Monday, August 10, 2009


While I was enjoying my coffee this morning, I read an article about warehouse shopping and whether or not it's a good deal. The stores they mentioned were BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club. The article wasn't very decisive, it basically said you can save money depending on what you buy. It was the reader comments that followed the article that were the most puzzling to me, however. More than one reader claimed that they could spend $300 on food items and not have enough for more than one meal. Huh?

If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of Sam's Club. We don't have a BJ's or Costco nearby, so I don't know much about their merchandise or prices, but we shop at Sam's Club about twice a month. Three hundred dollars, for us, would buy enough food for three weeks or more worth of meals. What did these people spend their money on? I supposed if you were lured into buying a lot of snacks and frozen convenience foods you wouldn't have many meals, but wouldn't you know that as you were piling these items into your cart?

A while back, I posted a list of bargains from Sam's Club (click here if you missed it), so today I want to share a few tips I use for warehouse shopping. Do you care? Maybe, maybe not, but we save about 50% compared to shopping at the supermarket, so if I can help you do the same, it's worthwhile.
  • I always hear that you should make a list and stick to it to avoid buying things you don't need. I may jot down a few things I don't want to forget, but I don't usually make a complete list. I don't even make a meal plan before I go. I know that if I buy things like chicken, shrimp, ground beef, and pork tenderloin I'll be able to use them in dozens of recipes. The same is true with baby carrots, potatoes, pasta, canned tomato products and assorted cheeses.
  • I expect to freeze most of the meat I buy as soon as I get home from the store. Other than what I'm going to prepare for dinner that night, it all goes in the freezer. Sometimes I break things down into meal sized portions before freezing, sometimes I'm lazy and just throw the whole package in the freezer. The defrost setting on my microwave works really well, so I don't worry about planning meals days in advance.
  • Frozen prepared foods come in big boxes, so if I'm going to buy any, I have to take into consideration the amount of available freezer space I have. We're not big fans of most of them, anyway, so it's not usually a problem but we do occasionally buy frozen pizzas or tequitos. Right now, I have a box of frozen soft pretzels (my son's request) taking up an entire shelf of the freezer.
  • I expect to buy an impulse item each time we shop at Sam's. Sometimes we'll sample something we really like and decide to buy it. Once it was crab cakes, another time it was smoked sausage. If you limit yourself to one or two, you won't blow your budget.
  • I know that I will still have to make a trip to the supermarket to pick up a few things I can't get at Sam's Club or for things I don't want to buy in large quantities. It's usually minimal, though.
  • The optical department at Sam's Club has great prices and their optometrists are wonderful. We always get my daughters glasses there. Also, if you buy their glass cleaner (for eye glasses, not windows), you get free refills forever.

If you have any great tips for shopping at warehouse clubs, please feel free to share them in my comment section. And if you've spent $300 on food, but can't make more than one meal, we need to talk!


Purple Flowers said...

I think it's great that you are such a smart shopper. We don't belong to the warehouse stores (there's only two of us), however, my hubby does an awesome job w/saving money, using coupons. This week he saved $18.00
He comes home very happy and proud of himself. I think it's great!

Deidra said...

We are Sam's Club members and use them mainly for the pharmacy - great savings! Because there are just two of us at home now I find that shopping in bulk is just too much most of the time. And my H also does a great job shopping within our tight budget. Last week, he called me from the grocery store to tell me how much he saved! $300 for groceries? We'd probably be set for a month.

Chicago Mom said...

That is really is baffling about the $300. And you said more than one person said that? Huh. I guess they were buying chips and cookies, but still... $300 worth? That just makes me sad.

L.B. said...

One thing that I do so I won't spend a hundred bucks more than I planned for is to take my phone's calculator and add up the cost as I go along. That way I can keep my spending in check. I have to make a list because I can be a scatterbrain but if I have my list and the calculator going, it helps me not drop my jaw to the floor when I get to the register.

Lissaloo said...

We love Costco, I buy a lot of our basic cooking supplies there. And all of our paper/toiletry/cleaning supplies there. I usually try to keep each visit, twice a month, to about 100$. Sometimes we splurge a little, they have great deals on some electronics :)

5thsister said...

wonderful advice.

Amy said...

Occasionally we go to Costco but there are only 2 of us so if we shop there, the food we buy lasts a very long time. To spend $300 and not have enough money for one meal is mind-boggling. Maybe that person buys a lot of non-food items? I know at CostCo (not sure about BJs or Sam's Club) you can buy almost anything from shampoo to diamond rings, microwaves to hammers, all kinds of clothes, bedding, furniture, books and games. Othertwise that person has a HUGE family! lol
Similar to Purple Flowers, my husband does a great job of saving money while food shopping and often saves anywhere from $10 to $20. If it's a period when we've been to CostCo we save even more.
If I come up with any tips, I'll check back!