The Do’s and Don’ts Of Wholesale Club Shopping

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By Vicki Little

Those large wholesale clubs can make you feel like a kid in a candy store. Everything is so large and bright. The samples are tasty, and the convenience of only shopping once a month can be a huge time saver. Those large carts are begging to be filled, and as you stroll through the aisles, your mantra becomes “what a great deal!” If you look a little closer, though, you will quickly discover how few “deals” you are actually getting. Here are 8 items that you should NOT buy in bulk at a warehouse club:

  1. Condiments. If you have a kid who enjoys a side of fries with their ketchup, then maybe buying that huge jug is just fine. For everybody else, you could end up wasting a lot more than you use once the expiration date rolls around. Spices or condiments typically only last a year until they lose freshness. The amount of ketchup and mayo you will waste plus the shelf space they take up aren’t worth the small savings you would gain.
  2. Produce. Those fresh strawberries look appetizing for sure, however, unless you are having a party, you probably won’t make it through all of them before they spoil. Bulk produce benefits restaurants, large events — or a graduation party even!
  3. Brand Name. Most brand name products will be the same price per unit, just in a larger quantity. You will be better off finding a sale or coupon at a smaller store.
  4. Meats. This can actually fall into both categories. The meats at the wholesale stores tend to be restaurant grade (since restaurants are wholesale customers that use up bulk products before they go bad), so the meats will be fresher and better, but they also cost more. Plus, if you keep an eye on the ads, one of the grocery stores is always running a great deal on meat.
  5. Sunscreen. When you are talking about skin safety, there isn’t room for error. Sunscreen should be replaced every year, and is usually the same price at the wholesale club as it is in the stores. Plus, you can usually find a coupon or a deal for the store brand.
  6. Lotions and Creams. That jumbo tube of anti-aging cream sure does look good, and you know you will go through all of it. But by the time you get to the middle, the cream will lose some of its effectiveness.
  7. Diapers. Babies grow quickly, and diapers become small fast. If you stock up, you might get stuck with too many small ones. Using small diapers to avoid wasting them will only result in what can be gently referred to as a mess. Then you may need to get the tub-o-diaper cream to go with it. Visit websites and sign up for coupons instead, or find a generic brand you like and stick to it.

What you SHOULD buy:

Wholesale clubs do have some great deals, though. You just have to shop for certain things. Here is a list of things you should be buying at a wholesale club.

  • Frozen goods — especially appetizers and seafood
  • Tires
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription Medication
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relief
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Batteries
  • Paper Products
  • Some Dry Snacks
  • Nuts
  • Coffee

THE BOTTOM LINE

One of the easiest places in your budget to save money is the grocery section. You can save a lot of money by shopping at wholesale clubs by following four simple rules.

  1. Shop price per unit. This is the most effective way of making sure you get the best deal, especially for products that are equal in quality. Make sure the units are the same — “per box” vs. “per ounce” for example — and be sure to include any discounts or coupons. You will find that MANY items are extremely similar in price at your local store and at the wholesale club. So you are spending the same per unit, but throwing away a lot of units that go bad before you can use them.
  2. Specialize. Just as you will find the freshest and best-priced produce at a farmer’s market or a whole foods store, find the true deals at the warehouse and stick to those.
  3. Shop ads. Items you consistently find on sale at a local grocery store are: dairy items, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and meats.
  4. Don’t hoard. Only buy what your family will really use, before it expires.

Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. When she isn’t writing or trying to keep up with her kids she can be found volunteering, reading, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.

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