F.A.Q: Wholesale Club Vs. Grocery Store?

Today’s frequently asked question is from reader Hanna.  Hanna said that she usually shops at Costco to save money on groceries.  Her question is this:

Do you think it’s better to buy in bulk at stores like Costco or BJ’s or to shop with coupons at a grocery store?

My personal opinion is that I get much better deals at the grocery store but I’d love to hear what others think.  Just a note though, you can use coupons at BJ’s.

Any thoughts?  What do you think of the wholesale clubs versus the grocery store?

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  • Brianne

    Some things are better to buy in bulk at the wholesale club. It all depends on how much you use or if you have a big family. I know it kind of stinks going around pricing things per item (like diapers) but in the long run you can really save money. I do know that if I see something on sale at the grocery store and I have coupons for them, and Giant Eagle doubles them, then I go for the grocery store. I can tell you that I shop at Sam’s Club and things like coffee creamer and big bags of broccoli and salad mixes are a way better deal there. Whereas toilet paper, not such a savings.

  • jen

    I get some things at bj’s. between the club coupons and my coupons, I get really good deals on some things. Deli meats are SOOOO much cheaper at bj’s then the grocery store. But then, there are some thing I will NOT even think about getting at the warehouse store. Just be deligent, and you can save money everywhere you shop.

  • Carole

    I prefer the grocery store… However, I will say that for items I can rarely find coupons for (i.e. fresh fruits and veggies) buying in bulk CAN be a good idea, if you use everything you buy. The only way buying in bulk really works for me is to shop with a friend and split things.

  • I think it depends on what you are purchasing. For most things, I can get them cheaper with a coupon at the grocery store. But for meats and dairy products, I get a much better deal at Sam’s or Costco. Paper Towels and toilet tissue are sometimes better as well.

  • kath

    I personally do not believe in paying a store for the ‘privilege’ of shopping there. Forget that!

  • Charlotte

    It really depends. Pricing individual items is key, but don’t forget that you need to include the cost of membership to the total cost. For me, Costco was a good deal only because I got back more than my membership, and those checks can be rolled into a new membership, but there was always the initial $100 investment (for Executive Membership). Will you save more than $100 buying from that store? You should do a little math for your specific situation.

  • Lisa

    Actually, I prefer the drug stores! Sounds crazy but I have saved SO much money running between Rite Aid, CVS, and Wags. There are still some things cheaper at Costco – cooking tins, milk (except for the Smart Balance deal which was awesome), eggs most weeks. Do not buy diapers or wipes there- you can do SO much better in drug stores. As Jen said above, you just have to be price concious wherever you go. That being said, if someone doesn’t have time to coupon, Costco is definitely more of a help than shopping blind at the grocery store!

  • Melissa

    Some of the items are better but you have to pay close attention. I do not belong to a bulk club but my parents do. The few times I go with them to shop they generally pay for the items….so in that case it is better for me to get items from there since they are free 🙂

  • Jenny

    I purchase milk, eggs, bread lunch meat, some cereals, bottled water, bananas, strawberries and meats at BJ’s. The milk is over 1.00 less a gallon and with 3 kids we go through 4 gallons a week. Thats 16.00 a month or more. The deli cheese is always 3.50 a pound and with the Land O Lakes coupon it is 2.50 a pound!! You just have to keep your eyes open and make smart choices. I sometimes dont have to go grocery shopping every week becasue I can get things that I use every week at BJ’s. I dont like Sams. Their lines are long and they just dont have all the things I want.

  • Aaron

    I shop at Shoprite, Bjs and Costco. In general, if you can double coupons at your local store, you will save much more at the grocery store. Bjs for some items is better than Costco because they do accept manufacturer coupons along with club coupons, but most times it doesn’t seem to happen so smoothly. Costco is nice for non-perishable items like Oatmeal (10 pounds for $6) and big bags of spinach as has been mentioned here. However, for standard items that you will use weekly, not 14 toothbrushes (which I do buy at Costco), the grocery store with double coupons is definitely cheaper. I have worked it out mathematically, and believe it or not diapers are even cheaper than buying bulk (even cheaper than the $25 box of 150 at Bjs). However, the downside is that this shopping is more time consuming because you have to put in the time to do the research, but if you are willing, and saving money is your end goal, shopping at your grocery store where you can double coupons is cheaper…..

  • I split it with my mom. You can’t find $4.49 a lb goat cheese anywhere else. I buy fancy cheeses, deli meat, flatout wraps, milk, prewashed salad greens, bananas, big jars artichokes, half and half, chicken nuggets. Many things are more expensive than couponing elsewhere but I coupon a lot and some things really are better priced at costco. The things that don’t have coupons or go on sale are cheaper there.

  • staceypunk

    As others have mentioned- if you have the time and organization using coupons at the grocery store is cheaper. But if you don’t have that time than you can save money at the big box stores as compared to shopping retail at the grocery stores.

  • colleen

    I only go to costco or sams club for Milk, uncrustables (because there’s never any coupons), soda, wine, veggies and party stuff ie: cheese platters ect. Otherwise I go to drug stores and grocery stores

  • Stefani

    Can someone explain how diapers are cheaper at grocery/drugstore? I thought I was doing well at bjs by buying Luvs at $7.50($5bjs Q and $2.50 manu q) off the price.

    • Aaron

      You have to wait until the go on sale with the store, and then use manufacturer coupons. The easiest way to find out if you are getting a better deal at regular store, or at warehouse is to take the total amount of diapers and then divide by the price. This will give you per unit cost, per item. I typically buy Bjs brand because they are cheap, much cheaper than Costco, but if you can get them on sale at your grocery store with good manufacturer’s coupons, I have found them even cheaper than Bjs at the per unit price. Now granted you are not going to buy a box of 150 at Shoprite for example, but you will just have to buy multiple packs of 40, but at the per unit price they are cheaper. I didn’t believe it myself until I did the math, because in bulk, I do think Bjs has the best deals, but per unit and at smaller sizes, the grocery stores when they are on sale with manufacturer coupons tends to beat Bjs too!

      • I also buy diapers at BJs. I did the math once and after my coupons it was about 15 cents a diaper. Sometimes if the diapers go on clearance at the grocery or drug stores you can do better but I think I’ll just pay the 15 cents! We’re down to 1 diaper a day at night now anyway, so a pack of 120 lasts for a while!

        I only buy 2 other things at BJs….Dunkin Donuts coffee beans, I’ve never seen it cheaper and deli meats, always a good deal!

  • Stacey Sanzone

    I used the 2 month free membership at BJ’s once. The only real deal I was getting was on Quaker Granola Bars. So I figured at the end of my free trial membership I wasn’t going to pay $40 a year to shop there, kinda defeats the purpose!
    Although, someone made a good point about the fruits and veggies, they were consistently cheaper at BJ’s…. still not worth paying a membership for though.
    And as far as diapers, the best cheap diapers you can find are Target brand diapers. They’re amazing and only $13.50 a box.

    • Aaron

      Overall price is important, but even more important is the per unit price on diapers. You should do the math and see for yourself.

    • Stefani

      What we did was share a membership with a friend and we more than make back in savings. We buy stuff that are rarely on sale at the grocery store and usually in conjunction with club coupons. The boxes of diapers at clubs are bigger than Target’s, usually double the size. I will have to start comparing price per diaper when I shop.

  • Jane

    Both – Costco & grocery stores. I ‘ve assembled for myself a seriously detailed price book of products we use/would use for the 4 stores I shop at. Costco, Walmart, Earth Fare & CVS. It’s easy to see what then what the “regular” price typically is & when a sale is really a sale or just a marketing ploy. Anyways, the price is really not my focus – it’s the unit price that is as that little gem really tells you the true cost per ounce, pound, etc. Many times Costco has the best deal. But then again – not necessarily. But without my homemade price book – I have no way to compare prices or “see” what deal is really a deal or a red herring in disguise.

  • Jessica

    There are some things that you just can’t beat BJ’s deals on when you combine there coupons with maufacture coupons. The milk is such a good deal too.

  • Christy

    You can store specific coupons (ie: BJs) that are waaaaay expired or not even for the specific product, but as long as the same manufacturer…and go through self-check-out and they work! 🙂

  • Ron

    I personally shop at Sam’s Club, BJ’s and supermarkets. You must keep in mind that the specials in supermarkets are usually a better buy that wholesale clubs, but they are there to lure you in to buy other things. As far as paying a wholesale club for the privilege to shop there… One can only wonder why someone would pay $100 more for that wide screen TV elsewhere and pay
    that retailer the extra money for the “privilege” to shop in their store. I personally save the price of my memberships (At both Clubs) just in the savings in gasoline.

  • LuLu

    BJ’s accepts coupons & I mean ANY coupons … they have self check-out where I live and the gals there take all your coupons!!!! So in this case for major party supplies like dishware etc… if you haven’t already stocked up and need something in a crunch I think it is worth it … My in laws get us a pass every year cause we have lil ones (they think it is great for the diapers) eh not sooo much … I have been getting WAY better deals following your blog and doing diapers here and there when I can get them on sale for cheap!!!! My hubby luvs their meat there and sometimes it is good for diaper genie refills when they have a coupon and you can score that rare coupon to combine with it …. COSTCOS IS HORRIBLE they don’t except coupons & pretty much charge you the same thing as the stores….. I got three things of bleach a couple months back for 1.00 they were selling the three pack at costcos for 11$ & my mom bought it …. (I was sick over it LOL) I had gone with her and kept preaching about couponing the entire time I was in the store!!!!!! even the bulk bananas were still 59cents a lb.!!!!!

    I am def. on the fence !!!!!

  • LuLu

    Oh and the MILK at BJ’s is a super good deal … 1.79 the other week and it is normally name brand so you can use coupons with it …. !!!!!