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Shopping at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can save you a good amount of money. In fact, Consumer Reports says that you can score savings of up to 40 to 50 percent on certain items. However, not every item is cheaper than what you’d pay at a supermarket or big-box store like WalMart.
You should also consider the shelf life of certain products when buying at warehouse stores. You may find a little better deal buying in bulk, but if the product expires or loses effectiveness by the time you use it, you may be better off buying a smaller quantity at a supermarket.
My recommendation: If your grocery store has price tags with the price per unit listed, be mindful to read and compare that price so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
Here’s a list of things you should probably not buy—plus some items we recommend buying—at warehouse clubs.
What Not To Buy
This list is primarily focused on name-brand items. Buying Kirkland (Costco) or Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club) will often provide competitive or cheaper prices.
1. Toilet Paper
It can be tempting to buy these items in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco, but you will likely find a better deal at a grocery store. Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert recommends to buy them on the first and third weeks of the month, when they go on sale at supermarkets.
2. Laundry Supplies
Detergent and bleach products typically lose effectiveness after about six months so buying in bulk may not be your best bet. Also, supermarkets typically have sales on these items, so you can get them for a good price. In addition, Forbes found that dryer sheets were cheaper at Target as compared to Sam’s Club.Photo by JeepersMedia
According to multiple sources including Kiplinger, you should stay away from buying condiments in bulk. This is because of the relative short life of the condiments after they are opened. Who really goes through a gallon of ketchup in a few months, anyway?Photo by JeepersMedia
Grocery stores generally have better deals on soda than Costco and Sam’s Club. GoBankingRates says that when soda is on sale at a grocery store, you can purchase cans for 17 cents (on average) versus 25 cents per can at warehouse stores.
5. Books and DVDs
It may be tempting to pick up that book or DVD at the warehouse store, but online retailers like Amazon typically have better prices. To save even more money, look at the used options on Amazon or eBay. Even better? You can now borrow digital versions of books for free from most libraries.
6. Canned Goods
Canned and pantry goods will last for a long time at your house, so it’s OK to stock up in bulk. However, Teri Gault, CEO and founder of TheGroceryGame.com says that you should buy these at grocery stores where they are typically 20 to 40 percent cheaper.
Just like condiments, coffee has a shelf life, and the quality will go down over time. While you can get good deals on coffee, you likely will be buying too much to use it in the ideal timeframe. GoBankingRates suggests you buy coffee at the grocery store with a coupon.
8. Name-Brand Diapers
It is pretty enticing to stock up on diapers while you’re at Costco, but you can likely find a better deal online through services like Amazon Family where you can save 20 percent when you take advantage of Subscribe and Save. You also don’t have to lug the big diaper boxes around and just get them shipped to your doorstep for free.
You may get a good price at club stores when buying store brand diapers (e.g Kirkland), however, or using manufacturer coupons in combination with their low prices.
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And Here’s What To Buy At The Warehouse Stores:
Buying meat at club stores can save you some money. In addition, Stephanie Nelson, The Coupon Mom, told GoBankingRates that the meat is typically a higher grade than what is available at supermarkets. A few of our readers also suggested buying meat at club stores and repacking into smaller portions and freezing. Check out this video for a super easy way to freeze meat so it can easily be thawed.
2. Eggs, Milk And Dairy
If you have a growing family and go through a lot of eggs and milk, it’s a good idea to buy these at warehouse clubs. MSN reports you can save 30 percent versus getting them at a supermarket. And the best part: you can freeze all three. Eggs: 1 month, milk for 3-6 months and other dairy items for 1-12 months. Check out this guide and see how long you can freeze all sorts of foods.
You can save as much as $1 per battery when buying at warehouse stores. Regina Conway, a consumer expert for Slickdeals, recommends you check the expiration date before purchasing. As long as that date is a few years out, you are good to stock up in bulk.
4. Gift Cards
Consumer Reports says that buying bacon at Costco was one of the best deals available, and that the quality of the Kirkland bacon was one the best.
If you’re in the market for a new set of tires, don’t overlook your warehouse club. They offer some of the best prices on brand-name tires and can be 10-20 percent less than automotive stores. In addition, they typically throw in a lot of great free services, including lifetime tire rotation and alignment, and even roadside assistance.
You may be able to find a good deal on televisions and other electronics at warehouse stores. This is because they often bundle in other free add-ons with the purchase, including extended warranties and accessories. It’s still recommended to price compare with sites like Amazon or Walmart, before making the purchase, however, as they have great deals on these items as well.
8. Frozen Foods And Appetizers
If you have a big party coming up, buying frozen foods and appetizers at warehouse stores can save you a lot of money—up to 30 percent, according to Huffington Post. And since you are buying in bulk for a party, you don’t have to worry about the items sitting in your freezer for years and losing their quality.