Wholesale Clubs: What I Will Buy at Sam’s

Jen

What I Will

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Warehouse clubs can seem like a great deal. We’ve all probably heard that most things are cheaper in bulk, and the cost per unit price usually goes up when the size of the package goes down.

Here’s the thing: it’s not true in all instances. Retailers are savvy, and they understand their market. They know you might be walking into a Costco or a Sam’s thinking “bigger is cheaper”, and you might just walk out with more than you were planning to buy if you think you are getting a great deal.

My advice to you is to be familiar with prices period. I started my frugal journey before everyone was on the internet and couponing websites made match-ups of every conceivable deal. I owned a copy of the Complete Tightwad Gazette, and learned how to keep a price book. It was a three-ring binder with college-lined notebook paper, and every sheet listed a different item.

Through that, I learned that store brand mac n cheese usually went on sale for 20 cents per box every 3 months or so, and so did store brand spaghetti (at least they did 15 years ago!). I lived off a tiny food budget of just $10/week for just myself, and I did it- with full cabinets– by using that price book. I would only buy mac n cheese when it hit its lowest price, and then I would buy 20 boxes, or enough to get me through until the next sale cycle.

Now, I don’t really have the need to keep a formal price book any more. I can tell you what my stock-up price is for most items after doing this for over 15 years. For those of you struggling to get your food budget down, however, I highly recommend it as one of your main strategies to use.

Because I know my stock-up prices, I know when I walk into Sam’s and see a double-pack of Cheerios for $7.98, that it is way overpriced. I generally buy 12 oz. boxes of brand name for $1.50 or less per box, or 12.5 cents per ounce. Sam’s is making a killing on those huge boxes!

Frequently, the price after sale + coupon at a regular grocer or even a pharmacy can be cheaper than Sam’s. This is especially true for toiletries and hygiene items, and certain over the counter medications.

I tend to follow the Prudent Homemaker‘s suggestions for what to buy at Sam’s. I never thought I had room in my home for bulk purchases, or a way to safely store them.  A year ago, I ended up getting the food grade bulk storage bins and gamma lids she recommended to store them. I now have five bins in my kitchen holding bread flour, all purpose flour, white sugar, rice, and pinto beans.

My kids can’t open them and in the year I have had them, we have had no issues with pests or mold. It certainly has helped us save some money.

At Sam’s, you may have a few different bulk options available to choose. To decide which option is better, I always calculate the unit price and compare. Just this week, I calculated that the 25 pound bag of white Domino sugar has a higher unit price than buying several 10 pound bags of Pioneer sugar. Don’t just assume bigger means cheaper!

What I buy at Sam’s:

White sugar

Brown sugar (I keep mine is a tightly sealed plastic container with this terra cotta maple leaf to keep it from going hard)

Powdered sugar

Bread flour

All purpose flour

Block cheese (I shred it myself). Buying shredded or sliced at Sam’s may not necessarily be cheaper. And sometimes grocers have a deal where it meets or exceeds Sam’s good prices.

Dried beans (Only 10 lb. pinto beans are available at my Sam’s, but at 55 cents.lb, they are cheaper than at the grocery store.)

Cocoa powder

Juice boxes and cans of pop (for parties-but I also check for sale prices and coupon deals at stores. They may be cheaper.)

Large bottles of apple juice

Baby formula

Rice

Bulk spices (We buy only those for which we use a lot- Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Cumin, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Kosher Salt). More options are available.

Yeast

Baking soda

Baking Powder

Butter (unless a grocer sells for $2 /lb or less)

Vinegar

Canola oil (we refill a small jar so we aren’t schlepping it from the basement)

Vanilla

Raisins

Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, and Deluxe Mixed Nuts

Parchment paper

Now, we eat meat so rarely that I have never bought any at Sam’s, so I couldn’t compare prices. If you are a meat-eater, I would start with a price book and go well armed with that information before stocking up at Sam’s or another warehouse club.

As for us, we stock-up about every 6 months, which seems to be the point when I need more flour, cocoa, nuts, and raisins.

 

What about you? What do you buy at warehouse clubs? Are you certain you’re getting the best price?

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Wholesale Clubs: What I Will Buy at Sam’s

  • I realize that this post is primarily about groceries, but I would also put forward books… While I’m not familiar with Sam’s, Costco sells books mostly at cost (average retail mark-up on books is 40%). And if you are a bibliophile on a budget, you should always take a minute to browse their book tables. Of course, you can get them online for cheap, and Costco’s doesn’t usually have more than the current bestsellers, but when you want a cheap paperback escape quick, it’s a great option.

    Other than that, I would use my Costco membership for stocking my freezer. (I haven’t had a membership in a couple of years, but it’s on our budget list for this spring.) I would buy the whole pork loin and when I got it home I would cut it into 3 or 4 roasts. Ground beef I can divide into 4 packages. And their boxed frozen chicken breasts are the best price I can find around here.

    Last ramble, I promise. Another reason to buy whole bricks of cheese rather than the pre-shredded… the pre-shredded stuff is coated with corn starch/potato starch/other desiccants to keep the shreds from sticking and clumping together. Blech!

    • If we’re mentioning books, I can’t help but mention a lot of libraries (at least in the US) are offering online collections for borrowing, including magazines, books, and music. It’s worth a look. Of course, I’m not sure if that’s the case in Canada.

  • I look at how organized you are and realize how unorganized I am. I truly could not tell you what I pay for 95% of my groceries.

    • The quickest way to find out is to pull up an Excel spreadsheet and just start tracking whenever you spend something. That’s what I do. I have it right in front of me how much I spend for eating out, eating in , gas, entertainment, etc, so I know when I am telling lies to myself, and I can figure out how to knock down overspending.

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