The #s Behind the Sam’s/ Costco Comparison

Whew! Who knew comparison shopping could be so tough?

Tonight’s consumer investigation showed you which discount warehouse has the lowest prices… Sam’s Club or Costco.  And how do the prices at those warehouse giants compare with local grocery store Kroger?

It wasn’t as easy as one trip to Sam’s, Costco and another to Kroger…  so I wanted to explain our methodology.

I first went to Sam’s Club, selected 30 items and jotted down the brand, size and count and price of each product. When I took that list to Costco, I quickly learned that store didn’t have all of the same items.

For example, Costco doesn’t carry Tyson chicken nuggets or Pilgrim’s Pride Boneless Skinless Chiecken Breasts.  Sam’s carries Hunt’s Ketchup, but Costco only has Heinz. Sam’s has Wesson and Mazola corn oil; Costco only carries Mazola. You get the point.

Once we found 30 items of the same product, each store carried different sizes.  If there were individually wrapped items in a bulk product, like granola bars or Electrasol dishwasher tablets, we figured the cost per item.  If it was something like shampoo, we figured the price per ounce at each store.

Here is the full list of items we compared:

Generic Diapers
  • Sam’s Club Member’s Mark (234 count)      $39.48    .16 ea
  • Costco Kirkland Signature (216 count)       $29.99     .14 ea
  • Kroger Generic Diapers  (48 count)               $5.99        .12 ea
Huggies Natural Care Wipes
  • Sam’s Club  (720 count)     $14.86    .02 ea
  • Costco             (1000 count) $23.99    .02 ea
  • Kroger            (216 count)     $6.59      .03 ea
Kellogg’s Cereal
  • Sam’s Club    (46.5 oz)    $6.42      .138 per oz.
  • Costco               (52.5 oz)   $7.59       .14 per oz.
  • Kroger              (12.2 oz)    $2.98     .24 per oz.
Charmin Ultra Soft
  • Sam’s Club     (36 rolls)      $17.47      .485 per roll
  • Costco                (30 rolls)     $19.59     .65 per roll
  • Kroger               (18 rolls)      $13.79      .77 per roll
Bounty Basic Paper Towels
  • Sam’s Club      (12 rolls)     $17.58      $1.46 per roll
  • Costco                 (12 rolls)    $20.99     $1.75 per roll
  • Kroger                (8 rolls)      $14.79      $1.85 per roll 
Gain Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Sam’s Club      (170 oz)   $17.25      .10 per oz.
  • Costco                 (170 oz)  $17.25       .10 per oz.
  • Kroger                (150 oz) $18.59      .12 per oz.
Generic Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Sam’s Club    (170 oz)   $14.84       .09 per oz.
  • Costco              (170 oz)    $13.99      .08 per oz.
  • Kroger  (No generic) $14.79        .09 per oz. (for comps) 
  • Sam’s Club    (256 oz)    $4.98     .0194 per oz.
  • Costco               (128 oz)    $2.55      .0199 per oz.
  • Kroger              (128 oz)    $2.99      .0233 per oz.
Generic Chicken Nuggets
  • Sam’s Club   (44 oz)     $9.86       .22 per oz.
  • Costco              (80 oz)    $12.79      .159 per oz.
  • Kroger             (28 oz)     $6.99       .249 per oz.
Generic Chicken Breasts
  • Sam’s Club    (96 oz)          $12.06      .12 per oz.
  • Costco               (104 oz)       $15.99     .15 per oz.
  • Kroger              (3.03 lbs.)  $10.57      .22 per oz.
Bakery Cupcakes
  • Sam’s Club  (72 oz)    $11.88     .17 per oz.
  • Costco             (128 oz) $16.99     .13 per oz.
  • Kroger            (24 oz)    $5.99       .25 per oz.
Iams Dog Food
  • Sam’s Club     (44lbs.)     $36.28     .82 per lb.
  • Costco                (48 lbs.)   $35.19      .73 per lb.
  • Kroger               (17.5 lbs.) $21.99     $1.25 per lb.
Generic Dog Food
  • Sam’s Club   (50 lbs.)        $17.43     .35 per lb. 
  • Costco              (40 lbs.)        $21.99     .55 per lb. 
  • Kroger             (34 lbs.)        $11.49      .34 per lb. 
Dove Body Wash
  • Sam’s Club    (48 oz.)      $10.58       .220 per oz.
  • Costco              (48 oz.)      $10.79         .224 per oz.
  • Kroger             (24 oz.)       $7.09           .295 per oz.
Pantene Shampoo
  • Sam’s Club    (40 oz.)    $7.88     .197 per oz.
  • Costco               (40 oz.)   $7.78       .195 per oz.
  • Kroger              (25.4 oz.) $5.99    .24 per oz.
Woman’s One-A-Day Vitamins
  • Sam’s Club    (250 count)   $14.97      .0598 per vitamin
  • Costco               (250 count)   $14.99      .0599 per vitamin
  • Kroger              (200 count)  $15.79       .08 per vitamin
Tylenol Extra Strength
  • Sam’s Club     (325 Caplets)    $13.88    .0427 per pill
  • Costco                (325 Caplets)    $13.85     .0426 per pill
  • Kroger               (100 Caplets)    $8.69       .08 per pill
Nature Valley Granola Bars
  • Sam’s Club       (30 bars) $8.28      .28 per bar
  • Costco                  (48 bars) $11.89     .25 per bar
  • Kroger                 (6 bars)    $3.19        .53 per bar
Heinz Ketchup
  • Sam’s Club       (132 oz.)    $6.52       .0493 per oz. 
  • Costco                 (132 oz)      $6.49       .0491 per oz. 
  • Kroger                (36 oz.)       $2.09      .06 per oz.    
Opti-Free Replenish Contact Lens Solution
  • Sam’s Club     (28 oz)      $17.84          .6371 per oz.
  • Costco                (28 oz)     $18.29         .6532 per oz.
  • Kroger               (10 oz)     $10.29         $1.02 per oz.
Ester-C Caplets
  • Sam’s Club        (300 count)       $14.74        .0491 each
  • Costco                   (300 count)      $14.79        .0493 each
  • Kroger                  (180 count)       $19.49       .11 each
Gillette Fusion Manual Cartridges
  • Sam’s Club     (16 count)     $39.78      $2.486 each
  • Costco                (16 count)     $39.84     $2.49 each
  • Kroger               (4  count)      $13.59      $3.40 each
Kraft American Singles
  • Sam’s Club    (72 count)   $7.88   .1094 per slice
  • Costco               (96 count)  $10.94  .1092 per slice
  • Kroger              (24 count)   $4.79     .20 per slice
Velveeta Shells & Cheese
  • Sam’s Club      $1.47 each
  • Costco                 $1.33 each
  • Kroger                $1.79 each
Miller Lite 12 oz. Bottles
  • Sam’s Club     .7454 per bottle
  • Costco               .7495 per bottle
  • Kroger              .7495 oer bottle
Dole Fruit Bowls
  • Sam’s Club    (16 Count)  $6.74     .42 each
  • Costco               (20 count)  $7.99    .40 each
  • Kroger              (4 count)     $1.92    .48 each
Ziploc Sandwich Bags
  • Sam’s Club   (125 count)   $7.93     .063 per bag
  • Costco              (125 count)  $7.23      .057 per bag
  • Kroger             (50 count)    $2.19      .043 per bag
Swiffer Dry Refills
  • Sam’s Club   (64 count)    $12.72    .1987 each
  • Costco              (64  count)   $12.79     .1998 each
  • Kroger             (32 count)    $8.49      .26 each
Electrasol Powerball Dishwasher Tabs
  • Sam’s Club      (90 tabs)   $13.78     .15 each
  • Costco                 (100 tabs)  $11.85    .118 each
  • Kroger                (20 tabs)    $5.29       .26 each 
  • Sam’s Club    .25 per can
  • Costco               .31 per can
  • Kroger              .27 per can  

13 Responses

  1. In your comparison it did not include that Kroger takes, doubles & triples coupons and also gives a 10% discount to seniors on their store brands. I do shop at Sams but find Kroger to be more competitive than your story showed. I know you cannot include all options.

  2. Amy,

    Nice coverage of Sam’s vs Costco last night. However, price and size are not the only reasons people become members. It is the discovery of unique and value priced items. I picked up a Jap Maple tree for under $100 at Costco, the same size tree would go for over $400. I am interested in what items you find cheap and expensive at the clubs tonight. One item that I purchase COVERS the $100 membership vs purchasing it at other retailers! Another item, my wife uses, also covers the membership fee. So there are lots of reason to be a member!

  3. Your comparison also did not take into account the quality of dog food. Kirkland’s (Costco’s store brand) is actually a decent quality dog food for that price. It is considered 3 stars on while I am sure the Kroger and Sam’s brand are 1 start or maybe 2. In the end the dog food may be more expensive at Costco but the quality is higher and therefore has less fillers meaning the dog will need less and therefore the food is less expensive in the end.

  4. Have you looked at the Optical Departmets at all to see which one is better/cheaper?

  5. Amy, thanks for your analysis. However, people need to realize to save at Costco and Sam’s Club, you would have to shop there enough to recoup what you are spending on the annual fees to shop there. Last time I was a Sam’s Club member, I was spending $40 a year on their card. It might be more now. Also, Kroger’s is the only store in your comparsion that accepts coupons..sometimes double and triple as mentioned by Joy’s comments. Kroger also discounts meats. Also, there is the gasoline comparsion, since Kroger will give you at $.10 off a gallon discount if you spend $100 a month. Kroger also sends you coupons in the mail every few weeks when you are a Plus card member..which is free! I feel like I can save more at Kroger, without putting up front $40 or more for an annual fee.

  6. Although Sam’s may fix your flats for free as a member. Any tires purchased at Sam will only be serviced (including road hazard warranty) over the life of the tire as long as your membership is maintained.

    In effect you must maintain your $40 per year membership in order to get tire service or warranty adjustments. Whereas most other tire dealers include life-time service as part of the initial purchase price, Walmart included. Ex. I purchased Sam’s tires for my son’s car. While he was away at college he had a tire problem. He was told by his local Sam’s club he would have to join( pay $40) in order for them to adjust out the damaged tire, even though he had the original Sam’s receipt showing the tires had only been purchased 8 months earlier by me and the car was titled in my name, and my membership was in good standing. No this wasn’t an isolated case, in fact I took the issue to corporate customer service, they acknowledged this was in fact their policy, but offered to provide an exception by refunding the membership fee my son was forced to pay.

  7. You math is incorrect on the ziploc bags… 40 bags at 2.19 is .054 per bag at Kroger.

  8. You are correct that I was wrong… but I just referred to my notes.
    I accidentally typed in “40” bags instead of “50.” Kroger sold 50 Ziploc bags for $2.19, not 40… so they actually were .043 each.
    Thank you for reading and for bringing the error to my attention!

    Amy Davis

  9. I agree with Larry about the coupons and gas discount, although a good idea would be to split the cost of a membership fee with someone at say Sams or Costco. Since they give you two cards, go with a friend or family member; this way you can save both on the annual fee and groceries, depending on what they are of course. But in your previous segment on Randals, Target, Walmart and Kroger, those were “higher priced” food stores (with exception to Walmart). Is HEB cheaper than Kroger? Or is Kroger an all around good place to go?

  10. I also noticed that you did not take into account quality. There is a big difference in Kirkland Brand and others. In addition I would also note that as an executive member you get back 2% on most purchases at Costco. I do not pay a membership fee to shop there i make money every year. In addition Costco gives rebates and coupons on a regular basis. I shop at Costco because it gives me great products at a great price on a regular basis. Unless you watch coupons regularly I find that you can’t do better on pricing and quality. I don’t have to eat certain things because it is on sale, I get what I want when I want it and I know that overall I am receiving superior quality and saving money.

  11. On 3/8/10 went to costco then sam’s (our costco stopped carrier caffeine free diet coke). Purchased Tyson’s 6 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Costco for 18.99. At sams they now carry Tyson skinless boneless breasts 6 lbs for 12.98 – how’s that for price difference?

    Member’s mark vitamins and mineral supplements are much less expensive than costco’s 98% of the time!

  12. the dog foods that we use are certified organic as we do not want to use those dog foods contaminated with chemicals”‘”

  13. 10. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

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