to mir poix at any time, which I use in just about everything I cook. I start pasta sauce, chili, squash soup, curry, anything I cook in the crockpot, and lots of other things with a bag of frozen mir poix. For around $10-$15, I have vegetables in my meals for up to 9 months!

Mary said...

I love couponing! I use and to do my system and of course follow PYP. Man, it's sad how excited I get about grocery shopping! My friend at made a handout about a year or so ago comparing prices at our local Costco here in Utah with the local grocery stores and what was cheaper to buy where. It's been a great tool for me to use, especially when the case lot sales come at the local grocery stores.

Jaime said...

Thanks for this post! I appreciated it becuase I just got a Sam's Club membership through work and was wondering what to buy there!

Chelsea said...

So, you said you've become a pretty good coupon shopper. I'd love it if you could share exactly how you do that. I struggle in that area.

Packrat said...

Great post, Carole.

Milk never goes on sale at our local grocery (no local competition), but we can't use up the amount we have to purchase at Costco. Meat is less expensive at our local market, but we can't get the selection. Coupon shopping really doesn't work where we live. For one thing, no one doubles the coupons. For another, usually the store brand (which is really good for most items) is less than the "coupon item".

Here is the the thing to watch - do you buy enough at Costco or Sam's Club to pay for the membership? Some people complain that they don't. However... I have found the savings (compared to our local grocery) from one shopping trip to Costco will more than pay for a basic membership. My husband and I have an Executive membership. We spend enough to get a rebate check that always more than pays for the next year's "dues". Unlike some places, the rebate check can be applied directly to the membership fee.

Hilary said...

I recently switched from Costco to BJs (we moved and BJs is much closer), and was pleasantly surprised to find out that BJs will take ALL manuf. coupons, as well as any of their own coupons. And you can use both a BJs coupon and a manuf. coupon for the same item!

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