10 things to know before shopping at Sam’s Club for the first time

I’m a champagne girl with no champagne budget, so I put the time into finding the best value for groceries and other household items. And one of my favorite places to shop for bargains is Sam’s Club, the membership-only storefront opened by Walmart nearly 40 years ago.

I initially came to Sam’s to keep labor costs low. As a recipe developer, I often need large quantities of staples for recipe and product testing, and the low warehouse prices allow me to keep a stock of budget-friendly ingredients on hand. The more I shopped at the club, the more I started stocking up on items for my own household – and I love that I can save both time and money by shopping in one place.

Over the years, I’ve gotten some tips, tricks, and advice for shopping with Sam. If you’re a first-timer, here’s what you need to know.

1. To do your shopping, you need a membership card.

Anyone can walk in and buy a hot dog or pretzel at the club’s cafe, or even liquor at the store, but access to groceries (and other products and services) is members only. Sam’s offers two annual membership options: Club ($50 per year) and Plus ($110 per year). Both memberships include access to the warehouse’s products and services, Curbside Pickup (although there is a $4 fee for Club members), Instant Savings (more on that below), savings on gasoline, and the ability to purchase a Sam’s Club Mastercard ( Club members get 1% cashback on purchases at Sam’s Club; Plus members get 3%). Plus, Plus members get free shipping, additional pharmacy and optical discounts, and early bird access to the store (from 8 a.m.).

2. Non-members can shop with a 24-hour guest pass.

If you’re interested in visiting your local Sam’s Club but don’t necessarily want to hand over $50 or $110 without a trial run, you can sign up for a free 24-hour Guest Membership. Please note that a 10% service charge will be added to your purchase total.

3. You’ll want to stock up on baking supplies, especially during the holidays.

The club has an extensive inventory of both perishable and perishable items, both for its private label and branded products. It’s a great place to stock up on staples like butter, nuts, vanilla, olive oil, and cookie dough for the holidays. I bake a lot of brownies and cakes all year round, and I always get butter, nuts, and vanilla from Sam’s. During the holidays, I can even find 16-ounce bottles of vanilla here.

4. The rotisserie chickens rival those of other big box retailers.

The club has a good selection of poultry, fish and meat. One of my favorites is Sam’s Club Rotisserie Chickens, which you can get for $4.98 each. I have tried the rotisserie chicken from other box shops and I find this one more flavorful and tender. The ingredients list mentions Lawry’s herbs, but I know they added a secret touch! The juices from the chicken make an excellent base for gravy that needs little to no additional seasoning. The chickens are cooked in the club and are so sought after that it is worth waiting for the next batch of succulent birds to come out of the oven.

5. The store’s frozen fish and fresh produce are not to be missed.

My family loves salmon, and Sam’s sells both farmed and wild-caught frozen Atlantic salmon under the Maker’s Mark brand, the store’s house brand.

Sam’s also has a good selection of products. I like the one pound package of organic salad greens, including green and red leaf lettuce, arugula, and baby spinach. When in season, Cara Cara oranges are always on my list.

6. The cheese selection is huge.

Cheese is one of the items I regularly buy at Sam’s, and the club has an extensive selection of house brands and brand names, including Jarlsberg Swiss and Cabot. You’ll find 15-pound Parmesan, one- or two-pound blocks of goat cheese, blocks of cheddar, and large bags of shredded cheddar, just to name a few. And if you’re planning on making a charcuterie board, you can meander along the refrigerators and snack aisles to pick up the rest of your ingredients: cold cuts, fancy crackers, nuts, and fruit.

7. You can skip the checkout line.

Instead of standing in long lines at the checkout, I like to use Scan & Go in the Sam’s Club app. Simply scan each product’s barcode as you add it to your cart, pay directly in the app, then show your digital receipt to a club associate on the way out. (One note: This option isn’t available to buyers with a guest plan.) Plus members have the added benefit of shipping items, such as a large TV, for free.

8. Instead of coupons, the club has an Instant Savings program.

It’s true: Sam’s Club does not accept receipts. Instead, the store has its own Instant savings program, featuring a rotation of offers and discounts each month on select products, including pantry staples, popular snacks and frozen favorites. (Some are in-store only or have a limit on how many you can buy, so be sure to check the details.) You can also Ibottathe free cashback rewards web and mobile app that gives you cash for everyday purchases while shopping.

9. Prices are the same whether you shop online or in-store.

You pay the same membership price for purchases when you do your shopping in the app, online or at the club. As mentioned above, shipping is free for Plus members (and estimated at checkout for club members). However, if you choose same-day delivery, you will be charged a delivery fee ($8 for Plus, $12 for Club) per order.

10. The products and services are expanding way beyond shopping.

The previous tips focus on grocery shopping, but keep in mind that Sam’s also offers optical and pharmacy services, car care with a tire and battery center, plus car purchase and rental. You’ll also find furniture, appliances, office supplies, photo processing and custom photo gifts. But that’s not all – you’ll also want to check out the club’s travel and entertainment services, as well as home improvement and maintenance services.

Add Comment