Here is a question I get asked often, this one appeared on our facebook page, and I thought I would talk the time to answer it on the site today:
Is buying in bulk (i.e. Sam's Club, Costco) really saving you money?
Sam's Club is typically the store that draws the most confusion when it comes to searching out good deals. After all, 500 Ziploc bags for $8.99 doesn't sound bad at all, does it? But then there's the $40 membership fee that has to be taken into account as well. The truth of the matter is Sam's Club does not take coupons. In the case of the Ziploc bags, you could have actually purchased them individually with a coupon at Walmart for less.
As far as normal grocery shopping goes, I would suggest using coupons and following store sales at 'traditional' grocery stores is a much better option. In saying that, below are 5 Ways You Can Save Money at Sam's Club:
1. Discount Meat: Typically, Sam's will clearance out meat in the mornings. You may find yesterday's fresh cuts or meat they are trying to move off the shelf before another truck come in. Most of this is packaged in bulk which makes it easy to stock up on. Remember, you can ask them to cut it anyway you'd like as well. If you find a good deal on steak, they can cut it in half which will give you twice as much.
2. Produce: While not Aldi prices, Sam's Club prices on produce are pretty incredible. I bought 2 pounds of grapes for under $4 while the same amount would have been nearly $7 at my local Walmart store.
3. Ready Made Meals: Alright, I confess, I am addicted to these. In the meat department, you'll find fresh, ready made meals for less than $12 each. Could I make it cheaper with coupons? Possibly. Did it save me an incredible amount of time that was worth the price? Yes. The good part about these is that they are fresh (and certainly taste better than my cooking), the meals containing chicken are usually made from the leftover Rotisserie chickens. While I wouldn't recommend purchasing these for all of your meals, in a pinch, these are great and not so hard on the wallet.
4. Clearance Sales: Have you shopped clearance at Sam's? You'll probably find it hidden in the back of the store so you have to keep your eyes peeled. My dining room table was $250 but I grabbed it for only $50 on clearance. That was a few years ago and we still use the table today!
5. Try It Out First: Many times you can ask for a guest pass and get a free trial at Sam's Club just to see if you like it. You may decide it is not right for you or you may decide it's a great buy. This will give you a chance to check it out before you buy. You can also go with a friend if they have a membership...the Sam's Club Policy states this "Our Members are welcome to bring their children and up to two guests to Sam's Club. A Member must accompany children and guests – at all times. Only a Member may purchase items."
The Queen's opinion: I do like Sam's for the reasons above, and on occasion, I will purchase bulk items such as plastic cups or utensils for parties. Is it worth the $40 fee? I let my membership go and have not missed it. If you know your prices per ounce then you could really save a ton of money. I found a Pantene deal at Sam's that would have saved me $30 if I would have bought it. Seriously, that's a steal!
What is your favorite thing about shopping at Sam's?