Laurie and Shannon from Passionate Penny Pincher compared prices on dozens of products at Sam’s Club and Costco to discover Who Really Has the Best Savings?
Here’s a snippet from her post:
This might just be both my friend Shannon’s and my favorite post ever here on PPP! Because we’re a couple of penny pinchin’ nerds, we love to see the low-down-nitty-gritty of a good price, and always (always!) do the math to know just how much we’re spending.
So, when I called Shannon on the way home from Costco the other day, we started discussing how fun it would be to price war Sam’s and Costco and see who actually won. I was very surprised with some of the results, but loved seeing them matched up evenly. This is just a small sample of the things we watched for this week, and if you all enjoy it, we may both make another trip back for more.
Click here to read the full post and see how each store compared to the other!
Sue Rod says
I got a Cstco membership because they are the closest one to me. However, their prices are extremely high, and they don’t carry many of the items I like.
So I returned my card, and they gave me my money back.
I went back to BJ’S. SAM’s is too far and I don’t care for them.
I pick Costco every time as their return policy is amazing!!! If you try something and don’t like it (even food), they will take it back!
Sams club has a free online shopping program that has never failed to make me want to hug all of the employees who shop for me and check me out!!!!! I have 3 small boys and am homeschooling and I for real want to hug them every time!!!!!!! Saves so much time to spend 15 minutes online in my kitchen with my pantry right in front of me, instead of shopping in the store!! Pick up is so easy and I almost always have help loading kids and groceries into the car or I can have my husband swing by on his way home from work without worrying about his impulse buys!! ? Also helps me with our grocery budget!!! If the cart gets past $200 I can just delete the things we don’t really need and it makes shopping with the monthly coupons so much easier! We use their credit card on monthly gas costs and the money back programs wind up paying for our upgraded membership and a few bags of fancy coffee a year!! ?
You know which club I think is the best. Hehehe.
I enjoy Costco but the nearest one is an hour away so we are Sam’s Club members. I never assume that they have the cheapest prices–I only buy particular items there. In my area their milk is consistently 2.50 a gallon and that alone more than pays for the cost of our membership. Aldi has awesome prices on most things but not on milk (at least not in my town). Once in awhile Kroger will have milk on sale and I will buy it there. I also buy cheese, butter, pepperoni, quinoa, virgin coconut oil, olive oil, rice, yeast, printer paper and horse feed at Sam’s. From time to time I find great deals on clothes there and they have good prices on mattresses–we bought our kids’ mattresses there. Sometimes they have great prices on gas but usually it’s average.
We have done both and we currently have a Costco membership. Costco always seems busy, but they move their checkout lines through fairly quickly. My biggest complaint about Costco is that they move their product around based on who is “paying the most” (They have no signs identifying what is in the aisles, which is not a big deal as long as they don’t keep moving products. It took three employees one day to find the GoGo squeeze applesauce.). We like both Sam’s and Costco, but find here in Texas, Sam’s has a lot more junk food and Costco seems to have more healthier options.
While I don’t buy all of the items compared, the things I do buy on this list are cheaper at my local grocery stores. I’ve never been to Costco, but I have been to Sam’s, and comparing prices, I didn’t find much savings. Sales at smaller stores are better prices.
Personally while I think it’s convenient for bulk purchases, for the most part, you’re not saving $ by shopping at these stores. That might depend on what other stores are in your area, though.
Kelly D says
It is interesting to compare prices, but I am also curious as to how product assortments compare. Costco has started carrying many natural and organic items. I noticed the post compared strawberries to organic strawberries. The Costco apple slices pictured were also organic, so I wonder if the Sam’s version was since they were significantly cheaper.
I love Costco’s prices on cheese and organic greens. I also love that Kirkland’s dog food is corn-free and a great price.
I’ve had both (at different times) but once I discovered how to coupon years ago I realized I didn’t need a membership anymore. The items I was mostly going there for were razor blades, HAND soap, body wash and toothbrushes and I learned I could pay little to nothing for those at regular stores or pharmacies. I got a Sam’s membership again a while back when there was a living social that offered a gift card plus coupons for free items. We used the gift card but forgot to use the coupons before they expired and after that ran out I didn’t renew. Made sure to buy yeast, vanilla extract and nesquick powder on the last week. I recently asked my sister in law to get me a nesquick again and now I’m good for a while (that is one thing that unless there’s a good sale and coupon warehouse prices can’t be beaten)- by the way that is not for kids, but for me…
I have both, through groupon and find them very comparable. I love the roasted chickens at both stores. These are much larger than you’ll find at your local grocer for under $5. I freeze the meat and broth and the chicken is so versatile. Also love the large bags of bread flour, 25 lbs for $8 and two large packs of yeast for under $5. As for Sam’s I researched and found they have their own brand of Zyrtec for a fraction of the cost and it works as the posts I read said it would. Their brand of Miralax also is less than half. I have a frugal friend who refuses to coupon but is nevertheless a bargain shopper and she says their Bounty paper towel prices can’t be beat. I coupon so I won’t purchase paper products from there except for their trash bags, Members Mark brand, fantastic price for a large box, I can’t remember how many but the price is great. Lastly I buy flea drops for my dogs at a great price and the shredded cheese is a great price. When it is time to renew I am not sure I’ll do that. I only joined because I got great prices in joining but it’s been fun checking out their shelves.
Anne Klein says
It is a moral reason for me. Sam’s and Walmart don’t care about their employees in pay and benefits. Costco pays a decent wage and benefits. We use to have a Sam’s membership and I switched us to Costco when it expired two years ago,
Prices in my book are a toss. Sam’s be a few pennies cheaper on one item, then Costco is cheaper on another.
Sam’s is out in my book.
Costco also supports vendors who use humane animal welfare and husbandry practices. They are one of the few companies (and definitely one of the first) to audit their meat vendors’ use of these practices, insuring the slaughter of animals is handled in a humane way.
They consult with Temple Grandin, an expert in this field, to ensure they are at the forefront of this industry.
Debbie M says
I love Costco and found this comparison interesting. Though I don’t have a Sam’s anywhere nearby, I did hear from one of my dear friends who lives near one in another state that her niece had a terrible experience there when Sam’s refused to give her photos of her babies in the bathtub and some where she was breastfeeding her children, claiming they were too obscene. I almost could not believe it myself but here’s the article about it: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1047809/sams-club-refused-to-print-breastfeeding-photos
Amy S says
We have memberships to both, but I prefer Costco. It is much easier to make a return to Costco and their employees are much more knowledgeable and fast and their jobs. Costco also pays their employees almost double than Sam’s in are area and so they stay a long time.
What about BJs Wholesale Club? I shop there because it is closer than Sam’s or Costco. The packages aren’t as gigantic and they take manufacturer’s coupons. We save a lot on specialty cheeses and gas.
However, you can’t beat the hot dogs and pizza at the food court in Sam’s.
Misty Nicole Overstreet-Roberts (The Lady Prefers To Save) says
Team Sam’s here, and my reason? When I first purchased my membership via a Groupon deal, I went into my local club and all of the extra perks that were to come with my buncle wee not sold in my particular store, and as a result the club manager gave me a $50.00 store gift card and a voucher for a free meal for my husband and I! As we had only paid $35.00 for the Groupon, I was impressed off the bat! In addition, each time I go into Sam’s I find large carts/hand trucks with after holiday, household, baby, small appliances, and books for 75% off! I also like the $1.98 kosher hot dog and drink combo, after getting my first for free! Moreover, I like that quarterly Sam’s club gives free diabetes, allergy, and health screening to the general public; on one such weekend I saw a gentlemen leaving a health screening with a bag of diabetes supplies and a free monitor, that he seemingly did not have, and that seemed like such a nice touch to me. I was in line for the free homeopathic allergy tabs, and when I commented on how nice it was to see the nursing giving out bags to others, to nurses were to do so, I saw a notice on the sign-up table stating that veterans and the elderly could come to the front of the line! To me, that sealed the deal. I personally just like Sam’s better!
Costco uses an all beef dog, and it’s bigger for only $1.50.
Also, you are lucky. I bought the Groupon for a comparison to Costco. It took me three employees, two supervisors, and the manager to get it redeemed – even though the location was listed on Groupon.
As a side note, most of the produce prices are the organic version which is not comparing apples to apples.
I did my own price comparison in Nashua, NH. My bill came out $4 cheaper at Costco(no coupons included) . Add to that the moral side and I’ll go with Costco everytime.
Misty Nicole Overstreet-Roberts (The Lady Prefers To Save) says
To each their own, and if we are shopping by moral conviction, we should not shop at any large box store, as non of them give back to the migrant workers who produce the good we buy there. As for the hot dogs, I’ve had both and still prefer Sam’s; I’m an Nathan’s fan! Thank you for your opinion, even if it is a little off 🙂
I prefer Sam’s hot dogs too! MUCH better than the last Costco one.
However, we switched our longtime Costco membership to Sam’s due to proximity. Sam’s is near the house. Costco is a half hour drive and the nearest Costco is a traffic jam getting in and out of.
We have bought our flat screen tv, two mattress and box spring sets, tires, eyeglasses and medications there. Don’t just consider groceries.
I find prices on electronics and furniture to be higher at Costco than what I can find elsewhere for the same items.
The first thing that popped into my mind was that Aldi beat both stores’ prices in over 50% of these cases. We miss Costco (there’s not one here), and find our Sam’s membership worth it because there are certain specialty items that are way cheaper at Sam’s and generally do not go on sale w/coupons, etc. Plus, it’s the convenience of not having to wait for a sale to get generally good prices for these items.
I’ve also found their blocks of cheddar and mozzarella to be much cheaper than most cheeses on sale. My husband also gets gas there.
We love Costco. The price we save buying their gasoline alone saves us the amount of the membership. And my husband actually doesnt mind going in, which makes me happy.
Plus, a lot of their baking supplies (such as yeast) is cheaper than I can buy elsewhere. We shop other stores as well, but also find their block cheeses and household goods low priced at our Costco.
Love seeing all of the different preferences though in comments!
I recently purchased the Sam’s membership groupon. Honestly, I’m horrified at their prices. I can’t believe they charge $45 a year for a membership to sell their groceries at such high prices. I’m glad I got the deal where it ended up costing me less! The only things that would make it worth it (to me) is the gas and the boneless skinless chicken breast. Most of their grocery items, I would NEVER pay that high of a price bc they are usually on sale cheaper at a local grocery store… yes, I have to go to a couple grocery stores a week to spend less, but when you’re watching your budget, Sam’s is NOT cheap. I’m kind of flabbergasted by people who love it simply bc I think it’s so expensive!
Can I ask where you live? I’m sure this is true in some places.
Thanks for sharing,
I’m in Southeast Virginia
Lea Stormhammer says
We’re in MN and know that this is true for us with produce and some dairy products. Meat and dry goods (flour, etc.) tend to be FAR cheaper than at our regular grocery stores.
Their boneless skinless chicken breasts are terrible! I will never buy them again.
I agree. While I do buy some things at SAMs, I bough the chicken breasts once and they were not good. Costco meat and produce can’t be beat.
The chicken breasts are the only product I do not buy. I am very happy with everything else I buy at Sam’s. Local grocery stores have good sales on chicken breasts and I buy them there.
I would say the same thing about Costco. I have a Costco membership (we have a Sam’s nearby), and I’m usually always happy with their products, but I think they are expensive when it comes to groceries and electronics. Their prices on clothing are great, but very limited choices.
I agree. I got the Sam’s Groupon last year. If it hadn’t had the gift card and the coupons for free items, I would be very disappointed with my membership. Their grocery prices are quite high. Even their milk prices aren’t that great. Their milk price has gone up 12% in the past month. Their flour prices are good, but they don’t carry unbleached flour, so I didn’t purchase.
The three things that I think are good deals at Sam’s are 1) rotisserie chicken, 2) Royal basmati rice (20 pounds) and 3) Morton’s system saver softener salt.
Amy Lauren says
Costco is the best choice for my husband and I. The fruits and veggies we get there are great, and when they haven’t been, we have returned them and they have made it right. In fact, I returned a container of grapes where 1/4 of the grapes were missing (my husband took them to work) because he took them to work and figured out they had a weird after taste. I think that’s the only time we’ve ever been less-than-satisfied with something.
Also Costco is close enough for me to go on my lunch break and pick up things, only maybe 5-6 miles from the house. Sam’s Club is a good 15 minutes away. I also feel like Costco carries more healthy and organic items, which is mainly what we shop there for, along with produce and meats, because we get our junkier foods (cereal, snack bars, frozen) fairly cheap with coupons at other stores like Harris Teeter.
Ashley P says
We shop at both just because of the location. Costso is close to my job. Sam’s is close to our church. Each has things we use that the other doesn’t have.
I will say this, though. Costco shredded cheese may be cheaper, but it definitely shows. Their cheese melts like plastic. I made rigatoni with it, left it in even longer than I usually do, and the cheese STILL wasn’t completely melted. I won’t be buying their shredded cheese again.
Their selection of produce is usually a bit better than our local Sam’s, though. So, as I said, we just shop at both.
Sam’s cheese is very good. It is the best mozzarella we have found for pizza other than springing for expensive fresh mozzarella.
FYI, all shredded cheeses have additives so the cheese doesn’t stick together in the package. Grating my own cheese takes only a few seconds and skips eating/tasting/trying to melt that extra gunk. Plus, it’s cheaper. (If you have kids this is a great job for them do.)
I go to Costco (we don’t have a Sam’s) for the great prices on my rx meds that aren’t covered by my insurance. Since I’m there already I joined, if not I wouldn’t bother. However, I do get some great deals on organic produce/eggs. They also have a great organic flour that’s on par with King Arthur flour…I’m a bread baker and this alone saves me a ton of money. Butter is priced best here too. If I had a large family I’d get the upgraded membership, b/c of how it’s set-up it basically pays for your membership fee.
I agree, you can’t cost compare organic to non-organic, they are never the same, but most of the time they do have non-organic strawberries (I won’t eat these though) so I’m surprised they didn’t compare like to like.
Ashley P says
lol. I have a kid. But I don’t think my 1 year old is quite capable of shredding cheese yet.
I never had a problem with Sam’s cheese. It melted just fine. I may start shredding my own cheese. But honestly, the only time we use shredded cheese is on taco night and when we make rigatoni.
The cheese additive is potato starch contrary to the info on the web these days. I do not grate my own cheese as a general rule because I am in my 50’s and have no kiddos at home to do it. It is not worth the shoulder aches for me. The cheese at Sam’s is better than anything I have found at the grocery store and much cheaper.
I’m guessing a lot of this depends on what you buy at either place and the exact location of the store. We shop Sam’s because the closest Costco is a 45 minute drive and Sam’s is about 15 and close to other (local) businesses we support. We mostly do bulk purchases at Sam’s (flour, yeast, spices, etc.) and meat, since we’ve found the produce to be cheaper at the grocery store (sometimes substantially) and we are very blessed to have a phenomenal farmer’s market with amazing prices.
Thanks for linking to the article – I found it really interesting!
Interesting and helpful post.
But there’s one thing that Costco can give you that Sam’s cannot , and that is a certain “coolness”. All the time, I hear people mentioning their trips to Costco. As in, “We just love the organic berries from Costco in our smoothies.” Or “I just made another run to Costco, and spent so much!”
But poor Sam’s just doesn’t have the same cachet. It’s kind of like Target v. Walmart.
(I have a Sam’s membership. I am not ashamed. I am half kidding in my above remarks. Only half.)