Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guest Post: Is It a Better Bargain to Buy in Bulk?

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photo from stock.xchange

Guest Post by Beth from In Good Cents

Each month many of us head to a nearby wholesale or warehouse, like Costco or Sam’s Club, where we can stock up on everything from chicken breasts to toilet paper. Warehouses claim by cutting out the middleman and offering you the products in bulk, you are getting an amazing discount, so sales and coupons are needed or even accepted. Because we can get so much so easily, we often don’t ask ourselves if we’re truly getting the best deal available.

As a frugal blogger, I get asked a lot if I recommend buying in bulk to save money. Personally, I knew what I did and preferred, but when it came to my professional word, I wanted to do some research to give my readers the truth, instead of an opinion. So to do so, I headed to my nearby warehouse to compare and see if buying in bulk truly was a bargain.

Here were just a few of the results from my investigation:

I found I could buy a 6-pack of Puffs Plus Lotion family size boxes of facial tissue for $9.88. With 132 tissues per box, that equaled to be about $0.0125 per tissue. At Meijer that same week, smaller 60-count boxes of Puffs Plus Lotion were on sale for 10/$10. Using a $0.25 coupon per box, which doubled to $0.50, they were suddenly $0.0083 per tissue.

By buying at Meijer instead of in bulk, I could save 33% on each tissue. Though this may seem like pennies, tissue is always something we need in our family and those pennies add up over the years. However, facial tissue wasn’t the only item I found was actually cheaper at the grocery store using sales and stacking them with coupons. Here are some other random price comparisons below:

Pampers Cruisers
Warehouse Size 4 Value Pack (140 ct)
=$37.62 (or $0.27/ diaper)
vs.
Target Size 4 Big Pack (100 ct)
Use $1.50/1 coupon
=$18.49 (or $0.18/ diaper)
Save 33% at Target

Tide
Warehouse wth Bleach Laundry Powder 95 Loads
= $20.32 (or $0.21/ Load)
vs.
Meijer with Bleach Laundry Powder 63 Loads
Use $0.35/1 coupon (doubles to $0.70)
=$10.28 (or $0.16/ Load)
Save 24% at Meijer

Milk-Bone
Warehouse Dog Snacks Large 14-lb.
=$8.87 (or $0.63/lb)
vs.
Kroger Dog Snacks Large 10-lb.
Use B1G1 coupon
=$3.50 (or $0.35/lb)
Save 44% at Kroger

While comparing warehouse prices to the price I could get at the grocery store by stacking a coupon with a sale, I found that every single random item I price-checked was less expensive at the grocery store. But that wasn’t the most shocking news. To my surprise, I found that most items were less expensive during grocery store sales before coupons were even figured into the mix.

Even Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, which my husband would live on if I wasn’t around to cook for him, were cheaper at Marsh and these are a product that rarely has a coupon available.

Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Warehouse 96 oz. Bag Frozen
=$12.97 (or $0.14/oz.)
vs.
Marsh 40-oz. Bag Frozen
No Coupon Available
=$4.99 ($0.12/oz.)
Save 14% at Marsh

Though I expected to find many items were a better bargain using sales and coupons, I was shocked to find that prices overall were more expensive in bulk. So while I know that there are advantages to buying in bulk and matching sales with coupons does take a little more work and effort, the savings are every bit worth it for our family.

Note from Money Saving Mom: I personally have only found a few items (such as yeast, honey, and cheese) which were consistently less expensive at a warehouse club. For the most part, my experience has been that I usually can substantially beat warehouse club prices. However, we also have a small family (so we consume less which means buying in bulk is not always as practical) and we live where grocery stores run fairly good sales.

I'd love to hear from the rest of you on this subject since we are all in different situations. Do you find shopping at warehouse clubs is worth it for your family or not?

1 comments:

Dinglefest said...

We have found that the price for milk makes a Sam's Club membership worth it for us. We go through 5-6 gallons of milk a week (yes, that's with only three family members old enough to drink milk ... we love our milk!), so milk is a significant part of our grocery expenses each month. I don't know the prices off the top of my head, but we price compared all around and found that milk, egg, and sometimes cheese were cheaper, and those are three biggies at our house. I totally agree, though, that the bulk items are no less expensive (and usually are more expensive!), so we steer clear of that stuff.