I have always been leary of the Costco’s and Sam’s Clubs of the world. Something always seems off to me when you have to pay to get in the door and then pay to get the stuff. Same thing with cover charges at a bar. I am here so I am going to be buying stuff, why are you taking my money just to get in. This doesn’t mean that the concept is off, just the execution. I am a firm believer in buying in bulk, I just don’t think warehouse stores are necessarily the best places to stock up.
Buying in bulk is a great way to cut your costs on both the food you eat and the gas it takes to get to the grocery store. I think the last time I bought chicken at the store was over 3 weeks ago, I still have around 10 lbs in my freezer though. Now I understand that is a lot of chicken but we pretty much only eat white meat around here so we are going to use it. I did not buy any of that meat from a bulk food store though. It was all purchased “fresh” from my local grocery store. Not those giant bags of frozen brick chicken breasts, but actual “fresh” packages of chicken breasts.
Buying meat in bulk is almost always best done when the meat is on sale. The big box stores don’t ever put it on sale so you have to watch the local grocery store. I buy whole chickens at .79 lb and boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.79 per lb. I wait and watch for them to go on sale and when they do I stock up. So while the packages themselves are not bulk the amount of meat I pick up usually is. This is a great way to maximize your grocery budget without paying Costco type fees.
In the interest of full grocery disclosure, I am a paying member of Sam’s club because there are certain things you can find cheaper, and that work great bought in bulk. We usually stock up on dry goods like spaghetti, paper towels, toilet paper, and other easily stored products. When you can pick up a ton them at once you usually save money so it is worth it.
The key to buying anything in bulk is being able to compare it’s base unit price to what you typically see when shopping. The only way to do that is if you keep a detailed journal of what you spend on groceries. The easiest way to keep up with these price swings is to start a price book. By using a price book you will be able to identify when a sale really is a good deal or when the chain/bulk store is just pulling your leg. More often than not you may find the sale price at the chain store beats what you can get paying the “discounted” rate at the bulk store.