People love, and we mean love shopping at the warehouse superstore that is Sam’s Club. And why wouldn’t they? By paying the affordable annual membership fee, a savvy shopper can have access to unbelievably good deals on everything from electronics to food and and auto parts. The low prices for items sold in bulk can be incredibly appealing to families and the numbers show it. In 2017, the company made $59 billion in total revenue.
Not everything is a great deal at Sam’s Club, however, so there are some things you definitely want to skip over. It’s not that the the products are of any less quality than at traditional grocery stores, it’s just that it might not be the deal you think it is — and there are a few reasons that may be.
Here are 12 products you should be throwing in that big blue cart, and 12 things you definitely shouldn’t.
Do buy: Toothbrushes
Just because you get a new toothbrush when you visit your dentist every six months doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be replacing them in-between visits. It’s recommended that you swap out your toothbrush every three to four months, and because those unused toothbrushes don’t have an expiration date, buying in bulk makes financial sense.
Do buy: Sugar
Buying sugar in bulk is a smart move even if you don’t plan on starting your own bakery business out of your home kitchen. Shopping at Sam’s Club is all about looking for the best deals and a 10-pound bag of sugar can be bought for as low as $5.48, which is likely to be around 15-20 percent less than what you would pay at traditional grocery stores.
Sugar is also one of those products that you can keep almost indefinitely as long as it’s properly stored. Keep that bargain sugar in a sealable container in a cool place, away from moisture, and it should be good almost indefinitely. Sweet!
Do buy: Charcoal
Charcoal is as much a part of summer as swimming pools and family vacations. So there’s a good chance you’ll be going to or having your own cookout when the weather is warm, and unless you have a propane grill, charcoal will probably be the fuel source of choice. Charcoal briquettes are pretty useless if moisture gets to them, but properly stored in a dry place, they can last indefinitely.
This makes them another great item to buy in large quantity, especially if you’re going to be cooking for a lot of people. "I always buy my charcoal at a warehouse store," money-saving expert Jeff Yeager today Today. He added that you’ll have to buy a lot of it at once, but it’s considerably cheaper than at the grocery store. If you have the room to store it, it’s worth the savings.
Do buy: Ground beef
While we’re on the subject of cookouts, you might as well grab some meat to go with all that charcoal you’ll be buying at Sam’s Club, and buying ground beef in bulk is usually a solid deal.
Unless you plan on consuming five pounds of hamburgers in a single sitting (and please don’t) it’s wise to have a freezer to store the excess for later use.
Jessica Fisher of Kitchn recommends separating bulk meat into meal-sized portions for later, so you can thaw it as you need it.
Do buy: Frozen food
"The more perishable the item is, the less we buy it in bulk," Matt Ginn, chef and restaurant owner told The Today Show. "The main reason to buy in bulk is to get a little price break. If the food will go bad, buying in bulk is not good." This is exactly where Sam’s Club shines in terms of grocery shopping practicality. Yes a single person might not need a 34-count of corn dogs for $12, but that sort of deal is hard to pass up for a parent feeding a large family. Because corn dogs, waffles, and other frozen foods can be stored in the freezer for long amounts of time, buying them at Sam’s Club can offer maximum bang for your buck.
Do buy: Snacks
Sam’s Club is generally going to offer a better price point than a typical grocery store in this category. One blogger compared snack prices from Sam’s Club with her local Kroger and Aldi, and found that an overwhelming majority of items were much cheaper at Sam’s.
Buying a 60-pack of granola bars is, without a doubt, a solid move if it’s your week to provide snacks for your kiddo’s soccer team or preschool class. Or, if you aspire to run your own vending machine business.
Do buy: Wine
Okay, so maybe buying wine at the same place you got your big screen TV last November seems a little tacky. But any reservations you might have had will be gone by the time you finish your second glass of pinot and smile at all the money you saved. Sam’s Club has only been in the wine business for around two years, but have already received good ratings for their bargain priced $7 wine. With wines ranging from Cabernet to champagne and most coming in under $10, a Sam’s Club wine is definitely something worth toasting. Cheers to that!
Do buy: Tires
It’s generally a good idea to invest wisely in the things that go under you: shoes, mattresses, and tires. While price is certainly a big factor to consider when buying some new rubber for your ride, it’s equally important to check out things like installation and warranty. There’s no shortage of tire-buying options out there and Sam’s Club is an all-around great place to buy tires. Not only do they offer a wide variety of tire brands to choose from at competitive prices, but an installation package for members is just $15 a tire that includes "lifetime balancing and tire rotation, flat repair, waste tire disposal and road hazard protection."
Do buy: Candy
Heading to Sam’s Club to just buy a pack of Starburst would be a waste of time and not save you anymore money over grabbing a pack in the grocery checkout line. However, if you have a need for 200 pieces of Starburst, then buddy, you had best head on down to Sam’s Club.
Candy has an incredibly long shelf life — and let’s face it, you’re probably still going eat it if it’s stale. Sam’s Club is a must for buying Halloween candy and customers can get their hands on sweets like 240 pieces of MARS variety chocolates or 325 pieces of Nestle chocolate for around $15. Just do your dentist a favor and grab some toothbrushes while you’re there.
Do buy: Pasta
We’ve said it once, but it’s worth saying again, Sam’s Club is the place to go for buying non-perishable foods. Sam’s Club might not have a variety of pastas as expansive as say Whole Foods or Publix, but they do win on price. For example, Sam’s Club has a six-pound variety pack of pasta for $8 compared with Kroger’s pasta selections that can be around 15 percent more.
And for any college students who really want to go all out with getting the most pasta for the best price, we recommend the 30-count Nissin Cup Noodles for $8. That’s 30 meals for just 27 cents each, less than half the price of what you’d pay at Kroger.
Do buy: Prescription drugs
While many grocery stores have pharmacies located inside for convenience, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have the best price. However, switching your prescriptions over to Sam’s Club can really lighten the blow to your wallet in the long-run.
"Many prescriptions are substantially cheaper through warehouses, so this can be a real boon to your budget," said Trent Hamm with The Simple Dollar (via The Penny Hoarder). "For example, 100 pills that cost $40 at Walmart may run just $10 to $12 at Sam’s Club. Surveys indicate you can save anywhere from 25 to 77 percent on many prescriptions at a warehouse."
Do buy: Gasoline
Sam’s Club sells just about anything, and while buying 10,000 holiday lights while also buying a few pairs of jeans is great, the real deal isn’t even in the store. A Sam’s Club membership is worth the gas savings alone for those who drive a lot.
Prices, of course, depend on location, but members of Sam’s Club can regularly save around 10 cents a gallon at the pump. And those who sign up for a Sam’s Club MasterCard can save an additional 5 percent cash back on gas on their first $6,000. Those sort of savings should definitely help take a little bit of the sting out of that weekday commute.
Don’t buy: Canned goods
One would think that stocking up at Sam’s Club on canned foods for storage in your zombie shelter would be a smart move. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Canned goods are often on sale at supermarkets for cheaper than warehouse stores like Sam’s Club. This doesn’t always mean that buying your canned goods at Sam’s will lose you money, just don’t expect to save much. Plus, you’ll have more room in your cart for good deals like frozen waffles buy skipping the canned goods.
Don’t buy: Coffee
Look, we’re not going to say that a 51-ounce can of Folgers for $10 isn’t a bargain, because it is. That said, your first cup of coffee might not taste quite as good as your fiftieth. That’s because every time you open that can to make a pot you’re letting oxygen in and it’s sucking the life out of your precious coffee, causing it to lose its potency. Avoiding this bargain Sam’s Club buy isn’t so much a health hazard — old coffee is perfectly harmless — but more about taste. Go ahead, ask your local barista if you don’t believe us, they’ll be appalled you even dared to ask such a ridiculous question.
Don’t buy: Soda
Many of us are guilty of strolling the aisles of Sam’s Club, seeing that pack of 2-liter soda for $6 and thinking "Score, what a deal!" Family finance and frugal living expert Jordan Page told U.S. News that deal might not be so great. "Soda is the one thing people will tend to buy in crates from Costco or wherever, but you’re overpaying," said Page. Page advises to wait for your favorite soda to go on sale at your local grocery store, then stock up in smaller quantities.
Don’t buy: Condiments
Giant bottles of ketchup and mayo are always going to be appealing at Sam’s Club because of the low price point. Buying condiments in large containers generally isn’t the best financial move, though. It’s likely that the condiment will expire before you finish it. According to Consumer Reports, ketchup, for example, usually goes bad within six months after opening, and mayonnaise can expire in as fast as two months once it’s been opened.
So unless you plan on opening your own hot dog stand and will be slinging condiments left and right, just buy your favorite brand in a smaller bottle at the grocery store.
Don’t buy: Cooking oils
Sam’s Club deals on vegetable oil offering six quarts for $7 seems almost too good to be true. In a way, it sort of is, unfortunately. Vegetable and olive oil are a key ingredient for many types of cooking, but not many households are going through six quarts of the stuff before it goes bad. The typical shelf life of a cooking oil is between three and six months after opening, and a smell test will tell you if it’s turned. If it smells funky then it’s probably time to toss it, advises registered dietitian Julie Brown. Picking up a smaller bottle from your local grocery store is going to keep your grocery bill down and you’re more likely to finish the oil before it expires.
Don’t buy: Cereal
Cereal is another thing that Sam’s Club can offer big savings on — assuming you eat nothing but cereal. If you’re not feeding a big family then buying large quantities of cereal is not the best way to stretch your dollar. Cereal can go stale incredibly quickly when exposed to air and buying it at wholesale clubs just isn’t the best use of grocery money.
Breakfast cereals regularly go on sale at traditional grocery stores and when stacked with cutout or online coupons, you could be paying more for your cereal if you choose to buy at Sam’s Club.
Don’t buy: Laundry detergent
Laundry Detergent doesn’t expire the same way food does, so it must be a great buy at Sam’s Club, right? Not so fast, you could actually end up paying more in the long run for detergents like Tide if you choose to buy from Sam’s over the grocery store. This is especially true if you look for sales and use coupons when shopping for detergent at the grocery store.
Since major detergent brands often offer coupons totally at least $2 per item, you can usually get off a lot cheaper by buying those items at your local grocery store.
Don’t buy: Over-the-counter medication
OK, buying your prescription drugs from Sam’s Club is probably a good idea. Buying large quantities of over-the-counter medication from Sam’s Club — just don’t. This one is about your health. "Over-the-counter medications are typically not a good idea in bulk simply because they can expire before you get through them," Kendal Perez, a spokesperson with CouponSherpa told U.S. News.
Something like aspirin might last for years, but if improperly stored it can expire and lose its potency quicker. How soon medicine should be thrown out after the expiration date can be a little tricky to decipher, so it’s best not to buy more than you need.
Don’t buy: Spices
Spices are another item where it’s always a good rule of thumb not to buy more than you need. Sure you can get a giant bottle of garlic powder at Sam’s Club on the cheap, but are you running a pizzeria out of your house? If not, a good portion of that garlic powder is likely to go unused and you could lose money on the purchase. That’s because spices lose their potency over time. As they say in cooking, a little spice can go a long way, so take that into account and buy smaller bottles of spices at the grocery store rather than a jumbo-sized jar.
Don’t buy: Sunscreen
If you found yourself leaving the pool this summer a little redder than you liked, despite lathering on the sunscreen, there may be a very good reason for that. Chances are your sunscreen could be defective. Sunscreen loses some of its superpowers over time and if you’re still using the tub of SPF 30 you bought last summer at Sam’s Club, well, it’s likely not doing your skin much good. Any sunscreen that’s still sitting around after a year should be thrown away. Not only does this mean that buying large quantities of sunscreen at Sam’s club could cost you money if it goes unused, but stocking up on the stuff for next summer when it goes on sale at the end of the season is also counterproductive to saving cash. Double whammy!
Don’t buy: Toilet paper
Please, don’t stop buying toilet paper, just stop buying it at Sam’s Club because you’re probably not saving as much as you might think. Picking up 36 rolls of Charmin for $22 isn’t the worst deal in the world, but it’s also not the best. It might sound odd, but according to Forbes, paper products are almost always cheaper at wholesale stores except for toilet paper. The reason being, is that it’s a product we use on a daily basis and these products are usually sold at discount prices everywhere.
When you factor in that toilet paper goes on sale at most grocery stores the first and third week of the month — plus any coupons you might have — it makes complete sense to skip this product on your next Sam’s shopping trip.
Don’t buy: Produce
Just no. Put down the 10-pound bag of tomatoes and step out of the Sam’s Club produce section. You should never buy more produce than you plan to use over the course of a week and most warehouse stores tend to keep produce prices steady throughout the year.
Hit up your local grocery store or even better, a farmers market, and you’ll likely get fresher produce at a lower cost. Plus, you can feel good knowing that you’re less likely to contribute to the ridiculous amount of food thrown away each year.