Bulk May Be Better

Warehouse Shopping is big on savings

After healthcare worker Leila Tomlinson bought a co-op in the Bronx, New York, she promptly sought out the best deals on food items. Securing a $45 annual membership at Costco (www.costco.com) in Westchester County proved to be a savvy decision. She has seen up to 40% savings over supermarket prices. “I shopped for groceries at local supermarkets and I soon discovered that even when I used coupons and the sale flyers, the items were overpriced,” she says.

Costco and Sam’s Club (www.sams club.com) warehouse shopping clubs, once predominantly found on the east and west coasts, can now be found throughout the U.S. BJ’s (www.bjs wholesale.com) has continued to grow on the east coast. They offer consumers great discounts — with some sacrifices. “It’s no bags, no frills, no service shopping,” says Consumer Reports senior editor Tod Marks. For instance, a 15-roll pack of Bounty hand towel costs $10.99 at Costco while a single roll costs $1.99 in the supermarket. A case containing two 3-quart bottles (96 fluid ounces) of Tropicana Premium Orange Juice costs $5.96, while one bottle costs $3.99 in the supermarket.

A consumer must, however, become a member to take advantage of the savings. BJ’s fee is $40 for a yearlong membership. Sam’s Club is the least expensive at $35. Costco’s $45 dollar tag includes a spouse card for free.

Once you decide to shop in bulk the following tips will help:

  • Understand that all products are sold in bulk. A homeowner may have less of a storage concern than someone who lives in an apartment.
  • Do a complete inventory on what items you use most. Buying those items (particularly nonperishables) could provide the best savings.
  • Shop locally for more perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, which do not stand up well to extended storage.
  • Don’t dismiss your local supermarket. According to Marks, the supermarket’s rotating list of sale items like orange juice, used to draw traffic to the store, usually offer rock-bottom sale prices. Peruse the circulars and compare prices before you buy.
  • Avoid purchasing items that you will not use. Warehouse stores offer attractive deals to lure shoppers. Be disciplined and only purchase items you need.
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