How Much Cheaper is Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s Warehouse Compared to Amazon and Local Grocery Stores?

Article Summary

  • We found that Costco has much lower food prices than local grocery stores or online stores such as Amazon
    • A big warehouse store could save you about 30%-50% on your grocery bill
    • Based on our research, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Warehouse have similar prices to Costco. Therefore, these big warehouse stores should also be considered to be more cost effective than other options.
  • When shopping at a big warehouse store, you need to consider the following:
    • Membership Fee
      • Big warehouse stores require an annual membership fee of about $60. However, we found that this fee is paid back through savings in just one big grocery trip.
    • Spoilage
      • You are forced to buy in bulk at big warehouse stores, so you need to make sure you will actually eat all of the food you buy.
    • Quality
      • In addition to better prices at Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Warehouse, these stores also offer higher quality products than local grocery stores or online options.
    • Availability of Products
      • Costco and Sam’s Club only provide a limited number of products. Therefore, you will be forced to buy certain products at your local grocery store or online.
    • Nonfood Items
      • Although this article concentrates on the cost of food at big warehouse stores, be aware that big warehouse stores also offer good deals on nonfood products. The membership fees can be worth it just for the nonfood item prices.
    • Consciousness
      • Costco treats its employees well with wages that are livable (much higher than minimum wage) and also gives its employees full benefits.
      • Sam’s Club, local grocery stores, and Amazon do not offer the same benefits to their employees, so you may consider shopping at Costco to support a company that treats its employees so well.

Full Article

We compared prices at our local Costco, local grocery store, and also through online options such as Amazon and FreshDirect.

Food Item Costco Online Grocery
Store
Lowest
Price
Costco
Savings
Organic Spinach – 16 oz. $4.49 $8.78 $4.99 Costco $0.50
Tomatos – 2 lbs. $5.79 $5.33 $3.98 Grocery -$1.81
Organic Turkey – 1 lbs. $10.89 $13.99 $21.33 Costco $3.10
Blueberries – 2 lbs. $7.99 $14.69 $5.99 Grocery -$2.00
Strawberries – 2 lbs. $4.99 $6.99 $5.58 Costco $0.59
Greek Yogurt Bars – 15 ct. $10.59 $14.70 $15.00 Costco $4.11
Red Onions – 8 lbs. $8.49 $9.96 $15.92 Costco $1.47
Organic Eggs – 24 $5.99 $12.58 $11.58 Costco $5.59
Salami – 1.5 lbs. $7.49 $11.99 $15.43 Costco $4.50
Organic Hommus – 38.4 oz. $6.59 $10.99 $16.91 Costco $4.40
Mary’s Crackers – 20 oz. $5.50 $11.49 $17.97 Costco $5.99
Organic Black Beans – 7.5 lbs. $6.59 $12.70 $8.00 Costco $1.41
Bananas – 3 lbs. $1.39 $2.64 $1.17 Grocery -$0.22
Organic Quinoa – 4 lbs. $11.99 $21.36 $26.67 Costco $9.37
Cheez-Its – 67.5 oz. $7.99 $12.59 $15.00 Costco $4.60
Basmati Rice – 20 lbs. $15.49 $41.05 $35.96 Costco $20.47
Organic Sugar – 10 lbs. $7.79 $22.99 $30.00 Costco $15.20
All Purpose Flour – 25 lbs. $5.89 $44.70 $12.45 Costco $6.56
Total $135.93 $279.52 $263.93 $83.83

Comments:

  • Overall, Costco would save you about 50% compared to buying everything either at a local grocery store or buying everything at an online store
    • If you compare Costco to the cheaper of the local grocery store or online store for each item, you would still save $83.83 (or about 30%)
  • In addition to Costco being less expensive overall, it is less expensive for almost every item. The only category of foods where your local grocery store has better prices is produce. However, Costco may have higher quality produce than your local grocery store.
  • For online prices, we used Amazon prices when the item was available. However, Amazon does not sell produce online, so we used FreshDirect to get online prices for produce.
  • Based on our online research, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Warehouse have prices similar to Costco. Therefore we assume you can save a similar amount at other big warehouse stores like Costco.

Other Considerations

We can easily see that shopping at a big warehouse store like Costco saves you money at initial purchase. However, there are other considerations when purchasing your groceries. This includes the membership fee, spoilage factor, the quality of products, the availability of products, and conscious business practices.

Membership Fee

Big warehouse stores require an annual membership fee of about $60. However, using our analysis above, you would earn back that membership fee in one big grocery trip.

Spoilage

You are forced to buy in bulk at big warehouse stores, so you need to make sure you will actually eat all of the food you buy.

  • If you waste a significant portion of the food you buy at a big warehouse store, it may make more sense to buy that item in a smaller portion from a local grocery store.
  • Certain foods (such as flour, rice, beans, canned food, and individually packaged food) last for a long time and can be safely bought from a bulk warehouse store
  • Other highly perishable foods (such as fruit, vegetables, and some dairy products) spoil quickly and should only be purchased if you’re confident in your consumption of the bulk product
  • Most non-food items last for a long time and can be safely bought in bulk.

Quality

In addition to better prices at Costco and Sam’s Club, both stores generally offer higher quality products than local grocery stores or online options.

  • Consumers have generally indicated that bulk warehouses offer high quality products (this includes comments about Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s Warehouse)
  • Consumers also indicated that Costco has the highest quality products out of the big three warehouse brands
    • Costco’s Kirkland brand is very high quality and generally as good as the best name brand product.
      • There have been anecdotal reports that some items labeled with the Kirkland brand are actually the top name brand product with a different label
    • Costco is “crazy about quality.” For instance, CBS News reported that they hire technicians to test the toilet paper they sell for thickness, strength, and softness. In addition, they check everything from paper quality to humidity levels to the water used in the production of their toilet paper.

Availability of Products

Costco and Sam’s Club only provide a limited number of products. Therefore, you will be forced to buy certain products at your local grocery store or online. For instance, that one rare spice that you need to cook that Spanish rice dish may only be available in small quantities at your local grocery store.

Nonfood Items

Big warehouse stores sell a good amount of nonfood items, such as toilet paper, diapers, trash bags, and kitchen accessories. Nonfood items can also be 10%-500% less expensive at warehouse stores. For instance, Snapware sells a 38-piece plastic container set. On Amazon, the price this set is $60, but at Costco the set can be found for $25.

Consciousness

Costco treats its employees well with wages that are livable (much higher than minimum wage) and also gives its employees full benefits.

  • Sam’s Club, local grocery stores, and Amazon do not offer the same benefits to their employees, so you may consider shopping at Costco to support a company that treats its employees well.

 



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