For as long as I have known about membership-only warehouse shops like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s, I assumed their biggest attraction to be their bulk items at discounted prices. Perhaps because my mother never shopped at these places when I was a child or, more likely, because I discovered Amazon’s subscribe-and-save program and never looked back, I never felt compelled to join a warehouse club. Diapers, wipes, trash bags, hand soap, toothpaste—nearly all of my family’s consumables get delivered right to our front door.
But despite the many online resources offering the convenience of shopping from home with free shipping to boot, I know many people who belong to either Sam’s Club or BJ’s (the closest Costco is 80 miles away), and they go there primarily for food—for packaged snacks for their children’s lunches as well as for apples, avocados, baby carrots, salsa, and hummus, to name a few.
In the past five years or so, too, my mother became a Costco devotee, and when I saw her last, I asked her why she loved the store so much. Without pause, she rattled off her favorite items: Tellicherry peppercorns, vanilla beans, canned San Marzano tomatoes, organic tomato paste, Parmigiano Reggiano, Jasper Hill Farm cave-aged cheddar, Dodoni feta in brine, sliced almonds, pine nuts, capers, Medjool dates, Marcona almonds, Pellegrino, wild smoked salmon, Australian rack of lamb, Prime beef tenderloin, 25-pound bags of King Arthur flour, Fage yogurt, buffalo mozzarella.
In other words, it wasn’t the bulk household goods that made my mother a loyal Costco shopper—it was the quality food at great prices.
As someone who subscribes to a CSA year-round and tries hard to supplement produce and other foods from shops that source from local farms and producers, I had a hard time thinking about stepping foot into one of these warehouses, let alone becoming a member. But I did, and here’s why: While I strive to stay local, there are a host of foods I buy from a number of stores that aren’t being produced locally—nuts, olive oil, vinegar, cheese, spices, butter, quinoa, flour and other baking ingredients, to name a few. I buy lemons year-round, and during the winter, a variety of citrus fruits are in constant supply. I buy cumin seeds in teensy bags that I deplete with a single batch of chili and jars of vinegar that disappear just days after opening them—I would welcome larger packages for many of my pantry staples.
So, last week, I became a member of Sam’s Club, and on my first visit, this is what I came home with:
A 1.5-lb. jar for $7.98. This works out to be $5.32/lb. I typically pay closer to $9.50/lb., but I’ve seen it sell for as high as $22.65/lb. Rightly so.
A 3-lb. bag for $12.98. This works out to be $4.33/lb. I typically pay $11.99 lb. Yikes!
A 1.22-lb. tub for $9.56 (This works out to be $7.84/lb. I typically pay $22.80/lb. Gasp!
A 3-lb. bag of organic and Fair Trade quinoa for $9.98. This works out to be $3.33/lb. I typically pay $11.98/lb. for the same exact bag. Oye!
A 1-qt. tub of Siggi’s skyr for $5.58. This works out to be $0.17/oz. I typically pay $0.75/oz.
2 lbs. for $7.98. This works out to be $3.99/lb. I typically pay $6.98/lb.
A 2.5-lb. jar of honey for $13.28 (This comes out to be $5.31/lb. I typically pay $9.99/lb.
A 1-qt. jug for $9.98. I typically pay $15.99/qt.
A 3-lb. bag for $4.98. There were 6 large lemons in this bag, which works out to be $0.83/lemon. I typically pay $0.89/lemon.
A 15-bottle case for $16.88. This comes out to $1.13/bottle. I pay $1.99/bottle for singles.
Note: For this story, I was assigned a $100 limit. If I had only purchased one of the cheeses (the Cabot Cheddar) and one of the nuts (the cashews), and if I didn't purchase the Pellegrino, I would be at $103.86. But, you can’t blame me—this stuff is too good to pass up!
What are your favorite deals at Sam's Club (or other similar warehouse stores? Tell us in the comments!