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What To Buy In A Grocery Store VS. What To Buy In Bulk At Costco

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Mrs. FrugalwoodsGuest Blogger
January 29, 2016 · 38.8k Views

(Elizabeth is a guest blogger from Frugalwoods.)

The beauty of the grocery store is that it offers the lure of one-stop shopping. You can stock up on rutabagas, dog treats, and shampoo all in one go—right? Wrong! While it’s certainly possible to load this mishmash into your cart and breeze through the checkout, you’ll pay handsomely for the convenience.

My husband and I spend $350 per month on food for the two of us (well, three if you count our baby) by strategically alternating between the grocery store, Amazon, and Costco. We happen to shop at Costco, but the principles apply at any discount warehouse store like Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or Wal-Mart. The grocery store certainly has its place in providing for our culinary needs but, more often than not, there are dangerously overpriced items lurking in its aisles.


From the grocery store, we’ve discovered it’s most economical to buy:

  • Small quantities of perishable foods: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat—anything fresh that we want in modest amounts. Although Costco’s prices are often cheaper, it’s tough to consume large volumes of perishables and it’s not a value if we end up wasting half of what we bought!


Here are our best bets for purchase from Costco:

  • Household goods: toilet paper, tissues, hand soap and the like. This genre of stuff is ideally obtained from Costco because it’s sold for a premium at the grocery store and is too heavy/bulky for Amazon to ship.
  • Bulk foods: any food that can be bought in bulk should be—especially if it doesn’t require refrigeration. Usually the larger the quantity, the lower the price per unit. We source olive oil, rice, beans, pasta, spices, coffee, and similar from Costco.


Amazon typically has the lowest prices on:

  • Specific household items: since Costco’s quantities are always massive and their inventory varies, Amazon is our source for our more unusual and precise needs, such as doggie toothpaste.


There’s also a category of things that we never buy at the grocery store or anywhere else—they’re simply a bad deal:

  • Pre-cooked foods: with rare exceptions, anything that’s pre-cooked is vastly pricier than its raw counterparts.
  • Packaged foods: the name of the game with lowering a grocery bill is to buy the rawest ingredients possible. Packaged cookies, for example, have a much higher price tag than the ingredients required to bake cookies from scratch.
  • Anything in the checkout lane: these are impulse buys that we didn’t need in the first place.


The key to making this type of multi-store shopping sustainable is to identify the best prices for your commonly purchased items and keep track of your findings.

When making these comparisons, be sure to check the prices per unit—not the overall total since it’s unlikely the quantities will be identical from store to store.

After doing this minimal research, you’ll be able to shop on autopilot since you’ll know where the best deals are. Thanks to this method, my family saves hundreds of dollars every month just by knowing where to shop!

Check out DealsPlus for savings on all your every day needs!

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Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at www.frugalwoods.com about her journey to financial independence by age 33 and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter, and greyhound Frugal Hound.
tr1plicationFeb 03, 2016
Now through 2/10, LivingSocial is offering a Gold Star Costco membership for just $55 with a free $20 gift card + coupons! Details here
whatsurdealFeb 02, 2016
Don't forget, Costco has organic food which is almost always WAY cheaper than what the grocery store offers.
spillsspotFeb 02, 2016
I'm a big fan of Costco, especially for essentials like chicken, brown rice, eggs, cereal and household goods. Much cheaper to buy in bulk and it's more convenient.