Condo Blues: Can Small Families Save Money at Warehouse Clubs?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Can Small Families Save Money at Warehouse Clubs?

Bulk buying is usually the greener choice because it reduces the amount of individual packaging for the item but will bulk buying at a warehouse club save a small family like mine money?


Once upon a time Husband and I had a warehouse club membership. That particular club leans more toward small businesses than families but we regularly purchased items we needed when we performed at the renaissance festival like vats of sports drink mix (90 degree F in 3 layers of brocade yo) and an industrial bag of flour to bake the many loaves of bread we needed for The Queen’s Feast. We knew after careful tracking, that some things cost the same as in a regular grocery store but were easier to buy them at the Sam’s Club if we needed a large quantity of say, soda,  for an event.

We eventually quit Sam’s Club after we stopped performing at the renaissance festival. We didn’t need the super giant size quantities since we weren’t feeding fellow performers. We lived in a small duplex with almost no food storage space to hold giant quantities of well priced baking ingredients before they expire. It stopped making sense for us.

I’ve been thinking on and off about joining a warehouse club to cut down on our packaging waste, especially after My Zero Waste’s Zero Waste Week and the discussions of buying in bulk. I’m sure we will cut down on packaging waste if we join but will it save us money or should be keep on keeping on with our fairly low waste ways?

This is approximately a week’s worth of household trash (notice the fur dirt clod courtesy of our sweeper and Lacey) and a week and a half’s worth recycling mid pantry ant proofing project courtesy of my food blog Lazy Budget Chef. 

I’m sure warehouse clubs have changed a bit since I last had a membership so I did what I always do in these situations – research.

Then I got confused. For every source who said you can save money if you buy certain groceries (including some of the ingredient type of food we eat) at a warehouse club, there was another source claiming you can’t save money on groceries at a warehouse club but the electronics and household items are a deal.
Followed by another source that said not to buy electronics and household items at a warehouse club if you want to save money.  *sigh*

I visited a BJ’s Warehouse for a blogger event last year (you can read about my visit on Lazy Budget Chef here.) It the first time in forever I went to a warehouse club. I am surprised at the number of organic and bad stuff free real food they had. Some of the sizes in that club weren’t humgously awkward to use like the nitrate free hotdogs in the photo below. That size we can use before our small freezer burns it

For the record I bought the olive oil in the upper right corner. We use olive oil a lot too.

Sadly the closest BJ’s Warehouse is a two hours drive from our house so I can’t compare warehouse club to warehouse club in person. I tried comparing Sam’s Club, BJ’s Warehouse, and Costco (they are building one near us) on-line but I couldn’t compare grocery items because the only food they offer online is Doomsday Prepper type food and that’s not what I’m looking for.

Not that I’m knocking any of the Be Prepared crowd (please don’t yell at me Rolling on the floor laughing.) It is great if you like to eat freeze dried chipped beef on toast by the barrelful, but I’m more of a I’m-prepared-with-a-bottle-of-red-wine-that-doesn’t-need-refrigeration-during-a-storm-related-blackout kind of gal. Although I suppose I could get a deal on a crate full of batteries for the flashlight that always has dead batteries in it though…

Help a gal out. Do you shop at a warehouse club? Which one? Is there a difference? Do you save money doing it? What type of thing is a deal and what is not? Is the saving money aspect only for large families?  Does it reduce your household waste?

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