The best buys at warehouse clubs

Almost every list of saving tips includes some mention of buying things in bulk. But if you're not the Gosselins or the Duggars, are warehouse clubs (like Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale) really that great of a deal? The answer is yes - if you know how to shop smart. Read on to see which products make sense to buy in bulk.

  • Beverages - From sodas to Vitamin Water, drinks are cheaper at warehouse clubs. Even if you aren't in the market for a two-liter bottle of tequila or an entire case of beer, you can always use a cheap flat of sparkling water, and some warehouse clubs have great deals on single bottles of wine.
  • Paper Products - Sheet for sheet, buying paper towels and toilet paper in bulk just makes cents (sorry). As long as you have somewhere to store all those rolls, you'll save big bucks over your local drugstore or even big-box store.
  • Meat - Some clubs, like Costco, offer higher quality cuts of meat than your local grocer, and for a much lower price per pound. Cut the meat into single-use portions as soon as you get it home, wrap it up, and stick it in the freezer. Defrost it when you want it and you've got a great meal for literally pennies per serving.
  • Movie Tickets - Some warehouse clubs sell tickets to theme parks and movie theaters at a discount (sometimes up to 30 percent). Tickets to Disneyland may not be a popular impulse buy as you're stocking up on essentials, but throw a pair of discounted movie tickets in your cart and you've got a cheap, fun date night to look forward to.
  • Versatile Ingredients - Ingredients that aren't too perishable and that show up in the majority of your recipes are a safe bet to buy in large quantities. Onions (about $3 for five pounds at my local Costco) last a while and go in just about everything; huge cans of tomatoes can be used to make a large, freezable batch of pasta sauce; a case of chicken broth can be used all Winter for homemade soups.
  • Toiletries - If you're OK with the often limited brands warehouse clubs offer, buying shampoo, conditioner, and lotion in bulk can save you big time. If a gallon-size pump of shampoo ruins the ambiance of your shower, keep your empty containers from your last drugstore purchase and refill them as needed.
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