Warehouse Shopping: When It’s Worth It, When It’s Not

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Sam’s Club. Costco. You know you love ’em. Anywhere where you can buy a thingy of toilet paper that is nearly as big as my whole car and will last us 6 months is a fabulous place, if you ask me. But is the $50 membership worth it? Let’s take a look.

Like all things, the value one gets from having a membership at a warehouse store is largely dependent on you and your habits. Are you the sort of person who loves couponing and has time to drive to several different stores? Then no, it’s probably not worth it. Are you the sort of person who hates shopping and wants to get as much as possible so you don’t have to go back to the store anytime soon? Then yes, it’s worth it.

But it’s even more complex than that for many people because not everyone lives near a warehouse store. Some people, like my pal Christopher, don’t own a car and don’t really have the means to be able to both go and transport everything there and back. (Could you imagine one of those giant packs of toilet paper on a bus?) Others, live so far away, that the trip isn’t worth it.

You also have to keep in mind family size when buying there. It’s entirely possible that a warehouse store membership is worth it for a family of two- my mom and dad take advantage of theirs quite a bit. How? They typically buy nonperishable items or items that can be frozen, like bread, for example. They’re also, of course, all over the giant packs of toilet paper. (Do I sound obsessed? They fascinate me.)

With my large family of 5 people and 5 animals, the membership is worth the cost. Costco has a good quality pet food I recently discovered, that is a third of the cost of the Blue Buffalo I was feeding my pets before. It also sells a brand of bread that I like (Nature’s Own- no HFCS, etc, etc, tastes good) for about half of what I’d pay at the grocery store.

Another consideration is if you are able to buy a large cut of meat and cut it up yourself. An example of this is beef tenderloin, cut down to filet mignon steaks. My husband, luckily, has mad meat cutting skills and we can get a beef tenderloin (huge slab o’meat) and cut it down for several filets. This lessens the cost of the meat, on average, by $5 a pound.

My suggestion, if you are wondering about whether or not a warehouse store will work for you, is to bring your price book and ask for a temporary pass to look around. Many times, even though you can buy a giant thing of (whatever), that giant thing is the same price or even more costly. For example, Tide at both Sam’s and Costco, is more expensive in the giant thingy than it is to buy smaller containers at my local Target. This is yet another reason that price books are so very important.

Okay, Home Eccers, spill it- tell me your thoughts on warehouse stores. The good, the bad, the ugly. Let’s hear it!


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  3. Milehimama on June 5, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I returned my Sam’s membership because it wasn’t worth it to me. Most of the prices were actually HIGHER than I could get at the groceries.

    Sam’s Club has a policy that you can return your membership at any time for a full refund.

  4. Sandie on June 5, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Cosco and Sam’s club may be great for large families. I am retired andlive alone. I use many coupons. When there is a BIGO I use two coupons and that is a savings. They had Kraft cheese slices 2.29 (BIGI) I had gtwo coupons for 1.oo off so I paid .29 for two packs oof cheese. I rarely buy anything without a sale or coupon. Money is tight, but there are always ways to stretch the dollar. I love this place!

  5. Nancy on June 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    I miss BJ’s. We moved here to Colorado, and no BJ’s. No more ten pound bags of King Arthur flour! Oh, the inhumanity! I use Sam’s Club now. Mostly I buy eggs (they have a great price on eggs, and I use a lot), cream, bread, cereal, paper products, frozen chicken, medicines, batteries, generally things that don’t spoil or that I can freeze. I have a few rules when I go – never by something in bulk that you have never tried before, and stick to the list.

    • Sandy on June 4, 2009 at 5:44 pm

      I second that. Never, every buy something in bulk that you haven’t tried before. Always be sure you have a place to store something before you buy it.

  6. Erin on June 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    We use Blue Buffalo for our dogs also. Did you happen to do an ingredients or quality of ingredient comparison? Just curious!

  7. Ceci on June 4, 2009 at 8:55 am

    NBC in Houston did a ‘Local 2 Investigates” a couple months ago on warehouse clubs. It looks like they’ve taken the link off the website but i will keep looking. They compared Costco, Sams’, and Kroger. Costco came out on top in almost every category, but they did keep reminding viewers about only buying things you need, and making sure you have the space to store them. Case in point, the 64 bottles of apple juice i bought at Costco in 1999, put in the basement, and forgot about until 2003 when I was cleaning out the house to move to Houston.

  8. alikat76 on June 4, 2009 at 8:17 am

    We used to have a membership to Sam’s Club, but when we moved two years ago the one close to our house was too busy and it just made me crazy to go there! Plus I often found several items that I wan’t planning on buying! My husband wants to get a COSTCO membership but everytime we go there to visit it is packed too!

  9. PollyS on June 4, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Prior to having children, I shopped at Costco exclusively. I don’t know why I didn’t bat an eye at paying $4/lb for ground turkey. But I didn’t. Now I would die before I paid that price. I could go on. But I’ll spare you.
    However, while their prices per unit leave a lot to be desired. I do think Costco’s produce and meat cannot be beat. The quality is superb and consistent. So, for those items alone, the membership is worth it to us.

  10. Erin on June 4, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Love my Costco membership. I buy staples in bulk and keep them in smaller containers in my kitchen. Milk is hormone free and far cheaper than groceries stores. Fruit, in season, as well as poultry and meat. Things like pepperoni for our homemade pizzas, stuff like that, are much cheaper.

  11. sara on June 3, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Sams works great if you have brand loyalty for things that you buy regularly. Like Monster energy drinks are about 75 cents cheaper at my Sams club! We recovered the amount of our fee in about one month (lots of energy drinks).

  12. Becca on June 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    We let our membership to Sams lapse. I think it would probably work for us NOW if it was just me going. My dear husband is an impulse shopper and he would blow the savings by purchasing things off list (kettle drums of goldfish crackers, cracker jacks, etc.). I have been thinking about joining COSTCO (not SAMS) just to see.

    I have a question, though…..do they have the big packs of Pampers Swaddlers Size 1 (or 1-2)???? Anyone know…because if I could get a good deal on those I would be IN LIKE FLYNN (I go through at least 15 cases of those a month!)

    • ThatBobbieGirl on June 3, 2009 at 3:42 pm

      Our Sams club did when we were members.

      Just give them a call. If they won’t check on that for you, they don’t deserve your money!

    • alikat76 on June 4, 2009 at 8:14 am

      WOW! 15 cases a month. That is a ton of diapers! Last I knew COSTCO didn’t carry any P&G brand diapers. NO Swaddlers, Cruisers, Pampers, or LUVS. There is a website my DH used when he stayed home with my DS. They deliver the diapers to your door. We are wearing bigger sizes now so you will have to compare prices.


      Free shipping on orders over $49!

  13. KarenR on June 3, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I belong to BJ’s because what I save on my contact lenses alone pays for my membership. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t because there aren’t many things I buy there. Either they don’t have the brand I buy (like my toilet paper and paper towels) or they have the brand, but not the right flavor (like my granola bars) But I do buy nuts there and large boxes of frozen natural chicken breasts, and it’s great to go there when you’re having a party and actually need such a large box of crackers or huge slab of cheese. And I like that they have added a lot more organic/natural selections, so I am buying more food there.

  14. Sandy on June 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

    The warehouse stores are worth it to me because I don’t like dealing with coupons. Also, I can get a good deal on basic staples, which generally don’t get coupons. I buy the toilet paper as well as tissues and paper towels. I also buy almost all of our baking supplies there because we bake every day and buying those things in bulk just makes sense if you have a way to store it. I got tired of running to the store for flour. I also buy canned goods there, meats, and some hygiene items. I have four kids and buying in bulk means fewer trips to the store and less money spent on those little extras we always seem to pick up on each trip. I can’t spend the money if I’m not at the store. What I don’t buy at the bulk store is produce. Apples and potatoes we will eat before they spoil, and I can sometimes get a good price on strawberries, but most other things would spoil before we could eat them, even though we have salad every day. I do keep an eye on what is better at each store, Sams or Costco. And I do still buy some things at the regular grocery either because the warehouse store doesn’t have it, or because I want it in the smaller size. As for the cost of membership, we buy our trash bags there and what I save on those alone pays for the membership. I also find books to be a good price there; I’ve picked up most of my cook books that way.

  15. Emily on June 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I have definitely started being more conscientious about my shopping. I have two small children & a Publix just down the street, so I have tried to make sure I am making the best buying decisions.

    Publix & Costco have both disappointed me occasionally by making a larger sized item actually cost more than its smaller counterpart. Thus, I buy more of the smaller item, creating more waste (and consuming more of my cabinet space sometimes!).

    Costco, however, definitely wins for us on a few things. The same Nature’s Own bread you mentioned, which is probably $.25 cheaper per loaf at Costco & easily frozen. Toilet paper! and we eat a lot of veggie burgers. the Costco package of Boca Burgers gives me 16 burgers, larger than their grocery-store versions, for just over twice what two boxes of 4 would cost. Total win!

    I also pick up giant boxes of instant oatmeal and certain cereals at Costco, although careful coupon clipping & sale-watching occasionally means cereal is cheaper elsewhere.

    We used to live in West Nashville right around the corner from a Costco & would go there nearly every Sunday just for the samples. Now, we live in Franklin, TN further from the Costco out there & have found it generally more crowded, harder to navigate, and less pleasurable as a shopping choice. I no longer look forward to my Costco shopping, although I may go there later this week for a Wii Fit, which I noticed were also cheaper than at, say, Target.

    • Badbadivy on June 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      I think I’m about the same distance from the West Nashville Costco as I am the Cool Springs Costco, though I’ve never really done the mileage. That’s interesting that you say West Nashville is better- I’ve not been to that one yet, I shop at the one in Cool Springs. Now I’ll check the West Nashville Costco out. Thanks!

  16. Marsha on June 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

    We go both to Sam’s and Costco. Costco is where I buy my flour. I also love the Kirkland Signature coffee.

  17. Dee on June 3, 2009 at 10:54 am

    We had a Costco membership for a couple of years and loved it. We got all our meats and paper products there. Once we had a baby our budget got tight and we couldn’t afford to spend so much in one go. We wish we could renew the membership but $50 plus the price of large amounts (whether or not they are a better deal) is just not in our budget.

    I really miss the big pack of redbulls. 🙂

    • Badbadivy on June 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm

      You and me both on the big pack of Red Bull. LOVE RED BULL!!!

  18. Angela on June 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Me, I never found much use for it… I live too far away and never had the cash on hand to spend the amount you usually spend there. On the other hand, my mom loves them. She runs a daycare and there fruit is much cheaper then the grocery store and she goes through the fruit. I think her main purchase there are fruit, TP and formula. All things you go through a lot with 8-12 extra kids running around everyday.

  19. Joyce on June 3, 2009 at 10:45 am

    We find our Costco membership well worth it for the two of us even though the nearest store is an hour away.

    Our Costco membership includes a free American Express card which gives us money back on everything charged on it — minimum of 1% but more on gas, travel, and restaurants.

    Plus Costco’s USDA choice meats are worth the trip. We go every couple months and stock the freezer.

  20. Sonshine on June 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I love having my Sam’s Club membership. With my family of 7, the membership costs usually pay for themselves in the savings I get in the first couple months.

    I am selective in the things that I purchase there. I have a list of things that I get on a monthly basis while other things get purchased every other month or every three months.

    Some of the things I purchase are baking supplies(flour, yeast, sugar, spices), rice, noodles, meats, cheese(under $2/lb), crackers, some cereals, and then also some “lazy chef” items like pizza rolls, and french fries.

    I go to Sam’s only once a month and do a once a month shopping trip, usually walking out with around $200 worth of merchandise. Then I fill in the gaps of that shopping with the deals/sales at the grocery stores.

    I blog about my monthly trips to help give others an idea of the items that I buy and find to be worth getting in bulk. You can read the lists by following the link… http://glimpseofsonshine.blogspot.com/search/label/Sam%27s

  21. Princess Leia on June 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

    We’ve got a warehouse store called BJ’s that takes coupons. If you buy a multi-pack of something like toothpaste or bottles of mustard, you can use multiple coupons. We considered joining when baby #1 came along, but he reacted poorly to pears and peas which made the flats of baby food at least 1/4 useless. We also have almost zero storage space, so even if it’s slightly cheaper to buy a ginormo pack of TP, we have no place to put it all.

    Maybe with baby #2, it’ll be worth it for the baby food, but until we get a bigger place, I doubt it.

    • Heather on June 3, 2009 at 10:09 am

      Just out of question, have you gotten creative with your storage? Sheets under the mattress of the bed they fit, then use the linen closet as a pantry or for cleaning supplies. Drawers from yardsale dressers slide under beds, etc.

  22. Jenn on June 3, 2009 at 9:43 am

    We just joined BJ’s. I like to get my “lazy chef” food there: big boxes of taquitoes and frozen pizza for when I’m just not up to cooking. I haven’t started a price book yet but I’m pretty sure the price is good. And even if it’s not, it’s still cheaper than a restaurant meal. My daughter loves the fruit smoothies which are a great deal and the larger size saves on packaging. I’ve seen packaged chicken breasts that are pretty cheap but they’re individually packaged and I just can’t bring myself to waste all that plastic. I like to buy the giant bags of nuts, chocolate chips, and blueberries and store them in my freezer. Same for yeast and baking powder.

  23. ThatBobbieGirl on June 3, 2009 at 8:58 am

    We used to have a Sams Club membership until my DH decided not to renew when they did something he didn’t like. I miss some things, like buying the cases of meat. I’d pack & freeze it, even pressure canned some ground meat and beef chunks, which is really hand for last minute meals. I tried to stay away from the gigantic sizes of food packages, for most items. case in point: I still have two very, very large glass jars of sliced jalepenos in my basement pantry, which I resisted buying, but DH talked me into. I think I just need to have a big party where we serve nachos. Or maybe try freezing some of them, coz I just do not have room for a jar that big in my fridge!

    I also loved getting the gigantic boxes of ziploc bags, which were an excellent deal.

    And, yes, Ivy, the cases of toilet paper. But I’ve come up with an alternative, and I don’t even have to go out to buy it. If you’re obsessed with massive cases of TP — girl, you are gonna love this!

    Go to toiletpaperworld.com.

    I get the 96-count cases of Windsoft (the one that’s $65.51) which is of excellent quality, and individually wrapped (which is what we prefer). If you join as a member (it’s free) you get an extra 5% discount, plus they email you about specials. Plus you get free delivery if your order is over $75, so I get two cases at a time. UPS brings it and all I have to do is get it inside the house.

    You’re still laughing at that website name, aren’t you?

    • Badbadivy on June 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      I also quit Sam’s because they made me mad. And the toilet paper site? Fabulous and hilarious all at once. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  24. Tami on June 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

    We buy case meats from Sam’s Club. For instance, you can buy 80 pounds of lean ground beef for usually $0.80 – $1 or more less per pound than the Sam’s family pack or the local grocery store. We have a large family, so sometimes I freeze all of it for our family, sometimes I split the 8 10-logs with other families. Just ask the butcher for the current prices – they sell many cuts by the case.

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