Life On The Frugal Side: Wholesale Store Do Not’s

Sam's Club Discount

I blabbered on and on about my awesome oatmeal experience (note: do not buy perishable items no one will eat in bulk) after getting a Costco membership back when I’d gotten married before I got down and dirty, talking about tips for shopping at a wholesale store. For every “What To Do” list, there’s another “What Not To Do,” list, and wholesale store shopping at stores like Sam’s Club and Costco is no different.

Shopping at a wholesale store can be awesome, and it can be totally confusing – what’s a bargain at a wholesale store and what’s not? What’s actually worth it to buy in bulk and what’s not? It can be hard to figure out, especially when the lure of gigantic boxes of cereal sing a sweet siren song to you.

So here’s what I know about what NOT to do at a wholesale store:

Wholesale Store Do Not’s:

 1) Don’t be tempted to throw things into your massive cart just because you think it’s a good idea. While it may or may not work out, it’s not worth the potential loss if it turns out your kid REALLY hates canned oysters (blech!).

2) Don’t buy meat in bulk unless you have a large freezer. Most of the freezers attached to our fridges are easily filled by the ice cube trays, a couple of Popsicles and that one stray bag of peas. Meat, while an excellent bargain at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club, is best used if you’ve got a large family or a deep freezer so as to not waste your food. If you do buy meat at the wholesale stores and don’t have a deep freezer, divide up the portions into smaller amounts to freeze.

3) Walk right on by the designer clothes neatly stacked in the middle of the store. Sure, these clothes may look like a bargain, but most of the designer stuff you see at a wholesale store is poorer quality than those you’d find at a department store. Often, designers make cheaper lines of their clothing strictly for their outlets or warehouse stores. You can tell the difference in labels – if the label of the item of clothing is crunchy and stiff, it’s likely to be sub-par – most designers bother to sew nicer tags into their better brands of clothing.

4) Shrimp = bad, and not just because I’m allergic (although, let me tell you – that is one CRAPPY allergy to have – I adore shrimp). Shrimp that’s been imported from areas of the world that doesn’t adhere to the same environmental guidelines as the US. Plus, the way that the shrimp is farmed in these areas of the world is economically destructive.

5) Towels and sheets are cheaper at the other box stores – Target and Walmart.

6) Gigantic batches of perishable fruits and veggies. While you may adore oranges or apples, unless you’re feeding a plethora of Girl Scouts or bringing them to school as a treat, you’re probably not going to be able to eat these fresh foods as quickly as you’d need to keep them.

7) Warehouse stores do NOT have piped in music, which means that you’re not going to be shopping more quickly or slowly – you’ll take your time and (hopefully) throw down more cash.

8) Most people assume that the bigger the quantity of the item, the more cash you’re saving when you buy it. Instead of relying on the idea that a four-pack of mustard beats the one you actually plan to use, bring a calculator and check the cost per unit and compare them to those at other stores.

9) Don’t fall into the end-cap game. Most stores put stuffs on the end caps of aisles so that they’re able to be seen – and bought – more frequently. These are the items that make us feel as though we’re getting a deal even if we’re not, so absolutely check the prices before throwing it blindly into your cart.

10) Keep calm while shopping. Because the warehouse stores are always packed, the lines so long you wonder if you’ll ever get out and back to your car you parked somewhere in Siberia, you’re more likely to throw more into your cart then you need so you don’t have to go back soon. Plan your trips for the earlier times in the day and avoid it during the weekend so you’re less tempted to stock up on stuff you don’t need and won’t use.

11) One of the ways the wholesale stores get your dollars is to make sure that their merchandise is often switched out. This means that you genuinely don’t know if you’ll see the same item again when you return, which can, if you’re not careful, ensure that you shell out more cash than you’d intended.

12) Skip the soda. It’s usually cheaper to buy it by shopping the sales at local grocery stores than it is to buy it in bulk at the wholesale stores. Sports drinks like Gatorade are similarly overpriced, especially if you manage to shop sales.


Any other suggestions for things NOT to buy in at the wholesale stores like Sam’s Club or Costco? What are your wholesale store do not’s?

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8 thoughts on “Life On The Frugal Side: Wholesale Store Do Not’s

  1. Pet food… think about. You don’t like stale cereal and crackers, so why would Fido like stale kibble? Don’t buy an 80 lb. bag of food for your chihuahua just because it’s a little cheaper than the 20 lb. bag it takes him three months to eat.

    • I noted recently that the pet treats I buy at Petco and PetSmart are available at Sam’s. Except the Sam’s package says “Made in China” and that’s where all of the recalled treats that cause renal failure come from. : (

  2. Pingback: The Mouth Breather - Mommy Wants Vodka

  3. For any store, not just the big box- know about what you pay for the same item at a regular store. If you’re paying the same or less for the equivalent, go big box. F’rinstance- the Target brand baby formula is 22.00ish for the “big” can. A slightly bigger can at Costco is 16.00ish. Diapers: Costco supreme diapers are about .18 each (in a 210 count box ) They’re comparable to the Pampers at target, which are usually priced between .19 and .25 each. (Even target brand, which are not as nice as the costco ones, are about .21 each, if memory serves).

    I realize you don’t need baby stuff- but it’s the one thing I know off the top of my head- and those were the main reason we re-upped our costco membership- we’ll make the 50 bucks back in diapers and formula alone, this year.

    • If you’re looking to save money, coesidnr the total amount spent on food not just the groceries. Try cooking instead of eating out one more day a week and eat leftovers for lunch. If you have the space, invest in a freezer and go with Costco or Sams.

  4. I lived in South-east Asia for a while, and will always remember going a bit nutso at an old lady in the market who wanted to sell me two tomatoes for fifty cents or three for a dollar. Um, this is a bit embarrassing! I sat down and tried to explain market economics as the lady offered to share some hallucinogenic leaves. My frugality ‘do not’ would be, if there are no reality TV cameras around that are paying you to act like a dick, don’t :)

    • Costco or Sam’s will not save you money as long as you do convenience foods and rsfuee to cook.The membership fees eat up any small savings. For $7 you can prepare Meat Loaf and potatoes with a veggie and eat that for two dinners and have enough meat loaf for lunch sandwiches. That is how you cut your grocery bill

  5. It is so true that you actually end up shopping for so much of unwanted stuff in a wholesale store as everything is available in front of your eyes and you are tempted to just pick it up and throw in your cart. Nice and eye opener article!

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