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10 best buys at warehouse clubs

You pay good money for your warehouse club membership. Make the most of it by picking up these 10 best buys.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 25, 2014 1:23PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyEveryone loves a deal, and warehouse clubs promise so many of them you'll pay to get in the door.

Rest assured, an analysis by Consumers' Checkbook indicates your annual membership fee to Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's can be money well spent. However, to maximize your savings, you'll want to be sure you're not missing the very best deals.

Here's our list of warehouse club best buys to help you make the most of your membership.

1. Alcohol

We’re not encouraging overconsumption, but we can't help but point out that those big bottles of wine at your local warehouse store can be a big bargain. Liquor and beer is typically cheaper than anything you'll find at your local grocer, too.

The best thing about buying alcohol at a warehouse club is you don't even need a membership in some states. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to walk in and buy discounted libations without paying an annual fee.

2. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines

Prescription drugs are another thing you can buy from a warehouse club even if you don't have a membership. If you need to pay for a prescription out of pocket or have a co-pay based on a percentage of the drug's price, definitely check your local warehouse club first before heading to the drugstore.

You do need a membership for over-the-counter medicines, and these items are often sold at a significant discount, too. However, be realistic about whether you’ll use up your purchase before its expiration date. You're not saving any money if you end up tossing half the bottle in the trash.

3. Dairy products

Among dairy products, milk is probably where you’ll find your biggest bargain. Regular prices can be lower than even the sale prices at the grocery store. Cheese is also usually a good buy, although eggs can be hit or miss.

4. Organic produce

I have friends who have Costco memberships specifically for the organic produce. They swear it has the best quality and the lowest price of any store in our metropolitan area. Of course, they have large families and go through a tremendous amount of food each week, too.

If you're single, a couple or a small family, you should have a plan about what to do with bulk produce purchases. These items won't keep in your fridge for long. You might see about splitting the goods with another family, or another option would be to prep and freeze the extras for future use.

5. Meat

Meat is another best buy at warehouse clubs. You may find sale prices at your grocery stores that are comparable to prices at the warehouse club, but the latter seems to stock better quality meats. The more expensive cuts typically garner you the biggest savings.

Costco Wholesale Store in Clarkton Wash.
 © Francis Dean/Rex FeaturesWith meat, you don't need to stress quite as much about buying in bulk. Freezing meat is simple and doesn't require the same level of prep work you might encounter with produce. Simply break down the bulk package into the desired quantities, wrap in freezer bags (squeeze out the air in the bag before sealing) and you're done.

6. Electronics

There seems to be some debate about the value of buying electronics at the warehouse clubs. While the prices are definitely competitive, you may be able to find cheaper comparable items online or at big-box electronic stores.

What gives warehouse products the edge is that they may come with a complimentary in-house warranty that beats anything offered by the manufacturer. However, as always, it's best to do some shopping around before a major purchase to ensure you're getting the best deal.

7. Dog and cat food

The Kirkland pet food sold at Costco has all the ingredients of a high-end brand but is sold at a fraction of the cost. Kirkland is made by the same company that produces the Diamond brand and, depending on whom you believe, that could be a good thing or bad thing.

Meanwhile, you're likely to find deals on other pet foods at all of the warehouse clubs. People with large dogs will most likely benefit from the big bags sold at these stores.

8. Gasoline

Many warehouse clubs have their own gas stations now. While the prices may not warrant a special trip, you should definitely fill up while at the store. Gas at warehouse clubs is generally at least a few cents cheaper than what you'll find at surrounding stations.

9. Tires

Speaking of cars, your warehouse club might also be your best bet for a deal on new tires. The price may be cheaper and the installation practically free. What's more, your tires can be changed while you shop, making it a convenient way to cross one more thing off your to-do list.

10. Caskets and urns

Finally, if you have a Costco membership, head online to check out its selection of caskets and urns. Even with shipping, its prices are much cheaper than practically anything you'd find through your local funeral home.

Those are our top suggestions for warehouse best buys. Do you agree or did we miss anything? If you don't have a warehouse membership but are thinking about it, you may want to read this article on how to pick the best store.

Otherwise, tell us which warehouse club you love and why.

More from Money Talks News

Jul 27, 2014 11:00PM
I think Toilet paper and detergent definitely needs to be on the list
Jul 25, 2014 6:02PM
Oh good...I can pickup tires & casket at the same time!
Jul 28, 2014 2:49PM
Household of 3, and we probably do 2/3 of our purchasing at Costco. haven't bought meat any where but there for nearly 20 years. The more stuff they bring in to sell, the less I buy at Safeway..

Kirkland brand is always top drawer stuff...and of course much cheaper than the standard brands.

Jul 28, 2014 3:39PM
Ummmm, this list contradicts last weeks 10 things NOT to buy at warehouse clubs.  That list included milk and electronics. 
Jul 28, 2014 3:35PM
All you need

1. Extra Large Bottle of Alcohol
2. Casket
Jul 28, 2014 2:18PM
Cat food, gasoline, cheese, and meat, definitely.  Although many other things you can get on sale at the grocery store for less (like toilet paper and whatnot) I like the fact that those sorts of things are always generally cheaper and I *don't* have to wait around for a sale to get a pretty darn good deal.
Jul 28, 2014 5:00PM
Industrial-size jars of  Vaseline. (don't ask)
Jul 28, 2014 4:57PM
Jul 28, 2014 4:00PM

Amazing how this article is about warehouse shopping and the trolls have to complain about gun violence, Obama, Democrats, murder, violence, education, immigration and a myriad of other subjects not applicable to this article. Folks, it is getting really old that most of you have no life except your computer with internet capability. Can't wait for the thumbs down on this rant.

Simply put, if the warehouse stores meet your monetary and quality expectations, shop there. If they don't, then shop elsewhere. As far as our needs, Costco fits our lifestyle and pocketbook just fine. We have an executive membership that is over $100.00 per year however we get the membership money and a lot more back every year since we purchase so much. Of course having two freezers to take advantage of the meat purchases really helps. Costco also sells quart and gallon freezer bags that really come in handy when you break down the meats.

Jul 28, 2014 4:21PM
My Daughter gets a free Sam's membership through her employer, so I have the second card on the account. Worth the drive once a month to stock up on some things. But a local grocery usually beats them on meat prices.  But then I buy the whole cut and break it down myself. ( Cut meat in restaurants for many years, as well as butchered all our own meat as a kid in WIS.)  Dry goods and bulk frozen is a toss up here. Some times the warehouse has the price and some times the local stores have a better price.   Me being the cheap bastard I am, get what I can where I can for the best price.
Jul 28, 2014 3:00PM
If this article was written 10 years ago, I'd agree with the assesment.  Not true today ~ one can get fleeced at Costco like any other store.  Need to know your prices
Jul 28, 2014 9:28PM
Don't really need these cards but my parents pawned them off on me.  I don't pay for the membership so why not?    Costco has great meat and if you are single you can unwrap the packages and rewrap into smaller portions with  aluminum foil Sam's club is great for megarolls   of TP, paper towels, and large and cheap bags of cat food and kitty litter.    Sam's Club also has great discounted books and magazines.  Both have great values on bed linens and comforters at extremely low prices.  It is kinda fun to see what their seasonal items are.  They have some pretty unusual items and great for purchasing gift wrap and cards at Xmas. They have more of a variety of items than BIg Lots - but I really like that store as well. 
Jul 28, 2014 6:24PM
Anything perishable (meat, dairy, fresh fruit, etc.) may not be a good idea. It all depends on how big your family is and if you have the space to freeze the extra. Other than that, dry goods, cleaning supplies, and pretty much anything shelf-stable are some of the best items to buy in bulk.

Also, just thought I'd point out... The bottles of alcohol at my local Sam's Club are about the same size as you'd find anywhere else. True, the cases of malt beverages usually contain more cans/bottles than usual. But, the bottles of wine and the like are the same size as you'd find at any other store.
Almost forgot, they have the best price on bags of ice, and their everyday price on lamb, chicken breasts, and ground beef typically beats the sale price at grocery stores.
Jul 28, 2014 4:43PM
Meat and dairy products are cheaper at Food Co and very good quality. I agree for the rest.
Batteries, salad fixings (we eat a LOT of salads), fresh fruit, paper goods, frozen vegetables, frozen fish, bottled water @ 10 cents each, certain snack foods and breads, best price on rotisserie chicken and a 3 lb. bird to boot for $5.  I even get pool chlorine tablets at Sam's and bought my stainless steel grill there.  Costco has the best quality towels I've found, the ones I bought 12 years ago are still in use.
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