The Shopping Challenge: Costco/Target/Kroger, Where’s Your Best Buy?Uncategorized — By Rebekah on July 17, 2008 at 9:01 am
As my household has become a single-income family (at least temporarily – because Moms Out Loud will be fantastically successful!!), cutting our expenses has become a reality for me. And, like many Moms I know who don’t work outside the home, I feel like household frugality is my sole responsibility, because after all, I’m not the one earning the paycheck that pays the mortgage. In my consulting/corporate trained business-logic mind, I’ve become a cost center, not a profit center, which is not a comfortable feeling for one who’s earned her way her whole life.
So, in our new financial situation, shopping has been on my mind a lot lately. At my Bunco group last week, fresh off another $200+ shopping trip to Costco by my husband to buy what was supposed to have been 5 items (a few more snuck in there), I asked the other Moms where they shopped to help control household expenditures. What I learned? There’s a lot of different – and even contradictory – perceptions out there about where to get the best deals on household goods.
- “I love Target, but I can’t get out of there for under $100.”
- “I go to Kroger. It’s easy, close, they’ve got good selection on groceries. For paper products and cleaners, I go to Target.”
- “I avoid Target, even though it’s probably cheaper, because there are too many impulse purchases. We go to Costco because I’m not as tempted.”
- “I avoid Costco because of the impulse purchases. I see some cool thing there every time I go and have to have it. I stick with Target.”
So, after posing the question, the only thing I for sure learned was that controlling impulse purchases was going to be important. This, I figure, is just going to have to be managed no matter what shopping venue. (And anytime I feel myself waning on this, I’ll just conjure up images of some past impulse purchases, like the outdoor shower I just had to have for my backyard – three houses ago – that is still in its box.)
But figuring out the facts on actual pricing – that’s a job for Moms Out Loud!
We went comparison shopping on 20 basic grocery and household items across Costco, Target, and Kroger. The details can be found in the blog entry of this same title, but labeled “Shopping Challenge Details”. For those of you who are in a hurry, with two screaming kids, a dog that has to go potty, and/or a smoking oven, here is the bottom line:
For the overall bundle, Costco was cheapest on a per unit basis.
To determine this, we added the price per unit for each product at each store. The total for Kroger without a Plus Card was: $20.77 and with a Plus card was: $18.50 – an 11% savings with the card. Target’s total price for the bundle was $17.14, saving 8% versus the Kroger Plus card. Costco’s winning price per unit was an incredible $13.45 – a 20% savings over Target and a 28% savings over Kroger Plus card bundle. Of course, you have to buy in bulk, carry heavy items into your home, find a place to store your great deals, and eat a LOT of baby carrots before they go bad – but overall, hands down, you will save money at Costco.
On 3 items, however, Target was cheaper.
For milk (store brand), boxed cereal (Cheerios brand), and toilet paper (Charmin), Target actually beat Costco by a few percentage points. Toilet paper?!? That was one item we were convinced Costco would win on. I personally am glad to know I don’t need to buy 30 rolls at a time anymore because each time I stock up I have toilet paper stacked in all sorts of odd places. They did, however, win in paper towels, so I will continue to have the Bounty man piled high in my pantry.
Even with the Kroger Plus Card discount, no items at Kroger cost less on a per unit basis than Target or Costco.
That fact was stunning to me. I had always assumed if you timed it right and bought on deal, Kroger (or other supermarkets) would provide significant savings to encourage you to stock up. BUT – for the three items that were on deal during out check at Kroger (pasta, lunch meat, cereal), their deal price per unit was anywhere from 3-7% higher than Target’s. Guess Every Day Low Prices is accurate.
For perishables like produce, be careful of “overstocking” from Costco.
My husband is a wonderful man and father, and one of his favorite things to do on the weekend is to take our three-year old to Costco. They generally come home with a trunkful of items, including pounds upon pounds of produce…half of which often ends up getting thrown away having gone bad before we could eat it all. I have had angst about doing this in the past just for the sheer waste of it, and now I have proof of the financial impact to us. With produce costing around 25% less per pound at Costco than Target, it is tempting to buy the big bags of carrots, grapes, etc. However, if you only eat a pound of the baby carrots you bought in a 3-lb bag for $3, they didn’t cost you $1/lb…they cost you $3/lb. So only buy what you truly will eat (at least most of). One of my Bunco buddies had the best advice on this: “I send my husband to Costco and let him pick no more than 2 fruits and 1 vegetable for the week and that’s what we eat.”
Now, ladies, you have the facts-at least as they were at these three stores on Monday, July 14. We hope this has at least inspired you to pay a little closer attention to what you’re paying where for what things (for those of you who are even partially oblivious). Additionally, there are a lot of elaborate coupon games and websites out there set up to help you save on grocery expenditures, perhaps one of you wants to write a review of one of them for our fellow Moms?
As for me, keeping up with two toddlers and getting a business off the ground is consuming all of my time, so armed with these basic facts, I’ll be sticking to Costco and Target for my shopping. But only 2 fruits and 1 veggie a week in bulk.