This post is by OYS writer Danielle. See here for more of her posts.
Every so often, we receive a mailing from Sam’s Club or BJ’s offering a free membership to join their wholesale club where we can find all things bulk. Each time it brings me back to the big debate…should we? Shouldn’t we?
When my daughter was a baby we were offered a free trial membership and signed up to take advantage of their diaper deals. Before buying, we made sure to do the math. Quite honestly, I cannot remember the exact price difference, but we compared between what was offered at Target versus the big box bulk store. I can clearly remembering bragging about our cost savings. Everyone likes to brag about their educated, researched deals! Since my daughter is no longer in need of diapers, thank goodness, our debate has changed. Diapers are not of a necessity but food items are. As cooking and food prep have become a priority more than ever, would it serve us budget-wise to rejoin the club?
To be clear, when assessing this debate, I am strictly speaking of the big box stores like Sam’s, BJ’s, or Costco’s. I realize that bulk exists in local grocery stores as well as neighborhood co-ops.
Here are a list of pros and cons I came up with when trying to decide if joining a warehouse club was right for my family.
- Less frequent trips to the store. How many times have myself or my husband have to “stop at the store” on our way home? Ugh. It’s almost annoying. And you would think as a menu planner, I would have it together by now. Well, if I had a print out of how many times a week our shoppers club card was swiped, it would be embarrassing. So my thought process is, if I had bulk items at home such as pasta (try preparing a new mac & cheese recipe minus the “mac”!) would our ventures “stopping at the store” lessen?
- Cheaper (for some items). Typically, you can save 50% on cereal and 20% on pasta when purchasing in bulk. Also, most of the warehouse stores offer organic foods and meats now along with other natural products at a significant lower cost than regular grocery stores. This can equal huge savings. Obviously, it is important to check out and compare prices to make sure you are getting a savings. It is also a good idea to consider paper products such as toilet paper, paper towels and napkins. These products do not have a shelf life. (Note from Tammy…I am putting together a post on the top organic and healthy foods I purchase in bulk. Check back soon for that)
- Member coupons and benefits. In general prices can be cheaper on most items when purchased in bulk but also as a member, you will receive plenty of in-store coupons. This also can help to bring the cost way down. And some stores (ex. BJs) take manufacturers coupons which brings the cost down even more.
- Membership fee. Just as it can serve as a benefit, I personally view this as a con. To be fair, I have been in receipt of mailings that offer a free 60 day trial membership for new members. However, once that offer expires, you must ante up. Memberships can cost anywhere from $35-$100 annually. It is important to shop at big bulk stores with intention. Have you seen the Modern Family episode when Cam introduces Mitchell to CostCo? If you have, you know what I mean about shopping with intention! You need to consider if the cost of membership is worth it to you. Honestly, if I did not receive a free trial membership, the cost of the fee would have deterred me from joining.
- Storage. I have envy of those homes that offer the luxury of storage. I had heard the saying “we are outgrowing our home” and I always thought that was an odd statement. We are a family of three and I have changed my tune. I get it. We have outgrown our home. Which is why we just put an addition onto our home! Partly to accommodate our lack of space and storage. Buying bulk means I need storage. Because I saved every single stained onesie and mismatched sock from my daughters younger years, storage is an issue. For this reason alone, bulk just isn’t going to work. I thrive on organization and the thought of huge boxes of granola bars and cereal stuffed into my shoe closet, fills me with panic!
- Waste. So many times I go through phases that I get on a kick and I am obsessive about a particular thing like Luna Fiber Bars or Chai Tea Latte K-cups for example. As I have a Luna Bar daily for my afternoon snack, I can easily see why purchasing a big box would make sense in those situations. And then it happens. I get sick of it and I am done. For life. My husband imitates me which I find funny. In a nasally voice, he drawls out my usual statement of “I don’t like it”. Typing that just doesn’t do it justice! But you get my point here. I squeeze every last drop out of the toothpaste tube in fear of being wasteful so I know if I was stuck with a bulk box of something I no longer enjoyed, I would not be a big fan of myself for being wasteful.
- Eat, eat, eat. This one kind of ties in to my argument above. I wonder if I might feel compelled to eat just because it’s there and because I hate waste. In my case, I know myself and this could very easily be self-sabotage.
- Shopping at more than one store. Weekends are busy and grocery shopping takes up enough time when you only have 1 store to shop at. Going to more than 1 store – even if only a couple times a month – can be a real pain. So even though shopping at a warehouse store might save money if time if of the essence then this might not work for you.
For me and my family of 3, it does not seem logical for us right now to invest in a big box bulk store membership. If, one day, I can bear to part with my daughter’s baby clothes in lieu of storage, I may revisit this idea.
What are your thoughts on getting a wholesale membership? Pros and cons in your experiences?