Most people aren’t grocery shopping at warehouse clubs — and that’s a mistake. According to a GOBankingRates survey in October, just 2% of shoppers buy the majority of their groceries at Sam’s Club and just 8% shop at Costco. Instead, 38% are shopping at local chain grocers and 37% are filling their carts at Walmart.
The weekly cost of food at home for a 19- to 50-year-old male on a moderate-cost plan is $86.70, dropping slightly to $73.10 for a female in this age group, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Clearly, groceries aren’t cheap, so failing to take advantage of opportunities to save can be costly.
If you’re in the majority of shoppers, you’re not currently doing much — or any — grocery shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club. Keep reading to find out why this is costing you money.
Buying in Bulk Can Mean Big Savings
“Shopping at warehouse clubs can give you big savings on items from groceries to household essentials,” said Samantha Landau, consumer expert at TopCashback USA. “If you have the storage space and can consume the products before they expire, buying in bulk could benefit your household greatly.”
For example, she found big savings on chips when comparing shopping between the two stores.
“The 54-pack of the Frito-Lay Classic Mix at Walmart goes for $35.25,” she said. “When shopping at Costco, this same item is $23.99.”
Landau used the cost-per-unit formula to determine the price of Honey Nut Cheerios is lower at Costco than at Walmart.
“At Costco, two 27.5-ounce boxes — 55 ounces total — of Honey Nut Cheerios sell for $10.99 in bulk,” she said. “This comes down to roughly 20 cents an ounce. An 18.8-ounce box of Honey Nut Cheerios at Walmart costs $4.93, or about 26 cents an ounce.”
So buying this item at Costco will save you 6 cents per ounce, which can add up over time.
Of course, food items aren’t the only products with low prices.
“You can also save money on items like non-perishables, paper products and cleaning supplies,” she said. “When looking to see if a warehouse would benefit you, compare prices with retailers you currently shop at.”
Maggie Tucker, host of the Inside Out Money podcast, said she buys most of her family’s fruits and vegetables at Costco or Sam’s Club.
“They are very good quality and significantly cheaper than at traditional grocery stores,” she said.
While this means sometimes having to purchase large volumes of items, she makes it work.
“If you plan accordingly,” Tucker said, “you can either eat all of it while it’s still fresh or freeze fruit leftovers to make smoothies or vegetables leftovers to make a soup in the future.”
Score Great Deals on Private Label Brands
Both Costco and Sam’s Club have a store brand, Tucker said.
“Many of the products in their store brand are an even better deal,” she said. “For example, Costco has a store brand of granola bars and shampoo — and both are fantastic products.”
More than just packaged bulk items, each of these warehouse chains also has specialty departments.
“Both stores have fantastic bakery items at a significantly cheaper cost than traditional grocery stores — and the items are baked on site daily,” she said. “There are hundreds of other store-brand examples like this at both stores.”
Earn Cash Back
Shopping at both Costco and Sam’s Club can literally pay off.
“You can earn cash back on your purchases if you choose specific higher membership levels at both clubs,” Tucker said. “The higher membership level does have a higher cost, but … it makes sense, depending on the volume you’re spending each year.”
She said the cash back you receive often pays for more than the cost of the membership.
“Especially if you’re buying extra quantities of things for your kid’s school events or sports teams and you’re getting paid back from other parents, but you get to make the spend,” she said.
Ultimately, if you plan ahead and shop with discipline, Tucker said, buying most of your groceries at these stores will save you money. However, if you don’t practice either of those habits, she said taking this route will ultimately end up costing you more.
“Both clubs are well known for having great prices on clothing, seasonal items, electronics, etc.,” she said. “If you’re susceptible to purchasing things you don’t need, then you might be tempted to buy other stuff, as you’re trying to come and save money on your groceries.”
Ultimately, there’s a lot of money to be saved by doing most of your grocery shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club. If you’re not currently taking advantage of these opportunities, consider making the switch.
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