My mom told me that she would never pay a membership to shop at a store. Why pay $50 a year for that “privilege” when I can get deals just as good at other stores? It’s a good point. So, is the cost of membership to warehouse stores like BJ’s, Sam’s Club and Costco worth it?
Warehouse store memberships allow you to shop at there warehouses in exchange for bulk and discounted services. Costco memberships are $60, BJ’s in $55 and Sam’s club at the least amount of $45 per year. You can buy anything from toothpaste to beer, pet food to chips, glasses to filet minion at these stores and many times; you will see savings. But not always. Strategy comes into play.
Why I Shop At Warehouse Stores
I live in a house with a husband, two boys (now men, really) and a dog. We go through a pretty decent amount of food. My BJ’s membership is shared with a friend. We each get a card and split the $55 fee. It says that there are two cards per household and when I asked customer service if my friend and I could share the membership, she said yes. But I am not sure all clubs are the same so ask before you decide. This helps defer initial costs.
Many who shop once a month prefer to do their shopping at a bulk store as they can get all that they need in one stop. That doesn’t apply to me. I explain my theory on once a month shopping.
I prefer to buy as many organic products as I can. But, I also don’t have a big pantry and lots of cupboards to store bulk, so I need to be choosy.
I shop at BJ’s because the items I use the most of are cheaper than anyplace else. And the $27.50 that I spend a year, still makes it the best deals around!
BJS also has great coupon books. You can combine their coupons for manufacturer coupons doubling your savings. AND…if you have a coupon for mustard that comes in a two pack, you can use TWO COUPONS PLUS THE STORE COUPON! Winner, winner!
I love that they send me personalized coupons on the things I usually buy. That makes me happy!
Except for toilet paper. I never know what the best price is for toilet paper. You have regular rolls, mega rolls, giant roll, double rolls. All I know is that I buy it in bulk so that I don’t have to buy it as often. All that calculus makes my head hurt!
Refunds for Warehouse Memberships
I do not have Sam’s Club or Costco within an hours drive from me, but I had thought about taking the hours drive to Sam’s Club to check it out. It might be worth it for me if I can get bulk items at a lesser price than Walmart. I shop at Walmart once per quarter to get the couple things I like there.
The closest Costco is two and a half hours away so unless I am in Massachusetts visiting my mom; I won’t be going there on a regular basis!
You could also enlist a good friend to take you along on their next trip. Bring cash, so you make it simple if there is something you want to purchase.
There are indeed ways to get a discounted membership for first time members as well if you decide its something that would benefit you and your family. Places like Groupon offer special pricing.
I also read in the terms and conditions of Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco that you could get a refund on your membership if it weren’t all that you have hoped for. That’s a helpful customer service perk if you are undecided.
Costco For Singles, Couples And Small Families
My cousin Mike is a single guy. He buys all his food at warehouse stores, and he says he has done the math and can’t beat the prices. And nothing ever goes to waste.
Many feel that the 20 pounds can of peanut butter go bad before you eat it all and the 35 chicken legs will be so freezer burned that you would have to use so much of that 100-ounce jug of barbeque sauce to cover it up! I find that all a little too over dramatic.
If you are smart, you can protect your purchases, so they serve you well. I know at BJ’s where I shop, the jars of peanut butter are not nearly that big and even the natural one will stay good for months (not that it would ever last that long around here. We are peanut butter fanatics)!
There are also so many items that are wrapped individually so you can keep the others protected longer. Foods like pork and chicken vacuum sealed in perfect portions. Nuts and snacks in single serving packs.
Of course, as for anyone shopping at these warehouse stores, you need to be smart about your purchases. If you love broccoli and eat it every night for dinner, buy the mega bag of frozen broccoli. Rice and other grains will keep forever and if you like it and eat it, buy it. It will save you money.
And let’s not forget about those frozen pizzas – four to a box. Perfect for my cousin Mike!
Also, remember that you need to be creative if you are short on storage.
The Best Buys At BJ’s
Here are the items that I buy at BJ’s:
- Peanut butter. Twin packs of Skippy Natural
- Jam. Twin packs of organic strawberry jam.
- Fresh spinach or mixed greens. We love greens for salads or in our eggs, so we buy the big one. It lasts typically two weeks, but if it stars getting less than stellar, I will put it in a bag in the freezer and add it to something else.
- Deli Meat and Cheese. You can’t beat the price for Applegate Farms nitrate free deli meats. Best price around!
- K Cups. We are not using them nearly as much as we did before our new auto drip coffee maker that I LOVE so much, I am sharing it HERE! (Seriously, I love this thing) but we still use them occasionally, and BJ’s has organic k cups.
- Oil. Olive, avocado and coconut oil are all organic and better prices than anywhere else.
- Cheese. All the cheese. Sandwich, shredded, string, feta, cottage. Can’t beat it for cheeses.
- Baking products. Organic flour and sugar are the best prices around. Did you know you could freeze flour? I also found Almond Flour so much cheaper than the grocery store.
- Pasta. Organic prepared canned and boxed pasta is always great to have on hand for times when you are stuck. We like Annie’s Organic Boxed Mac and Cheese. Hey…more cheese talk!
- Organic meat. Organic chicken and beef prices are reasonable. I sometimes find it hard to even find organic meat at all, so the prices here are reasonable. Aldi is better, but if I am not getting to that area, I don’t mind grabbing it at BJ’s.
- Canned Soups and single serving fruits. Sometimes you just need a quick something. I always say that I do the best I can so if I am going to open a can of tomato soup to go with our grilled cheese sandwich, I want it to be organic and cheap. These two criteria are met at my local warehouse store.
- Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing. It’s not organic. I know. But there just isn’t anything better out there. The small jars at the regular store run for almost $4. For another dollar, I can get one twice the size. My husband says this in itself, will make up for the membership fee!
- Butter. Organic butter is the best price at BJ’s.
- Organic cooking spray. We love getting it from BJ’s. The nozzle always works perfectly. We have issues with spray nozzles on cooking spray. Not any more!
Stock Up At Sam’s Club For Emergencies
Another reason to stock up from warehouse stores is emergency preparedness. Her in the beautiful northeast, our winters are somewhat harsh. As I type this, in the last week, we got 24 inches of snow, minus 15-degree temps, and now ice and rain. So much rain. There are always risks of an actual power outage in these parts during this time of the year so stocking up on dry goods and necessities is not a bad idea.
However, the fact that if I buy in bulk during the winter, that means I can leave the warmth of my cozy cabin a little less often. because I know I have enough to feed my family if I am just to content to go out.
If you live in an area prone to extreme weather, having ample food and water may be the key to life. For others, it’s just a small peace of mind it brings to know we are good if the power goes out or we are feeling warm and lazy.
Having a stockpile of food is a good investment in your future. If you have a sudden illness or loss of a job, you know that you can get buy with what you have in a stockpile, just in case. Don’t dismiss having a slight abundance of pantry type foods to keep you protected and shrug it off like it’s for people waiting for a government shut down or zombie apocalypse. It could also benefit the majority of us, and it doesn’t have to cost you $500 out of the gate. Building up a stockpile could be done little by little over the months as I have. Just don’t buy things you don’t normally eat.
Things You Should Not Buy At Warehouse Stores
- Warehouse stores are not perfect. We gotta take the good with the bad, right? Here are the items I have seen that I just don’t believe are a bargain.
- Spices. The majority of people are not going to use that much oregano, and it goes bad so fast. You are better off buying just a little at a time.
- Appliances, electronics, and TVs. I think you are better off going to a big box store for these or ordering off Amazon!
- Paper plates. I am still a little sore about this one. I went to Walmart for my four times per year trip and realized that for the first time buying paper plates at BJ’s, I got bamboozled and way overpaid. Never again, BJ’s. Never again.
- Bread. Cheaper at Aldi!
- Milk. Organic milk is cheaper at Aldi. I will walk through the milk section and take a gander at the prices just to confirm I am still on my game.
- Bacon. Aldi’s nitrate free bacon is cheaper. And we like the taste!
- Upgraded memberships. I tried that one ear, and I didn’t find it gave me back my money.
Grocery shopping is one of my favorite ways to save money, and healthy food is my love language for my family. But it needs to be done inexpensively to achieve all our other goals and dreams. If you would like to read my ebook on how to feed your family cheap and healthy meals, please consider signing up for my free ebook filled with tips, recipes, and printables to make grocery shopping a more pleasant experience.
Thanks Sara for all the tips on saving money. It just takes a bit of ingenuity and common sense to get good deals but the payoff is worth it.
Thanks so much for stopping by Frozen Pennies. I agree. Common sense is a must!
Hi Sara, my family is going through a paycheck scheduling change. So I looked up how to shop monthly. Your page made the most sense to me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I noticed you are a David Ramsey coach. I love this finance program. Food is a love language in my home too. Thanks again.
Trisha – Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate you! Monthly grocery shopping is life changing for me. I’m so happy you find Frozen Pennies helpful!