BySamantha Maxwell/Updated: July 13, 2021 4:51 pm EDT
Let's face it: paying for groceries and other necessities can be expensive. This is true whether you're just picking stuff up for yourself or you're doing the shopping for the whole family. Therefore, you're probably going to do whatever you can to cut those costs when possible. Savvy shoppers know that one great way to do that is by going to warehouse stores like Sam's Club. Though you do have to pay a membership fee to shop there, it can ultimately save you some serious money for items that you buy in bulk.
However, not everything you buy at Sam's Club is cheaper than what you'll find at other, smaller stores. Some items might be a good purchase, while it's better to find others at your local supermarket. Moreover, some items are worth paying a bit extra for because you know you'll be getting Sam's Club quality, but other things on the shelves there are just kind of lackluster. That's why we've come up with this list of things you should and shouldn't buy when you make a Sam's Club run. Let's take a look at what you should pick up and what you should skip.
If you're the kind of person who eats your three square meals a day and doesn't need anything else after that, then you likely won't think it's worth it to snag packaged snacks at the local store. But if you have kids or just like to have snacks on hand that are always ready for on-the-go adventures, then buying bulk packaged snacks at Sam's Club is a great idea.
Most snacks don't go bad quickly, which means that you can keep them in your pantry for a long time without having to worry about the expiration date. Business Insider did the math to show that shopping for snacks at Sam's tends to be less expensive than getting the exact same items at another grocery store. Of course, you may have to hide those snacks if you don't want them flying off the pantry shelves the week after you buy them.
Worst: Toilet paper
While you may think that Sam's Club is a great place to buy something like toilet paper that's easy to store in bulk and won't go bad, that's actually not the case, unfortunately. In fact, the majority of the time, it's going to be way more cost-effective to buy toilet paper at your local grocery store (via The Dallas Morning News). That's a relief, honestly, considering you probably don't want to have to go to Sam's Club every time you need to re-up on your toilet paper supply. It's often more out of the way than your normal grocery store, which admittedly makes a trek to Sam's Club more of an undertaking.
That said, you do have to pay attention to get the best deal here. Keep an eye on the toilet paper section at your local grocery store to get an idea of when the products are going on sale. That way, you can snag your TP for a decent price without even having to go out of your way. You can also always ask the employees at your local store when certain items like toilet paper get marked down as well.
At this point, some of us are hardcore sparkling water addicts (guilty as charged). If you've given up on the still stuff and now only want to taste that bubbly refreshment every time you need your thirst quenched, you're likely well-acquainted with the brandLaCroix. It's one of the most celebrated sparkling water brands out there because of its interesting flavors and quirky aesthetic, and that comes as no surprise when you take a look at all the different flavors that are available.
And if you tend to buy this beverage in bulk, Sam's Club is a great place to snag it. That's because you can get a ton of cans in one purchase — way more than you'll get in a box you'd find at the grocery store. Plus, when you buy at Sam's Club, you know the price point is going to be excellent too (via Real Simple). Happy sipping!
Worst: Totino's Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
There are some foods where you'd be well-served to keep it in the house on a regular basis. For example, if you always have frozen vegetables on hand, you know you'll always be able to whip up a relatively healthy dinner without much fuss. However, there are other foods that you shouldn't keep stocked in the back of your fridge or freezer. One such example? Totino's Pepperoni Pizza Rolls.
First of all, these things are simply not good for you (via Eat This, Not That!), and face it — you're going to eat way more than the recommended serving size anyway. They can't replace a meal, after all, and a handful of these is not going to be a satisfying snack. Plus, when you buy from Sam's Club, you'll have even more to finish once they get in your freezer. If you want to cut back on the unhealthy snacks, buying these from Sam's Club is certainly not the way to do it.
Best: Members's Club Chocolate Chunk Cookies
There are times when you want to spend hours in the kitchen baking up the perfect batch of cookies. And then there's the average day when you don't want to cook or bake any more than you really have to. That's when it's a perfectly good idea to buy some sweets from your local bakery. If you're looking for great products and great prices, then the Sam's Club bakery is the place to be. What should you pick up when you get there? The Member's Club Chocolate Chunk Cookies are a fine place to start.
These cookies have super high ratings on Sam's Club's website, so you know they're good. And while they are delicious plain, they taste even better when you warm them up just a bit in your oven, air fryer, or microwave. These cookies can offer just the pick-me-up you need for the day.
There are some things you can buy in bulk because you know for a fact that you're going to use it all before it goes bad. Take the snack packs we mentioned before, for example. But there are other items that it's pretty difficult to work through because of their shelf life, and sunscreen, which often comes with a long-term expiration date according toConsumer Reports, is one of them. Sure, you can probably finish a normal bottle of sunscreen in one summer, but unless you have a ton of people in your home, you're probably not going to go through a huge container of it in a single season. That's why a giant Sam's Club-sized bottle might not be such a great purchase, after all.
Sunscreen, especially if you're getting the high-quality kind, can be expensive, so you don't want to throw your money away by tossing the unused stuff at the end of the season. Either hold a lot of pool parties this summer or just stick to the smaller bottles of the stuff you can find at your local pharmacy.
Best: Member's Mark Organic Triple Berry Blend
If you love drinking smoothies, keeping frozen fruits in your freezer is a perfect idea. That way, you'll be able to make a smoothie whenever you feel like one without having to drop your precious dollars picking one up from your local smoothie shop. Therefore, you may want to pick up a bag of the Member's Mark Organic Triple Berry Blend you'll find at Sam's Club.
Judging by the ratings on this product, it's a pretty popular one. That makes sense considering the fact that you can make a whole bunch of smoothies from three whole pounds of berries. Frozen fruit can last in your fridge for a while, too, so you don't have to use up all of them in a week to get your money's worth. For everyone looking for a way to get more fruit in their diet, this purchase is a no-brainer.
Worst: Fresh produce
Some people have large families, and so they tend to go through produce pretty regularly. Sure, if you're feeding several people and need to make sure that everyone gets those necessary nutrients in, then you may not mind buying your produce at Sam's Club. But for everyone else, purchasing fresh produce from warehouse stores is very seldom a good idea. That's because, according to Kiplinger, produce at places like Sam's Club is often sold in bulk, leaving you with an ungodly number of tomatoes or heads of lettuce. There's a good chance that you're not going to eat that much of one type of veggie or fruit before it goes bad, so these purchases usually don't make that much sense.
Luckily, you can always look for produce that's on sale at your local grocery store. If you choose carefully, you can often find great prices at regular stores. Try to shop in season, and don't be afraid to buy reduced-price produce if you know you're going to use it right away.
Best: Rotisserie chicken
We all get busy from time to time and, when that happens, the last thing you want to do is force yourself to cook dinner. If you still want something nice, hot, and relatively healthy instead of fast food, then there is one item you have to pick up at Sam's Club: a rotisserie chicken. We love these pre-cooked chickens because they're so versatile. You can carve them and serve them as-is, or you can pull the meat off the bone and use it in a variety of other dishes, like a classic chicken salad or some chicken enchiladas. Frankly, there are a ton of recipes out there that suggest using a rotisserie chicken to make your life easier. The possibilities are practically endless!
Plus, the price on these chickens is usually pretty low, meaning you can get the bulk of your meal taken care of without cooking or breaking the bank. Who doesn't want to feed their family that easily?
We get the appeal of a good sale, we really do. But when it comes to the clothing sales at Sam's Club, you're better off looking the other way. While some of the products may seem like popular name brands, you should question why you're getting them at such a good price. There's a chance that the retailer is just trying to get rid of styles that would otherwise be deemed out of fashion (via Cheapism).
Of course, you may see a piece of clothing that you really love and, if that's the case, you shouldn't hesitate to buy it. But if you think you're going to walk through Sam's Club and find the hottest new styles, you're almost definitely going to be disappointed. Keep style in mind when you are perusing the clothes at this warehouse store — don't just buy something because it's attached to a name brand!
Best: Member's Mark peanut butter-filled pretzels
You may have heard of Costco's peanut butter-filled pretzels in the past. They are one of the most popular items at the warehouse store and, once you taste them, it'll be clear why.The salty little nuggets of goodness would make any snack lover swoon with joy.But just because you don't have a Costco in your area doesn't mean you can't enjoy the same flavor. That's because the Member's Mark peanut butter-filled pretzels taste almost identical. The salty, crunchy exterior mixes perfectly with the thick, creamy peanut butter center, resulting in a snack you won't be able to stop reaching for.
Once you start eating these things, it's probably going to be pretty hard to stop. Luckily for you, they come in 44-ounce containers, so you won't run out of pretzels for a while. Try them out for yourself and come back to thank us later.
Worst: Member's Mark Franks in a Basket
When you first take a look at the Member's Mark Franks in a Basket, you might think they look delicious. How bad could little hot dogs wrapped in bread be? But when you actually start eating these bad boys, you may start to change your mind. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to get dried out, which makes them less than appetizing. Plus, if you're watching what you eat and are trying to make healthier choices, you may not want to keep them in the freezer. According to the nutritional information(which only accounts for four of these at a time),they aren't exactly the healthiest snack you can have on hand.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a treat in your freezer from time to time, but one that takes up this much space? And one that doesn't even taste all that good, to begin with? We'll pass. That leaves more room for ice cream, anyway.
Best: Member's Mark Mountain Trek Mix
It's always good to keep the house stocked with snack foods, especially if you have little ones running around. And if there's one snack that most people are guaranteed to love that you can find at Sam's Club, it's the Member's Mark Mountain Trek Mix. We love this trail mix because it has the perfect combination of healthier items like almonds and peanuts, but it also features colorful chocolate treats as well. Whether you actually pack some when you're hiking or you're just looking for something to put in your child's lunch box, this is definitely a solid option.
Plus, a bag of this trail mix is not going to be used up anytime soon. It's a whopping 64 ounces, so you can keep snacking on this bag for weeks to come. It's great to separate the trail mix into little baggies so you can grab them on the go whenever you want.
Are you the kind of person who always needs their coffee before getting a head start on their day? The best of us are, and we never want to run out of coffee at home. But don't let the fear of running out turn you into a coffee hoarder. If you keep your coffee around too long without using it, you run the risk of it turning stale. There's arguably nothing worse than a stale cup of coffee, so it's definitely something you want to avoid. And who wants to throw away a bunch of unbrewed coffee?
Buying coffee in bulk isn't a great idea unless you know for a fact you're going to be able to drink it all before it goes stale. Plus, you don't get to try as many varieties of coffee if you shop this way. If you care about how your coffee actually tastes, you should just pick it up at a local store. It will taste better, so you'll enjoy it more — and maybe that means you'll drink less of it? It's worth a try, anyway.
Best: Member's Mark Jalapeno Artichoke Dip
Homemade spreads and dips are always the best, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have time to make them on a regular basis. After all, who has time to make what's essentially just an extra? That's where store-bought dips come in handy. Having some friends over for the afternoon? Put out some dip. Giving your kids an after-school snack? Dip works for that too. Therefore, when you pass the Member's Mark Jalapeno Artichoke Dip at Sam's Club, it may seem like a smart purchase.
And you'd be right. If you're looking for a delicious dip to pair with chips, this purchase knocks it out of the park. It has the perfect amount of spiciness to keep you coming back for more, but not so much that it feels like your tongue is on fire. Plus, it saves you a lot of time in the process. What's not to like?
Again, this one really depends on the size of your family or how many people you're feeding at your house on a regular basis. If there's one thing we know about Sam's Club, though, it's the fact that the store sells massive containers of condiments. Need ketchup, mustard, or mayo? It's likely to come in what seems like industrial-sized packaging. While that may be great for a massive cookout or a stupendously large household, it's probably not ideal for a smaller family.
Condiments like ketchup and mayo don't last forever, so you don't want to buy more than you really need. Therefore, though you may feel like you're saving money when you buy these items at Sam's Club, you might spend more in the long run because you're throwing unused products away. Just keep an eye on how much you actually use so you can determine if buying in bulk is genuinely right for you.
Condiments may not stay good forever, but one group of products that you can plan on keeping for a while is spices. A lot of the time, these spices aren't going to go bad all that quickly and can even sometimes be revived, so you don't have to worry about buying more at a time. This is especially true for spices you tend to use on a regular basis, like garlic or onion powder. And luckily, this is actually one of those products that can save you money when you buy it at Sam's Club. Plus,the Member's Mark brand of spices is quite affordable, so you won't have to break the bank just to stock up your spice cabinet. There are lots of options here, too, so don't be afraid to branch out and try something new!
It's a great idea to keep a lot of different spices in your pantry because they allow you to switch up the flavor even if you're not using drastically different ingredients each time you cook. Why not amp up that spice collection on your next trip to Sam's Club?
Let's clarify something here: We're not saying that you shouldn't ever buy milk at Sam's Club. If you happen to be there and need milk at the time you're shopping, then go for it. What we mean is that you shouldn't go out of your way to buy milk at Sam's Club or any other warehouse store. Why? Because there's a good chance you're not even getting a better deal. And considering it's often more of a hassle to go to one of these massive stores, that makes it not worth the extra trip.
AARP has reported that warehouse clubs usually offer very similar prices to local grocery stores on some items, while others are a bit of a better deal, especially bought in bulk. Sometimes, the savings are worth it, and sometimes, you spend more money on gas getting to Sam's Club than you'll actually save from buying the product there.Ultimately, you don't have to worry about missing out on a deal just because you'd prefer to get your milk closer to home
Best: Member's Mark Tandoori-Style Naan Bites
Who doesn't love a tasty, versatile snack that can go with just about anything? That's why we're such huge fans of the Member's Mark Tandoori-Style Naan Bites that you'll find at Sam's Club. They're super puffy and fluffy, but since they're so small, they're not overly filling. You can pair these naan bites with quite a few different foods, too. Keep it simple with a bit of hummus or load them up with a ton of different ingredients like meat, salad, or any kind of dip you can think of. They're perfect for lunch boxes or just keeping on the kitchen counter for whenever a snack craving strikes.
And if we're judging by the ratings, these naan bites are beloved across the board. On the Sam's Club website, they have an average 4.6 rating and plenty of rave reviews to their credit. Sounds like it's time for you to try these naan bites for yourself.
When you add a little one to your family, you're so excited to get to know them, but you're probably stretched for time and money, too. And once you have a kid, you'll realize just how much you end up spending on diapers. The cost can be staggering, so it's smart to cut back in whatever way you can. Some think that shopping for diapers at a warehouse store like Sam's Club is the right move, but it turns out that strategy isn't quite as effective as you might think.
Kiplinger pointed out that you shouldn't just assume you're getting the best price at a place like Sam's Club. Big-box stores often offer even better deals on disposable diapers, so you'll want to check individual prices before you decide where to buy. Additionally, you might be able to find even better prices if you're willing to subscribe to a certain diaper product via an online retailer.
Best: USDA Prime Steaks
In February of 2019, Sam's Club made a big announcement: It would start carrying USDA prime beef (via Real Simple). This is one of the highest standards of meat quality, so you know you can get amazing steaks from Sam's Club now and you don't have to find a small-scale butcher anymore. If you're looking for an amazing, juicy steak that you can throw on a grill, then visit the meat department at Sam's Club.
Turns out you have a lot of options when it comes to the kinds of steak you can get from Sam's Club. If you love tender cuts, the tenderloin may just be the way to go. However, if you prefer a fattier cut with more marbling, a ribeye is a perfect choice. Don't be afraid to ask the butcher if you have any questions about what kind of steak you should take home with you, too.
Worst: Canned goods
Have you ever seen those giant cans of beans, corn, peas, and other veggies at stores like Sam's Club? They're often on offer for fantastic prices, and when you see how much food is included in one can, it can feel like you're getting the best deal ever. But think about it for a minute, here. Normal-sized cans were designed to hold a few servings. These larger cans hold more servings than most families can eat before the contents go bad. After all, how many baked beans can you shovel down at consecutive meals? Most people are looking for a bit more variety in their diets than that.
If you're having a BBQ and you need a lot of one item, go ahead and buy it canned at Sam's Club. But if you're just buying for yourself or your family, buying these kinds of bulked canned products generally isn't going to work for your budget or your meal plan.
Best: Member's Mark Yeast Dinner Rolls
Have you ever been halfway finished with dinner only to realize that you have no starch to go on the side? One of the fastest ways to solve this problem is by getting some bread on the dinner table. But if you're not the kind of person who likes to make their own bread on the regular, your best option just might be to have Member's Mark Yeast Dinner Rolls on deck.
These rolls come in a large bag, so there is plenty to pass around. The best part is that they can be used in many applications. Whether you just want to serve a roll on the side of your meal or you want to make tiny sandwiches for your kids' lunches, these rolls are a great item to have on hand. Plus, your family is probably going to like them way more than a plain slice of bread.
All too often, when you buy cereal at Sam's Club, you have to buy way, way too much of it. Do you really want several boxes worth of Cheerios sitting in your pantry, just waiting for someone to come eat them before they go stale? We didn't think so. That's why we don't recommend purchasing bulk cereal from Sam's Club.
First of all, you just don't get that much variety. Unless you always like eating the same thing, that's not ideal. When you buy smaller boxes of cereal, you get to choose many different varieties so you're not always stuck with one variety. Plus, these boxes of cereal aren't as likely to go bad because they're easier to get through before that best-by date hits.But even worse is the fact that you can often get a better price for your cereal at a big box store (via Cheapism). Check there first so you can get the variety — and the price — you deserve.
Does Costco or Sam's Club Have Better Prices? Overall, the prices at Costco tend to be cheaper. However, Sam's Club has a greater selection of name-brand products and a cheaper membership fee.
Is Sam's Club meat good quality? Sam's Club offers quality meat that is USDA-graded meat in Choice and Prime categories primarily. It also offers meat and poultry free of hormones and antibiotics. The selection includes an array of popular cuts such as whole briskets, ribeye, striploin, sirloin, and tenderloin.
Worst: Toilet paper and paper towels
Paper products tend to be a pretty flimsy deal at Sam's Club and other warehouse stores, said Conway. Per sheet, toilet paper ends up being roughly the same price at the grocery store and Sam's Club.
The most recent Krazy Coupon Lady survey found Amazon about 12% more expensive than Costco or Sam's. UPDATE: A newer April 2019 comparison of 40 items found similar results, with Costco having the lowest price on many items.
If a Costco price tags ends in . 99, it's a full-price, regular item. If your favorite item end in . 99, you may not be saving money, but it will most likely still be around the next time you shop at Costco.
That's right, Costco's best-selling item is toilet paper. They sell more than a billion rolls every year. The high quality and warehouse price of Costco's toilet paper make it fly off the shelves every day.
After a successful pilot program in 200 of its store locations during 2018, Sam's Club told Grocery Dive in an email that it now offers USDA prime beef at all retail locations, including a variety of popular cuts like tenderloin, ribeye, striploin, sirloin and whole briskets.
Costco has lower prices, but Sam's Club has a cheaper membership fee — here's how the two warehouse clubs stack up.
Sam's Club works with major packers such as Smithfield and Tyson to fill its 661 clubs' meat cases with pork produced by United States hog farmers. The fresh pork cuts have to fit the Sam's Club business model, and more importantly, its members' expectations.
How Often Does Sam's Club Restock Shelves? Sam's Club restocks daily. Most Sam's Club stores are very popular, and hundreds or even thousands of customers can go through one store each day. The shelves are always being cleared, and items are constantly being replaced.
You'll clearly save more money on toilet paper with a Sam's Club membership. For example, at Sam's you can get a 30-ct package of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush for $0.66 per roll, while you'll pay $0.83 per roll for the same product at Costco.
Caveats aside, Sam's Club came out ahead on almost every product. On a per-item basis, it cost around 25% less than Walmart and almost 10% less than Costco.
Caldorwards4 Costco members can now use their Costco cards to shop at Sam's Club.
Costco is known as a low-price leader, but as the big-box and warehouse store landscape becomes more and more competitive, it's getting harder to find unbeatable deals. Despite this, Costco still has some major purchasing power, which helps it keep costs way low.
When compared to other similar retailers, Costco's competitive advantage lies in its own private label, its discount prices, and its membership dues. This has provided customers with a product that they can rely on at low prices. It is also a stable business model that investors seek as a good investment.
Conclusion. If you're just shopping for food at Costco, the savings aren't as competitive for the same items you'd find elsewhere, so the $60 annual membership fee might not be worth it for you. But other in-store brands are really on par, quality-wise, as Costco's Kirkland Signature brand.