A few years ago, when I lived in a less populated area than I do now, I did almost 100% of my grocery shopping at Meijer (if you’ve never been there, think of a Super Walmart with expanded grocery offerings) or Kroger.
Then the first Costco went up in my city. I got my membership (in the form of a Costco Amex and starting in early 2016, a Costco Visa) and shopped there frequently. However, I bought less than than 10% of my groceries there. I probably made my membership cost back, but it was the first warehouse store I had ever shopped at, and I don’t think I really knew how to use it effectively at the time to lower my grocery expenses.
I have since moved to a more populated area and feel very fortunate to have a Trader Joe’s within a few miles of my house. Now, I do a large majority of my weekly shopping there (with a brief stop to the produce aisle at Whole Foods – who still has the best organic produce, hands down).
My largest budget line item is groceries. And as a result, I’ve started getting more strategic about what I buy and where to get the best deals. I find myself buying more and more of my groceries at Costco warehouses. I’ve started pricing out food on a per unit (usually oz.) cost and have found Costco to be significantly cheaper than Trader Joe’s (and Trader Joe’s to be significantly cheaper than Meijer or Whole Foods, btw) on a number of items. At the same time, they have dramatically increased their organic offerings, which is important to me, because I am not willing to sacrifice health or quality for price.
A few example items I’ve moved over to buying from Costco because I found the per unit prices to be a much better deal, include:
- C&F organic quinoa: 4 lbs, $8.79, $2.19/lb. (compared to $3.99/lb. at Trader Joe’s)
- S&W black beans: 8 – 15 oz. cans, $5.52, $0.69/15 oz. can (compared to $1.19/can at Trader Joe’s)
- organic frozen broccoli: 4lb. bag, $5.99, $1.49/lb. (compared to $2.49/lb. at Trader Joe’s)
- Bybee organic frozen green beans: 5 lb. bag, $6.49, $1.29/lb. (compared to $1.99/lb. at Trader Joe’s)
- Kirkland walnuts: 3 lb. bag, $12.89, $4.29/lb. (compared to $7.49/lb. at Trader Joe’s)
- Maranatha almond butter: 26 oz., $6.89, $0.26/oz. (compared to $0.31/oz. at Trader Joe’s)
- Cholula sauce: 24 oz., $7.89, $0.32 oz. (compared to $1.19/oz! at Meijer)
- Chicken of the Sea canned tuna: 12 – 7 oz. cans, $15.96, $0.19/oz (compared to $0.33/oz at Trader Joe’s)
Costco doesn’t have the variety that Trader Joe’s does, and their produce department isn’t the greatest, but when they do compete directly on product, they usually win on price. And the Costco Kirkland alcohol, Costco gas, and Kirkland dog & cat food quality and prices are a great value. As a result, a Costco membership is worth the cost to me.
Costco is a pretty big place and I’m sure there are some gems I have not found. And although I’ve never shopped at Sam’s Club (I hear that Costco has much better organic and healthier offerings), I’m sure some of you are benefiting from doing so.
So it got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great for everyone to share and create a list of the best warehouse deals they’ve found compared to non-warehouse so that we could all share in the cost savings?
The Best Warehouse Deals Guidelines:
I have to lead with some guidelines here to make this list the most useful for everyone:
- No junk food or garbage: nobody is going to benefit by you listing a sweet warehouse deal you found for a 5 lb. bag of Cheetos or 120 Mountain Dews. Lets just focus on healthy diet staples everyone can benefit from vs over-processed garbage.
- Please list out: please list where you got the deal, the product and brand, unit size (e.g. 36 eggs, or 20 oz. of peanut butter), total price, and price per unit (e.g. $0.10 per egg, or $0.15 per oz. of peanut butter). If you have any receipts, this should be easy – just get off your rump for a second, grab the receipt, and walk over to the pantry. Thousands could financially benefit from this 5 calorie expenditure. ;-)
- Comparison product price from non-warehouse: what will make this really useful is to compare the warehouse deal price to what you were paying for a similar product at a regular non-warehouse grocery store (e.g. Meijer, Kroger, Winn-Dixie, Trader Joe’s) for everyone.
- No sales/coupon prices: doesn’t help if you got a special one-time coupon or discount. Let’s focus on normal daily prices.
Remember, warehouse deals don’t always have to come in gigantic bulk sizes. And I’m also open to seeing what kind of eye-opening deals you got on other non-grocery essentials (i.e. trash bags, socks, underwear, etc.).
Also, if you’ve found warehouse deals to not be as good as regular grocery supermarkets on certain items, note those too (e.g. Trader Joe’s free-range eggs beat Costco’s)!
You can use this grocery price spreadsheet to document prices, by volume, and find the best deals – it’s one of my favorite grocery cost cutting tools.
At Costco, I always pick up the 1 lb. container of organic mixed baby greens for $4.99. My local grocery store (Martin’s) has the same size container of organic greens for $6.99, occasionally on sale for $5.99. However, the closest Wegmans (~45 min away) has the same deal as Costco, so the warehouse doesn’t always win.
I also regularly buy Greek yogurt at Costco – the Kirkland plain nonfat is $6.99 for two 32 oz. containers. The local grocery stores are $4.50+ for a single 32 oz. (or smaller!) container, so I’m saving at least $1 per container.
Something else to note is it seems like the selection of Costco products vary regionally, too – for example, organic frozen broccoli is nowhere to be found at my local Costco, unfortunately.
Two tips: one, I’ve found almond butter vastly overpriced when compared to roasted almonds. Buy the almonds, invest in a food processor with a strong motor (look at restaurant supply stores) and toss a bunch of almonds in and grind to your desired consistency.
Second: my family has found a great way to cut down on the bottom line: I volunteer at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop off six months out of the year, and for 3 hours of work each Monday afternoon, I get free veggies and fruit for half the year. Many CSAs have similar worktrade options, so look into it if your work schedule is flexible!
Clif Bars variety (peanut butter and chocolate chip only)
Costco: $23.11 ($0.96/bar, or $0.40/oz)
Other places: Clif Bars usually sell at $2+ when purchased as singles (at the airport here they’re $4 per bar!)
I think you should include the Costco coupon offerings. When I buy a six months supply of one item and the coupons occur every four or five months, the coupon price becomes the normal buying price.
Costco coupons have moved from basic food items to mostly pre-packaged foods. I just got my latest coupon mailer today, and the only coupon available towards a single ingredient item was for chicken strips. In other words, you’re paying less for stuff that’s already marked up for being a “value-add” product. Unless it’s a single item or real basic product, stay away, in my opinion.
One of the best deals at Costco (sorry this is non-food related, but does relate to a lot of people’s health) is the Kirkland brand Zyrtec
Kirkland Signature™ Aller-Tec™, 365 Tablets for $15.99 ($0.0438 per pill)
Zyrtec 70 count on Amazon for $24.99 ($0.357 per pill) and this is cheaper than I have seen in Meijer or regular pharmacies.
Annual savings of $114.32.
You cannot beat the price for the kirkland price on kitchen trash bags, they are by far the cheapest. They win for bananas almost always under 40 cents a pound. The rotesserie (sp) chicken, great price and always cheaper than grocery stores and normally looks better too.
I have 3 kids under 3 so we go through milk like crazy, theirs is hormone free, and about a quarter less than other places. Never beat their price for cheese sticks. They have nitrate free and awesome turkey breast deli meat, but not really deli meat because it is actually turkey breast for 6.99 a pound. Great price on sandwich rounds, the “diet” bread or their whole grain bread. Organic strawberry jelly
I don’t buy cereal or beauty products or diapers or drinks there because I can normally find them cheaper other places with coupons. But I do buy all my laundry detergent, dish detergent, and they have a great price on paper products and zip lock bags.
One of the hidden gems at costco is the motor oil at under $3.00 a quart you save as much as $2 a quart compared to automotive store prices