BJ's Wholesale Club may not be as big as rivals Costco and Sam's Club, but this warehouse store offers great bargains to shoppers looking to buy in bulk.
Primarily located in the eastern part of the U.S., BJ's offers in-store memberships starting at $55 a year. The retailer has a $10 online access membership if you only want to shop through their website. BJ's also routinely offers discounted memberships to new customers.
Still, depending on your circumstances, not everything sold there is going to be a great deal for you. Because BJ's often sells products in bulk, you need to be able to eat any perishable food before it goes bad, for example.
So which products offer the best bargains? To find out, Make It asked a few shopping experts what items are always on their "must-buy" lists when shopping at BJ's. Here are eight types of products they recommend.
When her kids were in diapers, frugal shopping expert Lauren Greutman says the Berkley Jensen brand of diapers were a staple.
BJ's sells its members a 180-count pack of size 3 Berkley Jensen ultra absorbent diapers for $25.99, or about 14 cents per diaper. By contrast, Costco sells a 198-count pack of size 3 Kirkland Signature Supreme diapers for $42.99, which is about 22 cents per diaper.
But the deals on baby products go beyond just diapers, Tasia Boland, founder of the MyBJsWholesale.com blog, tells CNBC Make It. Wipes, bottles, and even car seats are affordably priced at BJ's.
"The BJ's brand definitely makes it cheap," Boland says. Plus BJ's has a 100% money-back guarantee, so if you try them and they don't work, you can take back the unused items.
"Coffee is a really great deal at BJ's," Boland says. The store has sales on coffee frequently, too: About every other month, BJ's offers shoppers a $5 off coupon, Boland reports.
Starbucks coffee, in particular, is a bargain at BJ's, especially when you take the coupon into account. BJ's sells the Caffe Verona dark roast ground coffee in a 40-ounce package for $19.99 in-store, according to the website. That's roughly 50 cents per ounce without a coupon. But $5 off brings the cost down to 37 cents per ounce.
When it comes to dairy, Greutman says she regularly shops at BJ's. "The big things I usually pick up there are butter and cheese," she says. Specifically, she says American cheese slices are typically a good deal. Individual yogurts are also on her list.
When CNBC Make It compared BJ's and Costco products last month, we found BJ's brand of butter and shredded mozzarella cheese was significantly cheaper than Costco's.
However, when it comes to affordable dairy items, milk is not on the list. "Milk is actually more expensive at BJ's than it is at Aldi, so I typically don't buy milk at BJ's," Greutman says.
Not only does BJ's generally offer affordable prices on fresh meat, but each store has a butcher on the premises, which can lead to huge savings, Boland says. That's because, if you ask, one of BJ's butchers will repackage your meat into smaller quantities for free. So you still get the wholesale club price without having to store 25 pounds of ground beef in your freezer.
When CNBC Make It compared prices on 93% lean ground beef, BJ's priced in at $15.49 for a 4-pound package, or about $3.87 per pound, according to prices listed online for in-store pickup. This was a lot cheaper than Walmart, which offered a similar lean ground beef for $5.24 per pound.
BJ's is also great for laundry supplies, Boland says, namely detergent. The retailer sells its 170-ounce Berkley Jensen Ultra liquid laundry detergent, which is comparable to the Tide brand, for $13.99.
In contrast, Costco sells its Tide-comparable product, a 194-ounce Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Refreshing laundry detergent, for $17.59, according to prices posted online. In this case, Costco ends up being 9 cents an ounce, while BJ's is about 8 cents.
And when it comes to quality, Boland says the BJ's brand works fine for the price. "The scent doesn't stay as long as Tide does, but as far as the cleaning aspect, it works just as well," she says.
The name-brand Tide detergent retails for $23.99 at BJ's for a 200-ounce container.
Summer grilling season is just around the corner. That means you may need to fill up your propane tank and BJ's offers a good deal, according to Boland. At the BJ's near her in Henrietta, New York, it's about $9.99 to refill a tank. You can buy the tank for about $30.
Closer to New York City, it costs about $15.99 for members to refill a tank at the BJ's in North Bergen, New Jersey, according to a sales associate CNBC Make It spoke with. That's cheaper than the nearby Home Depot, which charges around $19, according to a store sales associate.
Disposable paper products, including paper plates and cups, are also a good buy at BJ's, according to Boland. BJ's has a 220-count package of Berkley Jensen paper plates for $11.99 and a 108-count package of Berkley Jensen 12-ounce cups that can be used for hot or cold drinks for $12.99.
Toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are also cheaper at BJ's, Boland says. "BJ's has their own brand and I love the quality," she says. In 2017, the store's Berkley Jensen Ultra Soft toilet paper won top marks in a Good Housekeeping test.
Currently, Costco's sells a 36-count package of its Kirkland Ultra Soft toilet paper for $26.99. Meanwhile BJ's sells a similar package of its Berkley Jensen brand toilet paper for $15.99.
But she says if you're a couponer, keep in mind you may be able to score even better deals at other retailers. However, it comes down to, "how much work do you want to put in to get that cheaper toilet paper or do you just want to go and grab it off the shelf?" Boland asks. If you don't want to put in the effort to couponing, BJ's is still a bargain.
Like with Costco, spices and baking supplies are a good buy at BJ's, in large part because the bulk quantities are less likely to go bad before you use them up. But between the two retailers, BJ's edged out Costco on price when CNBC Make It evaluated the two stores.
For example, a 10-pound bag of name-brand sugar was $5.79 at Costco, while a similar package of sugar was just $4.99 at BJ's. Boland finds that BJ's organic cane sugar is also a good deal, as well as BJ's prices on Gold Medal flour.
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