8 Massive Ways to Save at Bulk Stores

Photo (cc) by Walmart Corporate

Bulk stores like Costco and Sam’s Club do have some great deals, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always save money shopping at one of them. If you’re like me, three things are working against you while you push that ginormous cart…

  1. You assume everything is a good deal because it’s bulk pricing.
  2. You really believe you won’t let it go to waste.
  3. You greatly overestimate your love for one type of food.

Fall prey to those pitfalls and you might end up wasting money. Shop smarter and you’ll not only stop wasting money – you’ll start saving a lot of it. Here are some tips for bulk-food shopping that really helped me…

1. Stick to one membership…

Having multiple bulk-store memberships ensures you get deals on different products – since they all carry slightly different stuff – but you could end up paying more than $100 each year just to get inside the store. As of December, club memberships varied from $40 to $55 annually.

It’s cheaper to pick one bulk store and stick to it for a year. If you need help choosing, check out How to Pick the Best Wholesale Club.

2. …Or don’t buy a membership at all

Bulk stores generally let a member bring in one guest. (I usually bring a friend with me to Sam’s Club.) If you don’t plan on going more than a few times a year, why not piggyback on someone else’s paid membership? You just saved at least $40.

If you do plan on going regularly, you can split the cost of membership with a friend or family member. For example, Sam’s Club gives you two membership cards for $40, which I split each year with my sister. We don’t live in the same house – or even the same city – but it’s never been a problem.

3. Compare price per unit

Bulk stores have cheaper prices on most items. A study conducted a few years ago by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that 86 percent of the food items it compared cost less at a bulk store. (The USDA found the largest savings in meat, canned goods, and store-brand foods.)

But that means 14 percent didn’t cost less. When you factor in sale prices or store card discounts, it may be cheaper to buy certain foods at the grocery store. To be sure, calculate the unit price for the things you buy at the bulk food store, and the unit price for the same items at the grocery store. Then compare the two.

4. Buy the store brand

Many of the bulk stores carry their own brands of cleaning products, laundry detergent, pet food, and some nonperishable foods. And the store brand usually costs less. For example, Sam’s Club sells Tide and their brand, Member’s Mark…

  • Tide with ActiveLift, 170 ounces/110 loads = $19.98
  • Member’s Mark Liquid Laundry Detergent, 225 ounces/146 loads = $13.68

In this case, buying the store brand will save you 12 cents a load. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but how much laundry do you wash in a year?

5. Split perishables with a friend

Bulk stores have good deals on fruits and vegetables, but I know I’ll never eat 5 pounds of apples, and I don’t want to freeze them. Instead, I split bulk packages of perishable food with a friend. We each pay for half, and I get the bulk price without wasting food.

6. Freeze food before it goes bad

After years of wasting countless perishable items because I just didn’t get to them in time, I finally learned to start checking expiration dates and freezing whatever was left before it could go bad.

Check out When Does Food Really Expire for a cheat sheet on freeze times.

7. Don’t plan too far ahead

I have 14 cans of peaches in my pantry. They’ve been there six months. Why? Because six months ago, I ate a lot of peaches. I thought I’d love them forever.

I didn’t.

If you don’t have a large household, it can take weeks or even months to use up a bulk size. And if you get sick of it – or no longer need it – you’ve wasted money. You’re better off sticking to staples like flour, sugar, or rice and avoiding the giant-sized frozen barbecue shrimp altogether.

8. Make use of store perks and discount offers

Bulk-food stores come with extras – a gas station, a tire and car-care center, a cafeteria – to make the most of your membership. So use all of the perks the store offers. And most extras have a discount (like tires, which are dirt-cheap at Sam’s Club), so you’ll save even more.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate
The 13 Worst Types of Tickets for Your Car Insurance Rate

Some types of traffic violations can drive your car insurance rate dramatically higher.

7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire
7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire

Sunny skies and warm breezes sound great. But in reality, you might be better off retiring closer to home.

The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station
The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station

Beware these cash-guzzling missteps when you stop at any gas station.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

Never Buy These 19 Things Online
Never Buy These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.