Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shopping At Sam's

Q: Do you have a list of items you buy at Sams/Costco? If so, I'd love to read about that!

A: We don't use our Sam's Club membership often. Originally we joined because we needed a portable resin storage shed--the Sam's model was by far the best value. The next year we needed a computer, and again, Sam's Club boasted many more features on its low-priced model than comparable stores. So anything we've bought there in the last two years has essentially been "gravy"--savings above and beyond the original purchase. If Costco were closer, I would shop there instead of Sam's--the return policy is one of the most generous in retail.

My pricebook tells me that most of the grocery items are NOT best buys, especially for our family of three. We did buy organic coffee at Christmas for a great price, then stocked up when it was discounted in January (Sam's Club markdowns end in a 1, as in 8.81). I am convinced that for fresh produce and meats (most of what we eat), you can do far better with grocery loss leaders or Aldi. I buy the Laughing Cow Light cheeses there at a savings of almost $2.00 per three. Bundles of fresh roses are a staple at 24 stems/$12.99--but you can opt to pick up only a dozen at Fresh Market for $6.99. Generic diapers (available in size 3 and up) cost about 10 cents apiece and come in a convenient huge box. Sam's is incorporating many frozen organic foods, too. When I had to buy blueberries for the muffin extravaganza, I found a huge bag of organic for less than the cost of two bags of Publix brand.

For a comprehensive look at warehouse shopping, let me refer you to Amy Clark's article at It's truly one of the best analyses I've seen. Readers, feel free to add your own warehouse buys in the comments below--I'm sure there are many hidden treasures I'm missing, myself!


Kim C. said...

We find that the deals on dairy products at Costco are nearly unbeatable - esp. grated cheese, which can be kept in the freezer and used straight from the freezer.
Last month, 6 lb. blocks of mozzarella were just $5.99!
Cheese, milk and butter alone make the membership worthwhile for our large family.
If your family is large enough to make it worthwhile, the gallon-size cans of corn, peaches, etc. are cheaper than Wal-Mart.
Meat,produce and other items can be a good buy, depending on the competition in your area. We don't have Aldi's here, though I absolutely loved them in Ohio!
We recently upgraded to the executive membership: it's only a 2% savings, but they track it for you, mail a rebate check at the end of the year, and guarantee a refund if the upgrade didn't pay off for you. They even checked and told us what we would have saved over the last several months to verify that our spending patterns make us good candidates. They do all the brain-work, so you really can't lose.

Anonymous said...

There's one main item I keep my Sam's membership for - yeast. You can buy a jar of yeast at Wal-Mart for $4 something, and it lasts maybe 8 or 9 loaves (it's been a while since I've gotten it). Sam's carrys instant yeast - at $3.19 (I think - it is three something) for two pounds. Each vacuum-sealed pound bag nearly fills a quart mason jar. It's a huge savings, and since we make all our own bread products, it makes the Sam's membership fee worth it.

We also get some of our technology supplies there - CD-RW, sometimes paper, page protectors, etc. Their computer deals aren't bad either, though we haven't gotten one there in a while.

Looking forward to see others' comments on this too!

BessieJoy said...

I, also, purchase my blueberries from Sam's. We use them in shakes.

I get organic Maranatha peanut butter from Sam's. It's far cheaper than my health food store and we love it!

Anonymous said...

SOOOOOOOOOOOO, what did you decide about the guest room/nursery dilemma and the bookshelves?


Anonymous said...

The gas is cheaper there by a couple of cents so since my MOMS club meeting is across the street I take advantage of that. That would in no way come close to the membership fee though. I have found milk and cheese cheaper at Sam's (although that varies greatly). Yeast is also a good buy for me and I've done a large bag of nuts before which was a substantial savings over buying a ton of the little bags. We don't have a Costco near us. I always do the technique of stocking up the last month of our membership and then seeing how long I can wait before renewing.

Anonymous said...

Besides diapers and generic wipes, my main purchases at Sam's are coffee, dog food, soy sauce, olive oil and maple syrup. Sometimes also tp and paper towels.

Anonymous said...

We have a small family too, and I'm not totally convinced we save much. We have saved $$ on photo paper, bought a boxspring there, and I stock up on things like canned goods if they are cheaper per unit than in the store. (Though if I waited for sales, this saving might not be there.) I also buy a large bag of baking soda there because we use cloth diapers and I put a scoop in the pre-rinse cycle. But far often than not, we come home with stuff like beef jerky for my dh or a book that I saw that probably wipes out our savings!

Also, just wanted to say that I recently discovered your blog and really enjoy reading it! I love your attitude about frugality and you tips are definitely inspiring me. Congratulations on your pregnancy, I hope you have a blessed birth! :)

MommyLydia said...

Here, living so close to Issaquah, we obviously have lots of Costcos and only 1, late-arriving, Sam's Club. So my membership (For just the two of us) is Costco.

When I was on my own, I had a Costco membership because their gas prices were generally cheaper than even the cheapest place in town (AM/PM). Then I started working near a Safeway where, with my Safeway card and without paying for a membership, I could get gas just as cheap. So I dropped it.

Then we got married and I picked up the membership for things like wedding invitations, etc. At the end of that year, my husband and I were calculating whether to continue. Then we realized that the Jif Peanut Butter is SO much less expensive at Costco that, at the rate we go through it, the savings in the Jif itself pays for the membership. (Both of us can not eat store brand peanut butter. It's Jif or nothing, panut butter wise) Then, we didn't have a medical plan at the time, and prescriptions were cheaper at Costco than where we were getting them, Now, of course, it's the same price. But I like the idea that our plan isn't being charged outrageously also.

Other things I buy at Costco: Milk. It's a 2-pack, but cheaper than even most sale prices around. Butter in 4-lb packages (My husband can tell the difference and doesn't like margarine). Cases of Campbell's tomato soup. Large bunches of bananas. HP printer cartridges. Tampons. Cases of Mac and cHeese when I miss the one sale that is slightly better priced. Yeast! I can throw most of it out and it is STILL a better deal. Dishwashing detergent. Splenda. Peanuts and Twizzlers in the large size bags.

Anonymous said...

Sam's is the closest grocery to my house. I buy all of my 1 gallon milk products there - they are priced lower than the military commissary. When my daughter started wearing contact lenses I compared prices and found the best prices were at Sam's. Last fall there was a $30 rebate on a year's supply of lenses about the time my daughter needed a new prescription, so the rebate alone offset my membership fee. I have found their optical department employees to be very professional and helpful.

Another Anonymous Susan

Roberta said...

~mozzarella cheese sticks
~Foster Farms Frozen Chicken breasts
~Ground Round (nearly 1/2 the price of other stores ground beef)
~bucket of Kirkland DW detergent
~bucket of Kirkland Laundry detergent (it cleans very well, doesn't suds up in my front loader, and does not bother my sensetive skin)
~big box of Oxyclean (love this stuff)
~large bottle of Kirkland liquid dish soap
~Kirkland multi-purpose concentrated cleaner (you can dilute it down to 1 part cleaner, 96 parts h2o, or make it stronger. We use it from everthing to washing the vehicles to wiping the table.)
~Johnny's seasoning salt, and garlic salt
~Some of the large spices (which are priced the same as small ones at another store)
~Kirkland wipes (NOT diapers, Wal-mart generic are about 1/2 of the Kirkland diapers)
~Starbucks coffee beans (they are far cheaper than buying them at a specialty shop. We justify this in that my husband can make his own mochas at home (even with the purchase of disposable cups and lids, and espresso machine) for pennies compared to stopping at a Starbuck's everyday. It's really his one little luxury, he's a frugal man.
~on rare occasion we do buy roses there, they are a higher quality and last longer than grocery store flowers...and I like to dry them so their beauty lasts for years.
We do not buy every item at every trip as many can last 6 months or so, and we go about 4-5 times a year.

TheNormalMiddle said...

I go once a month. Sams is about 20 mins from me. I fill up when I am there because the gas is the best buy anywhere.

I also buy milk, butter, cheese, organic spinach (we eat tons of this in salads, etc), yeast, seasons (best buy there IMO), Sams brand laundry detergent, Sams brand dishwashing detergent, diapers.

There are other good buys but those are the "biggies" for us.

We joined because we needed tires for the van and their prices couldn't be beat, even with the membership fee factored in.

Amy said...

Thanks for featuring my article! I have really been enjoying your blog- thank you so much!

Meredith said...

Last time I checked, gallon milk at Sam's was the same price or slighltly higher than Aldi. There must be a wide variation on the cheese pricing, too.

Gas *used* to be a lot cheaper at our Sam's, then inched up bit by bit. Then the new Kroger gas was beating or meeting Sam's price with less drive. Now you have to spend a certain amount on the Kroger card to get that substantial discount. I find that fueling up in a nearby county when I go for my dr's appointments has been cheaper than either Sam's or Kroger.

Don't you just wish that prices would stay put? It's hard to monitor the best buys everywhere, all the time--but oh so profitable.

Anonymous said...

Kirkland liquid laundry detergent was graded either the same or better than Tide [+cheaper]in Consumers Report. I only used Tide liquid till I read that and tried Kirkland liquid. I am now on my second bottle and I love it! Also I only use one forth or less of the amount they say to use and it still cleans great!