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Smart Buying

Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs, Grocers and Big-Box Stores

You can save a lot by shopping for the right items at the right store.

Buying your food, cleaners, medicine, toiletries and paper products all in one place is convenient, but it means you’re probably spending more than you have to on many items in your shopping cart. Savings guru Andrea Woroch has researched the prices on various items at supermarkets, warehouse clubs and big-box retailers, such as Target and Walmart. And she has found that the cost of those items can vary greatly by store type.

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So you can save a lot if you know where to go to get the best deal on items you regularly purchase. These recommendations from Woroch can help.

Grocery stores

Canned vegetables. It’s hard to beat the price on store-brand canned goods. And they’re often on sale, which makes purchasing canned goods at the supermarket an even better deal.

Milk and eggs. Woroch says that grocers keep prices on these everyday staples low so that shoppers associate the store with the good price and come back to spend more on other things. However, the low prices tend to apply to store brands. Name-brands tend to be cheaper at Target, Woroch says.

Paper products. Although a warehouse club might seem like the logical choice for a big pack of paper towels or toilet paper, Woroch says you’ll actually get a better deal on paper products the first and third weeks of the month when they typically go on sale at the grocery store. She recommends using manufacturer coupons to get an even deeper discount.

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Produce. The giant box of strawberries for a few dollars at the warehouse club might be tempting, but you’ll be wasting your money if you don’t eat them quick enough and half go to waste. Instead, look for fruits and vegetables on sale – which they frequently are – at the grocery store and buy only the amount you can consume.

Warehouse clubs

Batteries. You’ll save nearly 70% per unit on batteries if you buy them in bulk at warehouse clubs such as BJ's Wholesale, Costco and Sam's Club, rather than in small packs at supermarkets, which have high mark-ups on this item.

Laundry detergent. You can save 40% to 50% by purchasing powdered laundry detergent in bulk. But liquid bleach has a shelf life of six months, so you’re better off purchasing a smaller bottle at a big-box store.

Liquor. Costco, in particular, has good deals on wine and its Kirkland brand of spirits. Beer also is cheaper per bottle when you buy in bulk. Overall, you can save up to 30% by purchasing liquor at club stores.

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Meat. You’ll save money by buying meat, fish and poultry in bulk at the warehouse club rather than in smaller quantities at the grocery store -- as long as you have enough freezer space to store what you don’t eat within a few days of purchasing.

Peanut butter. You’ll spend 30% less on a big jar at the warehouse club than several smaller jars at the grocery store. Peanut butter has a one-year shelf life, so the big jar is a good purchase if your family eats a lot of it.

Prescription medicine. You can save up to 60% on generic and name-brand prescription drugs at warehouse club pharmacies. And Woroch says that you don't need a membership to access the pharmacy. For over-the-counter medications, you’ll get a better deal with generic brands at the drug store than the warehouse club’s giant bottle of 500 tablets that you probably won’t be able to use up before the expiration date.

Big-box stores

Cleaning supplies. Woroch says that big-box retailers, such as Target and Walmart, have the best prices on name-brand cleaning supplies. By opting for Target’s brand of cleaning items, you’ll save another 20%, on average.

Store-brand cereal and snacks. Target-brand cereal and granola bars tend to be 30% to 40% cheaper than grocery-store brands.

Toiletries. You’ll find better prices on shampoo, toothpaste and other personal items at Target or Walmart than at the grocery store.

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