Buy In Bulk With Friends From Warehouse Clubs

You can save big on groceries by forming a little warehous club buying collective with your friends:

A reader wrote into the March issue of Real Simple:

Rather buying the same items separately, my friends and I buy in bulk from warehouse clubs and share the cost. We buy chicken, bags of fruit and vegetables, packs of hair products and condiments. (Yes, we have bought a gallon of mustard and separated it into smaller containers.) Not only do we save but we also get to spend time together, even if it’s just running errands.

You get the bulk rate discount but don’t have to have an institution-sized drum of mayo. Great idea!

(Photo: miss_rogue)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Raekwon says:

    Sam’s I believe offers 2 memberships in a “family” deal. At least when I did it they did. That or you can always just go together and share a membership card. Most of the store have gotten a lot more lax on that policy.

  2. gondaba says:

    scooping gobs of mustard off into different little containers? that’s what i like to do with my friends, too!

  3. RogueSophist says:

    I’m sure this works for some people, but I would gladly pay a premium to avoid spending time with friends at Costco, then going home and divvying a giant tub of mustard into cute little jam jars. I will clip coupons to avoid that fate.

  4. Randy Treibel says:

    I agree with roguesophist. This is great for canned/boxed goods and sometimes meat, but if you’re splitting mustard into containers you’re almost food stamp level.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Randy Treibel: Except that you’re paying your own way instead of relying on welfare. It may not seem like much of a difference to you, but it does to those of us who are not living with their mommies and daddies or sponging off their working girlfriends.

  5. Maulleigh says:

    Just be careful of shopping with friends. I went to the grocery store with my roommate yesterday and bought way more than I typically do–just cuz it took us twice as long to get through the store. While she was reading labels, I was looking around and seeing things I typically don’t bother looking at.

    Ugh. Wear blinders.

    • KyleOrton says:

      @Maulleigh: That’s the danger of going with a female roommate. With a male roommate, extra purchases come mostly from “wouldn’t it be funny if you had 10lbs of sausage”, and “I bet I could eat a gallon can of vanilla pudding before you ate a gallon of chocolate.” Dangerous, but college was more fun with 20lbs of french fries in the freezer.

      Oh, and I totally ate my chocolate pudding faster.

  6. friendlynerd says:

    This sounds worse than trying to split up the bill at a dinner outing. Pass.

  7. smashedpotats says:

    Even better if you aren’t the one paying for the membership!

  8. jim @ Change Jar Savings says:

    Buying in bulk can save you money or cost more. The problem I see is if you and your friends/family have different tastes. If I want to split a box of hot pockets and my friends don’t like hot pockets, I save nothing. I wrote an article on bulk grocery shopping. One thing I stated is only buy what you would use.

  9. craigkay says:

    This suggestion may be in violation of the membership agreement with the bulk sale warehouse club. The membership is generally applied to a “household” which is usually interpreted to mean one address/residence. Moreover, at least in the case of Sam’s and BJ’s, you’re permitted to bring only 2 guests, none of whom have purchasing privileges.

  10. AcceptingTheAward_GitEmSteveDave says:

    The gallon of mustard reminds me of an old episode of Who’s The Boss where Tony buy’s a huge jar of mustard, and Jonathan loses the knife in it, and when they cut back, his arm up past his elbow, almost up to his shoulder, is covered in mustard.

    OK, it was funnier on TV.

    • Cafezinha says:

      @AcceptingTheAward_GitEmSteveDave: No, it’s still pretty funny now. I’ll hold that mental picture with me whenever I start feeling blue.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      I don’t remember that one!

    • ekthesy says:


      It reminds ME of my high-school job at a deli. I had to decant the 5-gallon jar of Gulden’s mustard that we would get from the restaurant supply company into the squeeze containers. Mustard is one viscous condiment, let me tell you.

      I needed to fill the squeeze bottles with this old sort of rusty funnel, and you couldn’t just let the mustard run into the bottle because it would bottleneck at the bottom of the funnel. So you had to take the whole thing and kind of bounce it on the counter so the mustard would go through the aperture of the funnel. Mustard EVERYWHERE.

      • AD8BC says:

        @ekthesy: I was commuting back and forth every couple of weeks to London from Michigan back in 2002.

        One of my co-workers called me before I left for England and asked me, no, pleaded with me to bring “Mustard. Yellow. French’s.”

        So I picked up a couple on the way to the airport and put them in my checked bag. I wrapped carefully. Still, one exploded. Not horribly, but it did get out a little.

        The dogs smelled it at Gatwick. I was taken into a little room and my bags were inspected. Turns out mustard will mask drug smells pretty good.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        @ekthesy: They let me put it in a pastry bag and squeeze it in that way.

      • texasannie says:

        @ekthesy: When I was assistant manager at a movie theater, one of the concession stand workers had the multi-gallon jug of mustard out to refill the dispenser at the hot dog fixin’ stand. She dropped the jug, and it bounced along the tile floor. Do you know how hard it is to clean five gallons of splattered mustard off about 50 square feet of tile floor before the next rush starts? Hard, very hard.

  11. albear says:

    warehous club? did you guys cut off the proofreading budget due to this depression we are in?

  12. rpm773 says:

    I’ve thought about getting a few people together on my street and going in on a weekly trip to the local produce terminal market, and divvying up what’s bought in bulk there.

    Retail stores usually make 40% margin on higher on fresh produce. And you can get access to higher quality product at the terminal market.

  13. nbs2 says:

    We used to do this in college, but then one person would eat all the . We abandoned the system after a semester.

    As for the limitations that someone mentioned at Sam’s/BJs, we never noticed that. I’ve been to both in a group of 4 or 5 and have always been fine. I hadn’t even heard of it until my mother-in-law fretted about it before we went with her to Sams while visiting her.

  14. mbz32190 says:

    If you have a BJ’s with self checkouts, you can have your friend “borrow” your card, since nobody checks it at the door and all you have to do is scan the barcode over the self checkouts, buy your stuff, and go.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @mbz32190: If you have a Costco or a Sam’s Club…just avoid BJ’s and you’re set. BJ’s has higher prices, worse service, a crappy return policy, and the self-checkouts treat you as though you’re a thief (seriously…do we need to scan, weigh, and laser check the dimensions of each item?)

  15. aidenn says:

    As others have mentioned, sometimes you get a cashier who won’t let you pay if your name/photo is not the one on the card. We used to go with my in-laws all the time, who took pity on a newly married couple trying to buy a 3-pack of cereal. One day a Costco cashier spent about 1 minute telling us that we couldn’t give money to my in-laws in sight of any store employee and we certainly couldn’t use our debit cards. Ugh.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @aidenn: I usually use the self-checkout aisles so I’ve avoided having to deal with an employee so far, but my last trip I ended up with only about $18 in groceries and the shortest line was one with a cashier. I was really hoping he wouldn’t look too closely at the membership photo cause it would be obvious that I wasn’t a 45 year old woman with curly hair…he looked at it, but didn’t say anything, and out the door I went.

      And then the receipt lady tried to stop me and I was literally, holding three items. I was like “really?”

  16. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Does anyone have the problem with BJs/Costco/Sams having a dismal selection of fresh fruits and veggies? I’m talking about having giant parcels of oranges, apples, grapes in a plastic tub, and maybe some pineapples, but I never see any variety of oranges or pears. If I could get blood oranges in bulk, I’d do it, but BJs doesn’t seem to offer it. Is it because they make more by selling fewer varieties? I get that wholesale clubs are still more or less the most beneficial to families and that busy people may not care whether their kids eat navel oranges or blood oranges…

    • KristinaBeana says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Actually, the Costco near us in Delaware has some pretty random and exotic fruits and veggies throughout the year – along with the average oranges, apples and what-not.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: every time i walk near the fruit section of my sams’ club i can smell the rotting fruit. and see the flies. ugh. i don’t buy anything there that isn’t frozen or a long term shelf stable package

  17. nybiker says:

    I was at a BJ’s (here in Queens, NY) recently with a friend. We used my card to get in and both orders were processed separately. Scanned the card, they did my friend’s order; friend paid. Scanned the card; processed my order; I paid. No problems. YMMV.

  18. stanner says:

    A galleon of mustard does seem like rather a lot.

  19. Sean Meyers says:

    I do this a lot actually. Even with friends that also have memberships. Nobody needs 500 freezer zip lock bags, or 20 rolls of paper towels. We both buy stuff and split in half and it really makes a difference.

    The problem with buying in bulk is that food spoils before you ever get to finish it. I once bought a 3 pack of Mayo, thinking I would never have to buy mayo again, and as soon as i was ready to open the second bottle, i noticed it was spoiled already, so be careful what you buy in bulk. It may not be worth it in the end.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Sean Meyers: Yeah I tend not to buy things I use rarely in bulk…things like ketchup and mayo. I do buy the big boxes of freezer bags and paper towels though…cause the paper towels get shoved into the top shelf I can’t get to anyway, and it saves me the effort of buying 10 packs whenever I need paper towels (I only use paper towels when I’m handling meat or cleaning up after meat).

  20. jp7570 says:

    The woman in the photograph seems to have a freakishly large right arm!

  21. kaptainkk says:

    To do it this way makes more sense with family members rather than friends.

  22. Corporate-Shill says:

    Is there enough savings to bulk bulk Mayo and repackage the stuff, especially considering food borne illness issues?

  23. Jevia says:

    I’ve never had a problem at my local Costco with “splitting” the pay or using a card twice. This happens a lot when my husband’s family visits with us. We all go, and when it comes time to pay, my father-in- law will hand the cashier half in cash and I put the rest on my debit card. Or, like over Christmas, he paid for all the groceries and then I did a separate payment for the xbox 360 I bought for my husband. I don’t know if Costco would accept the card if I wasn’t there, however.

    I do agree that when it comes to food, one has to be careful of what you buy. Its easy to store non perishables in bulk in our basement and meat in our freezer, but I’d never consider buying their mayo or mustard and we would never finish it in time.

  24. Outrun1986 says:

    You have to consider time as money in these types of situations. I don’t use enough mustard to justify doing this, I probably use about 1 jar or bottle a year. A bottle of generic mustard is about 1$ here. Its usually on sale in the summer too, so if I bought 2 when it was on sale I would be set for the year easily. The cost for the jars to store the mustard bought in bulk would also add up.

    Splitting food could also turn into arguments, and you would have to eat the same thing as your friends. There is also the possibility that your friends may buy more than you would, and buy things that you don’t need or want, which would result in higher costs for you. Its also confusing to calculate who pays for what so everyone gets their fair share.

    We belong to Sam’s but we focus on things that will not spoil. You will eventually get through that big package of toilet paper, so there is no need to split it with anyone else, just keep it longer and use as needed. Its not going to spoil. It means you don’t have to waste gas by running to the store every time you need more TP.

  25. JulesNoctambule says:

    We live across the street from some of our friends and we’re always splitting bulk food purchases/swapping coupons/divvying hauls from the farmer’s market. It makes shopping easier and it’s fun to cook a meal together after all the groceries are sorted.

  26. miss_roxxan says:

    my sister and i split a costco membership and do this. it’s nice because most of the time i don’t want EIGHT boxes of pasta sitting in my panty (especially since i live in NYC where ALL space is limited) so we just split it up. it works well. we’re going again on friday.

    OH. huge note to everyone. never, EVER go to the costco in brooklyn on a sunday afternoon. it’s an obscene mobscene.

    • jeffbone says:

      @miss_roxxan: Eight boxes of pasta in your panty sounds a little painful :-).

      Mob scenes at Costco on a Sunday afternoon aren’t limited to Brooklyn, BTW. Pretty much every Costco I’ve been to is that way. Something about the free samples, I suppose.

  27. DanR2 says:

    Really enjoying the typos in the comments today.

  28. Robotic Bilbo Bagins has no use for fleshy ones says:

    I’m always offering to take friends and family along and when I’m in warehouse I often call when I see good deals I know they’d like to get on stuff they use. But no. Not even to splitting it. And then I visit them later and see they got it from elsewhere at a much higher price. I’ve even whipped out the receipt to prove it. Ugh.

  29. savdavid says:

    Oh, joy! Doesn’t that sound like fun! Arguing over what to buy, how to pay for it, dividing it up and repackaging it? No thanks. I like to go in myself and get out. Hate shopping. I spend little that way and don’t have to hear about little Mikey’s piano playing.

  30. trujunglist says:

    I just recently had to renew my membership with Costco, and I was there with friends essentially doing this exact same thing. When I was being helped, they told me that it was possible to get another card for a relative or someone else, and I was like OK, and after I purchased everything, they had be go create another card.
    When I was at the service counter, the lady asked me if I had anyone else that would like a card as my membership allows it. I said well, my friend over there could use one, but we’re not related or anything, so I don’t think that applies. I was surprised when she said that it did, and she had him come over and do the whole picture/card creation thing.
    So, if one person has a membership and hasn’t created the 2nd card from the membership, you can give it to anyone you want.
    Just a little advice for anyone considering this.

  31. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    If you are at the point of splitting up mustard, you might just want to spend the same amount of time snagging condiment packets from fast food places.

  32. smokinfoo says:

    It’s not a collective, it’s a consumer cooperative.

  33. coold8 says:

    Sounds like this could go wrong and end up on judge judy to me.

  34. says:

    You can also split the cost of membership with a friend. My friend and I share a membership to Costco.