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Warehouse Store Versus Regular Grocery Store – Do You Really Save Money?

I don’t know the answer, as I don’t shop at warehouse stores – which is why I am asking you guys in this post to help me out. The reason I ask is that I hear people talk about all the money they save by shopping at these stores, but when I have asked for examples they have a hard time coming up with specifics. I guess it’s because of the sizes you get when you buy things (especially food products) that shoppers assume they are saving money over regular grocery store prices, but do they really? When you buy 100 rolls of toilet paper at a store like Costco, are they cheaper per unit when you buy 25 at the grocery store? When you shop at these warehouse stores, do you assume you save money on the stuff you buy or have you made the line by line comparison on each and every thing you put in your cart?

Like I said, I don’t know the answer because I don’t even have a warehouse store where I live, so I cannot do any comparisons. (The closest one is 63 miles away, so I would have to save a ton to even bother) So, if any of you guys could be so kind, could you fill me and other people in on a few things about warehouse stores? Here are a few questions I have for those “experienced” warehouse store shoppers:

Do you do all your grocery shopping at your warehouse store?

Do you know for sure that you save on everything you buy?

Do you take advantage of the perks (travel arrangements, etc), and consider that part of the savings?

What do you save the most on? The least?

How much do you pay for a membership fee?

Please feel free to let us know anything else you think is pertinent. Bad experiences? Great ones? New member? Member since the beginning? I really am curious what you guys think about this subject, and I will explain why in a later post after hearing what everyone has to say!


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Comments (23)

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  1. Our family shops at Costco, a large warehouse, for our bulk purchases. We seem to get a good deal, but I am not sure. Maybe I should look into that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks,
    Nate

  2. Annie Jones says:

    We’ve had a membership to Sam’s Club for many years. I believe the current membership fee is $40, but I could be wrong.

    Every year when it’s time to renew our membership, we consider whether or not we are saving above and beyond the cost of membership, and every year the answer is still “Yes”.

    Here is a partial list of the things we buy there: Vitamins; ibuprofen; institutional sizes of ketchup, tomato sauce, and pickles; microwave popcorn; olive oil; peanut oil; some spices; shredded cheddar cheese; sometimes milk; real butter; sometimes eggs; paper towels; bathroom tissue; my husbands jeans for work; padded envelopes for my eBay shipments; sometimes beer and sometimes gasoline. We’ve also bought tires there.

    What we DON’T buy are boxed cereals, granola bars, etc.; any of the pre-made convenience foods from the freezer case that they are always sampling out to customers; rarely any meat; big screen TVs; DVDs; CDs; or video games; or anything that we weren’t planning to buy in the first place. We’re as careful when we shop at Sam’s as we are when we shop anywhere else.

    For us, the savings we see on the jeans alone is enough to pay for membership, as hubby works construction and no brand holds up to that kind of work for as long as he’d like. So, why would we pay $40 or more for Levis, Carhartt or brands, when we can pay $13 for the Sam’s Club brand that will last him just as long?

    We do most of our grocery shopping elsewhere, and we don’t take advantage of any perks like the travel arrangements. But I am certain that, on the items we do buy at Sam’s, we are saving money.

    I also must admit that our Sam’s Club is only about 7 miles away and frequently on the way to wherever else we might be going.

  3. Miranda says:

    We rarely shop at the warehouse store. We do the whole calculator price per unit thing. We can get toilet paper, paper towels and tissues for less on sale at ShopKo. We just wait for a sale and stock up. We don’t do grocery shopping because our family of three couldn’t use things like produce fast enough. We actually started saving money when we began going to the local grocery for food items. No distractions from “great deals” to encourage extra impulse buying.

    We do maintain our warehouse card, though, because the medicine-type items are cheaper. Lamsil is half as much at the warehouse store, as is Abreva for my occasional cold sores. Cold and allergy medicine is also much cheaper. The shampoo and the lotion are cheaper as well. So we plan out what we will buy at the warehouse store, and then stick to it.

  4. Kelli says:

    We have both a Sams and Costco card. I am the second card on my parents Sams so we do not pay for the membership fee of 50 dollars. We do pay the Costco however more for the Costco AMEX Business card which pays us 5% on gas and 3% on resturants, which is all we use it for. To get the CC you need to have a memembership. We have found some great deals at both but do not shop there for food. We only have 2 people and never go through what we buy. My all time have to buys…Sams, block deli cheese, spices, yeast (by far the best buy) gas, milk, boneless chicken breasts. Costco, trash bags, laundry soap, romaine lettuce heads, milk, boneless pork chops, artichokes, contacts, photo cards, bday cakes… I have price checked these items between Sams and Costco and now know the cheaper of these two. I am a pretty frugal shopper and have never bought many other food items or toiletries there. You can get them much less at a grocery store/target with a coupon or for free by doing the CVS and Walgreens thing.

    Other great items we have gotten cheap…Sams, light fixtures for our bathroom, fake wood flooring, 2 leather recliners saved $800 on those over a furniture store, certain clothing and shoes, wii games, flat screen Visio TV. Costco, luggage, towels, pillows, shoes, clothes, tires, fire extinguisher, use the Costco coupons that come out each month, normally they save you more. Turbo tax for 29 dollars this year.
    We love the food court at both places and normally eat for under $5 with a hot dog, drink, berry sunday, and pizza when we are there. Hope this helps. I have done a lot of research to see what is cheapest everywhere and don’t mind going a few stores a week. That really helps.

  5. Kelli says:

    PS. Forgot to add, my inlaws did buy their new 2009 Honda Pilot through Costco, very easy to do, you just go to a regular dealership to buy and they saved 1500 off of sticker. Yes, it is a new car, however they were waiting for the new body style and were planning on getting it anyways and still saved.

  6. Hazzard says:

    We absolutely get our money’s worth at Costco. There is no question that we save FAR more than the membership fee each year. This year we also decided to get the Costco Amex card that pays us 5% back on gas, 2% for travel, 3% for restaurants and 1% everywhere else. I just got my rebate check from the Amex card and it paid for my membership and then still left us well over $100 to use as credit at Costco. So, in a sense I’m not paying for the privilege of ultra low prices and the shopping experience is outstanding! (You’d think I work at Costco, but I don’t)

  7. david says:

    What kinds of things do you know you save money on? The reason I ask is that everyone says they save money, but no one really compares what they buy to what they would pay for a similar sized product in a grocery store. I have my reasons for asking, and am curious as to what people really see the savings on for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Annie Jones says:

    As I mentioned above, we buy men’s 5-pocket jeans at Sam’s for $13. Shredded cheddar cheese is five pounds for 11.72(2.34/lb). Act II microwave popcorn is 6.84 for 28 packets (24ร‚ยข ea.). Multivitamins are 9.88 for 450 (2ร‚ยข ea). Half & Half is 1.94 a quart, which is even a few cents cheaper than Aldi, and quite a bit cheaper than “regular” grocers.

    That’s all I have a current receipt for. You don’t have to be a member to check prices. You can get the prices for most of Sam’s Club items yourself by going to their website, then you can compare them to what you’d spend elsewhere. You can probably do the same at Costco’s website.

  9. david says:

    Thanks Annie, appreciate you giving me some actual details. I hope some other people can weigh in so I can put together my next post on the subject!

  10. We definitely save money by shopping at Costco, no doubt about it.

    I actually wrote a post comparing costco to Walmart on a particular purchase I had made at Costco. I saved $50 on that trip alone.

    We have the executive membership where you get 2% cash back and just got our first check… it was $91. The executive membership is $100, so we almost got our whole membership fee back.

    I just wrote a post today comparing sams club to costco and turns out they are basically the same price wise.

    Here’s the link to the walmart vs costco post if that’s ok…
    Here’s the link if you don’t mind…
    http://wideopenwallet.com/2008/07/a-trip-to-costco/

  11. Abigail says:

    Well, first off, anything we save is instant profit, since I’m the secondary on my mom’s account. The warehouse membership, therefore, costs me $0.

    But, by and large, you just have to be aware of “regular” prices on items. Sometimes the warehouse is the best deal, sometimes it’s not.

    For example, the canned fruit isn’t much better than the grocery store’s rates (and you can use coupons at warehouses).

    On the other hand, milk runs about 80 cents cheaper than the cheapest, bottom shelf (where they hide the cheap stuff) milk at the grocery store. So definitely worthwhile. Cheese (unless it’s on sale that week at the grocery store) tends to be a better bargain — especially the nicer cheeses. Those are usually a couple dollars cheaper than in the stores.

    A lot of times, if there aren’t any sales on chips going on, warehouses are good for that. Usually you have to buy two bags though.

    Their Sara Lee bagels were fantastic deals, as I recall. As were the Boboli pizza prices.

    I buy all my Kashi cereal there because it’s two large bags (larger than the normal grocery store boxes) for around $7.50. Even when grocery stores or Walgreens discounts Kashi, it’s rarely as good a deal.

    Strangely, and on probably far too personal a note, condoms are VERY cheap there. The large 40-pack is just under $10. At Albertson’s, a 12-pack of the same brand goes for $10.50.

    Also, boneless, skinless chicken is cheaper at Sam’s, as are cold cuts. Their deli-packaged meat, though, can be hit or miss, price-wise.

    Like I said, it pays to have a mental (or physical, I suppose) price book so that you can pick and choose your purchases.

  12. david says:

    Awesome, thanks Abigail! And thanks for the link Ashley. Although I dont shop at Walmart, I can appreciate the comparison.

  13. Erik says:

    WE shop at Costco and some items are definitely cheaper. If you are savy and know the price per item cost, it can really save you money. I shop quite a bit and I have a good idea of what costs are, especially food. But, You can’t assume that you are always saving just because you are there. Being able to buy mass quantities is also a nice thing with a large family.

  14. Fit Wallet says:

    I’m too lazy to do all the comparison shopping to make a warehouse membership worthwhile, and I find that these warehouse stores aren’t suited to our lifestyle (no kids, vegetarian, health-conscious). We only have BJ’s in the city. When we bought our house two years ago, we signed up and went precisely twice. We never did find anything we really needed. Why would I want 25 boxes of high-fructose corn syrupy juice, or jumbo boxes of eggs when I don’t eat them? They had cheese at decent prices, but I don’t need 2lbs of cheddar for two people. We gave up and never renewed the membership.

  15. david says:

    That’s kind of how we feel too Fit Wallet…

  16. mjmcinto says:

    We have a Costco membership, and I think we get our monies worth there on the following:

    1) Gas – usually $0.10/gallon cheaper. Though I have to admit that you can do this without being a member of Costco if you have an Amex card

    2) Tires – We replaced the tires on my wife’s car recently, and while comparison pricing, I found the exact same tire for $10/tire less than one of the national chains. However, it was actually more of a savings, as the tires come with a road hazard warranty and lifetime balance and rotation (costs extra at the tire chains). After a couple of weeks, she noticed one of the tires was low (probably a nail or something), took it by on the way home, and all they asked for was her card, and they were able to pull up the warranty info – no hassles, and fixed it, no hassles.

    3) Steaks – It’s just my wife and myself, but I also have a freezer, so I get a big slab and cut it up on my own and freeze them. Sales at the grocery stores for ribeye steaks around here are around $6.99/lb ($7.99/lb for NY Strip). I can get them (both) at Costco for about $4.49 – $4.79/lb. Also, I can get the whole tenderloin (to make filet mignon) for around $9/lb there. Also, I can take the big slab and dry age it at home, creating a very expensive piece of meat ($35+ at a restaurant..about the only place you can get it). So for the price of 1-2 steaks at a restaurant, I can get 8+ steaks ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Enrique S says:

    If you’re like me, unless you stick to a list, you may find yourself unable to pass up impulse buys. As Erik said, you need to be savvy about product costs and comparison shop. Don’t assume you’re getting the best deal just because you’re buying from Costco.

  18. Tina says:

    At one point we used Costco as well, only because it was under my mother-in-laws business. For us we had to be making a trip for medical reasons as the nearest Costco is 130 miles one way, and Sams is 130 miles the other way. When we did go we stocked up on generic Tylenol and generic Tylenol PM as they are MUCH cheaper at Costco. My husband has a chronic/genetic illness so he uses alot of Tylenol. At WM the 500 count bottle is $7.97 at Costco the two pack (1000) is 7.97. The generic PM was something around $7.00 for a 500 count bottle where as at WM I pay that for 200. Butter usually runs around 2.30 a pound, I can get it on sale for 2.00 or under ( I have 15 pounds in the freezer). Not factoring distance in by watching sales and keeping tabs on prices I usually could do much better at the local grocery stores even without using coupons.

  19. Tina says:

    MJ-off topic how do you dry age at home?

    Thank you,
    tina@rangeweb.net

  20. We, I should really say my wife, shops at a local warehouse store and she swears by it. I have an annual ritual of asking her if the savings are worth the membership fee each year and she is easily able to prattle off 6 or 8 ‘staple’ items that repay the cost of admission in a very short period of time.

    Pet food and supplies top the list in my mind but bags of frozen chicken breasts or ground beef packaged in bulk which we subdivide and freeze are easy examples… but common toiletries, cleaning supplies, and many other disposible items are best bought in bulk.

    I bet we make only a monthly run to the warehouse so not all our weekly shopping is done in this way.

    I hope this helps and thanke for providing the forum in which to share.

    Dave

  21. Sam's girl says:

    The formatting is wrong but the date is there. Just did this 3 weeks ago in Los Angeles County.

    Pricing List
    Item Brand Quantity Price Store Unit Price
    Beans (dry) Monticito 10 lbs. 8.19 Smart & Final 0.82 Lbs.
    Beans (dry) Monticito 25 lbs. 15.49 Smart & Final 0.62 Lbs.
    Beans (dry) C & F 25 lbs. 17.99 Smart & Final 0.72 Lbs.
    Beans (dry) Peak 10 lbs. 6.29 Sams 0.63 Lbs.
    Beans (dry) Peak 25 lbs. 14.16 Sams 0.57 Lbs.
    Beans (canned) Rosarita 8 cans 6.79 Smart & Final 0.85 Can
    Beans (canned) Rosarita 8 cans 6.77 Sams 0.85 Can
    Beans (canned) Bush’s 8 cans 8.67 Sams 1.08 Can
    Chicken Noodle Soup Campbells 12 8.99 Smart & Final 0.75 Can
    Chicken Noodle Soup Campbells 12 6.97 Sams 0.58 Can
    Corn Nibblets 12 cans 11 oz. 7.99 Smart & Final 0.06 oz.
    Corn DelMonte 8 cans 15 oz. 6.34 Sams 0.05 oz.
    Cream of Mushroom Campbells 10 11.49 Smart & Final 1.15 Can
    Cream of Mushroom Campbells 10 7.36 Sams 0.74 Can
    Fireplace logs Duraflame 6 – 5 lb 18.99 Smart & Final 0.63 Lbs.
    Mac & Cheese Kraft 5 boxes 5.79 Smart & Final 1.16 Box
    Mac & Cheese Kraft 12 Boxes 6.74 Sams 0.56 Box
    Oatmeal Quakers multi 55 pk/76.2 oz 10.79 Smart & Final 0.196/0.14 pk/oz
    Oatmeal Quakers Brown/Maple 40 pk 6.87 Sams 0.17/ pk/oz
    Oatmeal steel cut Trader Joes 24 oz 2.29 Trader joes 0.1 Oz
    Orange Soda Sunkist Fridgepack 4.79 Smart & Final 0.4 Can
    Rice C & F 5 lbs. 2.99 Smart & Final 0.6 Lbs.
    Rice C & F 10 lbs. 6.99 Smart & Final 0.7 Lbs.
    Rice C & F 25 lbs. 13.99 Smart & Final 0.56 Lbs.
    Rice Mahatma 20 lbs. 11.87 Sams 0.59 Lbs.
    Rice Mahatma 25 lbs. 14.99 Smart & Final 0.6 Lbs.
    Rice (converted) Uncle Bens 12 lbs. 11.49 Smart & Final 0.96 Lbs.
    Spam Hormel 3 large cans 12.49 Smart & Final 4.16 Can
    Spam Hormel 6 large cans 13.04 Sams 2.17 Can
    Spegetti Generic 2 lbs. 2.99 Smart & Final 1.5 Lbs.
    Spegetti Chefs Review 4 lbs. 5.69 Smart & Final 1.42 Lbs.
    Spegetti Bakers Choice 6 lbs. 5.64 Sams 0.94 Lbs.
    Toliet Paper Charmin (Big rolls) 24 11.99 Smart & Final 0.5 Roll
    Tomato Paste Hunts 12 cans 4.99 Smart & Final 0.45 Can
    Tomato Paste Hunts 12 cans 4.49 Sams 0.37 Can

  22. david says:

    Thanks so much Sam’s Girl, appreciate you letting me know. This is very helpful!

  23. mjmcinto says:

    Tina – Sorry for the delay. Here is a link that discusses (and tells how to) dry age a steak at home. I’ll by trimming my ribeye roast for next week for my first dry aging experiment ๐Ÿ™‚

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