Even Small Households Can Save Big at Warehouse Clubs

November 9, 2015  
Filed under Blogs

warehouse-shoppingBY MARY HUNT

 

It’s been several years now since my husband and I first began talking about relocating to another state. At first it was only a dream, but soon idle chatter turned into serious talk. That developed into a list of “must-haves” — things a new location would have to offer for us to even consider making the leap.

What was at the top of the list? Weather. Having lived in Southern California for most of our lives, we knew it would be impossible to beat the weather we’d come to love and had pretty much taken for granted, but finding the next-best weather was at the top of our must-haves. Next on the list: Costco. You think I’m kidding? They don’t call me the Queen of Costco for nothing.

I believe that anyone — a household of one or a houseful of many — can stretch the dollars by shopping at a discount warehouse club, such as Costco. But only if you are willing to stick to a very strict list of rules, some of which will be unique for your particular situation.

SHOP WITH CASH. Having the complete contents of your checking account, overdraft protection plan and credit card limit available in the form of your checkbook or credit card could easily enable you to pop one of those big-screen TVs into your cart. Go with cash only and you`ll avoid lots of temptation.

SHOP WITH A LIST. Decide what you need before you get there. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it. If that 55-gallon drum of shampoo turns out to be a true need that you simply forgot to put on the list, you can always return to buy it later.

JUSTIFY THE MEMBERSHIP FEE. At $25-$35 a year just for the privilege of membership, make sure you will realize a net savings in excess of the fee.

DON’T OUT-SHOP YOUR STORAGE SPACE AND ABILITY TO REASONABLY CONSUME. If anything will nullify your best intentions, this will be it. No matter how great the bargain, how terrific the deal, if you can’t reasonably use a 50-pound bag of flour, or 25 pounds of onions before they spoil, that was no deal at all. Never buy more than you are sure (not hope, think or feel) you can use without creating a false need.

CREATE AN APPEARANCE OF SCARCITY. Once you get home with cases of this and that — even paper towels or toilet tissue, you’d best find a place to stash your supply or it will disappear faster than Colorado snow on a bright sunny day. Remember this: out of sight, out of mind.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Costco is notorious for its prepared entrees that are made in-store, ready to be baked or finished off at home — to serve up to 10. I buy these entrees routinely because they are fabulous and I cannot make them myself for anywhere close to Costco’s price. And mine is a household of two!

Here’s what I do: the minute I walk in the door, I take the time to divide these big entrees into servings for two, transferring them to my vast collection of Snap ware containers (equal to or even better than Tupperware, but much cheaper). Sometimes I freeze the re-portioned servings, but most often simply put them into the refrigerator. Works like a charm! Recently, I bought a container of Ravioli Lasagna with Beef & Pork Bolognese Sauce for $15.49 ($4.49 a pound) at Costco. I divided it into five 2-serving portions. That works out to about $1.55 per serving. I could have just as easily re-portioned this into single servings, perfect for lunch or dinner. Last, I snap a picture of the product label so I’ll know what I bought, and how to prepare it.

SHOPPING BUDDY. Worried that even with all of these techniques, you cannot justify warehouse-club-size quantities? Find a friend or neighbor who’s in the same situation so you can split your purchases. You can’t split a membership unless you are in the same household, but you can split the fee. Then one of you can be the designated shopper. You will benefit from the high-qualify and low prices you’ll discover at warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJs.

By the way, our must-have list grew to eight entries. We visited lots of areas and did even more research. Once we narrowed locations to just one (a somewhat rural area in northern Colorado) we made multiple visits hitting every season. We have concluded that in keeping with #1 on the list, the weather here is the world’s best-kept secret.

As for #2, we nailed that, too. Costco is a perfect 1.5 miles from the front door.

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