Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ask the Internet: Best Deals at Big Box Stores?

Today's question comes from a new membership! Yay!

Wiki Stu pendousma
Q: I just joined CostCo, mostly to get their super-solid eye exam/contact lens deal. But, while I'm there, I'd like to join the wonderful world of bulk shopping. What products are bargains?

A: From a cursory glance (and, admittedly, some prior shopping with my dad), I figured:
  • contact lens solution
  • canned tomatoes
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • peppercorns
  • chicken broth
  • cat food
  • oatmeal (in canisters, not packaged)
  • CostCo brand block cheese
  • Sabra hummus
Readers, how about you? What are worth buying at big box stores like Sam's Club, CostCo, and BJ's?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Christine said...

Organic baby spinach (if you can eat that much) -- the big box is the same price as the small box at the grocery store.

Jarred roasted red peppers super cheap too.

That and you really nailed nailed a few things on my list...
contact lens solution, vanilla extract, cinnamon, peppercorns,
CostCo brand block cheese, Sabra hummus

ALL come home with me!

Sometimes there are good deals on mushrooms and salmon too --- but the fish prices seem to be going up....

Dee Seiffer said...

Costco - I usually get the frozen salmon fillets and chicken thighs (the 6-packs of 4 thighs/pack). I love the gift card deals too. Local restaurants, SpaFinder, movie theaters, amusement parks, etc... usually at 80% of the usual price.

Crystal on Money Saving Mom posted about a week-long deal for a free pass to Sam's w/ Sam's member prices. She said she gets the giant package of yeast for $4 and freezes it. I might have to check it out.

Megan said...

On my most recent CostCo list: Yeast (if you're a breadbaker), strawberries when they're in season, dry black beans (6 1-lb pkgs for less than $5), garlic, and Rotel.

mom4max said...

Most of the lettuces, baby tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, most of the fresh meats (and very good quality, at least here in TX), bagels, a lot of the Kirkland brand drugs (Advil, Zantac, Claritin knockoffs). Of course, if you can't use it before it spoils, it's no bargain.

Paige said...

Not just the Costco brand cheese, but the fancier cheeses there, are super cheap compared to the same quality cheese elsewhere. English cheddar, goat cheese, Brie? All super cheap and high quality. Can't beat their prices on Amys mac and cheese, potatoes, tuna, frozen edamame, crackers, and nuts. I also stock up on almost all the products you mentioned.

I try to mostly stay away from the fresh produce (expensive!), dried fruits (added sulfur), and house brand baked goods (corn syrup and white flour, ahoy!).

falnfenix said...

spices and grains are almost always cheaper at Costco...and they're now carrying bags of quinoa.

i don't use their cat food as it has grains in it (which can contribute to kitty diabetes), but i hear Kirkland dog food is pretty good. coffee - especially with one of Costco's coupons - is cheaper there. we've had good luck with produce, too.

oh, and they carry Pop Chips, which i cannot get elsewhere.

though not edible, their mattresses are a great deal, some TVs have had stellar prices, and their computers are very well priced. they also have deals on the website that aren't found in stores. oh, and they have discounted movie tickets.

Anonymous said...

Movie tickets

Myrnie said...

I go for milk, eggs, shredded cheeses (mozz, parm, and "mexican blend"), block Tillamook extra sharp cheddar, toilet paper, "better than bullion" chicken base, spices (cinnamon, dried onions, granulated garlic), baking supplies (yeast, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar), dried goods (rice and pinto beans in 25 pound bags, some kids' clothes (pajamas, Sunday dresses, swimsuits), dried fruit, nuts, enormous $3 bags of KS tortilla chips, white tortillas, huge loaves of Franz bread, bananas....OK, I guess I buy nearly everything there. I'm a bulk shopper! Plus $1.50 hot dogs and gelato on the way out the door. Yum. I don't get produce there- couldn't possibly use up 6 heads of romaine or 24 mangoes before they go bad!

April said...

I get all sorts of cheese at Sam's Club- especially harder cheeses that last a while. A big block of parmesan will last the 3 people in my house for about 4-5 weeks. Toilet paper and dish detergent are two other staples I get from there as well.

Shmoopty said...

That's pretty close to my hot list. Also milk, eggs, Kirkland bacon, cat litter, Quinoa, and paper goods seem to be significantly cheaper there.

Beth said...

At our local Costco, we buy olive oil, kashi cereal, almond milk and organic eggs from a local farm, all in bulk packages. Great value for paper goods as well (tissue, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins) as long as you have storage space.

JuLo said...

Don't bother with their produce, it's not even close to fresh and it's more expensive than the grocery store (always check the $/lb!). Their dairy prices are great, especially eggs. Can't beat their wine prices and other alcohol- cheaper than Bevmo. I stock up on gum, organic diced tomatoes, green chiles, canned tuna/salmon, hot sauce, olive oil, ground flaxmeal, and breathright nose strips. :). And staples like tp, bar soap, and toothpaste, but of you have a strong brand preference it may not be for you.

Kris said...

Oh my gosh - OLIVE OIL. How could I forget? Thanks, team!

Laura said...

We always buy feta cheese. Much cheaper at Costco than the supermarket. We also buy bulk nuts (almonds and pistachios), organic tortilla chips, and organic peanut butter. Books are inexpensive, too, unless you get yours at the library or at used bookstores.

Christineb said...

Everything you listed plus-
Olive Oil
Kirkland brand Zyrtec and Tylenol
salmon burgers
frozen berries
I love Costco!

Ashley P said...

Feta cheese! I just bought over 3 lbs for $6 at Sam's! (And I hear ya on that Sabra hummus.) Oh yeah, and toilet paper.

Ami said...

I guess I'll be the lone produce buyer- I don't think the price can be beat on organic greens and we eat a lot of them. I also love the cherry tomatoes when garden tomatoes aren't in season. I also get the organic apples, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes there. I love the organic hamburger ($4.44/lb)and chicken breasts too. I tend to shop with my mom and we split items that neither of us can use in a week- we also split the cost of membership with makes it even more worthwhile.

Dan O said...

Don't overlook other services: Glasses, tires, checks.

Olive oil, pepper, maple syrup, laundry detergent, soap, cleaning products, milk, yogurt, bourbon(!), quinoa, marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, soap, shampoo, soy milk, clif bars, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal. There must be more I buy there too

Jessie said...

Vegetable or olive oil
Bananas (freeze leftover brown ones for baking)
Lettuce (we eat enough to make it worthwhile)
Shredded mozzarella
Mushrooms (clean, slice, and freeze extra)
Ground turkey
Baking soda
Frozen berries
Frozen chicken tenders
Frozen hamburger patties (I hate shaping my own)
Ramen (for the college crowd)
Sometimes they have a good deal on salsa
Cumin - lots of cumin!

Steph said...

Best prices anywhere: Tortillas, organic salad mix, organic spinach, dog food, yeast, diaper wipes, magazines.

Worth getting if there hasn't been a good sale lately: ground turkey, frozen chicken, cheese.

We splurge on their avocados - they are much better quality than I can get anywhere else (in Washington, most avocados come small and hard as a rock) and the price isn't too much more that at a normal grocery store.

muddytoes said...

I think most of my list has already been mentioned.

From Costco, we buy:
spices (cinnamon, pepper)
Coffee (their organic, free trade stuff is very well priced)
Basmati Rice
store-brand fish oil and naprosyn
store-brand dog food (read the label -- it's very high quality)
toilet paper and paper towels
store-brand detergent
kids' clothes
olive oil
frozen seafood

We also bought our car through the Costco car-buying program and we check Costco prices whenever we make big appliance or electronics purchases.

Jo @ Jo in the Kitchen said...

If you can get through it all, the produce is a great deal! It's crazy how much cheaper it is, and a lot of it is actually organic.

Aryn said...

Yeast and olive oil have been covered, but I also get shaving gel, floss, toothbrushes, and deodorant.

Printer paper is usually the best price around, too. Beware the giant box 'o pens. My husband and I bought 200 pens when we started grad school thinking we'd use them up quickly. It's been seven years. We still have about 180 of those pens.

thelittlebig said...

It's not food-related, but buying expensive electronic equipment there is so worth it because of their amazing return policy.

The only reason I felt comfortable buying an elliptical machine is because we bought it at Costco. I love it, but if I didn't, I could return it (within their specified time frame, 2-3 months, I think?) no questions asked. I wouldn't even need the receipt.

I bought a camera there once that I wasn't happy with. I used it, decided against it, and returned it. You don't need the receipt because they have a copy of your purchases on your account.

I love being able to be really sure if I want that big ticket item. I can use it without commitment and return if I wish, or keep it, knowing I'm sure.

Deanne said...

It can be great for big appliances - my bf bought a new SLR camera there at one point and a 1 terrabyte external hard drive (all the back up space you'll ever need) for way less than we could find anywhere. They sometimes have great deals on tupperware and cutting boards. For general shopping I use it for clif bars, butter, yogurt, and pet food. They also have unbeatable gas prices if you live near one of those. And I always check to see if there's one on my route when I go on long trips.

Jennifer said...

Yeast for sure. Literally 100x cheaper than the envelopes (store in your freezer & it lasts years).
Olive oil (gallon of organic, extra virgin for $20)
Wedges of parmeggiano reggiano
Blocks of cheddar cheese
Huge bags of chips for parties
Organic milk
Organic eggs
Peanut butter
Smuckers strawberry jam
Gas-if you go at a non busy time. Otherwise you'll waste any savubgs idling in line.
Hot dog & a soda in the food court for $1.50 or awhole pizza for $10

Nickname unavailable said...

Skip the hummus and make it at home it is way cheaper.

I buy:
Canned pineapple
Canned tomatoes
Olive Oil
Bulk popcorn (the kind you pop on the stove)
Popcorn salt
Toilet paper/paper towels

Their electronics are not bad but there are usually better deals online. If you have a lot of prescriptions this is a good deal too.

Oh, and their gas is cheap.

Anonymous said...

The people who say that the produce is more expensive don't live where I live. For me the produce is about half the cost as it is at the grocery store. Also, if it isn't good ie goes bad too quickly, or dosen't taste very good they'll take it back! My grocer won't do that.

cardamomandcastiron said...

Olive oil, vanilla, Saigon cinnamon, organic carrots and salad greens, Craisins, almonds, and fancy cheeses.

Also, yeast if you bake. Such a good deal.

christiems said...

Almond butter!! It's a steal compared to any other store.

Heidi said...

I cannot believe no one has listed the sole reason we got a Costco membership:


Of course, we buy many of the other things there too. I like their jumbo frozen shrimp, Goldfish and mammoth bags of Craisins. (Can you tell I have kids?) I've yet to find a better deal on canned organic tomatoes anywhere and their movie selection is great.

Anne said...

Fage greek yogurt & Udi's granola!

Marcia said...

I can't do anything other than echo what you've already gotten:

cheese (any kind)
soy milk
canned tomatoes in #10 can or in the 8packs
frozen vegetables
veggie burgers
Brita filters
dental floss
peanut butter
almond butter
sandwich bread
fancy La Brea bread

Kyra S. said...

I always stock up on: paper products, toiletries, pet supplies, cleaning products, olive oil, and (if needed) baby supplies.

volkswoman said...

I love the marinated shrimp and the spinach salad. Makes for easy meal for 3 - 4 people. Also I have a friend, who buys everything there and swears by the prices.

Anonymous said...

How can you forget gas?! ;)

Cleaning products are great - especially when there's a coupon. And the Kirkland baby wipes are a great deal too. Dr Pepper, G2, and the rotisserie chicken.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

On my Sam's Club list, always:
butter (you can freeze it)
organic spring mix (I find most other fresh produce overpriced, though)
frozen strawberries
spices! so cheap
Larabars (18 pack for $15)
baking soda
bulk yeast (keep in freezer)
olive oil
janitorial supply (they have the cheapest, best most durable brooms, for example)
Almonds ($3/lb. raw)
Dried fruit ($7/lb. dried blueberries, for example)
Real maple syrup (34 cents/oz., grade A)

Usually have great deals on tires, too.

Their coffee, deli meats, juices, and canned vegetables are almost always the most expensive of any store, though.

Maureen said...

Someone mentioned the generous electronics return policy (90 days), but their "regular" return policy is even more outstanding. I bought a Jiffy2000 clothes steamer from Costco.com. It worked great, but the tube kept burning my wrist when I used the steamer. I returned it for a full refund (and noting why, and telling them I'd used it repeatedly) after SIX months. Didn't even have to mail it back - took it to a store with my receipt. I was astounded - like LLBean for hard goods!

Erica said...

I'm goin to buck the trend and add apples. Costco's Fuji apples are among the freshest and tastiest I've ever bought, and they cost about the same as at a grocery store. But they also stay fresh because of the package they're sold in, which is useful for storing stuff like Christmas ornaments.

Amanda on Maui said...

I get:

Toilet Paper
Paper Towels (don't use a lot of those)
Coconut Milk
Whole Spices (sometimes)
Tillamook Cheeses
Organic Frozen Fruit
Alcohol (don't drink a lot)

Amanda on Maui said...

Oh yeah, I get dried beans and rice too.

Anonymous said...

Kirkland dog food comes in two types, one has no grain, so much better for the pets!

Anonymous said...

Toilet Paper (with a coupon)
Paper towels (with a coupon)
raspberries (when in season)
olive oil

Tanya said...

This is great! I'm single and don't shop at these stores often, but now I feel like I have a "cheat sheet" of things that I might want to check out or buy there. Thanks for great suggestions.

Anonymous said...

There must be some discrepancy among locations and produce prices, because they are much better at Costco than the grocery store. A bag of salad for $3 (huge). A huge tub or organic spinach for half the price of the grocery store. Avocados are very reasonable and fantastic. Organic apples, sweet potatoes, tomatoes. It's the best way to get inexpensive organic produce!!!

We also get the organic beef, almond butter, canned tomatoes, refried beans, black beans, etc.

The refund policy can't be beat! We got a Keurig and it quit putting out the normal amount of coffee. We didn't have the receipt. They pulled it up on the computer and allowed us to return it. No box, etc. We had had it for 11 months! You can't do that anywhere else! We got another Keurig and it has worked just fine!

I have a love affair with Costco. Sam's club sells some good thing sometimes, too. They have a lot more processed foods (junk) and not many organic things. I mean, it's basically walmart, so think about it. I love how Costco will sell locally made items as well.

NB said...

One thing that I think people always do at stores like Costco and Sam's Club is feel great that they're buying in bulk but then never finish what they buy. Costco is definitely not the place to impulse buy because, then, by the end of the month you'll still have 35 packets of oatmeal left to devour or throw out. I definitely would recommend buying something you use a lot - chewing gum, for example. It won't go bad and you can get great discounts! I also buy shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries because they usually come in packs of two or three that are easy to store.