My father is hands down the most frugal shopper I have ever met.
I guess unconventionality runs in the family because my parents certainly have a non-traditional setup. My dad has been a "house husband" for the past 35 years while my step-mom was the bread winner. As part of their system my dad does all of the grocery shopping.
Now, I was raised by my mother, not my dad & step-mom, so while my dad has always talked a good game in terms of frugal shopping, I never really got to witness it first hand until this week.
This is because for my birthday my dad got me a membership to Costco. Well... actually, he got himself a membership to Costco, and signed me up as the 2nd person on the account. See what I mean about the frugal part?
Anyhow, after he paid the membership fee and we got our photos taken and our little ID cards issued, we hit the aisles eager for the incredible bargains we'd heard so much about.
I must say, it was a rather amazing experience. I guess this is to be expected when you unleash a PhD statistician into the wild world of grocery shopping, but I really was unprepared for the spectacle of His Frugalness in action.
First of all, with my allergies and my step-mom's sensitivity to citric acid, every ingredient label had to be scrupulously read. This was made all the more comical by the fact that both my father and I suffer from terrible presbyopia and neither one of us remembered to bring our reading glasses. Suffice it to say there was a lot of trombone playing going on!
But aside from the 2 Stooges-like visual that I'm sure we provided to the other shoppers, my dad has an utterly amazing encyclopedic knowledge of food prices. Literally every item we'd pick up, he'd be able to quote you the price at every grocery store in town, and that doesn't even count the salvage store where he is a regular.
So our process went sort of like this... Hmmmm... could we use a gallon jug of xyz product? Let's see... does it have any citric acid in it... how about undeclared herbs and spices. Let's see, what's the unit price? Oh, well I can beat that price at xyz store under xyz circumstance.
Now I've got a pretty good idea of how much things I regularly buy cost, but I can't hold a candle to Dad! And generally I don't worry too much about getting the best price possible... but if you're gonna buy a 3 year's supply of xyz thing, you sort of want to make sure that you're getting a good deal.
Anyhow, our general conclusion was that Costco isn't worth the price of the membership.
We found a few things that had a decent price, but nothing that was really a spectacular savings, and most of what we bought could have been gotten cheaper elsewhere by simply shopping at the regular store and buying generic brands.
Now, I suppose if you have a huge family to feed and if you don't have the luxury of shopping at a whole variety of different stores to get the best price, it might be OK. But seriously folks, it seemed like one could easily get oneself into deep trouble... I'm thinking of the candy aisle where I saw people filling their carts with enormous quantities of chocolate-covered-everything-you-can-think-of.
But the whole experience sort of made me wonder if people are really too lazy to do the math and just assume that they are getting a good deal because they're buying in bulk.
However, the fellow at the store mentioned that they also had a web site, so when I got home I checked it out, but had pretty much the same meh response. I got pretty excited when I saw the "bulk foods" section on the web site, but then I discovered that mostly what they have are huge quantities of freeze dried emergency rations.
Hmmm... what can it mean? Apparently Costco is the shopping destination for people who are preparing for the zombie apocalypse?
The trip was not entirely fruitless however. I did come home with a 13.5lb bag of baking soda and the world's biggest box of cream cheese. Seriously, I think it's three pounds... hmmmm... perhaps not such a good idea after all?
Anyhow, are any of you Costco members? What do you think? Do you find it to be a good deal? I'm really curious to learn what you think about it.