Warehouse club stores say they are better than supermarkets because they give you lower prices overall. But is that true? Well, it depends on how you use them.
Many people assume warehouse club stores are nothing but a rip-off. They listen to critics who claim that warehouse club prices are easily beat by supermarket coupon-clipping and that the food choices are better at a normal store. So they avoid memberships to warehouse clubs such as Costco.
If you are one of these people, you would undoubtedly be surprised to learn that warehouse clubs have significant benefits that make them worthwhile. But those benefits depend on your particular home circumstances and eating habits. To decide whether warehouse clubs are worth it for you, you need to answer these questions:
1. How big is your family?
Warehouse clubs offer large portions of most grocery items, so they’re only a good deal if you either really love the item in question (and are going to use it all the time) or have a large family (where normal use/consumption of an item equals large amounts being needed).
For instance, let’s say you love peanut butter. Even if you don’t have a large family, you’ll appreciate getting two giant jars simultaneously for a great price, as you know that you’re going to eat it all in a short amount of time. Along the same lines, you may love buying 20 fresh chicken breasts for almost half what it would cost at a normal grocery store because you can freeze the breasts and eat them as you wish.
2. Will you eat the food before it spoils?
Warehouse clubs offer fantastic deals on fruit, vegetables and salad items. But as they come in large packages, you need to make sure that you’re actually going to eat it all before it spoils. Otherwise, you’ve ended up wasting money instead of saving it. If you don’t have freezer or fridge space, you may wish to opt for buying smaller amounts at a normal grocery store in order to avoid having to throw spoiled food away.
3. Will you buy other items or services the warehouse club provides?
Warehouse clubs offer more than just grocery items; they also offer such things as tires, gasoline, tour packages, car loans, eyeglasses and 3D HDTVs. In order to figure out whether a yearly membership with a particular warehouse club is worth it, you need to first check and see what other items or services are offered by the store. If they are things you will use, then the value of a membership increases significantly. If all you want are the groceries, then a warehouse club may not be your best bet.
4. Are you picky about what choices you have for a grocery item?
One of the largest complaints that used to be commonly voiced about warehouse clubs was that you only had one choice for any grocery item at these stores. You bought either that choice or nothing. However, while that limited choice still applies to some items, warehouse clubs have started offering a larger selection for many others.
You can find almost any liquor you can imagine, for instance, and the selections of cheese, meat and produce are large enough that you can easily spend several minutes making a decision in any of those aisles. Generally, the largest choices are in the categories where the warehouse saves you the most money as well, so you never feel locked to “only one kind” where it counts.
5. Will you get your money’s worth?
Warehouse clubs do have a membership fee, so this final question comes down to simple mathematics. If you will save more money over a year than the cost of the membership fee, then it’s worth it to be a member. If you’re someone who wants complete control over cost, amount and variety — and don’t need any of the other offerings the warehouse club gives you — then you’re better off at a normal grocery store.