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Q&A Tuesday: Is it frugal to shop at Wholesale Clubs?

(I was off the computer much of yesterday so I didn’t get this posted like I’d planned. Enjoy a Q&A Tuesday on Wednesday!)

Today’s Q&A Tuesday question is from Melissa:

I’m curious to know if you think wholesale clubs like Sam’s, Costco, etc. are helpful for saving money? -Melissa

My friend Tammy tackled a similar question on her blog last week on why shopping only at Costco is the frugal choice for their family — as opposed to using coupons and shopping at more than one grocery store.

While I thought she had some great points, I would disagree with her — at least when it comes to our family and our current situation.

Our family has had a Sam’s Club membership in the past thanks to one of our businesses having a merchant service with them. After extensive research and trial and error, I’ve come to the conclusion that a Sam’s Club membership is just not worth it for our family. The quantities are too big, the prices are too high and shopping there was too time-consuming with young children (the store is so big and requires much more time to navigate than a quick trip into Aldi, Dillon’s or the health food store requires.

There are a few items which we found to be cheaper at Sam’s Club than what we’d usually pay at Aldi or the grocery store including: yeast, vanilla, honey, chocolate chips, dry beans and cheese. However, the Cheddar cheese has food coloring in it (something we try to avoid completely at our house) unlike the cheese we usually buy at Aldi or Dillon’s which is colored with Annatto — a non-artificial coloring.

With the exception of yeast, the savings on the few items we found to be less expensive at Sam’s Club was very minimal — usually in the vicinity of $0.10 per pound cheaper. When I did the math, including the cost of a Sam’s Club membership, it would result in a savings of about $10 per year, maximum. But it would require making at least 4-6 trips per year there in order to buy the items. And each of those trips would likely take 1 hour at a minimum when you factor in the time to drive to the store and back, get three children out of the car, and navigate a huge store.

Since I always decide whether or not something is frugal based upon how much money I’m saving per hour, a savings of around $2.50 per hour to shop at Sam’s Club is definitely not worth it.

However, this is just my current conclusion based upon our family size and location. I think that Wholesale Clubs actually can be a frugal choice for many families who are in different situations, like Tammy outlined in her post.

What do you think? Is shopping at wholesale clubs a frugal option for your family or not? I’d love to hear!

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137 Comments

  • Leah says:

    I wonder if anyone has insight into BJs shopping? They accept MQs and (I believe, though don’t quote me) also have store Qs. It seems their prices for produce are pretty cheap, but I’ve never really calculated things out. I hope someone can share their experiences!

    • Meghan says:

      @Leah, I have a BJ’s membership, they do send out their own store coupons and you can stack those with manufacturer’s coupons. One tip: you can use multiple manufacturer’s coupons if the items are shrink-wrapped together. For example, if there are 3 jars of spaghetti sauce, you can use 3 manufacturer’s coupons AND a BJ’s coupon if it’s available! You can’t use 2 Cheerios coupons because those are just 2 bags in 1 box, though. Hopefully that makes sense.

      Sometimes their produce is cheaper (bananas almost always, pears/apples a lot of times, strawberries/etc. sometimes), and things like milk/OJ are always cheaper, in my experience. I’ve gotten extremely cheap Sargento cheese, dishwasher tabs, and other things by combining the two sets of coupons.

    • DOROTHY FISHER says:

      @Leah, NOT ONLY CAN YOU USE MFG COUPONS BU TYOU CAN TEAM THEM UP WITHT HE BJ’S COUPONS AND IF YOU ARE REALLY GOOD YOU CAN USE A BJ;S COUPON AND MULTIPLE MFG ON EACH ITEM. EX. I BOUGHT THE 4 PK OF DOVE DEO. AND I USED 4 OF THE $2 COUPONS AND WALKED OUT OF THERE WITH ALL 4 FOR FREE. AND BOTH TIMES THEY HAVE NOT ADJUSTED THE VALUE OF THE COUPON TO BE $7.49. AS LONG AS EACH ITEM HAS A BAR CODE YOU CAN USE THE EXTRA COUPONS. IF YOU HAD 12 COUPONS FOR THE PAPER TOWELS AND BOUGHT THE PACK ALL THEIR WRAPPERS , YOU CAN USE 12 COUPONS. SO I FIND IT WORTH IT IF I HAVE THE RIGHT COUPONS. AND THEY DO SEND YOU THEIR COUPON BOOKS IN THE MAIL. HAVE FUN

  • Deb says:

    I love Sam’s, but we have THREE teenagers. Some other cheaper items are vinegar, Comet cleanser, bread flour, frozen veggies, nuts, granola bars. olive oil and sometimes clothes. I have also found meat on really good mark downs in the past. Electronics are tricky, because they normally have items with different model #’s than are in Consumer’s Reports, but the ink for our printer is cheaper there than the box office supply stores. Mattresses/bed frames are also cheap if you are in the market for one of those. Milk is cheaper there, but I hate the square gallons, so I spend the extra .10 at Braum’s. The nice thing about taking little ones there is that the carts are bigger, but it can be a pain, I agree. I think that shopping at Sam’s requires more discipline and effort than other stores because everything looks good and after eating a sample, it is tempting to buy a case of something only to realize that you are sick of it after a quarter of the box. If you have a price book, you can go online to samsclub.com, and type in your local store and look up the prices there without having to go to the store. If you are a member, you can also order everything online and they will have it ready for you when you get there. Overall, I would say that Costco is better than Sam’s, but we are so close to the Wal Mart mecca of Bentonville, we are in Sam’s country! =)

  • BJ’s you can stack a store q and mq. We save a lot of money that way.

  • Sally says:

    I used to get yeast at Sam’s club until I found it at Gordon Food Service. GFS has many similar products as wholesale clubs yet does not require a membership. I buy a pound of yeast for $3.99. When stored in the freezer, it lasts indefinitely! After I found GFS, Sam’s was no longer attractive to our family.

  • Ellen says:

    We have a membership at Costco for one reason and one reason only— SOYMILK. (All 3 of my kiddos drink soymilk.) Kirkland Signature has the best vanilla organic soymilk around and it comes in cases, which don’t need refrigeration until the individual cartons are opened. We pay about $1.80 per 1/2 gallon, which is far less than other stores, and since we buy in bulk, we make less trips to the store for this staple. Yes, there are occassions when I can get a great steal on soymilk using coupons (and I do jump on those deals, trust me!!!), but in general, this saves us money. AND when I’m at Costco for soymilk, I also stock up on yeast, flour, sugar, honey, rice, olive oil, etc. It’s been a good choice for our family thus far, but honestly if it wasn’t for the savings with the soymilk it also wouldn’t be worth it for me, either!

    • @Ellen, We found the exact same thing with Costco’s soymilk – 3 half gallons for $6.99. Sometimes I beat it at the supermarket with a coupon and a sale but that’s every once in a while and we go through at least one gallon per week. We also do the yeast, flour, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, apple juice, pita bread, and string cheese. Again, sometimes I beat it in the store but it’s not consistent. We also get our tires done there, and their gas is very cheap! Our membership is free with my husband’s work so it’s a no-brainer for us to belong. 🙂

  • It’s just my husband and me, but I love Sam’s. I buy vitamins, generic Benedryl (I go through a lot of this, and it’s barely over $3 for 400 pills!), baking soda for use in the washing machine and for making cleaners, books, gift cards (the savings on these aren’t huge, but savings are savings), magazines, the occasional item of clothing, frozen meals (I like to keep one or two ready-made meals in the freezer for occasions of emergency, sickness, or extreme laziness)… I’ve also found that I can get things like spinach and mushrooms a billion times cheaper than at any grocery store.

    I don’t shop there regularly, but it’s a definite help to us when I do go. It’s also a great place to shop for food items whenever I need to feed my youth group.

  • robyn says:

    we used to be HUGE costco shoppers until i started couponing. we’re lucky enough to have our membership tied in with a business and therefore costs us nothing. we have gluten intolerances in out house and our costco offers a large selection of organic and GF items, i was under the impression that there were NO coupons available for these items… but after searching and writing companies we get most if not all items we were purchasing at costco for free or nearly free with coupons and at our kroger or target (which are 5 miles and costco is 25 miles)…plus with everything in larger quantities at costco we’d eat like pigs since it was opened we had a different mentality…now we hit costco maybe once every 6 months and pickup printer ink and distilled vinegar since i use it in the laundry IT is cheaper for us to buy it there…(unless hubby wants samples then hit costco up for free lunch)

  • Diane says:

    Sam’s Club is totally worth it for us. My husband uses the generic Claritin Sam’s Club carries. It is less than $15 for around 300 pills (almost a full year’s supply!). We recoup the membership fee from our savings on the allergy meds alone. We used to buy our milk there, but now that we have an Aldi, it’s cheaper there. Other things that we buy from there – CAT LITTER! Any of you kitty owners out there – Sam’s has a fantastic clumping litter. It’s under $10 for 40 lbs. of litter (wonderful price in my experience) and it works amazingly. We also get frozen chicken breasts there and ground turkey….have yet to find either cheaper anywhere else.

    • JenK says:

      @Diane, I shop at Sam’s largely for cat litter, too. We have five cats, so we go through a lot of litter. Not only is it less expensive there, but it’s also a great product. We also like Orowheat bread, which is $4.12/2 loaves there at the regular price. I find it on sale for $2.50 in other stores, but it’s usually between $3 and $5 regular price. We primarily do cloth diapers for our two girls, but we use disposables at night and when we leave the house for long trips. The Member’s Mark diapers are great, and the regular price is usually cheaper than the sale price for any diapers anywhere else.

      • Emily says:

        @JenK,
        I used to use Member’s Mark diapers on my son (I liked them too). I also used to think they were cheaper too, but with all the Huggies coupons available lately and the sales/promos between CVS, Target and Kroger, I am finding that it is cheaper to just get the Huggies.

  • Elizabeth Whitehill says:

    This may come as no surprise to most…but Cheddar cheese has food coloring in it?! I feel like NOTHING is “safe”…

    We are members of BJs and love the ability to use MQ and store Qs, really helps on diapers and the gas is cheaper. Our store is about a mile from our house, so its not a big hassle to get to.

    • Alex Hall says:

      @Elizabeth Whitehill, I just checked the cheddar we get from Costco and it DOES NOT have food coloring in it. We save enough on cheese alone to cover our membership costs. I figured out that, at a minimum, we save about $100 on cheese alone shopping at Costco. That doesn’t include the savings on yeast, flour, spices, vanilla ($5.99 for 16 ounces), rice, olive oil, printer ink, butter, etc.

  • Allison says:

    I like to use the “Click-n-Pull” service that Sam’s offers. I can do my grocery shopping on the couch after my kids are in bed and my husband can pick it up after work the next day. It’s hardly any time for me, and I can still comparison shop and avoid overpriced items. We do pay for a discounted membership through my husband’s employer, but the savings on diapers (we have 2 kids in diapers), milk, and bread, not to mention my time and sanity (I work outside the home) is well worth the $35. Actually, we got a $10 gift card when we renewed recently, so this time it was only $25. If they will practically do the shopping for me, that’s worth $25 any day.

  • Beth Long says:

    One aspect that I’ve wondered about is fuel. We live within walking distance to a SAMS club, which has a fuel station. I commute daily, and so we typically spend about $300 each month on gasoline.

    I haven’t figured out a perfect way to estimate, since I’m not able to do a cost comparison each and every time I fill up, and fuel prices vary quite a bit throughout the year. We used to get Kroger fuel rewards, but since cutting back on groceries, our savings there is rare and small.

    My questions are whether 1) we could save money going there and 2) if the savings on fuel could make it worth our while to pay for the membership. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • Patti says:

      @Beth Long, I don’t live near Sam’s but do have a membership and use it to buy gas when I am on that side of town. It is typically about .05 to 10 cents cheaper than on my side. However, we have fuel perks with our grocery card so I am not going to drive over there to get the gas but will stop in if it is on the way to another place (our Sam’s is near our mall and stores such as Target). I only buy a few items at our Sam’s for my son’s lunch and occasionally books for gifts. It is a big impulse store so it pays to know your prices and to practice restraint. I only save about $300 a year so I wouldn’t go out of my way for the savings if it is a big deal for you to go.

      • Beth says:

        @Patti, Thanks for the information! The typical savings does help. So, if I save an average of 7 cents per gallon…that would come out to about $131.04 a year or $10 a week (minus the cost of the membership). Of course, that is if we ONLY bought gas at Sam’s. It would be easy to make that our primary gas station, but difficult to make it there each and ever time. More to think about…

    • LittleLori says:

      @Beth Long, Check the gas stations close to your Sam’s. The ones closest to ours always match the price and you don’t need a membership. We have a Sam’s club membership as part of my DH’s work and the main reason I go there is it is the only store my DH will come shop w/me. We go once a month and I have certain things I buy there – yeast, dog food ,flour and other things already mentioned and other things I won’t buy there because of the cost. Now that I’ve learnt so much about couponing, menu planning and stockpiling, I don’t think I would pay for a membership but I do enjoy the family outing and having a pretzel treat 🙂

  • Susan J says:

    We are a small family (husband, wife, three year-old and one year-old), and we think it makes sense for us to shop Costco. We joined initially to buy tires for our cars (the savings made sense even after the membership fee), and have stayed on mostly for the dairy and organic greens. Since we’ve been doing green smoothies for breakfast the past month or so, a big box of organic spinach for $4 is great! I’ll have to take note of the food coloring thing, though, Crystal…thanks for pointing that out! And why, oh why, do we think our cheddar needs to be orange?!

  • Andrea Q says:

    It depends on the family. When I had three in diapers and very little time to coupon, it was well worth the $50 Costco membership fee. My kids loved going to the store (still do)…it was a field trip for us! LOL. I’m not sure if we will renew this year or not, as we haven’t been shopping there very often now that I have time to coupon again.

  • Katie says:

    A note on BJs: Yes, they take coupons and you can stack them with a store coupon. You can also use one manufacture coupon per bar code! For example, a three pack of spaghetti sauce you could use three manufactured coupons, as well as a BJs coupon. It can work great for couponers.

    BJs does seem to be a little higher priced, as they don’t have as many bulk items or store brand items, but there are becoming more store brand items. We figure we come out ahead on gas alone, all the rest is a bonus. What we mostly buy is dairy, eggs, and taco chips. Also, I find it’s easier to not impulse buy at BJs as they don’t have as nice of things as Costco. 😉 But I do wish we had a Costco close by… I love their products.

  • Melanie says:

    I don’t feel that paying a membership fee is worth it for our family since we shop at Aldi mostly. However, I am getting tired of paying the high costs of yeast and honey and am on the lookout for the free one day passes they offer in our papers to the discount clubs (can’t remember if it’s Sam’s or Costco). I can stock up on those things at a more reasonable price and not have to pay the member fee using one of the passes!

  • We are currently Costco members and find it worthwhile for us to buy some items there (a few food items, but mostly non-food). Gas for our cars, olive oil, Kerrygold butter (seasonal item but good deal when the store has it), laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper and Pull-Ups are what we usually buy there. Since I’m no longer couponing (move towards local & organic) it is easier now to buy the detergent, paper products and diapers at Costco. We are a family of 6, so the quantities are just the right size for us.

    Mary Ellen

  • Michele S. says:

    We’ve had a membership at BJ’s for years. They send new coupons every month and also have internet coupons; of course, you can stack manufacturer’s coupons on top of theirs. I usually do not buy anything from BJ’s without a coupon. Typically what I can save on is diapers, wipes, cereal, snacks, and bottled water.
    My husbands company has partnered with Sam’s so we’re going to check them out during their company promotion day. I like the idea of the “click-n-pull” service that someone else previously posted!

  • jen says:

    We love BJs and regularly buy toliet paper, paper towels, 100% juice boxes, our favorite brand name lotion (just can’t give it up) and ocassionally bread and bakery items for parties. We certainly save money and the fact that they take coupons only makes it better! One thing though as far at time is concerned – the self checkout often beeps couopns and you have to wait for someone to come over and help if that bothers you.

  • Pamela says:

    My mom has a Sam’s membership and I don’t feel a need to go there often, so I just go with her when I need something like yeast (or, also earlier this year, we got tires there). We did purchase a membership the year we got married, as I wanted real flowers for our wedding and I figured the membership would save us hundreds of dollars just for the one event. And then we capitalized on our membership the whole year we had it, but, at the end of the year, I priced stuff we might actually buy there and found it wasn’t worth it to me. I’m not opposed to getting a Sam’s membership someday; I just know with only one little baby right now, we don’t buy in sufficient quantities to justify it.

  • Noah says:

    I find Costco worth it for us, but that’s mostly because I just don’t have the time or energy with 3 kids underfoot to shop at multiple stores per week to get the best deals. So I pick the one store with the best deals for that week. And then I use Costco to stock up on items that are cheaper there. I also purchase in bulk from Azure Standard which saves a ton as well. I go to Costco 1-2x per month. It’s only 20 minutes from my house and I’m usually in and out in 30-45 minutes. We also like our membership to save on fuel. Much cheaper there than any other station in our area.

  • Coby says:

    I love Sam’s, but only for certain items like eggs, milk, vanilla, yeast, cheese(we usually only buy mozzarella and Jack so we don’t have the food coloring issue), discounted meats, beef jerky, printer ink, sometimes clothes when they discount stuff for end of the season, GAS!!! (I live is CA and it is always 10-15 cents less than every where else so I make it a point to go when my tank is low), sometimes their produce is cheaper, they have the best pineapples. Their flour is cheap, but I am a flour snob and like to buy a particular kind in bulk at the health food stores. One of the reasons i coupon for other stuff! I don’t usually by prepackaged food items, but these are usually cheaper with coupons and sales at the regular stores.

    We don’t have to pay for membership since my Dad has one through his business, so that is a bonus. It is close and easy for me to navigate since I only need a few isles I can be in and out in 20 min or less with my 3 year old. He loves the food samples! We do have an extra freezer for storing big packages of meats and shredded cheese for our small family of 3.

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    We also have a family of 4 – two adults and 2 preschoolers.

    When I had two in diapers, it was definately worth it to have a Sam’s Club membership! Even with the coupons, in our area it was far cheeper to buy at Sam’s Club. Since we have twins, I needed all the same size and we’d go through a store package in about 2 days. Ditto for formula – the cost was roughly the same as the grocery store/drug store for more than double the amount. And we went through a (Sam’s Club size) can of that a week!

    We still have the membership now that they’re older and buy rice, oatmeal, yeast, spices and vanilla, over the counter meds, some produce, yogurt, and order things like cakes from there. Buying peanut-free snacks and 100% juice for 20 preschoolers this last year was easy by shopping there and we payed way less than we would have at the grocery store! Even going once a month or every two months (or even less often!), we save way more than we spend in the membership fee! Occasionally milk is cheaper there, as is meat but we don’t by those things there regularly.

    I think it definately depends on your family – how many you feed, how much time have and what deals you can find at the grocery, and what you buy. Do what works for you! For us, it works! 🙂
    Lea

  • I know you featured my page about why Sam’s Club is worth it to me, but I’ll link it again here for those who haven’t seen it:

    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/SamsClub.aspx

    We don’t have double coupons where I live, so Sam’s Club is cheaper for us for many things because of that. Also, I have had three children in diapers for the last five years (since I have 6 children 8 and under). The diaper deals can’t come fast enough for us . Sam’s Club diapers are .18 each for size 4 right now, and that’s not a bad price.

    We emailed back and forth, comparing prices before.

    Your family is smaller and younger, but you many see significant savings when they are older and eat more.

    In the end, it depends on WHAT you eat and whether or not you can get better savings where you live.

  • Mandi says:

    For those curious, I just checked our Kirkland cheese from Costco- also colored with annatto. =) (so I guess that is good!)

    • Tammy L says:

      @Mandi, I haven’t bought any cheddar cheese at Costco that was colored except with annatto, but I usually buy either the 2-pound block of Kirkland Signature, or else the 5# shredded Tillamook for cheddar. Maybe another kind has artificial coloring; it’s always good to watch labels!! 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        I’m guessing Costco’s cheese is better than Sam’s Club. Overall, it seems Costco has better quality food… of course, that’s just a hasty generalization based upon my cursory knowledge of Costco! 🙂

        • ksenia says:

          @Crystal, You are so right, Costco DEFINITELY has better quality (and about as good of a price) of food than Sam’s Club. But I don’t expect much from Wal Mart 🙂

        • Christy says:

          @Crystal, You are exactly right about Costco vs Sam’s Club. The quality is leaps & bounds over Sam’s. We’ve had a Costco membership for several years now and absolutely love it. They offer so many healthy options and organic items. Definitely worth the membership cost.

      • Amber B says:

        @Tammy L,
        We are kind of cheese snobs/addicts and LOVE Tillamook’s Vintage Aged White Cheddar. We eat it with everything, in small amounts 🙂 Anyway, it is so much cheaper at Costco than anywhere else – $8 something at Costco and usually $12-$17 for the same loaf at another store! Plus, I don’t think it is colored (since it is white) and I don’t see that in the ingredients.

        Our family LOVES costco with two small kids. Even if items are more expensive there, I don’t feel bad because they always have the best quality around here and you can return it if it isn’t. They make shopping there a breeze. They have tons of healthy food options, especially bread! I try a new healthy bread option every week from there! We have an executive membership so we get back $$ every year from $300-$500. As you can tell, we spend a lot of money there, mostly because we are also technology lovers and buy iPods, TVs, etc there 🙂

      • Rachel says:

        @Tammy L,
        I love Costco’s cheeses as well! Tillamook cheese produced fairly locally compared to where I live, and best of all, the company does not use animal rennet in the cheesemaking process. This is wonderful for vegetarians such as myself!

  • Tami Seibold says:

    We do Costco. There are several items that we buy there. I love their milk- it’s cheaper and it fits in our fridge the best, eggs are usually cheapest there, and cheese is usually always cheaper. I just looked at the Kirkland cheddar and it has the Annatto for coloring. I had not heard of artificial coloring in cheese either and am glad that the Costco brand does not have it. We also use Costco for gas and it is usually .10 cheaper per gallon so it saves us quite a bit every week just from that. I really watch what we buy there and what we could get it for at other stores.

  • Dawn says:

    When our son was less than a year we had a Sam’s membership. I’m unable to breastfeed and the Sam’s brand of formula was idential to Enfamil – $20 for Sam’s for the equivalent of $45 worth of Enfamil itself. So, buying formula, we more than saved well above our fees. While we had it, we found things cheaper – fresh chicken, spices, trashbags, cocoa powder, etc. BUT it would not have been worth it had it not been for the formula. AND I had to know my price points from other stores.

    BTW, someone mentioned vanilla being cheaper there. If you buy the giant jars of vanilla in the Latino section of Walmart, it is grossly cheaper than buying regular vanilla in the baking aisle, and it has just as good, if not better, taste. It’s pure vanilla, too, not imitation. (An 80 year old friend turned me on to that!)

    • @Dawn, Sam’s Club also sells pure vanilla, right next to the imitation. I buy the pure vanilla there.

      • Dawn says:

        @The Prudent Homemaker, I wasn’t saying that Sam’s doesn’t sell pure vanilla. I was saying that if you buy the Mexican vanilla at Walmart, I found it’s cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found. I was simply trying to be helpful!

        • Crystal says:

          Thanks for the tip, Dawn! I’m going to have to check out my Walmart prices when I run out of vanilla again.

        • Joy says:

          @Dawn,
          I think Prudent Homemaker was just making it know that they do sell pure vanilla, trying to be helpful just like you Dawn. Isn’t it great we can all help each other out by learning from expercience from our own shopping trips.
          I love that everyone has different tips and tricks for squeezing even more savings out of the food budget! Prundent Homemaker is an awesome site with great ideas and help for those who really need to make their meals last..without spending too much money.
          THANKS SO MUCH MONEY SAVING MOM for all you do! You are such a help to so many ppl and I thank you so much!

  • I know you featured my page about why Sam’s Club is worth it to me, but I’ll link it again here for those who haven’t seen it:

    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/SamsClub.aspx

    We don’t have double coupons where I live, so Sam’s Club is cheaper for us for many things because of that. Also, I have had three children in diapers for the last five years (since I have 6 children 8 and under). The diaper deals can’t come fast enough for us . Sam’s Club diapers are .18 each for size 4 right now, and that’s not a bad price. I also love the quality of their diapers.

    We emailed back and forth, comparing prices before. Their prices on other chesses is fantastic, too–not just cheddar and mozarella, but parmesan, goat cheese, feta, emmenthal, and other imported cheeses. Having lived in France and Switzerland, where they have an entire center aisle of the grocery store for cheese (both sides!), I’ve come to love cheese even more!

    Your family is smaller and younger, but you many see significant savings when they are older and eat more.

    In the end, it depends on WHAT you eat and whether or not you can get better savings where you live.

  • Christy says:

    I’ve weighed in on this before. We are on a family member’s business membership so we don’t pay the membership fee. Several things are cheaper there: cheese, milk (I like the square gallons), some produce–if you can use that much quickly, meat (I hardly ever luck out at grocery stores for meat deals), diapers-wipes-pull ups-swim diapers (only once or twice have I been able to beat this with coupon deals). Cheapest place around for tires. We also bought our TV there after comparison shopping several places. We also have found furniture there a few times–I know a lot of you buy secondhand and so do we but a few times we have been searching for a specific piece for a specific spot or purpose and have just happened to see it there for a decent price. Mattresses. Gas.

    My husband usually does the Sam’s run–we both work full-time, but his hours vary so sometimes he is off on a weekday and can go while our son is at daycare. We used to go every other week but since I have started couponing, we go about once a month. I keep an excel file of items we like to purchase at Sam’s and how much they are per ounce or unit or whatever and then when I see a good sale/coupon match-up, I can determine if the price beats Sam’s or not–sometimes it does and I stock up; sometimes it does not! I do the grocery store and CVS runs with all the coupons in tow!

  • Renée says:

    I am a self employed mother of 3 kids, my husband and I are very involved in everything and we have very little time to lose, I LOVE saving money, since for me time is money so I can’t afford to waste either, I coupon & sale shop when I can, but I find my Costco membership to be a lifesaver, picture printing is quick and cheap, and where else can I buy 6 months worth of toilet paper, dish soap, and bleach for less that $20 each. I usually stop on my way home from work and load up on non-grocery essentials once every few months and I don’t have to worry about that stuff when I do my regular weekly shopping.

  • Maria says:

    One of the reasons we shop at Sam’s Club is because their produce is better quality than at stores like Aldi (at least in my area). Just because strawberries are cheaper at one store, doesn’t mean they’re actually better!

  • Christina says:

    It’s worth it for us. We split a Sam’s membership with my in-laws, so it’s only $20/family. Then we buy dog food and treats there, which saves us $20-30/year. We also regularly buy vanilla, chocolate chips and PB crackers there. I can occasionally get the chocolate chips and crackers for less, but never in large enough quantities to last until the next sale . . . and the vanilla is the cheapest I’ve seen anywhere.

    So while we’re saving a whole lot more by couponing, we are getting some convenience and at least breaking even on the membership.

  • Kim Nevels says:

    I’ve done price comparisons of many items in DFW, TX of these stores: Sam’s, Costco, Aldi (new to us here), and Walmart. I don’t really care about food coloring or organic foods, since our budget is too tight to be picky. Here’s what I discovered:
    SAMS & COSTCO are good for baking supply staples, raw nuts of any kind, generic OTC medicines (I get a killer deal on generic zyrtec!), meats, cheeses, and frozen fruits & veggies. The overpriced items are paper products (paper towels, tp, etc.), sodas, and most packaged convenience foods (cereal, granola bars, etc.). Clothing, electronics, and household supplies are moderately priced, but you can often find better prices by watching for sales and clearances at other stores. The gas prices are a usually a few pennies cheaper, but not worth going out of your way to fill up. Regular priced membership at Sams is $40 and at Costco is $50.
    ALDI is good for inexpensive produce and dairy. All other items are a good price if you don’t have time/desire to use coupons. I regularly get items much cheaper than Aldi matching coupons with sales.
    WALMART is also a good source if you don’t have time/desire for couponing and is even better if you use coupons. I still find better deals at grocery stores such as Kroger and Albertsons with a good sale and coupon match-up.
    CONCLUSION- It really depends on what your family needs. Since all 3 members of my household have bad allergies, the savings on Zyrtec alone are worth our Costco membership fee. However, when our yearly membership is about to expire, I go in and stock up on anything we’ll need for the next 6 months, then let my membership lapse for half a year before renewing. Other than the few things I buy at Costco, I mostly try to match grocery store sales with coupons to get the best savings.

  • I know you featured my page about why Sam’s Club is worth it to me; I tried to link it again here for those who haven’t seen it, but I have tried posting this comment five times and it won’t post, so perhaps your site isn’t allowing links. If anyone is looking for it, click on my name, click on shopping wisely in the navigation bar, and then click on Sam’s Club. You can also see a list of what I buy there.

    We don’t have double coupons where I live, so Sam’s Club is cheaper for us for many things because of that. Also, I have had three children in diapers for the last five years (since I have 6 children 8 and under). The diaper deals can’t come fast enough for us . Sam’s Club diapers are .18 each for size 4 right now, and that’s not a bad price. I also love the quality of their diapers.

    We emailed back and forth, comparing prices before. Their prices on other chesses is fantastic, too–not just cheddar and mozarella, but parmesan, goat cheese, feta, emmenthal, and other imported cheeses. Having lived in France and Switzerland, where they have an entire center aisle of the grocery store for cheese (both sides!), I’ve come to love cheese even more!

    Your family is smaller and younger, but you many see significant savings when they are older and eat more.

    In the end, it depends on WHAT you eat and whether or not you can get better savings where you live.

  • Annette says:

    I was just at Costco today, buying two cases of Kirkland water. That’s it. I actually had a good laugh with the person behind me in line because she pointed out how little I was buying (it’s so rare for me to see people without a cart overflowing there).

    Since I started couponing, I’ve compared prices on the things I buy and I get most things much cheaper at Target/Safeway/Fred Meyer. For us, it’s worth it for the few things we buy (and it’s fun to walk around and window shop). I was comparing prices with a friend the other day- she shops at Costco and was asking if it was cheaper. She named some of the things she buys there (yogurt, oatmeal, etc.) and we calculated the price per unit and compared to my average couponing price. My price was at least 50% cheaper on those items. She was amazed because she always thought Costco was much cheaper. I told her it is cheaper if you just want to walk into the store, buy what you want and leave. If you do that at Safeway, it’s going to be more expensive than Costco. But I like to coupon shop and hit multiple stores, it’s actually fun for me. If you don’t want to do that, then Costco is cheaper.

  • Al Sefati says:

    I am a single dad and I stopped going to cost co and Sams club because

    1. I didn’t want to renew my membership
    2. I didn’t want to buy more than I needed.

    When it comes to day to day grocery, imho, you have better choices at grocery stores and you can buy the amount you need not the amount they store wants you to buy.

  • Cindy says:

    I’ve found that after doing my cost list (I found it somewhere, to get a list/store of the stuff your family buys regularly) that some things are cheaper at our local Sam’s.
    Example: We eat LOTS of Olives so it’s typically cheaper to buy them as needed at Sam’s for about $7/6pk than it is to wait and buy LOTS when they are on sale with coupons-I do that too but as our house is older with limited storage space, it’s easier to just get the 6 cans at once and then in a month or 2 buy another.
    I had the same problem with not wanting to take my child to Sam’s-we found 2 solutions, either Daddy stops by for Paper Towels or Vinegar (which I use for cleaning) or a friend and I have a baby sitting ‘swap’ so once/month I keep her kids so she can go warehouse shopping and later she reciprocates.
    I guess in short-you just have to know what prices/item are available and if you do it’s a good idea to shop warehouse-but not for everything.

  • Marilyn says:

    My husband drives a lot for his work. It’s not unusual for him to save at least 5 cents per gallon for gas at Costco. Another great savings item is their coffee beans, the Kirkland brand beans are roasted by Starbucks and cost $10 for a 2 lb package. Their meat is always good quality. They don’t hide the fatty side of a roast on the bottom of the package like some of the grocery stores do.

  • Tanya Peila says:

    For us it REALLY depends on the item. For instance, toilet paper and havarti cheese is WAY cheaper at Costco and we are able to use it before it expires. However, things like potato chips not only are not healthy for us but we eat MASS amounts if we buy them at Costco!

  • I also stopped my membership several years ago, but I do love to tag along with my mother and use her membership. I just have to bring cash or pay her back with a check. I rarely do it, but I can generally get a good deal on a few things. It’s very easy to impulse buy and way-overspend there though.

  • Jen says:

    I used to be a big couponer; saving $70 or more per grocery trip. We now have 6 (soon to be 7) children and Costco makes so much sense for us. I think that as your family grows, you will find that your time is so much more valuable and warehouse shopping is a huge time saver, even if it doesn’t offer the most inexpensive prices in every case. I shop once a month for groceries (we have a big freezer) and it frees me up for more “mommy” stuff the rest of the time. Just my two cents!

  • Katie says:

    I run a daycare out of my home, so I use my Sam’s membership regularly. It saves money but really depends on the items. My sister-in-law has 4 kids, so she thinks that Sams is the best place regardless of if their prices are higher. When I started my daycare, I just bought all the crackers, canned meat, etc without thinking at Sam’s. Lately, I’ve been comparison shopping though. I now refuse to buy the Del Monte canned vegetables for what equals out to .80+ when I know that other stores take the price down to .50 or less if I have a coupon. I also don’t care to buy their canned fruit when I can get a 290z can from Aldi for cheaper than buying in bulk at Sams. However, some items I have to say are better/cheaper at Sam’s and make the membership worth the price for both daycare and our family of 3 (husband, wife, 13month):

    Canned meats (chicken, turkey are expensive everywhere else, and I’ve found very few coupons for these items)
    Steaks (our whole family loves the price and quality of their steaks)
    Infant/Toddler clothes (I can get Carter’s clothes really cheap there)
    Formula (Sams takes the Similac or Enfamil checks)
    Gas (at least .05 cheaper)

    The items I best like to buy at Sams regardless of their price are the Tyson Dino Nuggets and the State Fair corn dogs. These have a CN (Children’s Nutrition label) so I know that my daughter and the daycare kids are getting the proper meat/bread requirements while still eating their favorite kid foods. I haven’t been able to find the chicken nuggets with the CN label anywhere else where we live.

  • Leah says:

    We shop at Costco a lot. Enough so that we get our executive membership paid for every year. My kiddo uses pullups and most of the time, they’re cheaper here reg. price v. sale/coupons elsewhere, even counting store brands. We also earn 2% cash back for purchases. not a lot, by any stretch, but tires, recent furniture purchases, etc. generally pay for our membership. Plus, their prime sirloin steaks are amazing and inexpensive!

  • Trixie says:

    For just my husband and I we’ve found that a wholesale club (Sam’s in our area) just doesn’t save us the money. We end up saving a lot more by picking up items on sale and using coupons at our local grocery store. I’m so not a fan of club store layouts — so huge and wherehouse-ish.

    But, my sister who has 7 kids finds that Sam’s is a great deal for their family because they buy a lot of stuff in bulk.

  • Adriane says:

    There are several things that I like to buy at Costco:
    – Bread Flour 50 lb $10.89
    – All-Purpose Flour 25 lb $5.35 or 50 lb $10.35
    – Brown Sugar 25 lb $13.25
    – Powdered Sugar 50 lb $25.59
    – Sugar 10 lb $5.39 or 25 lb $12.79 or 50 lb $24.99
    – Baking Soda 13.5 lb $4.69
    – Yeast 32 oz $3.99
    – Vanilla 16 oz $6.69
    – Lemon Juice 96 oz $4.99
    – Long Grain Rice 50lb $14.39
    – Thai Jasmine Rice 50 lb $31.35
    – Basmati Rice 20 lb $13.99
    – Bottled Water 35 bottles $3.49
    – dry beans (haven’t priced them recently, but I recall them being less than $.50 per pound)

    Anything that’s in a giant container (like beans, rice, sugar…) I measure into smaller freezer bags so that it’s just like having a bunch of normal-sized packages. I’ve found this site helpful (www.stilltasty.com) for deciding whether it’s worth it to buy something in bulk. For instance, sugar doesn’t really go bad, so I have no reason not to stock up if I can buy it for my target price. Flour is good for a couple of years, especially if it’s stored in the freezer, so that’s a good buy too.

    They also sell boneless skinless chicken breasts for (oh no!) $2.79 per pound. I prefer not to buy that at Costco since I try to stock up at less than $2.00, but if we’re out of chicken I buy it here. I love that they are sold in smaller sealed sections so I don’t have to wash it and re-package it before freezing.

  • Crystal, how long does it take you to shop at Dillon’s? Sam’s Club is only 2 miles further than Smith’s for me. Smith’s takes an hour (by myself) and Target, which is even closer, can take at least 30 minutes to an hour for me.

    Perhaps the time difference for you is because you buy so much less at a time than I do. When I tried and tripled a recipe of yours (which you did for freezing for 2 other meals) it made just enough for my family for ONE meal. So, when I buy food, I need time to load more into the cart. 🙂

    Your savings are significant; I would still love to see more details of your shopping trips. The double coupon deals you get are so great; I would love to get all the free items that you do.

    When I’m able to go shopping again, I’ll be renewing my Sam’s membership. We go through a gallon jar of mayo a month (making salad dressing and in other recipes), use a gallon of vinegar a month in our dishwasher to cut the hard water, and I’d love to buy more diapers. I also look forward to buying almonds and pecans again; the price on nuts is significant at Sam’s.

  • Tammy L says:

    Crystal, wow! Thank you for linking to my post! 🙂

    I didn’t even mention gas in my post about Costco… here, it seems that Costco gas is similar in price to AM/PM gas, although I’ve heard rumors that Costco’s gas is better quality for the price… who knows? So I don’t figure that into my savings since AM/PM is right down the road from us too 🙂

    Also, Crystal — it sounds like the items you can find cheaper at Sam’s are non-perishable, meaning it would be easy to tag along with a friend every 6 months or so and stock up! 🙂 I was like that about 6-8 years ago when we were living in Missouri and a friend there went to Sam’s. I would NOT have wanted a Sam’s membership at that time! 🙂

    Do you usually get your produce at Aldi’s, or do you find it cheaper? I think Costco is about Aldi’s price for produce (like — carrots for 50 cents a pound, romaine for 50 cents a head) but maybe better quality… we don’t have an Aldi’s here though, and we go through TONS of fresh fruit and veggies! All those salads really add up! 🙂

    • @Tammy L, Sam’s Club carries carrots for .39 a pound here. While I don’t buy a lot of produce at Sam’s, as we grow a lot oursleves, their price on carrots is the best one around!

      • Tammy L says:

        @The Prudent Homemaker, great price! 🙂 I think the Business Costco here may have cheaper carrots (non-organic). 🙂

        Do you find that Sam’s Club carries a lot of organic items, or not so much?

        • @Tammy L, Honestly, I haven’t really looked. I hear that Costco has a lot of organic produce, though. I live within walking distance of Costco, but I drive about 6 minutes to Sam’s Club because the things I buy there are cheaper (balsamic vinegar is about 60% cheaper at Sam’s Club; a 1 liter bottle is under $5 and I use it all the time!)

          The only produce I buy from Sam’s are apples (often, but not always cheaper than the grocery store; it depends on when, so I buy whereever is cheapest at the time), carrots, lettuce and spinach (when mine are not growing).

          We really grow a lot at home, even though we have a small yard. And right now, if I’m not growing it, I’m not eating it. I haven’t done any regular shopping since early December. But this week we had apricots, artichokes, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, rosemary, carrots, and blackberris from our garden!

          Buying organic isn’t first on my list; being able to buy food is. We haven’t been able to do that almost at all for the last few years, so the lowest sales price wins for me. I have to have the funds to purchase it, too; it doesn’t matter how great of a sale it is if I have to go into debt to buy it! I only buy when I have cash to do so.

  • Natalie says:

    You definitely have to know what is cheaper and what is not, b/c just because it’s at Costco, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cheaper. I have found that when Costco puts out coupons, occasionally the items are cheaper. I buy those from them if we need them or need to stock up. I also buy honey and maple syrup there (which is definitely cheaper than grocery store). I have found it cheaper for throwing parties as well. To buy good lunch meat and all it’s fixin’s for a picnic….Costco is the best and cheaper! I think of it as getting better quality for less than the grocery store. It might not be the cheapest you can find out there, but quality ranks up there too. 🙂

  • Shelly :) says:

    My husband and I don’t have any kids (right now) 🙂 but have a Costco membership. We see the most savings being able to fill up our cars with gas. On average it’s about .15-.20 cents cheaper a gallon. I work less than 5 minutes from one and they built another one about 10 minutes from our house a year ago. We also have the Costco Amex which adds up surprisingly.

    Granted, Costco doesn’t price match so we have been able to find things cheaper elsewhere on sale.

  • Holly says:

    We find that our daughter’s favorite organic milk, my husband’s shower gel, pet food and cat litter are cheaper at Sam’s. Having a one year old, my favorite feature is the Click’n’Pull. We put our order in online a day or two ahead of time and it’s ready waiting for me in a cart at the Member’s Service desk when I get there. All I have to do is pay and I’m on my way.

  • Kathryn says:

    Wherever you shop, it really all comes down to unit pricing, time, gas, selection, etc. Many folks think the big “wholesale” stores are automatically cheaper but when you actually calculate the unit price on an item, it doesn’t necessarily come out cheaper than let’s say your usual grocery store. Even if it does come out cheaper per ounce, per diaper, per package, etc., did it cost you any extra in time and gas to get that particular savings? I am certainly not against Sam’s Club, Costco, BJ’s, etc…don’t want folks to get “mesmerized” about what those stores can initially make you think (whether or not you pay for the annual membership or not). The best thing I like about Sam’s Club is that I can get my “free lunch” by tasting all the samples! :>)

  • karen says:

    I live in NYC and the supermarkets are ridiculously overpriced. Since I have started couponing, we get some groceries from Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid using their rr, ECBs, or SCRs. We do have a BJs membership and go about once a month to shop because a lot of their prices are better than supermarkets. Whatever is cheaper at the supermarkets gets bought there and we stock pile on those items.

  • Lisa says:

    I like Costco for food (and tires!!). I buy the same way I have been at the grocery stores – I stock up when their coupon books come out. I’ve learned what routinely has a coupon and I space my purchases to try and match the coupon cycle. It is NOT as cheap as only shopping the grocery stores with MSM’s tips, however, it works for us at this time in our life – 4 kids and a spouse that travels. I want to be here when he is here – not at the grocery store. So, it works. I know the trade off and when he is home more, we can go back to shopping more at the grocery store and CVS for the freebees! I will admit, I hate to BUY something that I used to only get for free at CVS, but relaxing time on the weekends with hubby – well, that is priceless!!

    • Christy says:

      @Lisa, Their coupon books do provide great savings (whereas Sam’s Club does not offer coupons at all) and now I know how often some of those items appear in the coupon books & when, like chocolate chips. Since they are generally only in the coupon books once a year, we really stock up! Plus Costco just has a lot of fun products they offer … we are hooked on their dried mango & berry mix. Yum!

  • Kristl says:

    I’ve also done some research on this topic, & I agree…it depends on your shopping style! If you hate clipping coupons, have a big family & plenty of storage space…warehouse clubs are for you! The “traps” seem to be in the huge section of package, prepared foods!

  • Mary says:

    I offer to watch my cousin’s kids every so often so she can run errands. She has a membership at Costco, I don’t. In exchange, she gets a few things for me, I give her the cash and the freedom to go without kids. There’s very little there I’d buy to justify a membership fee, but she gets things like gluten free crackers, big bags of rice, that kind of thing for me when I ask, and I’m sure I’ve more than saved her the membership fee in free babysitting over the years.

    Works for us, she has good kids otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it to me. LOL

  • jen says:

    Sam’s Club ~~NO NO NO Not great at all, way too processed, prices soso.

    Costco ~~~ YES YES YES big savings on organics. Organic fruit especially!

  • Renee says:

    We don’t have any of the grocery chains here covered by most blogs (even though the city is over 200,000). We have a CVS and Walgreens and two local grocery stores which – other than an occasional good deal with a coupon – are more expensive than Walmart. So I shop at Walmart and Sam’s (although since I began really couponing a year ago, my Sam’s trips are much smaller and less frequent than they sued to be). Now, the only things I buy at Sam’s are chocolate chips, bottled water, cheese, butter, sometimes milk unless on sale elsewhere, some discounted meat and Splenda. Also, I do occassionally buy popcorn and hot chocolate and bottled water. I sometimes buy clothing, shoes and books there, too…and gas. I have never broken it down, but I suspect my overall savings is not huge. I do enjoy the convenience of going when I want to, though. That is why I pay for my own membership rather than using my Mother’s or something.

  • Chipy says:

    I think that Sam’s Club and places like that have a value and we can save around $40 each time we go there. Granted I had to do a price comparison of everything on our list and I am not very good a using coupons because I can usually find a generic for cheaper (but I am trying). You have to be careful though because those stores want you to think everything is a good deal. Also it depends on the other options you have for stores. I for one do not have an Aldi’s close by or I would shop no where else (I used to have one until we moved). So you really have to check out your local area and what is the best deal for you.

  • tammy says:

    It is totally different for each family. Anytime 3 yrs. ago or prior, it would have never been worth it to me. Now, I do the majority of our shopping at Costco. You just have to take a good long trip through one (take a notebook, go home and do some math) to decide whether it’s worth it for your family or not.

  • Courtney says:

    There are several items we buy at Sam’s that make a membership worthwhile for us. First of all, their gas prices are by far the cheapest in our area. Other bargains are the 50# bags of popcorn, baking supplies, spices, ketchup, salsa, olives, artichoke hearts, tea, rice, cheese (they have a great selection of many varieties of cheese from around the world), vinegar and kitty litter. We eat organic meat, dairy and produce so do not buy many of those products at Sam’s – wish they had a better selection of organic items. Their frozen marinated wild-caught salmon filets are awesome, though! My husband buys his t-shirts and golf balls there, and we just got a great price on a high-quality outdoor basketball hoop for the kids there.

  • Emily Mellander says:

    My grocery budget is $160 a month for 4 of us, we live in a small town with expensive grocery stores (Fred Meyer -Kroger being the cheapest) and we only own one vehicle. I was doing a lot of couponing until I had my second child and then it became too exhausting chasing coupon deals and then I ended up spending way more on stuff we didn’t need because it was a deal. I have been picking up numerous things in bulk at Costco lately and am finding that it’s saving me a lot of money. I don’t buy much, maybe 4-5 things every 3-4 weeks, but those things that I do buy there I find I save a lot of money picking up there vs. Fred Meyer. I also get my laundry soap there (Ecos) and I LOVE it. It lasts forever in my front loading washing machine and I think that it actually has been preserving our clothing incredibly because of the lack of artificial/chemical junk.

  • Beth says:

    We have a Sam’s membership that we share with my inlaws. Last year, they covered the cost for us but we usually split it. I shop there solely because of their Click n Pull service. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s free with your membership. You go to their website, add all your groceries to your online cart, checkout and they pull them for you. You arrive at the store at the day/time you choose and they are waiting for you! Takes about 10 minutes on a busy day (they have to get the carts from frozen and refrigerated sections then you checkout and pay). This is a very important service for me because of my two little ones. It takes forever to shop with them. I have my shopping list saved on Sam’s website so I can go in and click what I need without looking it up again. This saves so much time!! I go once a month and pick up anything else we need at the local grocery store. If BJ’s ever gets this service, I’ll go there because of the manufacturer’s and store coupons! This method has saved us a lot of time and money because I plan our meals around the items I get at Sam’s (bread flour, tortilla shells, sugar, tomato paste, chicken, spices, frozen blueberries, strawberries, organic milk, butter, etc).

  • JOy says:

    I think it really depends on the family. But, for my family, I have decided that it isn’t a great choice. I finally let my membership expire this year. I have found that good sales w/ coupons is cheaper for most items. I do however have a few items that I still find to be cheaper at Sam’s and I just have a friend pick them up for me every so often.

    Here are the things I find to be cheaper that my family uses:

    Chicken and Beef Base
    Construction Paper
    Feta Cheese
    Vanilla Extract
    Spices
    Curel Lotion – the only kind my husband likes
    Chocolate Chips – I know you can find these cheaper during the holiday season, but I never seem to be able to stock enough of these to last the whole year.

  • Lori says:

    I definitely think it depends on what your family buys, but I tested out shopping at Sam’s, then Costco, then couponing and going to several different places. I save HUNDREDS of more $$’s a month not shopping at Sam’s and Costco. The deals are never as good as those you can get with coupons, etc.

  • Lisa D. (kerry daughter) says:

    We love Costco, once or twice a month, for… first of all, dog food (half what I paid at Petco) for our two huge German Shepherds. Then, we also love the bread flour, rice, cheese, tomato sauce, etc. The produce at ours is also very nice–not also cheap, but very nice quality (potatoes, carrots, broccoli, lettuce…) The key, I think, is to avoid the processed foods and impulse buys. For our three hungry teens, parents, and dogs, Costco helps, in addition to coupons and the other stores.

  • Andrea Q says:

    There is a free one-day shopping pass to Sam’s Club in this month’s “All You” magazine.

  • Melodie says:

    I have a membership because of the milk. It is between $.75 and $1.00 cheaper at BJ’s than at the grocery stores around here. We use about 4 gallons of milk/week, so the membership pays for itself within 10 weeks. I go once every 6 weeks or so and stock up on the milk to put in the freezer. I also get bread and cheese and some other things while I’m there since it is often priced slightly lower than the grocery store. But I wouldn’t actually get a membership and make special trips for those things alone. The milk is what puts us over the edge to pay the fee and bother going at all. Crystal is right. The deals don’t pay for themselves if you are only looking at $.10/lb difference on most items just for the trouble of going there instead of the grocery store.

  • Veronica says:

    We recently did great on prescription glasses for my husband. We saved over $100 compared to some of the other quotes we received. Also, I buy Frontline Plus and Glucosamine for my dogs online and they are shipped free to the house. We love the fruit – especially the apples and the yeast and some of the other baking ingredients are priced very well. I almost always buy bathroom tissue there since I like the big packages of that, and with some of their coupons I can do very well. I almost always buy our health and beauty products at CVS and Walgreens since I usually can get freebies there. This weekend we’re having a graduation party for dd, and I’m buying most of the food from Costco. We have 2 teens and lots of their friends over, so Costco is usually a good deal for us. I know prices well and compare as I shop though.

  • Ashlee says:

    If you have a baby on formula and are fine using store brand formula the savings at Sams Club or Costco is HUGE. Unfortunately neither place has a soy formula in their store brand which is what my baby drinks.

    We just recently got a free membership to Sams through my Dad. We went once and went through every aisle to price things. The vast majority of things I can get cheaper with coupons and sales. However we are a small family and I have the time to coupon and hit up all the sales. If we were a much larger family and I worked full time I can see how these stores can save money/time. I felt all their prices were good, but not great. My son is cloth diapered at least half of the time, so I can wait for great prices on disposable diapers and would never buy those at Sams.

    I feel like they are priced slightly higher than Aldi’s for produce, but Sams has a MUCH larger selection which Aldi’s is lacking. We stocked up on individual packs of peanut butter crackers for my husbands lunch, bottled spring water and olive oil. We saw the ink prices were really great too.

  • I had four growning sons at home and tried Sam’s warehouse a couple of times. The thing that I noticed was when I bought in bulk, they ate in bulk. So what little I did save by shopping there ( and it was very little)was gone by how quickly they ate it. Actually, now that I think about it, I spent more because of how quickly they could eat the bulk food!

  • Linda says:

    I love Costco – we shop there about once a month and stock up on things like butter sticks, plain yogurt, frozen fruit, honey, flour, sugar, almond butter (best price anywhere!!!), nuts, paper products, 8 grain bread, etc. I love the quality of costco – I can find nitrate free hot dogs and bacon, organic ground beef (for only $4.33/lb!!!), and a lot of other items that are free of artifical colors/flavors, and other chemicals/preservatives. I do not care for their produce though. It seems like the items we have gotten there never taste as good as Meijer’s produce. It’s definitely worth the membership cost for us, even if it is a bit of a drive. I find myself buying more and more there simply because of the lack of chemicals, preservatives, and the cost is great! I do wish they would take manuf. coupons (we can only use the Costco coupons they send us once a month). I also have to be careful about sticking to my budget! 🙂
    I also shop at Meijer weekly for items such as milk (Costco has a good price but I hate their milk containers!), OJ, tons of fresh produce, and items that are a great deal.

  • Erin says:

    I agree with Tammy that Costco has very high quality products at good prices (for the most part). My husband and I both feel that eating organics and other high quality foods improves our quality of life and helps us stay healthier – therefore we are willing to pay a little bit more to get a better product.

  • Cristina says:

    We bought our laminate flooring a few years ago from sams and got a good deal. I too used to think in the past that Sams saved me money until I discovered blogs like this. My membership just expired and I am not renewing it. I’ve been getting all kinds of items for super cheap or free at drugstores/ grocery stores that it’s not worth going to sams in my opinion. I hear people saying all the time about how they can get a huge box of diapers for SO cheap at wholesale clubs and I just smile because I know it’s not true when you are using coupons. But most people around me think I’m so crazy for using coupons and all the other stuff it takes to get cheap/ free items! I think it’s crazy not to! So for my family at least for now no more sams!

  • Heather says:

    Helps us eat better. Olive oil, etc. Just went today, and got a 12 oz. package of great quality blackberries for $1.98! So much higher at the reg. store that I can’t bring myself to buy them.

    Crystal, in a few years, when your kids are plowing through the food, it may be worth it to you. I can see why it’s not now.

  • Julie says:

    When I read about the food coloring in the cheddar cheese, I had to go to my freezer to pull out my Sam’s club cheddar cheese to see for myself. The ingredient list says Annato coloring.

    • Crystal says:

      It’s possible they changed it — which would be wonderful! But I know beyond a doubt when we bought the block cheese last year it said “artificial yellow #” in the ingredient list. Much to my great dismay. 🙁

  • Leslie says:

    I think the wholesale clubs can be a good value… but it depends on your situation and what you are shopping for. I’m fortunate in two ways… 1. My Sam’s Business Membership is paid for under the umbrella of my Mom’s boyfriend’s business, and 2. My Sam’s is only about 1.5 miles from my house. I get up early on Saturday, head to Sam’s, pick up a couple of things, fill my tank up (usually about .15/gallon cheaper than anywhere else close by). I have some specific items I always get there because generally I can’t find them cheaper, and their deals on photo developing, books and cds are usually much better than I can find anywhere else (although the selection is much smaller). I recently found a compost bin there that I’d had my eye on at Lowe’s, but it was $60 cheaper at Sam’s — I took it as a sign and bought it as a “Happy-4oth-To-Me!” present to myself. Anyway, since its not but two minutes out of my way, I can shop by myself, and then I just continue on with my normal errand running, and I don’t pay for the membership… I love Sam’s. But definitely not always the cheapest! To take real advantage of it, you have to know your price points!

  • Lisette says:

    The taco seasoning is a great deal at Sam’s too! Of course, we may use an unnatural volume of it compared to most!

  • Jill says:

    The Costco membership would be worth it even if all I bought there was their Kirkland brand baby formula. It’s approx $10 per can (you have to buy it in a 2 pk) but it’s less expensive than anything else that I’ve found and when you’re formula feeding twins, you go through A LOT of formula!!!

  • Denise says:

    I LOVE Costco. Like so many have said, they have great quality products for low prices. Their meat quality is higher than the USDA standard! My family and extended family are avid Costco shoppers for everything from flowers (where else can you find two dozen, long-stem roses for 15.99????) to cakes (9lbs of cake for 15.99!), breads, restaurant-quality cheese, great quality frozen meatballs, and so much more! Don’t get me started on the incredible olive oil, pure vanilla, spice rubs, pepper grinders—I’ll stop now. We have purchased our TVs, tires, phones, computers, Keurig coffee maker (came with 90 K-cups and the reusable filter for same price at most stores for just the machine itself) and digital cameras there also. They extend the manufacturer’s warranty and offer great customer service for returns. Speaking of Costco, the treadmill we just ordered arrives tomorrow–two whole weeks ahead of the estimated date. I LOVE COSTCO! I promise to stop now. 🙂

    • Christy says:

      @Denise, I agree wholeheartedly! Their cakes are INCREDIBLE, although ticked they got rid of their strawberry mousse filling (what??? That was the BEST!!!). Their flowers are beautiful & sooooo much cheaper than anywhere else and they are huge bouquets. They have a great spice collection & most are organic. We find that their string cheese is cheaper at their regular price than when it goes on sale at Meijer. Our kids LOVE string cheese! Their real butter sticks are also a steal as is their huge block of cream cheese. We also love their homemade cheese pizzas and purchase them when they go on sale. Yum! We love our Costco membership, the quality of their food, their delicious bakery and all they have to offer.

  • Lee says:

    Up until tis month i have avoided wholesale. But as I just had my 3rd baby I watched my grocery bill climb as my other 2 boys get bigger and I have less time to shop. We don’t eat prepackaged foods but the price of spices, yeast, flour, sugar, and organic veggies will pay for itself very quickly. My family has gone through over 10lbs of produce this week alone. When i can regularly buy the produce at my target price I will elsewhere, but Costco it is for now. I also live in a land of no double coupons and my Aldi’s and walmart have bad produce here.

  • Jillbert says:

    Nope. Not frugal for my family either. I just didn’t like shopping at so vast a store. It was neither quick nor convenient to run in there (and we live close to one….I’m talking about the size of the store). All the flour was bleached (I use unbleached or whole wheat) and the milk wasn’t that much cheaper (my family does not drink a lot of milk). I’m happy with an Aldi’s run where I can be in and out in a flash. I’m just not a big box consumer store kind of gal.

    • Hannah says:

      @Jillbert, I actually think Costco is quicker and more convenient than the grocery stores. There is room for your cart and you can breeze through the aisles. Prices and location don’t change so you can easily memorize where your staples are in the store and how much they cost, pick them up and be done! The longest and most inconvenient part is the check out.

      • Christy says:

        @Hannah, I think Costco is quicker too. Huge carts, give you more room to stick your items & kids if needed. Big roomy aisles and everything is laid out nicely & easy to grab. The checkout is definitely the longest part, but even then, if you go early or during the week, it’s much faster to check out.

  • Susan J says:

    I was at Costco tonight, after reading this post…and noticed the coloring for the cheddar cheese is the annatto (or however you spell it!) you mentioned. I was happy about that. =)

  • kelly says:

    This is the way I make it work…

    BUY your next set of TIRES at Sam’s! Not only do they have awesome prices, but as long as you have an active membership, your TIRE ROTATIONS ARE FREE for as long as you own your tires (along with the standard flat-fix service and air pressure checks). So, for us, we own two vehicles with tires from Sam’s, and membership is only $40 per year. It would cost us at least $30-50 to rotate the tires on each vehicle twice per year (approx $200 per year), so even if we never actually shop at Sam’s, we’re still saving.

    On top of that, the Sam’s brand of stuff is usually cheaper than in a reg. store even w/coupons, and even still I buy our usuals there (like 3 DiGorino pizzas for $12 and 5 lunchables for $5 for those times when there is no time!). I get great deals on meat, and they do mark theirs down, too, near expiration!

    We also find great deals on casual clothing, too!

    My caveat, I think, that gets a lot of people is that usually I find it cheaper to buy smaller quantities and pair with sales & coupons on big BRAND names (Huggies, Charmin, Bounty, Cascade, All, Nabisco, Kelloggs, General Mills, etc).

    So, If my membership itself is actually saving me money, then I can actually look at the face value of stuff when buying to decide if its a bargain or not. I just don’t buy everything there.

  • SarahMay says:

    Our Sam’s Club membership is worth it just for the disposable diapers. I’ve struggled to find good sales/coupons for diapers in our area, and the Member’s Mark generic brand at Sam’s has worked great for my kids. (We also get a few other things cheaply there; others have already mentioned the good deals.)

    I also consider Sam’s the ONLY store I can take my three kids (ages three and under) to by myself: big carts, lots of things to see, and free cookies at the bakery! It’s like a field trip. : ) We try to time our trips for the food samples, too!

    It IS hard not to impulse-buy at Sam’s, and is much more expensive when you do. I shop with a strict list and cash only so that I can avoid the temptation to get too much fun food!

  • Carolyn says:

    I have struggled with this very question. For several years I have been a loyal Sam’s Club shopper. I bought 80% of my groceries and staples there. We went once a month, and when we ran out, we ran out. Old Mother Hubbard had nothing on us at the end of the month. Our cupboards were BARE.

    When the economy got worse and expenses increased, I cut my grocery bill in half by being creative and doing without. For example, I would buy a chicken one night, have a chicken casserole the next two nights and for the rest of the week eat homemade chicken noodle soup.

    A few months ago, I was working a shift at a consignment sale and told the other ladies that I had cut my grocery bills in half. They assumed that I must coupon. I periodically clipped coupons, but nothing like now after these ladies introduced me to several blogs like this one.

    I have been at this couponing for 2 1/2 months now and have only been to Sam’s once, during the beginning of this journey. I have not missed it. A few things are cheaper, just like you mentioned, honey and yeast, for example. However, many things are more expensive, like meat, milk, and toiletries. Also, during the past year, I have had several quality issues with food purchased at Sam’s. Often, fruit, meat, dairy, or other perishables would spoil way before the expiration date. A bargain isn’t a bargain if it just goes in the trash.

    Also, lately Sam’s has been trying to sell me on a deluxe membership for $100 instead of the $40, promising that I’d save at least $200 a year. I smelled a rat. It made me very uneasy to have to spend all that money up front just to make money.

    The flipside is that I spend much less time on groceries three months ago. Sam’s does make it easier.

  • Naomi says:

    Our household only consists of my husband and myself. We have two adult children that visit us once in a while but they both live in other states so it is rare. We belong to COSTCO and it does pay for us. COSTCO sends coupons once a month and I go through them, check the ones I would like to use and then go shopping. Sometimes I find even with their coupons that it is cheaper to shop at Super Target or my grocery store when I use my own coupons. But much of the time the coffee, meat, veggies and yogurt are cheaper at COSTCO, even the detergent. And just the hearing aid batteries for my husband save us the cost of a membership over a year.

  • dana says:

    As a family of 13, our Costco business membership ($100) pays for it’s self many times over! We save more than the cost of the membership just in what we save buying milk alone for a year. We also get 2% back, which puts at least $100 above the membership back into our pockets.

    Our family full-time RVs, and we travel extensively. There are Costcos everywhere, and I know that when I buy meat and produce, they will be excellent quality. I have a hard time couponing much when we are putting on the miles, and I appreciate that Costco will have quality items when I am in an area where I am not familiar with the grocery store chains. Costco is easily my favorite store 🙂

  • Ginny says:

    We get back the price of our membership in gas savings, so for us, a membership at Sam’s Club is worthwhile. We don’t buy as much there as we used to, but for cat and dog food, cat litter, spices, and such, I can’t beat their prices. Right now, with five adults living in our household, buying in bulk is the way to go, as long as it’s economical.

  • Michelle says:

    We belong to Costco just for their meat…much better quality and I’m fine paying extra on that. Plus it’s easier to get diapers & formula there with two young boys. But the way we shop Costco, I know I’m not being frugal because I swear I can never get out of there without spending at least $200!

  • Hannah says:

    Wow, 111 comments! Not sure if mine will add anything. I found this website and began couponing back in February. I LOVE it and I have saved SO much. BUUUT . . . I also love Costco. I used to shop at SAM’s but switched to Costco and the quality and variety cannot be compared. But that’s beside the point.

    Only occasional sales at grocery stores can match (or very rarely) beat Costco’s prices on dairy. Shoppers’ (one local store) recently advertised their eggs at 88 cents/dozen. That is the price I pay at Costco ANY time I need eggs. I don’t have to wait for a sale. Same goes for milk, cheese, sour cream, half n half, butter, etc. It’s nice to know there is a go-to place for those staples and I don’t have to wait for a good sale. Same goes flour (yay for 25 lb bags of flour!). With the amount of baking I do, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to buy it in so many little bags.

    I also buy lunch meat, honey, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes (2 odd dollars for a 105 oz. can!), vegetable oil, olive oil (if it weren’t for Costco, I couldn’t afford it), peanut butter, carrots ( 10 pounds of organic goodness will keep in the fridge for a while). What else . . . ? With the canned tomato products, I usually cook the whole can of sauce into a scrumptious spaghetti sauce, and the diced tomatoes I divide into smaller jars (saved jam jars) and freeze.

    The gas prices alone are worth the membership, I think.

    I used to buy cereal, pasta, coffee, there but since I started couponing I’m getting those for much better prices elsewhere.

    All in all, I’d say both are good and worth whatever you have to put into them, whether it’s time or money.

  • Missy says:

    There isn’t a Costco close enough to make it worthwhile for me. However, I’ve had a mango salsa from there that is absolutely fantastic!! If you shop there, you’ve got to try it.

    I go to Sam’s for certain items. We use half & half in our coffee and the price at Sam’s can’t be beat at a grocery store. We also occasionally pick up a case of Snapple iced tea. Bottled water is cheaper there, too. Their bakery products are much cheaper if you ever need a pie or cake for a party and don’t have time to bake.

    Since I’ve started couponing, I go to Sam’s alot less.

  • We have a BJs near us and I have a free membership because my mom was able to add an extra person to her account- a bonus for her is that she gets rewards back for purchases that I make.
    I love that I can combine BJs coupons with manny coupons but I always keep an eye on the cost per unit to make sure I am getting a better deal than I can at regular stores. I never buy diapers in bulk because they are way more expensive even with the BJs coupons than I can get at CVS, etc. The quality and the price of the meat is great too and I have a chest freezer to store all of it.
    If I didn’t have a membership through my mom it would be no big deal to ask her or my in-laws to pick up some stuff for me.
    My 3 year old son loves when we go to BJs because they always have free food samples- I love them too because they keep him quiet for a little while so I can shop!

  • You make some good points! I think one of the greatest reasons to have a membership to Costco is that it’s a little source of entertainment for us! We like to go there to pick up milk, but there’s tons of “window shopping” to do and lots to see there!

  • Rae says:

    I go to Costco every week with my dad (they have a membership) but only for the samples and to look for the clearance deals. I have never found an item there to be cheaper than I can get with sale/coupons at my regular stores unless it was a clearance item (have gotten some good deals with them). My dad likes the convenience so he buys produce (especially bananas because they go through them like crazy), drinks, eggs, etc there. I have the time to put into couponing and sale watching so I don’t. For instance milk is $1.99-$2.29 there depending on whether milk is cheap at the time or not. Well it is $1.78 at Walmart right now (and for the past few weeks) and I very frequently get it on markdown at Kroger for $1-$1.50 per gallon so I never buy it at Costco. This past weekend I got eggs 3 dozen for $1 (they were medium when I usually buy large but for that price I don’t care) on sale which beat Costco’s $1.66 for 18ct. And about 2 weeks ago I got 18ct (of the large ones) for $.88 at Kroger… also beat Costco. Bananas are $.41/lb at Costco. Walmart has them on sale (and has for the past few weeks) for $.35/lb. The list goes on and on. The only thing I bought from Costco not on markdown was their store brand formula and even that was just if I needed it and the Target brand wasn’t currently on sale for cheaper.

  • Lori S. says:

    I shop at BJs for a short list of things (cheese, spices, veggie burgers, honey, choc chips, and baby wipes), but have NEVER bought a membership. Get on their mailing list — a couple of times a year you should be sent a coupon for a free 60 or 90-trial membership. Sometimes you can print these coupons online, too. It gives you all the benefits of membership, including the discount at their gas pumps. When I have the free trial membership card I just stock up right before it expires to get me through the next few months until they offer another free trial.

  • Alisha says:

    I use the free shopping pass for Sams from my Parent magazines.. the only thing I find worth buying there though is cheese ($10 for 5 lb bag of shredded cheddar/mozz.) I take it home and divide it into 10 8-oz bags.

  • Suzanne says:

    It’s certainly a personal choice about whether it’s valuable, depending on what your family buys, proximity to a wholesale club, etc., but I definitely think it can save you money if you’re strategic about it. I actually have an article with tips that I’ve found useful for getting the most out of shopping at wholesale clubs at:

    http://www.laughingwallet.com/wholesale-clubs.html

    But like you said, if it’s not worth it for you, then it’s not! I personally have a Sam’s Club membership, and I find it worth it, particularly when I can buy gas there as well as groceries. Sam’s routinely has very competitive gas prices where I live!

  • Blakely says:

    My husband and I gave up our Sam’s Club membership years ago and we don’t miss it all. We didn’t save any money at all buy shopping there. It was actually costing us money.

  • Great discussion.. Very interesting thoughts here. I’ll add my 2 cents…

    We save a ton of money shopping at Sam’s on a large variety of products. (with the exception of a few items I don’t buy there). The gas savings alone as Sam’s is worth the $30 year membership for us… We pay for the membership many times over in just the gas savings filling up my large SUV.

    Several years ago, I was a full time couponer and saved a ton of money..but it wasn’t without a lot of time planning and organizing and a lot of time shopping at many different stores with many different trips. As my family has grown, I’ve had to alter my shopping strategies because of the demands of “mommy life” with a lot of little ones and now our distance from these stores. Now I’m a part-time couponer and use other strategies to save money on our groceries.

    I’ve found the opposite to be true when shopping at Aldi– Sam’s is much cheaper in my area and the quality of product far exceeds Aldi and Sav-a-lot. I tried to like Aldi but it just couldn’t compare to Costco and Sam’s. I ended up taking back too many things to Aldi.

  • Patrice says:

    Just an FYI – Sam’s will let you get 2 membership cards for each membership purchased and they do not require you to be in the same household as the other cardholder. I share a membership with one of my girlfriends and we each pay half of the fee. It makes having a membership much more “worth it”.

  • Tiffany says:

    We also shop at Sam’s Club. I save over $200/year on baking supplies, meat, and cleaning supplies!

    However, one thing you said in your post made me question whether I should renew it or not. I do buy cheese at Sam’s and after your statement about them using artificial dyes in their cheese, I became concerned. So, next time I went to buy cheese, I looked at the label and then came home and looked up what the coloring is. It is something called Annatto Color. It is actually plant derived and used in most red food colors and lots of other cooking things. There isn’t anything bad about it that I could find…

    I am breathing a sigh of relief and going back today to buy some cheese!

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