Wholesale or on sale? That is the question. But is there a right answer?

These days, many families now opt to shop at membership-only wholesale stores when it’s time to check off items on their grocery list. But are these clubs worth the price of membership and do they have everything your family needs?

The answer to this question largely depends on your individual needs. Good deals and large savings can be found at wholesale stores, but with the use of coupons and gas rewards, good savings can also be had at your favorite supermarket.

Price of Membership

First, it’s important to consider the price of membership at your local wholesale stores.

– Membership at Sam’s Club ranges from $45-$100 annually.
– Membership at BJ’s ranges from $50-$100 annually.
– Membership at Costco ranges from $55-$110 annually.
– Rewards cards at supermarket chains like GiantShop RiteKing Soopers and Safeway, as well as many other locally-owned grocery stores, are free. Points earned through this type of membership often lead to savings on gas or future grocery purchases.

While membership is fairly affordable at wholesale stores, it is only worthwhile if you actually use it. Otherwise that money is simply wasted.

Wal-Mart is owned by the same company as Sam’s Club and offers virtually the same prices. The only difference is the quantity available — Sam’s Club specializes in bulk items and Wal-Mart is not membership only.

Next, let’s take a look at the items you might be looking to purchase.


Unless you have an incredibly large family, or at least the appetite of one, it might be best to stick to your regular supermarket for items like fresh produce, milk, eggs, and other perishable items. Oftentimes (but certainly not always) these items come in larger quantities at whole sale stores and can therefore go bad before your family gets a chance to consume them, thereby making any savings you might have garnered a moot point.


Items like cereal, canned goods and other non-perishables are great to stock up on. Savings can certainly be had by purchasing these items in bulk, especially because you have plenty of time to use them without worrying about them expiring. With coupons or in-store savings, similar deals can be found at your regular supermarket as well, but it is convenient to grab them at everyday low prices at whole sale stores.

Other Household Items

Things like diapers, baby formula, vitamins, hand sanitizer, soap, shampoo, cleaning products, and other daily household items can be conveniently bought in bulk at whole sale retailers. This can lead to big savings and less of a need to continuously purchase these items each month.

Big Purchases

It is no secret that BJ’s, Costco and Sams’s Club offer some larger-than-life savings on items like televisions, cameras, coffee makers and furniture. These deals do have the tendency to be incredible, but be sure to do your research to ensure that the deal you are getting is really as good as you think it is.

And whatever you do, DO NOT buy on impulse. It can be hard to remain focused in a store where everything is offered at ‘discount’ prices, but just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it needs to come home with you.

Specialty Items

People with dietary restrictions or special dietary needs may not be able to find what they need at a whole sale retailer. For instance, families who prefer to eat organic might find it more beneficial to shop at their local grocery store, organic market or farmer’s market for these types of items.

Tips for Successful Shopping

Now that we have looked at membership and consumer needs, let’s go over a few tips for successful shopping no matter where you go.

– Go with a list and stick to it. If you find something you want / need that is not on your list, consider it carefully before adding it to your cart.
– Compare labels. Some generic brands are just as good as their more expensive brand name neighbors. Compare food labels and ingredients to be sure you are getting the best price without sacrificing quality.  
– If you earn rewards, use them. Those gas points you earn at Shell for shopping at Giant are not any good if you fill up at the Exxon right down the street from your house, just as gas savings at BJ’s or Sam’s Club are no good if you don’t go there often enough to fill up.
– Use coupons. You don’t have to go to extreme measures, but if you have a coupon you will use, then keep it and get the savings.

The last thing any family wants to do is make everyday chores like grocery shopping more stressful than they have to be. Don’t over think it. Many families benefit from getting bulk and big ticket purchases at a whole sale store and sticking to more every day needs at their local grocery chain. 

Compare the benefits of each store near you and find the best fit for your family. No two families are alike and neither are our shopping needs. Happy shopping!

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