What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Warehouse Stores

Years ago when the kids where quite young we discovered shopping at a warehouse store called PACE Wholesale Club. At that time you needed a membership to shop there. The only way to get a membership was to be a member of a union or be a business owner. The store was located in the United States so a shopping trip turned to an all day event. We would return home with institutional size packaged foods to stock the pantry. Buying certain foods this way made sense economically and environmentally.

In 1993 PACE then owned by K-Mart was bought out by Wal-mart who converted most of the wholesale clubs to Sam's Club. Without hesitating, we signed up for the new Sam's Club membership and continue to maintain our membership at Sam's Club. We also shop at Costco Wholesale, another warehouse club store that requires a membership. One of our kids has a Costco's membership so we shop with them instead of buying our own membership.

Sam's Club

Questions: So why shop at a warehouse club store? Why should I pay for a membership to shop in any store? What should I know before shopping at a warehouse club store? What kind of a shopping experience can I expect at a warehouse club store? Can I really save money if there are only two of us living at home on a regular basis? Do you have any tips for saving even more by shopping at a warehouse club store?

The primary reason for shopping at a warehouse club store is saving money. The second reason is being able to buy foods in institutional sized packaging. They carry restaurant supplies at low prices making warehouse club stores ideal places to shop for basic entertaining supplies. The fresh produce, meat and bakery offerings are excellent and the prices are lower than in regular supermarkets. Finally, these stores are easy in, easy out with ample parking.

An annual membership fee is required to shop at either Sam's Club or Costco. Initially the membership was only offered to those meeting certain criteria such as being a business owner but now anyone can join. Membership is the underlying principle behind the co-operative buying power to keep product prices down without ownership in the club. Sam's Club offers five types of memberships each with differing benefits. Costco offers three types of memberships with differing benefits. So your membership fee keeps prices down enabling you to get products cheaper at a warehouse store than elsewhere.

Shopping at a warehouse club store is a different experience than shopping at other department or grocery stores. You do need to know your prices before shopping because not everything is cheaper in warehouse club stores. The carts a quite large and can get quite heavy when filled. Most food and non-food items are on serve-yourself industrial shelving. There are no fancy displays although sometimes a large ticket item is set-up. Even though items geared for the major holidays are available the store itself isn't really decorated. The warehouse club stores now sell a lot of other non-food items including electronics, books, computers, small appliances, tires, cleaning supplies and much more. Clothes are on racks or large tables. A good selection of books, videos and DVDs are available. The office supply section is quite good. Services include a pharmacy, eye care and photo finishing. The most publicized feature of warehouse club stores is their food samples. These small carts appear throughout the food section of the store and are most prevalent on the weekends. When you check-out, the cashier takes your card number then rings up your total while re-loading your purchases into another cart. There are no bags so bring your own or use the usually available boxes for your purchases. Before leaving the store your cart and receipt will be checked by a purchase checker. They say it is to make sure you have everything you paid for but in reality it is a security measure to prevent items not paid for leaving the store.

Most people assume that you have to have a large family to take advantage of warehouse club prices but that simply is not the case. We raised a larger but not huge family and am now empty nesters. If you've read my cooking and gardening blogs you know I grow a lot of food, can/preserve just about everything, buy meats directly from the farmer, shop locally for produce, cook mainly from scratch and don't use a lot of pre-made convenience foods. I should also note that there are restrictions as to what we can bring back into Canada especially produce but this is not a problem for those living in the country where the store is located. In short, on the surface it would appear we would not be able to save by shopping at a warehouse club store. Wrong! We do a lot of entertaining and with a business need a lot of office supplies. We shop at Sam's Club an average of six to eight times per year. Generally we save enough the first trip to more than pay for the membership.

My Recent Good Buys:

The following are just a few good buys we made on our last trip to Sam's Club. In general, we don't use a lot of commercially canned foods because I can my own but even then the savings may not be a large as canned food bought on sale for normal sized cans. Institutional sized cans are in most cases a good deal. For me cheeses tend to be good deals as are large container sizes of seasonings.

1. Butter is usually $3.49/lb here, I bought a four pound package for $6.48 or $1.62/lb.
2. Philidelphia cream cheese is $2.29 per 8 oz package. A six pack of 8 oz cream cheese was $8.12 or $1.35 each.
3. Vlasic Dill pickles, 1 gal - $3.58
4. Tortilla chips, 2/3 lb bags - $5.28
5. Rotel tomatoes, 8/10 oz - $4.81 (can't buy them here)
6. organic mesclun mix (fresh), 16 oz - $2
7. French loaves, 2/18" - $2.17

1. 20 lb paper, 5,000 sheets - $27.88
2. 92/93 HP tri-pack cartridges - $43.86
3. Simple Green concentrated cleaner, 1 gal - $8.88
4. Olay Complete Body Wash, 54 oz pack - $9.84
5. GE CFL. 8/13 watt - $10.86


Warehouse club stores buy what is available in huge lots at the best price. That means the products tend to be brand name. One week the store may be stocked with Brand A but when that is gone if Brand B was the better price, that will be the brand on the shelves. If a product is not moving well, it will be removed for a product that will sell well. If you see something you use at a good price it makes good sense to stock up on it when you see it because it might not be available again. It also is a good idea to keep an eye on the price coding of products. A "c" at the end of the number means the item has been cancelled at Sam's Club so stock up because it more than likely will not be available after the stock is sold out. At Costco's the magic endings to look for at the end of the codes are "97" for discontinued or "p" for slow moving.

Avoid splurging that can drive up your food costs. Make a list! Current prices for Sam's Club and Costco's are online so you can compare prices before going shopping. Always compare unit prices (price/ounce etc) at the warehouse club stores to unit prices of the same product available elsewhere. Remember the largest size is not always the most economical in price per unit. It is best not to shop when you are hungry a the warehouse club stores. It is also best not to shop the warehouse club stores when you are tired especially during peak shopping hours.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


cube said...

We buy all our paper goods and pantry items from Sam's Club. Not only do we save money, but time as well.

Lily said...

You can use the COSTCO pharmacy without being a member.

Garden Gnome said...

Cube, one stop shopping is always a time and money saver. While one or two items might be a bit more than a competitors, the time and travel costs might more than eat up the savings.

Garden Gnome said...

Lily, thanks for the tip. That is good to know. For those close enough to take advantage of the lower dispensing fees at Costco, it is one more way to save a little bit.