Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is A Sam's Club Membership Worth It?

I mentioned in another post that I sometimes get free magazines from Free Sample Forager. In one of those magazines, I found a one day pass for Sam's Club. I do not have much experience with these types of clubs. I got a promotional pass from BJ's and was disappointed in their selection and their prices, and bought almost nothing. I had been into Sam's Club before, but only long enough to find out that they don't give out promotional passes if you ask.
However, I got a tip from one of the readers that you can get mozzarella and cheddar cheese from Sam's for less than my $2 per pound American cheese. When I got there, there was mozzarella starting at $8.89 for 5 lbs, and cheddar for $9.39 for 5 lbs. With my one day pass, I would pay an additional 10% surcharge. So I would be saving $0.05 per pound for the mozzarella and losing $0.06 per pound on the cheddar. That's not a ton of savings for the mozzarella, but I would be getting a superior cheese.

My husband was raised on microwaveable frozen dinners. No joke. So, everything I make him is awesome in comparison. I'm a pretty good cook, and quite experimental in the kitchen. But I was not raised on American cheese. My favorite cheeses growing up were cheddar and brie. I only get these at Christmas now, when I visit my family, so switching to mozzarella and saving at the same time is an exciting thing for me.

I bought fifty pounds. How do I fit fifty pounds of cheese into my regular sized freezer, that already has over sixty-five pounds of sale priced beef, as well as our usual freezer foods? I don't. I looked at the sell by dates, which all said December 2009. So, I figured we would go through four bags by the end of the year, about five pounds per month. So twenty pounds are in the back of the fridge, and thirty pounds are in the freezer. I popped each bag, because they were full of air, and they fit snugly. I just can't buy any sale priced beef for a while.

I looked at everything else in the store that is on my regular shopping list. The only item that beat my regular price was the carrots, which were $0.60 per pound, including the additional 10% surcharge. That was better than my $0.64 per pound I get from Save-A-Lot. And we've been going through a lot of carrots lately with our cinnamon carrot bread. So, I bought 10 lbs.

I know that you can get yeast at Sam's Cub for $2 per pound, but I have over four pounds in my freezer, so I didn't stock up.

I told my husband this morning that I was going to write a post about how not to eat all fifty pounds of mozzarella at once. He laughed at me, saying that wouldn't be a problem. But if we were careless, we could easily finish all fifty pounds by the end of the year. We go through 5 lbs of American a month regularly, and we will go through the mozzarella at the same rate. The challenge is that the American is sliced, where the mozzarella is shredded.

A slice of American is 2/3 of an ounce. So, I weigh the mozzarella, making sure I use the same quantity in all of my recipes and when I give a little plateful to my babies. This is the only way to be sure I'm not using more, as far as I can see.

Sam's Club Service Review:

They rung up eleven bags of cheese instead of ten, but fixed it when I pointed it out. The price on the cheese was wrong, but I walked back with a manager to do a price check and got a refund. It took a ton of time for the service lady to correct it, which was odd since her name tag said "17 years of service." Despite all of this, they gave me their full, undivided attention and made sure that all of my problems were resolved properly. I was apologized to several times about it all as well, which is nice. However, had I been less vigilant, I would have left that store $15 poorer with the same amount of food.


Anna said...

LOL, we had just been discussing this. It sounds a lot like a starter I had found that uses instant mashed potatoes to "feed" it. Other starters I have used, were fed by flour and such. I'm curious which method would be cheaper.

Emily said...

I am curious which is cheaper too, the sourdough dough type starters, or this everlasting starter. I'm going to start investigating and experimenting. I can sell some of my bags of yeast on ebay if I don't need them!

The Pittsburgh Pair said...

Emily, I keep a price book like you do and have found BJ's to be an excellent value for the following items over the grocery/Wally World: yeast, tomato sauce (Hunt's brand, 4 cents an ounce), aluminum foil, toilet paper, mozzarella cheese, American cheese (fat-free), chicken breasts, bagged salad/lettuce (on Monday, it is price-reduced), apples, bananas

Cheapest at Aldi's: Ice cream, cottage cheese

Everything else we buy is cheapest at Walmart. The best advice is to buddy up with a friend/neighbor and split a membership. Would you get a discount membership at Sam's because your DH works at Walmart?

Costco is a great store too if you have one near you.

Atheist Mama said...

I'm just wondering why you don't get WIC? Do you view it the same way you view food stamps?

Also - usually shredded cheese costs more and has added preservatives (I'm not above buying it from the grocery outlet, which is in walking distance from my house, when I'm in a pinch)...was it cheaper than Sam's block cheese?

And I want to add that this entire comment is just me being genuinely curious. No snarky-ness at all :)

I read your entire blog yesterday (after doing my chores - lol) and I'll more than likely be commenting semi-frequently as I find you very interesting. I'm definitely not a "hater" I just wanted to say now...if my comments ever "sound" snarky, they aren't supposed to!

Emily said...

Pittsburgh Pair, I think I had to pay an additional 10% with BJ's with my promo pass, but I remember there was some good produce there. We have no Aldi's or Costco, unfortunately. But we do get a discount membership to Sam's cuz of my DH job. I'm going to have to go again, not calculating the 10%, to see if we want the membership.

Athiest Mama, The mozzarella was much cheaper than the block cheese, I was hoping to get block cheese and slice it. We do view WIC as the same as Food Stamps, yes. Thanks for not being being a "hater." (:

S said...

The only problem we have had with the shredded cheese is that it molds, pretty fast, and it was *well* before the date stamped on the bag. Keep your recept, in case that happens tho and they will usually exchange it for you.

Jennifer said...

I have been reading your blog lately and am curious if you have ever used ground turkey or chicken. My husband and I use it for a multitude of reasons- one being it is leaner. Also do you stick with certain vegtables or do you use a wide variety.

Emily said...

S, I wil defintely keep the receipts, as I am counting on those sell by dates, thanks.

Jennifer, our chicken is much cheaper than ground chicken, but I am considering switching ground turkey in some of my beef recipes, as I saw it at the Dollar Tree, 1 lb for $1. We do have fairly limited produce, as I've designed my recipes around the cheapest ingredients: carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans. I have the rule of under $1/lb if I go outside of these basics.

Atheist Mama said...

This doesn't pertain to this particular feel free to ignore it if you wanna :P

I'm a total fan of one dish easy! And i think it's great you sneak in veggies where you can, but honestly, you aren't eating anywhere near the amount of veggies you should be. And I know you are into health so i was wondering if you have ever looked into sprouting? It's really easy to do with both grains and legumes and it is SUPER nutritious. You don't have to buy anything fancy for it's cheap (just the cost of whatever you are sprouting).

Emily said...

Athiest Mama, I'm not going to touch the part about needing more veggies, because I'm working on a post about that (I've got about as many posts on the back burner as I have published). But I searched everywhere for alfalfa seeds to sprout and haven't found them anywhere. I'm going to try garbanzo and lentils though, as I recently came across a tutorial for them.

Atheist Mama said...

I've seen broccoli and alfalfa sprouts around here (I live in a hippie town, lol) but they aren't cheap, IMO. Do you mind sharing the link to the tutorial for the legumes?

I used to have the "sproutman" cookbook...but I sold it because I rarely used it. I'd love to get into sprouting though. My dh loves sprouts on his sandwiches :)

Emily said...

You have to scroll down pretty far to get the specifics for legumes, but this has a ton of info.

stolenhalo1776 said...

I doubt you will be able to get your money back if your cheese molds because you have already popped the bags. That seal is part of what keeps it fresh!

Kudos on getting real cheese though instead of over processed cheese product! :)

Emily said...

I didn't pop the bags in the fridge, there was plenty of room and no need to squeeze out the air. So I think those are good. I doubt mold will grow on the freezer ones, right?

stolenhalo1776 said...

They won't mold in the fridge. I would just be concerned about freezer burn, but I've never frozen cheese before so I'm not sure how that would affect it.

Lori said...

Freezing the cheese will be fine. My husband and I used to own a pizza shop. We shredded our own cheeses fresh from blocks and mixed our own blend of mozzarella, provolone and parmesan once a month, then froze it in tubs with about two days worth at a time.
But once you thought it, it will be slightly wet. Not a big problem, particularly if you are cooking with it, and I doubt the kids will care. But the moisture does make it more likely to mold in the refrigerator.
When you take it out of the freezer, I'd put part of it in a container to use in a day or two, and put the rest back in the freezer to cut down on the mold potential.
And I'd stick what's in your fridge in your freezer as room comes available just to make sure. After all, running to Sams to return it will cost you time and money.

Stephanie@BarefeetOntheFrontPorch said...

Your blog is a joy to read as I am just beginning to dive into the "frugal living" aspect as we start our journey to get out of ALL debt, including our house, even. I have never thought to keep a price book! I do couponing (only for things we need -- not any junk!) at Publix, but I hate buying other groceries there because I feel they are so expensive, as is Winn Dixie. I do have access to a Commissary, but it's a 35-45 minute drive. I think I am going to try a price book -- thanks for the idea!

AnnMarie said...

Be sure to check the fridge bags now and then. I usually have shredded cheese get moldy after a month or two opened in the fridge.

AnnMarie said...

I should have read the comments first LOL. For alfalfa seeds, I think you live near Portland, ME. If so, I'm almost certain Whole Foods carries them. While they look expensive, a pound of seeds is a LOT of seeds.

Emily said...

Thanks AnnMarie, I was looking in garden stores and such. I had never looked at Whole Foods!

AmandaLP said...

You mentioned in another post about eating animal protein. Did you check the meat prices at Sams vs your local stores?

The BJs warehouse club near us has meat that is about 30-50 cents cheaper per pound. It is also less convenient (involving a subway ride and/or a car service), and we do not have that much freezer space so I cant take advantage of it.

Emily said...

Amanda, I checked the fresh meat at Sam's, and nothing was comparable. However, I pick up my meats when there is a markdown, and I didn't see any markdowns there. I'm going to be going with my price chart to Sam's to see if it is worth getting a membership.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I'm glad you got the cheese!

I don't know what your price per per pound you limit your self to on meat (mine is $2 a pound of less), but Sam's has boneless pork roast for $1.88 a pound, all the time. Once in a while it goes down more than that.

Definitely keep your receipt; I did have a couple of 5lb blocks of mozarella go bad on me, unopened in the fridge. I had only bought them a month before. I took them back and had no trouble getting replacements, as they could clearly see the sell-by date.

I have some more in my fridge right now and I am planning on shredding it and freezing it to use in recipes.

Since I wrote to you I added a page to my site showing what I buy at Sam's Club. You might want to look at the 50 lb bags of rice and the 25 pound bags of pinto beans (which are less than the $1 per pound that they are at Walmart).

About the sprouts--I bought mine in a large quantity from Walton Feed. I also bought mung bean sprouts there as well. There is a link to them and some other places that probably sell them as well on my Grains page.

I have sprouted lentils and used them in stir-fry. It's very easy. I just put them in the bottom of a canning jar with some water, let them soak a bit, and then rinse and drain them 3 times a day until they're the size I want.

There are a few gardening catalogs that also sell alfalfa seeds for sprouting, but I haven't compared prices.
Make sure whatever you buy says it is for sprouting.

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