Buying in Bulk: Wegmans vs. BJ's
I love a good challenge. Like trying to feed my family for a week with $100 or restricting myself from spending any money for seven long days or recently vowing to use at least one coupon every time I go shopping. So when Wegmans, the darling of grocery stores, challenged customers to shop there for bulk items rather than a club like BJ's or Costco, I had to bite.
The store listed on its Web site various bulk items that it could offer customers at better savings than a bulk food grocery store that requires an annual membership fee. I was dubious. So I headed to BJ's Alexandria store. And yes, Wegmans of Fairfax had better deals on the small sampling of bulk items that I checked against the prices at BJ's. In some cases, the savings were beyond a few pennies. But I also learned that Wegmans defines bulk a little differently than BJ's. Here's what I found:
The most dramatic price difference was a 40-pack of Capri Sun juice pouches that sells for $6.99 at Wegmans, while BJ's has the same box for a whole $2 more.
Wegmans wins in the diaper aisle even though its boxes had fewer diapers than what BJ's sells. So I compared the price per diaper, even pitting the two stores' generic brands of diapers against each other. Typically the more you buy, the more you save. But that wasn't the case with Wegmans' diapers. The store's smaller boxes of diapers were a better deal when you figured out how much you were spending per diaper versus BJ's prices. The biggest difference was Wegmans' generic box of 124 diapers that sold for $28.99 or about 23 cents per diaper and BJ's 128-box of generic diapers that sold for $39.49 or 31 cents per diaper. Wegmans also beat BJ's price on a box of 124 Pampers brand diapers by 50 cents. Not huge, but something.
Wegmans had a slightly better deal on Quaker Life cereal: A 62-ounce box sold for $5.99 versus BJ's price of $6.29. Even Wegmans' price on Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats cereal was slightly lower when I compared the price per ounce. Both stores had the same $5.89 price tag on a 82.5-ounce canister of Country Time Lemonade.
Aside from prices, shoppers should consider how much bulk they want. BJ's portions were significantly larger than what you'd find at Wegmans. Are you better off having 36 packs of Pop Tarts, which you'll find at Wegmans, or 48 of them, which is how they come at BJ's? Both stores, by the way, had similar prices on Pop Tarts. Do you prefer BJ's 48 packs of Ramen noodles versus Wegmans' pack of 24?
Do you get your bulk items at a grocery store or a shopping club? Who has the best deals on bulk foods? Do you go for the better price or the bigger box?
My next mission is Shoppers Food Warehouse's Double the Difference challenge. The store says its prices can beat out its competitors like Giant, which I crowned the cheapest grocery store a few months ago. They have challenged shoppers to buy at least $75 worth of food at a competing store, then go to Shoppers to buy those "identical" items. If you compare the receipts and find that the competitor has better prices, Shoppers will give you double the difference in price. So if you want to do this game with me, visit Shoppers' Web site to make sure you follow the rules. There are lots of them. Let me know how it goes by sending me an e-mail at email@example.com.
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