BJs Wholesale Club vs. Wegmans Family Pack: Which is a better deal?

Growing up, my parents taught me that brand names only mean a higher price tag, and sale prices can often be a gimmick that you should compare unit prices instead to determine a better deal.  We all know that when you buy large packages of an item, the unit price is usually cheaper and can save you money in the long run. This also means fewer trips to the grocery store, which means you save on gas, time, etc. .

I have noticed more stores carrying bulk sizes on a lot of popular products and staples, especially since the infamous BJs has come to our town.  But is it really worth it? Which store has the better deal?

Prior to getting a membership at BJs, my prejudice of the store was that they lure you in with the promise of lower prices for buying in bulk, but you end up paying for the membership fee. In my mind, having to pay for a discount makes it a wash.  Wegmans does not require you to pay for a membership, but you do need to apply for a Shoppers Club Card which allows you to acquire sale prices in the store.  Although BJs charges for their membership, they often have specials where you can sign up for less.  For example, when I purchased mine, I paid $40 ($10 less than their usual annual price), but they also had a promotion where you get a $50 Restaurant.com gift card.  Essentially, the membership price was reimbursed with the gift card.

The best way to save money at either store is to stack manufacturer coupons with sale prices and store coupons.  Not every store has the same coupon policy, which can make some more advantageous to shop at than others once you become savvy of the sales schedules.

Both stores issue monthly coupon savings.  BJs offers a wider variety of discounts on products through this booklet on many brand name products, which can be advantageous if you are brand loyal.  Wegmans usually issues coupons for their store-brand Family Pack, which are usually cheaper by unit price.

The first thing I would like to show you are the differences in coupon policies.  You can find a written copy of Wegmans coupon policy at their service desk, or in the FAQ section on Wegmans.com.

  • Wegmans doubles coupons with a face value of up to $0.99, but only four per transaction.
  • They only take four of the same coupon per transaction as well.
  • You can use a sale price in combination with one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon, as long as the coupons do not exceed the retail sale price.
  • On multipacks, you can only use one manufacturers coupon.  Even though the unit price is lower than if you were to buy them individually, you may not get a better deal than if you were to purchase the single product on sale with a doubled coupon.

BJs, on the other hand:

  • Does not list any limitations to the amount of manufacturer coupons they accept, although I have found they are pretty good at sticking to the fine print on the coupons.
  • You can combine one manufacturer coupon with a BJs monthly booklet coupon and one Clipless Coupon (which I can best describe as the equivalent as a sale price).
  • They do not double coupons, but allow you to use multiple coupons on a multipack, as long as the products have separate barcodes and can be sold individually.

More information can be found on the website, but an example would be this:

A four count multi-pack of Crest Cavity Protection toothpaste for $8.59:

  • You can use four $0.50/1 Crest Toothpaste, 3 oz or Larger or Liquid Gel; Excludes Trial and Travel Size, Cavity, Baking Soda and Tartar Control; Limit of 4 Like Coupons Per Household Per Day 9-28-14 PG (exp 10/31/14) and one $2.00/1 Crest Toothpaste or Glide Floss BJs October Coupon Booklet (exp 10/31/14), making the price you pay only $4.59, or $1.15 each.  For those familiar with sale prices and coupons, free toothpaste is easy to come by, so paying $1.15 each wouldnt really win me over.

You can use multiple coupons on products like these two Crest mouthwashes packaged together:

But not on these two bags of cereal in one box:

Both of these products are usually cheaper to buy at drugstores, or the grocery store with doubled coupons anyways.

When deciding which store is worth my time to shop at, I look at the overall prices for everything I usually buy  milk, eggs, butter, bread.  These are staples that do not usually have coupons, and therefore I would want to know where to go for the best possible price.  In a quick comparison of prices on basic items, BJs came out on top:

What about household products?  Bath tissue, paper towels, dish and laundry detergent?  The chart above may only be an $0.43 difference, but it was enough to make me wonder if their coupon policy for multipacks would really make the difference.  On personal care products, it didnt make the deal to purchase larger containers I can usually get those items for free at the grocery or drug store.

The unit price of Berkley and Jensen bath tissue, the most basic kind is just $0.005 per square foot.  Wegmans did not have a comparable size package, so I chose the closest:

Wegmans store brand Family Pack size bath tissue, a 30 roll package at 1400 square feet, at $15.99 comes out to be $0.011 a square foot.  I dont know about you, but I hate running out of toilet paper.  Wegmans brand is almost twice as much per unit price, but has a $2.00/1 Wegmans Bath Tissue, 30 rolls Home Mailer Coupon (exp 10/25/14) from the Wegmans home mailer booklet.  That makes this Family Pack only $13.99, or $0.009 per square foot.  Even with coupons, it is still more than the BJs brand bath tissue.

Comparing similar dish washing products, Wegmans came out on top, with a lower unit price and a $2.00/1 Advance Single Dose 93 ct or Auto Dish, 105 ct Wegmans Home Mailer Coupon (exp 10/25/14):
versus Wegmans 105 count package:

In the grocery department, Wegmans carries a wider variety of products, especially in the Natures Marketplace department.  Many of which BJs carries, as well.  Such as this 24 ct. pack of Pirates Booty:

There is a $2.00/1 Pirates Booty, 24 ct BJs October Coupon Booklet (exp 10/31/14) in this months coupon booklet, which I have come to find is fairly regular, and makes this multipack only $7.99.  At Wegmans, the same product is on sale right now for $8.79, and no available coupon.

That brings me to my last point of comparing BJs multipack coupon policy with Wegmans Family Pack.  BJs multipack manufacturer coupon policy is very specific, and states that you can only use multiple manufacturer coupons on multipacks where the individual products have their own barcode, packaged together by shrink wrap products that could be sold separately as individual products.

The initial toothpaste example did not win me over, as well as other personal care product prices.  I usually get personal care items for free or cheap at drugstores.

When shopping at BJs, management has always been open to discussing their coupon policy with me and its been my M.O. to ask if you are unsure about using a certain coupon, or understanding the fine print.  A few times Ive encountered employees at other retail stores who are unfamiliar or have never read their stores policy.  I havent experienced this at my BJs, and so I was able to get some answers a few times while I shopped.  For example, Ive noticed that the BJs Clipless Coupons are the equivalent of a sale price, and I was able to find out you are allowed to combine one BJs monthly booklet coupon with a BJs Clipless Coupon and a manufacturer coupon.

I was able to come to the conclusion that the unit prices for a lot of basic items were actually cheaper at BJs, especially with their monthly booklet coupons, and stacking manufacturer coupons something which Wegmans is unable to do.  Although Wegmans carries more brands/variety in typical organic or all natural products, BJs had better prices for the most basic items, as well as similar product or brands as in Wegmans Natures Marketplace.  Ive been able to score better deals on them, than I would at Wegmans.

Last month, for example,  a 12 pack of Annies Macaroni & Cheese is $11.99 at both stores:

However, BJs had issued a $3.00/1 Annie’s Natural Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese 12 pk, which when combined with the $0.35/1  Annie’s Natural Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese from Rock the Lunchbox (no longer available), made this product more than 25% less than Wegmans.  The same was true for lunchbox items, like Applegate deli meat, which has frequently been featured in BJs monthly coupon booklet.

The savings may be slight, but with smart shopping and based on my comparison, BJs would save you more money buying in bulk.  When you factor in the membership at full price, divided by 12 months in a year, you would have to save at least $4.17 more per month than at Wegmans to make it worth it just to break even.  I have found the best way to do this is to stock up on staples at the beginning of the month milk, bread, cheese, eggs, meat and snacks and filling in the gaps through sales and coupon matchups for the rest of the month.  With the size of my family, it is worth doing, even with a $40-$50 membership fee