Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sam's Club...haul?

How much money can you really save by shopping at "bulk" warehouses, including their annual membership fees? 

I saw an alert on Facebook last week from Money Saving Mom about Sam's Club having an Open House for non-members.  I have not been inside a Sam's Club since 2001, when my husband and I still lived in Florida.  My son and I decided to check out our nearest one this past Saturday.  I brought a pad of paper and a pen, hoping to generate a list of deals good enough to entice me to purchase a membership.  While the store was neat, clean, and organized, I just wasn't feeling it...that "thrifty thrill".  I say this because for our family's grocery needs, I am not absolutely certain that a  $45 membership can make up for the price difference between what Sam's Club offers, and what I can achieve by combining sales and coupons at the grocery store.  Here are a few examples of items we regularly purchase:

Nature's Own bread-  Sam's Club  2/$4.28, $2.24 per loaf
                                   Kroger 2/$3.00, $1.50 per loaf

100 Finish dishwasher tabs-  Sam's Club $13.78
                                               Publix BOGO 2x60 (120) $11.99 - $1.25 coupon = $10.74

90% lean/10% fat ground beef-  Sam's Club $3.68 per pound
                                                    Publix $4.49 per pound (sale)

Uncle Luke's maple syrup, 32 oz-  Sam's Club $13.28
Maple Grove maple syrup, 32 oz-  Publix  $18.29 (every day)

As you can see, it is a better deal for us to purchase the bread and dishwasher tabs when they are on sale at Kroger/Publix.  The beef and maple syrup have much better every day prices at Sam's Club.  Does that make it worth it for us to purchase a $45 membership? Not when you consider the fact that a 32 ounce jug of maple syrup will last us at least one month, usually longer.  We would need to purchase nine jugs of maple syrup each year to break even with the membership cost.   We consume beef only once per month.  Four pounds (the smallest increment Sam's Club sells) will divide into approximately five dinners for this family of three, lasting five months!

There were a few other well-priced items at Sam's Club that I would not mind purchasing regularly.  We enjoy eating a white fish once per week.  Sam's Club sells frozen, wild-caught, Kosher, Alaskan flounder, packaged by Treasures from the Sea.  Each 3 pound bag contains 12 individually wrapped fish portions....for $11.98! That averages out to $1 per person, costing us $3 per meal.  I read the ingredients and country of origin information again to see if I was missing something that would explain the low price.   Everything looked good, so I took advantage of my non-member shopping day, and tossed two bags into my cart.

Another good deal I found was for light olive oil.  I use this frequently throughout the week for baking, pancakes, and spraying on pans and popcorn.  I typically buy a name brand when it is BOGO at Publix.  Sam's Club sells a 3 liter jug for $12.88.  The sign indicated that averages to 12.7 cents per ounce.  I can never get anywhere close to that deal, even with coupons.  One jug went into my cart.

We consume quite a bit of fresh produce throughout the week.  Since I happened to be low on lettuce, I did pick up a 2 pound bag of chopped Romaine for $2.87, which is $1.44 per pound.  That is an absolutely amazing price!  12 ounce bags (3/4 of a pound) will often be on sale at the grocery store for $2.  Sometimes I will find some at Kroger for $1.49, when they are nearing their sell-by date.  Sam's Club's every day price still beats these far and wide. 

The lowest price I have seen on blueberries at the grocery store is $2 for a pint, which averages to about 12 ounces (3/4 of a pound) in weight.  I would need to purchase 4 pints to have 3 pounds, spending $8.  This averages to $2.67 per pound.  Sam's Club had 2 pounds of blueberries for $5.98, which averages to $2.99 per pounds.  Woops, I realize now that is not a great deal.

Despite some good prices, I am still on the fence.  I think that in order for the $45 membership fee to truly be a benefit for us, I would need to shop at Sam's Club more frequently.  I don't see myself heading there on a weekly basis, because I don't think of it as "that kind" of store.  It's not super close to my house, and also not convenient for darting in and out of.  My time is just as valuable as money, and therefore I should exercise thriftiness in both areas.

In an effort to make the most of my time and money spent this past Saturday, here is what I purchased from the Sam's Club Open House for non-members, at member prices:

4.25 pounds 90% lean/10% fat ground beef at $3.68 per pound-  $15.64
3 pounds frozen flounder, divided into 12 portions at $4 per pound- $11.98
3 pounds frozen flounder, divided into 12 portions at $4 per pound- $11.98
3 pounds organic mini baby carrots at $1.33 per pound- $3.98
2 pounds chopped Romaine lettuce at $1.44 per pound- $2.87
2 pounds blueberries (from Oregon) at $2.99 per pound- $5.98
3 liters light olive oil at 12.7 cents per ounce- $12.88

Subtotal of $66.31 + $1.96 (3% tax) = $67.27 total

I will be happy to shop at Sam's Club the next time there is an Open House for non-members, and we can pay member prices.  My parents told me that Costco is their favorite "bulk" warehouse, and that I can get a day pass from Customer Service.  Hmmmm, I wonder what kind of "haul" I can possibly make there?


  1. I personally only use my membership to purchase meats and gas. the gas is a big savings for us since SAMs is close to our home and on the way to work. Otherwise it can really add up.

  2. Hello Nita! I can see where a family can save a bit on meat and gas purchases at Sam's, especially when it is close to your home and on your way to/from work. I buy my gas at Kroger, because I earn discount points on my shopping card through purchases in the store.