Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Buys at Warehouse Clubs

A friend wondered the other day what the best buys were at Sam's Club. We don't have a Costco here, so I can't address that (I imagine they would be similar), but I can address what I find to be a good deal at Sam's.

First of all, our membership is a group membership paid for through my husband's employer. If it were not, I am not convinced the savings would justify the cost of the membership. So that's the first step--pricing it out and seeing if it makes sense for your family.

That said, here is what I find to be worth the trip:
  • Possibly laundry detergent (They used to carry ERA, and the price of All Free and Clear is comparable with finding it on a great sale at the grocery store; other detergents are probably less expensive on sale at the store)
  • This is the only place I can find a large pack of flour sack towels, which I love to use for drying dishes.
  • I buy almonds and walnuts from Sam's, as well as dried fruit (Craisins are a better deal at Sams than at the grocery)
  • Romaine lettuce. You can buy a pack of eight romaine hearts for $3-something. A pack of three at the grocery store are $3. Wash them and store them wrapped in damp paper towels or flour sack towels, and they keep in the frig for a couple of weeks.
  • Fresh produce at times. You can get 5-pound bags of apples for .99 cents per pound. Big bags of carrots are a dollar-something. Lately, the strawberries and grapefruits have been wonderful--better quality than I find at the supermarket. But the prices are comparable with produce on sale at the store.
  • Frozen vegetables. Great quality broccoli florets and other vegetable blends for $4 for a huge bag (or two bags). Much better quality than I find at the store, and less expensive.
  • Bread (when I don't make my own). The kind we like is less expensive at Sam's than at the grocery store.
  • Dry Pasta (although great store sales can beat the Sam's price).
  • Vitamins. I bought a large container of Flinstone's Complete on sale at Target. Then I went to Sam's Club. An even larger container was a dollar less.
  • Meat. It is choice, which is a higher grade than select (what most grocery stores carry). Sometimes, you can find meat on markdown or you can find certain cuts for a good price per pound. Chicken breasts are almost always $1.99/pound (the sale price at most grocery stores), and sometimes they go to $1.79.
  • Cheese, depending. I read once that shredded cheese is less expensive at Sam's than a grocer, but block cheese is cheaper if you wait until it's on sale at the grocery store. Tillamok is a great quality brand we have in our region; a friend told me it melts better in baking. If you can't find it on sale, it is a better buy at Sam's.  
  • I buy frozen concentrate orange juice in a family-sized 6-pack at Sam's.
  • Sometimes clothes. I usually walk through and see if anything's a great bargain. I just got my boys two-piece Reebok athletic suits (zip-up jacket and pants) for $4.91 each.
  • Books/cookbooks, and the specialty books table. It's worth browsing through. Sometimes you can pick up some neat gifts for a good price.
  • Dog food.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Spices, oil, honey, maple syrup. A 25 pound bag of flour is about $6, but usually once a year (around Thanksgiving), one of the grocery stores will advertise flour for $1 for a 5-pound bag, and I stock up on white flour then.
  • Oatmeal. I buy a box of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats with 2 large bags inside for about $6. This is the best price in town (unless it's the once-a-year-$1-a-large-carton sale).
  • Eggs maybe, if you otherwise get them from a store. Sometimes they're .60 cents a dozen, sometimes they're more.
  • Electronics sometimes. Worth checking prices. My husband has found the best buys at Sam's on the items he's wanted.
Here are some items I think are not good deals:
  • Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)--you can almost always find these on sale at the grocery store, or Target/Walgreens/CVS, which make them a better buy
  • Diapers. Better on sale with a coupon at a different store.
  • Most canned goods (usually less expensive on sale at the store, or in a case lot sale at Kroger affiliates), but if you don't feel like waiting, the prices are pretty good.
  • Cereal, snack food bars. Grocery store sales beat the Sam's price.
I am probably leaving some things out. What do you find to be a great buy at warehouse clubs? (P.S. Jonni McCoy writes about this subject in her book Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy).

8 comments:

  1. One of Sam's Club's best kept secrets is their great bulk fresh flowers that you can order online. The ones I have ordered have been priced reasonably, have been fresh, and the best thing is they are delivered right to your door.

    In my post, yesterday, I shared about a wedding I did the flowers for this past weekend using nearly all Sam's Club flowers.

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  2. If your Sam's has a pharmacy you might want to check out that too, especially when you don't have health coverage...It was a life saver when we lost our health insurance during the airline layoffs after 911...The savings from there for just ONE MONTHS worth of prescription meds for my eldest child more than covered the cost of the yearly membership..

    Kelsie

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  3. What we buy at Sam's is constantly changing based upon their prices and the sales at Kroger. But, one thing that we always purchase there is yeast and vanilla. The yeast in particular is a great price.

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  4. Over the counter drugs are a great buy at Sam's, as is the yeast - 2 pounds for about $4. Like everything, you need to know your prices. Buyer beware! :)

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  5. One great tip--you don't have to be a Sam's member to use the pharmacy. Same at Costo. It's some sort of law. Anyway, check on your prescription prices by calling them!

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  6. Hi Suzie, I will have to look into the flowers. Thanks for the tip!
    Hi Kelsie, unfortunately our Sam's does not have a pharmacy :( I wish it did though!!

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  7. I use baking soda for laundry & cleaning, so I love their big bags of baking soda! Even if it's not any cheaper (and I think it probably is, but honestly haven't done the math) it's infinitely more convenient than having 101 little boxes LOL (in the summer Walmart generally has the same bags with their pool stuff, for those who don't have a Sams close by). Also for laundry & cleaning, I get vinegar at Sams.
    Sams and Aldi's seem to flip-flop a bit on being a better price for olives. Their big tub of baby spinach if I think I can use it fast enough. Same with bananas, if I can use that many, it's usually cheaper than grocery stores near me.

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