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April 29, 2009


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Gordon Food Service Marketplace stores give you warehouse club prices & restaurant quality food with no membership fee.

ALDI also isn't a warehouse, but saved me about 30% overall back when I was keeping track for comparison. Maybe not as cheap as warehouses, but they often beat Meijer/Spartan brand prices and I can buy in single-guy-with-compact-car quantities.

I have two kids and I joined Sam's club a couple years ago. I was going to opt out on renewing my Sam's membership this year to save money, because I'd found that most food bought at Sam's goes bad quickly. But first, I went through all my Sam's receipts and purchases from 2008 and calculated if I was getting savings shopping at Sam's vs buying those same things at my local supermarket chain or Target superstore.

I was amazed....even buying only the limited number of things I consider "safe" to buy at Sam's was saving me >$100 annually above the $40 annual membership fee! And that's not even counting office supplies and electronics.

Full disclosure--I prefer buying brand-name for many grocery items because it's not worth it to me to compromise on quality. The biggest per item savings I found were on coffee filters (60% off), gourmet coffee (42% off), and brand-name hand lotion (34% off). Brand-name peanut butter, strawberry jam, bottled water, and spaghetti noodles were each about 30% off. Paper products (TP, paper towels, and tissues) were a less impressive 14% off, about the same as other discount stores.

On the other hand, I never purchase perishables anymore from Sam's club because everything is sold very close to or on the sell-buy date: milk that will go bad in 1-2 days and overripe vegetables--worse than useless to me. Even supposedly non-perishable items can be a problem if purchased at Sam's: brand-name canned tomato paste (sold just before the "toss" date on the can) turned out to be weirdly colored and inedible the day after purchase, and some packaged crackers and potato chips (sold at the sell-by date) were stale.

If there was another warehouse club in my town, I'd probably use it instead. I'd like to get savings from buying in bulk, but I find it annoying and borderline sneaky that Sam's discounts seem to arise from selling people bulk quantities of food that are very close to going bad. You have to know that and examine the sell-by dates carefully to avoid getting ripped off. It's sneaky because most people buying a case of canned goods expect the food to be edible a few days or even months after purchase.

The price difference between Sam's and Wal-Mart is very minimal (< 10%). Since I didn't need to buy a large quantity AND Sam's didn't eliminate my trip to Wal-Mart (just because it doesn't sell everything), I gave up my Sam's membership two years ago.

At last, I felt I bought more than I needed at Sam's...

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