Grocery & Donation Deals and How to Frugally Navigate Bulk Food Shopping

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When teaching coupon classes, my friend Shannon and I usually discourage bulk shopping (i.e. shopping at Sam Club & Costco).  Mostly this is because the temptation is simply too great to purchase items that just aren’t necessary.  (Those huge packages of gigantic cupcakes can just be sooooooo tempting!)

Today though I met my hubby for lunch at Sam’s (you can’t really beat a hot dog and drink for $1.50), and I realized that if you’re able to shop very wisely, there are a few deals to be had even at Sam’s Club (gasp!)  This is what we purchased for $21.72 (including $1.61 in tax):

Here’s the price breakdown:

Milk $2.39 regularly $2.99 at Publix and Kroger

Canteloupe $1.94 Sale price at Publix and Kroger is usually around $2.50

Bananas $.42/lb.  Haven’t seen them under $.59/lb in ages!

Frigo String Cheese $7.80 for 48 I think I’ve seen them around $3.50 for twelve at Publix – even with coupons they’re still just expensive!  There probably are better deals but I’ve gotten tired of hunting them down – my littlest one doesn’t eat peanut butter so we go through those like crazy!

These same items would have cost me a little over $30 plus tax at Publix or Kroger, so it was worth the savings for me. 

Here are a few tips on (frugally!) surviving those bulk food stores:

  1. Determine exactly how much you want to spend before you walk in the door.  I’m not sure that I can express this one strongly enough!  Before you enter your store, have a clear idea of what you’re planning to purchase, and stick to it.
  2. Only (only, only, only!!!!) use cash.  Once you’ve decided what you want to spend, put that amount of money in your wallet and do not spend a single penny over it.  It’s so easy to walk into Sam’s, pick up those deals with good intentions of using just cash, and then go over your budget and pull out that debit or credit card.  DON’T DO IT.  You’re sabotaging your budget and the deals aren’t worth it!
  3. Know your prices.  Before you go, make sure you have an idea of what a good sale price is at the grocery store.  For example, milk in my grocery is $2.99 per gallon and milk hasn’t gone on sale in ages!  At Sam’s Club milk is  just $2.39 so it was worth it to stock up on a few gallons and save on an item that I know isn’t easily found on sale.  (If you’re unsure of the best prices on specific items, check out this top price list.) 
  4. While you’re shopping, keep adding up how much is in your cart before you head to the checkout lane.  Inevitably when I shop at Sam’s or Costco I am amazed at how the items in my cart add up.  Today I thought I had about $20 worth of food in my cart when it was actually $40.  So I put away what was over my $22 budget (the amount that happened to be in my wallet), and scooted right along!
  5. Stick to whole food purchases at bulk food stores.  Produce, milk, meat and cheese often tend to be cheaper at Sam’s & Costco, but things like cereal, snack mixes, bread, chips, cleaning products, toiletries, medicine (the list goes on . . .) can all be purchased more inexpensively at your grocery during a sale, especially when you use coupons. 
  6. Even on meat, produce, etc., your prices may still be cheaper at your local grocery store on sale.  Today I was sooooooooo tempted to grab some steaks at Sam’s because it looked like such a deal!  But when I thought back to the recent prices that I’ve recently seen at Publix and Kroger I realized they just weren’t a deal.  While the $1.77/lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast and $1.99/lb. Assorted Pork Chops were very reasonable, those $12/lb. Steaks were not!
  7. Don’t be tempted by the bulk sizes and packaging or (even worse!) those sweet little sampling ladies!  If you can’t handle eating all the free food at Sam’s or Costco without buying a few of the items, don’t take the samples.  Seriously!  (Did I just break anyone’s heart out there?) 

 

So, what other tips do you have for surviving the bulk food stores?  I really don’t think it’s worth the cost of the membership unless you have a very large family (or if you’re lucky enough to get a free membership like we are – my husband has to have one for work!)  I would love to hear your tips though, just promise me you’ll be careful (and diligent in your penny pinching!) if you head out to those stores bulk food stores. :)

By the way, here’s what I grabbed at Publix this week for $20 (note the $10 Ham!), while saving $42.  And right next to it is what we’re donating, which was definitely cheaper at Publix with my coupons!

           

 

To see how other folks are saving check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving MomWeekly Totals at I Heart PublixThe Saturday Savings Report at Time2Save Workshops, and Friday Finals at Southern Savers. See all the top deals at Publix this week go HEREand also be sure to check out this week’s great Kroger deals! Join Passionate Penny Pincher on Facebook to keep up with all the deals.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    you did awesome!!! That is a fantastic price for those cheese sticks! We go through those like crazy too!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks Jennifer! I really did feel like I could do better, but my littlest lives on those things (I had to hide them in the back of the fridge!) :)

  2. JRFrugalMom says:

    You did great! Sometimes it is worth looking around for products that are not on sale at Publix. I use Aldi for the non-sale, non-coupon products. 1 gallon of milk is $1.99 ($0.99 when on sale), Bananas are $0.39/lb etc., and the produce prices are hard to beat. You can see my price comparison list at http://www.aldispot.com

    I would like to invite you to link up your savings at the Weekly Savings Linky @ Frugality Is Free , you can win a free ad space too!
    This weekend only: Win 4 Free Target Chips Coupons – 2 winners – Quick giveaway ends Sunday.

    • Laurie says:

      WOW – milk for $1.99????? Even $.99???? That’s AMAZING!!!

      Lisa – bless your heart, $3.89 is so high!!! We don’t have an Aldi nearby (maybe 30 minutes), but I have gone once – I’m watching our Dollar General Market though!

  3. Missy S says:

    Great post! My husband and I go to Sams just to eat all the time! You can beat their prices on pizza, hot dogs and italian sausages :)

  4. Lisa R says:

    Wow Milk is cheap near you! It is $3.89 at shoprite in NJ and I try to buy it at aldi for $2.59.

  5. Melissa says:

    I shop our Costco for things like extra lean ground beef ($2.89/lb), fruit, and I use their gas station (it’s usually 10 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else). I suggest you go to the warehouse alone. I always get suckered into spending more when I’m accompanied by my hubby and kids.

  6. Ashley says:

    Also Similac formula is a great deal at Costco and Sams. They take the formula checks that manufactor sends (not coupons though). Thanks for all the tips I love your site.

    I hope to go to one of your classes soon, let us know when the next one is

    • Laurie says:

      Ashley – We’re working on getting a class scheduled in February and I’ll be sure to get it posted when we do. I didn’t realize they took the formula checks – that’s huge!

      Melissa – shopping Sam’s with anyone (ESPECIALLY your hubby!) can definitely be detrimental to your finances! Too many tempting things in that store :)

  7. Faith says:

    I have never seen milk for $1.99 or less at Aldi in Decatur. It has been running $2.89 a gallon. Eggs, cheese, and sour cream at our store have also been higher than what I can get elsewhere. Aldi has been having great prices on produce, which Wal-Mart will match. The $0.69 per container grape tomatoes a couple of weeks ago were great. Generally, cantaloupes are $0.99, bananas $0.39/lb, and a 10# bag of russett potatoes is $1.49. They also have great oranges which are 4lbs for $1.49. I always get eggs at Hometown or Walgreens. Laurie, there is a Hometown in Athens if you live on that side of Madison. They double coupons and I have gotten some really great deals there lately, like 4lb bags of Domino and Dixie Crystal sugar for $0.59 after coupons. Hometown’s eggs have been as low as $1.79 a flat recently.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much for sharing Faith – I’ve never been to Hometown! I would LOVE to find a way to stock milk cheaper around here, but I know we’re lucky not to pay as much as folks in other cities (although when I lived in KY it was almost always on sale for $1.99, and NO TAX! Not that I’m complaining . . .) :)

  8. JULIA says:

    You’ll enjoy shopping at Costco far better than Sams!

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