What’s it like shopping at Sam’s? This mom of 6 kids made a trip to see which bargains were great, and which prices just stink.
This post is now updated to reflect 2023 prices in my area.
This year for Christmas, I unwrapped a membership to Sam’s Club.
I haven’t been a member there for a decade, and in that time I’ve become pretty selective about the way I shop. So I was pretty excited to get the chance to try out Sam’s for free…
…but I also wasn’t quite sure how it would fit into my usual shopping routine.
When you’re buying food for a family of 8, you have to be picky. Much as the grocery stores would like it, I’m not too keen on just handing them my husband’s paycheck every other week.
So I asked a friend to watch the baby so I could spend some time in the Club. (That’s what the cool kids call it. bahaha!)
After spending a good hour or two there, this is what I found. (By the way, I’ve updated this post to reflect what I’ve found to be the best deals over the last year of shopping at Sam’s.)
The Best Deals You Can Find at Sam’s Club
By the way, if you weren’t lucky enough to get the gift of a membership, check out this deal.
Which is a pretty good deal! But it doesn’t last super long. (Last year I missed out because I “thought about it” for too long and then got distracted by having a baby. You know how that goes.)
Are The Prices Worth It?
Let me begin by saying that for the most part, I know my grocery prices.
It’s taken a lot of time to develop, but I have a specific way of shopping for groceries so I know I’m always getting the best deals.
I definitely have found some items that are cheaper to buy at Sam’s.
But not everything is cheaper in bulk! I still buy smaller packages of some items at Aldi because it’s a better deal. (Nuts, trail mix, and bread come to mind.)
Apples and Oranges
Comparing them, I mean. Not buying the fruit.
(Although I did find good deals on fruit…)
You’ll want to know what a good unit price or price per ounce is for you. You probably know that the things you buy at Sam’s Club are mostly sold in bulk.
That makes it hard to know if you’re getting a deal without doing a little math.
Sometimes it’s easier than others.
I was very happy to see that Sam’s displayed the price per unit or price per ounce right on just about every sign. And it wasn’t in fine print or hard to read.
Instead of sales, Sam’s seems to have what they call “Instant Savings”. Some of the things I bought were even cheaper than normal.
It’s hard to say if they’d be a good enough deal to buy if I find that they aren’t on sale next time. And I don’t know their “sales cycle” yet to know how often these bargains can be had.
By the way, all of these bargains are for sure going on my grocery list template. All I have to do is print it off next time and I won’t even have to slave over a shopping list!
Get your own copy here:
Of course we’re going to start with the cliche.
<strike>I’m not really sure why we all want to buy toilet paper in bulk, but it’s the first thing you think of when you walk into a big bulk membership club.</strike>
(After 2020, we now know why people buy TP in bulk. haha)
I was skeptical, but it turns out that the price was good.
We are a little snobby on toilet paper. I typically buy the Kroger brand that imitates Charmin Strong. It’s almost always $9.99 for 373 sq feet. Which makes it .026 cents per sq foot.
Update: We have officially made the switch to Member’s Mark toilet paper, which even my picky family likes. One pack of 45 rolls is $22.98 in 2023.
At Sam’s I found a huge pack of Quilted Northern…<strike>915 sq feet. It was $19.98.</strike> in 2023 this is 36 rolls for $28.85.
That made it .021 per sq foot. That’s a decent savings.
Another way to look at it is that the huge pack I bought at Sam’s was basically 2.5 packs of the $9.99 size I typically buy.
But it cost only double the price I normally pay. Which is kind of like getting half a pack of TP free compared to what I normally spend.
Is that clear as mud??
My target price for cereal is 16 cents per ounce.
For a while I tried to pay $2 per box, but there are about a million different sizes of boxes. So that never worked out right.
Knowing that price per ounce made it easy to see that a lot of the cereal at Sam’s Club was a bargain.
Our 6 year old loooooves Honey Nut Cheerios, so I grabbed a big double box of that at 14.6 cents an ounce.
As usual, the super sugary stuff was even cheaper, but a) the kids will eat 6 boxes of that stuff in one sitting if I’m not paying attention and b) yes I feed my kids cereal for breakfast sometimes, but I still have standards.
Luckily, I’m able to find quite a few cereals below my 16 cents an ounce price point that meets my other criteria of being under 9 grams of sugar.
For someone who doesn’t love math, I sure have a lot of numbers memorized.
In 2023, I’m still about to find cereal at Sam’s for around 16 cents per oz.
I had heard good things about the meat at Sam’s, and I did find a few deals.
First of all, make sure you get a rotisserie chicken. That was something everyone on Facebook told me was a must.
You get a big bird for $4.98, which is a pretty good price (especially since it’s already cooked). Oh, and everyone was right…it was delicious.
(Still $4.98 in 2023!)
The fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast was $1.99…which is the same price I find it every week at Kroger.
BUT, the bags of frozen boneless skinless chicken breast is $1.70 per pound. I always get a bag of those.
2023 Price: More like $3.40 per pound. I no longer buy these bags. I have bought fresh Styrofoam packages of chicken legs and thighs for less than $1 per pound recently. And sometimes the fresh tenders or chicken breasts are closer to $2 per pound if you watch for it.
They often have 2 lb rolls Bob Evans sausage for $2.48 per pound, regular price. I can’t always find it at that price lately, so I grabbed that.
2023 Price is more like $2.74 per pound. But I don’t buy it very often since we buy our pork from farmers now.
I love their deal on Tilapia. Their other fish prices can be good deals if you keep an eye out.
2023: It’s $5.33 per pound, which is still a pretty good price for fish.
To be honest, I find that there aren’t a lot of great deals in the refrigerated meats section. But it’s always worth a look.
Sometimes you can find deals on ground beef rolls.
I always find good deals in the frozen section.
One of my main goals when I shop frozen foods is to keep my husband from eating out every day at work. So when I find a good deal, or something a little different, I snatch it up.
Another goal is to have something in the freezer for crazy days so I don’t just order pizza.
They have chicken sandwiches that taste like copycat Chick Fil A. They worked out to $1.60 each. (Waaay cheaper than, oh, the enticing food trucks outside the office.)
2023 Price is more like $2 each for those chicken sandwiches.
Hot Pockets were on an awesome sale.
Usually I can get a big box of 12 for $9.99. But at Sam’s I found a box of 17 for $10.68! That was the “Instant Savings” price, but even if they had been full price ($2 more) it would still have been a good deal.
In 2023 I found them on sale for $12.88, normal price is $15.88.
(My teenage boys love those things.)
Frozen waffles are usually a better price at Sam’s than other stores. They also have cheap French toast sticks that my kids love.
2023: They haven’t had these frozen waffles in ages! sad trombone Sometimes they have French Toast sticks for cheap.
I suspect my family goes through a loooot more shredded cheese than the average American family.
I’m not really sure why (though I suspect our nacho habit has something to do with it).
Either way, I did have a little trouble doing the math on cheese. But now that I’ve had a chance to look at it, I can confidently say that the cheese there is a good deal.
On a good sale, I can buy shredded cheese at Kroger for $1.88 for 8 oz.
At Sam’s, they had 5 pounds for $13.68 (no sale). (2023 price $14.17)
So I saved $5 by grabbing a big bag. I can just portion it into smaller freezer bags if I want to.
You can get a 40 pack of water bottles for $3!! I always grab one. (Now $3.98.)
And since my Hubby went on a diet, his “splurge” is sparkling water. Sam’s has the best deal around. I can get 24 LaCroix waters for less than $8.
2023 Update: They have really expanded their sparkling water selection! I can find it between $8 and $10 for a 24 pack, still cheaper than most places.
My favorite produce deal is a huge bag of baby carrots. I usually get two.
A bag filled with orange and yellow bell peppers at $1 per pepper was a good deal. (We love them!) (Still a good price in 2023!)
They have 3 lbs of baby carrots for $4.12, and they seem to last longer than the smaller bags I’ve bought at other stores.
I get bags of apples and pears for $1.50 per pound. 2023 I get galas regularly for $1.28 per lb.
I’ve also occasionally bought limes for cheap, avocados, tomatoes (not always the best deal, though), and other seasonal produce.
Chips and Snacks
One thing I really liked was the selection of snacks. It seemed like they had things I hadn’t seen in my regular grocery stores lately.
My family loves it when I come home with something different, like the bag of caramel/cheese popcorn mix I found last time.
A huge jar of whole kosher dill pickles is just $4.18! (Now $6.34) (And I turned one of those empty jars into a pretty container for our lemonade powder.)
Buying prepackaged snacks isn’t usually a deal, but we drew the next basketball game for treats. So it was nice to get a big box of individual packages of Combos for $8.
In 2023, individually wrapped packs of chips and snacks are higher. I’m lucky to find a box for $14.
A regular treat for us now is the huge container of animal crackers for $6.12. 2023 price is $8.98.
Not too many stores will offer you a discount on gift cards! You can find them for restaurants, video game companies, and a lot more.
A pack of 48 AA batteries was $21.98. There’s a bargain at 46 cents each. Usually I’m happy to get them for 62 cents!
In 2023, Energizers are $26.48 and Member’s Mark (which we now use with no troubles) are $21.48.
You would think that we’d buy cheap diapers for baby number 6… but you’d be wrong. (Sorry!)
I got so tired of doing tons of extra laundry when we had blowout after blowout.
Sometimes they have diaper deals there. But I’m more often to get them cheaper at CVS using ECBs.
Update: I do buy Pull Ups at Sam’s sometimes now. Almost all of their boxes are $41ish.
Country Time lemonade powder can be expensive. But a big 82.5 oz container is just $6.98. 2023 price is $8.98. (We have this with our supper sometimes.)
Their clothes are sometimes a good deal. I’ve gotten a 3 piece Carters outfit for the baby for $10.98. And Under Armour long sleeved shirts for under $20.
They still have great deals on clothing, but it changes all the time. If you see something you like, get it today…it might not be there next time!
It’s always worth a look.
Gain detergent was $14.98 for 200 oz including the extra $3 off sale price. In 2023, $19.98. That’s way better than the $10.99 for 100 oz I usually get!
I finally got brave enough to try the Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean detergent (I’ve found that generic usually doesn’t work very well). I actually like it a lot! At $13.88 (2023, $15.98), it saves me quite a bit.
And, yes, I splurged on a premixed bottle of strawberry margaritas that I enjoy from time to time. 😉 It was cheaper there by a couple of bucks.
My family adores the double cookie cakes that Sam’s Club makes. You can take them to the back and request they write just about anything on them. They’re less than $20.
We also love the half and full sheet cakes you can order ahead of time. They are super affordable ($40 for a huge full sheet cake, decorated!). And everyone raves about the flavor.
I Missed Out 🙁
Here are the things I passed on, but later learned that they were a good deal. Next time, I’ll get them for sure.
Popcorn…30 microwave bags for $6.48. This was a sale price, but even at regular price of $7.98 (Now $9.98) it would have been a good deal.
Syrup was $5.99 for two giant bottles. 4.7 cents per oz beat the Aldi price handily. In 2023, syrup is now $6.58 for just one bottle, and no longer worth the price to me.
Lipton Tea Bags…I was especially curious about this one. It was a deal, with 312 bags for $9.48 regular price. (Next time, Gadget!) This is now $10.68 for the same amount of bags.
Vegetable oil was another good bargain that I’ll grab on my next trip. This is $12.98 for a 2 pack of 3 qts each.
Butter is usually around $2.50 per pound, which is hard to find at that price (unless it’s November). These days butter is $3.17 per pound, still a deal.
Here’s a couple of things I skipped because wasn’t sure about…after a little research I learned that I was smart to skip them.
Trail Mix seemed like a good price at 20.3 cents per oz…but I got it for less than half that at Aldi. (A good protein snack that fills up my teen boys.)
Sugar was also cheaper at Aldi.
Ditto ranch seasoning.
There’s the ins and outs of my first Sam’s Club trip in a long time.
I’m so glad that I got this gift. I think I’ll be able to save a lot using it this year. And I’ll be able to tweak my grocery shopping method for even bigger savings than usual!
Did I miss a great bargain? Let me know about it in the comments so I can look it up on my next trip! (You’re awesome!)