July 31 2016
Saving Money

Costco vs. Boxed vs. Jet

Sorting out my dysfunctional relationship with my money, I embarked on a project that for many people is so basic as to be laughable:

Knowing the price of things.

As obvious as this sounds, such knowledge has eluded my notice or ability to remember, in any meaningful way, the price of the things I buy every day.  Except that milk is around $5 and king crab legs are out of the question expensive.  (But see?  I still don’t know their price.)

Knowing how much things cost is the first step to spending less at the grocery store.

This re-boot started when my husband and I realized that our combined grocery spending was teetering at $1500 a month.  Lots of small trips to the corner deli, lots of running out of basics fast.  So I started recording the prices of every grocery item I regularly buy in a notebook so that I could note the price differential in the various places that I shop.  Astonishing insights emerged. Conversations ensued.

IMG_5454

Living in a small apartment and lacking ample storage space, I always felt economies of scale were not for me.  Of course, now that my sons are older, my grocery bill has grown faster than an Olympic swimmer’s anxiety.  Once you realize something like this, wholesale shopping starts to look like pretty smart.  So I began dipping my toes with a few different city-friendly options.  With the exception of Amazon Pantry, which I just didn’t think would be worth the membership fee.  Here’s what I found…

CostcoBOXED.COM

I started here because for a city-dweller, stores are frightening and delivery is a way of life.  The ability to get anything you want delivered is one of the reasons you live in the city.  I had been to the Costco in Brooklyn years back and I was still traumatized by the experience.  I placed a few orders from Boxed, which was pretty great for school snacks, mac ‘n cheese… stuff like that and I saw, finally, the beauty of buying in bulk.  But now that I was converted, there were so many things I wanted that Boxed just did not have. Basic things like juice boxes.  Seriously, Boxed – you probably lost me because of this one thing. So I decided that the time had come for…

REVISITING COSTCO

I went with my neighbor who has a membership first thing in the morning, and it was better than I remembered.  I still had the overwhelming anxiety that I get from a huge store.   When you shop in tiny supermarkets long enough, going into a suburban style store fills you with an awe that quickly dries down into a full-blown panic attack. Too many choices – will I spend $500 in this place and come home with nothing but Gold Fish?  But I kept to my list and stayed focused.

Yes, as anyone on the internet will tell you, Costco is worth it.  I saved money on things I buy a ton of – juice, juice boxes, milk, school snacks, chicken broth, tuna fish… walnuts!   Prices are marginally better than Boxed, but of course, you have the rotisserie chicken, the kale salad, not to mention, joy of all joys, Polly-O String Cheese which is mind blowingly cheaper than at my supermarket.  A small bag costs almost $7 at my grocery store, but a ginormous bag – literally double the size – costs $8.89 at Costco. Kind of a big deal. Only problem…

Again, limited selection is the enemy to anyone who is remotely picky.  Costco has more than Boxed for sure, but the choice is still limited.  When it comes to certain things, I just want what I want.  I’ll live with a different brand of canned corn, but I’m not really going to deviate when it comes to laundry detergent, bread, cereal, beer, coffee and a bunch of other things.  Costco brand everything doesn’t work for me.

JET.COM

This is where Jet.com comes in, which is a pretty good find.  You’re not getting those super big bulk discounts, but you will get reasonable prices and fast, free shipping on all the things you can’t get at Costco.

The whole Jet gimmick is that most things you add to your cart bring down the prices of the other things in your cart.  Also, the more you buy of something, the cheaper the price becomes (slightly).  I literally hoard my peanut butter from Jet – it is a lot cheaper there than anywhere else I have seen.  And I get the cereal I can’t get at Costco for cheaper than at my supermarket.  Jet.com has a wholesale page, but it doesn’t seem much better than Boxed to me.  It actually carries a bunch of Costco brand products.

Meanwhile, no one has been able to replace Chewey.com for pet supplies – it definitely has the best selection and best price on everything.  Better than Amazon even.

There is definitely a fortune to be saved by paying attention to grocery shopping. I can see how people get obsessed.  When you have a couple of kids,  groceries can easily be your biggest monthly expense after bills. But you can shrink it if you get strategic and make a few key adjustments.  We’re down to about $1000  a month from $1500, which, for us, is a meaningful improvement.  Obviously, we still spend a lot on groceries compared to people who live in other places and we’ll probably never get that much lower.

IMG_5457

Running to my corner to pick up a lemon while dinner is literally in the oven — that’s one of the joys and conveniences of city life.  Our neighborhood grocers are good people … they know my children’s names and are always decent and kind.  I recently forgot to take home a chocolate bar that I bought at my deli. When my husband stopped in later in the day on his way home from work, the cashier gave it to him to bring home to me.  Life affirming!

So I’m happy to support my local shop owners and pay a slight mark-up once in a while to keep them in my community.  Money isn’t everything.

 

You Might Also Like

    • Shopping is not very fun in Brooklyn. Don’t feel bad about not having a Costco – I’m sure you have stores that are better. I always am amazed when I visit friends and family in other places. Big, clean, well-stocked shelves. It’s another world!

  • I think one of the better things we’ve done for our grocery budget has been to cut way back on our BJ’s trips, but mostly because we bought way too much extras for our 3 person family. The neighborhood grocery sounds really cool, reminds me of our little neighborhood produce stand.

    • Yes I can see how there would be diminishing returns. I always keep it under $200 when I go, because no matter what, I am probably not coming home with dinner. Which is why it was so hard for me to try wholesale shopping in the first place. And there is no much that is absurd. $12 for gum?! No thank you.

  • As our choices in food have gotten healthier, I don’t feel like we save as much at Costco anymore… especially considering we have a Trader Joes just down the street. However, when we lived in NYC we did make some trips to Costco to stock up!

    • Trader Joes is the best. I have one near my work train stop and I have a few essentials that I always get there. There’s no way around it- you have to have a few places that you count on for most things. No way to get everything in one place. I have about 12 things that I buy at Costco. That’s enough. Beyond that it’s a more than $200 trip which I don’t like.

  • Such a great comparison from your perspective – the idea of having groceries delivered to me is mind-blowing! As a rural dweller, we have a notorious Wegmans that IS my happy place. I’m glad you ended up having a good experience at Costco yet you can still support local – terrific!!!

  • I just found your blog (through Rockstar Finance). The thing that prompted me to comment is, OMG I LOVE THE NAME OF THAT GROCERY STORE/MARKET! It’s hilarious and just what I needed this morning. (I watched CNN and read TIME magazine cover to cover yesterday. I just can’t even with the shenanigans right now.) I live in an Urban but not walkable area and get most things delivered as I’m recovering from surgery, but when my husband can get out we LOVE ALDI. Superhuman prices on lots of organic items that taste amazing (marinara, stock, etc.) and their gluten free line is nothing short of miraculous.

    • Hi Kandice – thank you so much for checking out my site and commenting. The Bad Wife – I am so glad that gave you a laugh. It is genius. It comes from the owner, whose wife who is such a hard worker and does so much that he likes to jokingly call her “the bad wife.” And it just became a great name for their shop when they renovated it. But it works on a whole perfect other level for all the working mom’s like me in my neighborhood, whose wife-ing job is always a disaster! I am always reading about how wonderful Aldi is and I so wish I had one near me. My kids are so skinny and non-eaters, so I can’t even imagine 2 years from now when the real growing boy eating starts! Thank you again for stopping by Kandice! -Linda

  • Oh, and when your kids get older — be afraid. Very afraid. Mine are 12 (playing competitive sports) and 14 (very lanky, but consumes twice as much as I do). It’s ridiculous. He can put back two orders of Pei Wei orange chicken and shrimp (with extra shrimp) BY HIMSELF IN ONE SITTING and be hungry again a few hours later. Talk about a spike in the grocery budget!

    1. Kandice 06:35am 20 February - 2017 - Reply

      Oh, and when your kids get older — be afraid. Very afraid. Mine are 12 (playing competitive sports) and 14 (very lanky, but consumes twice as much as I do). It’s ridiculous. He can put back two orders of Pei Wei orange chicken and shrimp (with extra shrimp) BY HIMSELF IN ONE SITTING and be hungry again a few hours later. Talk about a spike in the grocery budget!

    2. Kandice 06:29am 20 February - 2017 - Reply

      I just found your blog (through Rockstar Finance). The thing that prompted me to comment is, OMG I LOVE THE NAME OF THAT GROCERY STORE/MARKET! It’s hilarious and just what I needed this morning. (I watched CNN and read TIME magazine cover to cover yesterday. I just can’t even with the shenanigans right now.) I live in an Urban but not walkable area and get most things delivered as I’m recovering from surgery, but when my husband can get out we LOVE ALDI. Superhuman prices on lots of organic items that taste amazing (marinara, stock, etc.) and their gluten free line is nothing short of miraculous.

      • Brooklyn Bread 09:26am 20 February - 2017 - Reply

        Hi Kandice – thank you so much for checking out my site and commenting. The Bad Wife – I am so glad that gave you a laugh. It is genius. It comes from the owner, whose wife who is such a hard worker and does so much that he likes to jokingly call her “the bad wife.” And it just became a great name for their shop when they renovated it. But it works on a whole perfect other level for all the working mom’s like me in my neighborhood, whose wife-ing job is always a disaster! I am always reading about how wonderful Aldi is and I so wish I had one near me. My kids are so skinny and non-eaters, so I can’t even imagine 2 years from now when the real growing boy eating starts! Thank you again for stopping by Kandice! -Linda

    3. […] your non-perishable grocery shopping online — it’s […]

    4. Katie 10:30pm 16 August - 2016 - Reply

      Such a great comparison from your perspective – the idea of having groceries delivered to me is mind-blowing! As a rural dweller, we have a notorious Wegmans that IS my happy place. I’m glad you ended up having a good experience at Costco yet you can still support local – terrific!!!

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:00am 17 August - 2016 - Reply

        Thank you Katie. I pine to live a half urban half rural life! Where do you live?

    5. Jill Wiley 12:34pm 06 August - 2016 - Reply

      As our choices in food have gotten healthier, I don’t feel like we save as much at Costco anymore… especially considering we have a Trader Joes just down the street. However, when we lived in NYC we did make some trips to Costco to stock up!

      • Brooklyn Bread 01:03pm 06 August - 2016 - Reply

        Trader Joes is the best. I have one near my work train stop and I have a few essentials that I always get there. There’s no way around it- you have to have a few places that you count on for most things. No way to get everything in one place. I have about 12 things that I buy at Costco. That’s enough. Beyond that it’s a more than $200 trip which I don’t like.

    6. Lisa @ Fun Money Mom 10:45am 01 August - 2016 - Reply

      I love Costco but my membership ran out awhile ago. I need to get it renewed because I really do feel like it saves me money!

      • Brooklyn Bread 01:29pm 01 August - 2016 - Reply

        With two sons that are 8 and 4, I am just starting to get visions of my future. And I have skinny kids who don’t eat! It’s amazing how much they go through.

    7. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 10:33am 01 August - 2016 - Reply

      I think one of the better things we’ve done for our grocery budget has been to cut way back on our BJ’s trips, but mostly because we bought way too much extras for our 3 person family. The neighborhood grocery sounds really cool, reminds me of our little neighborhood produce stand.

      • Brooklyn Bread 01:27pm 01 August - 2016 - Reply

        Yes I can see how there would be diminishing returns. I always keep it under $200 when I go, because no matter what, I am probably not coming home with dinner. Which is why it was so hard for me to try wholesale shopping in the first place. And there is no much that is absurd. $12 for gum?! No thank you.

    8. Jamie @ Medium Sized Family 10:03am 01 August - 2016 - Reply

      I’ve never visited a Costco, because I’m a country mouse! haha There isn’t one anywhere near me. I’ll have to look into these other options, though.

      • Brooklyn Bread 01:25pm 01 August - 2016 - Reply

        Shopping is not very fun in Brooklyn. Don’t feel bad about not having a Costco – I’m sure you have stores that are better. I always am amazed when I visit friends and family in other places. Big, clean, well-stocked shelves. It’s another world!

    Leave a Comment

    CommentLuv badge