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How Big Box Prices Compare On 4 Household Items

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They’re a fixture of our suburban landscape. Big box stores with big boxes in the shopping carts. People swear by their Costco and Sam’s Club memberships, but they have to buy big in order to save big. So, what if you don’t want to buy in bulk, and are the big sizes a better deal anyway?

WCCO wondered, so we put together a shopping list of four things most of us need to buy at some point: pop, batteries, laundry detergent, and printer paper.

Let’s start with the laundry detergent. If you use Tide pods, Costco sells a bigger box than Sam’s Club, and at 21 cents per pod, it’s a couple cents cheaper per wash. Target’s biggest container comes in at 25 cents per wash:

Costco: 120 Count | $25.69 | 21¢/pod
Sam’s Club: 90 Count | $20.98 | 23¢/pod
Target: 72 Count | $17.99 | 25¢/pod

On the other hand, Sam’s Club sells a bigger size of Tide liquid than Costco, and it’s a penny cheaper per load. Target sells a smaller, less concentrated jug that costs 25 cents per load:

Sam’s Club: 146 Loads | $25.48 | 17¢/load
Costco: 110 Loads | $19.99 | 18¢/load
Target: 72 Loads | $17.99 | 25¢/load

Summertime is soda time for many people, and the price of pop is competitive. Costco and Sam’s Club sell 32-packs of Coke and Diet Coke for 30 cents apiece, and 36-packs of Pepsi products for 28 cents apiece. But we did better by shopping around.

“Soda is one of the items that is on sale every week somewhere,” said Carrie Rocha, who tracks sale prices on her Pocket Your Dollars blog. She says often alternate their Coke and Pepsi sales.

During the weeks we shopped, we found Diet Coke on sale as low as 23 cents per can at Target:

Target: 12-pack (sale) | 4/$11.00 | 23¢/can
Rainbow: 12-pack (sale) | 3/$9.99 | 28¢/can
Sam’s Club: 32-pack | $9.59 | 30¢/can
Costco: 32-pack | $9.59 | 30¢/can
Cub: 12-pack (sale) | 3/$12.00 | 33¢/can

We found Diet Pepsi on sale for 25 cents a can at Cub and Target:

Cub: 12-pack | 4/$12.00 | 25¢/can
Target: 12-pack | 4/$12.00 | 25¢/can
Rainbow: 12-pack | 3/$9.99 | 28¢/can
Sam’s Club: 36-pack | $9.98 | 28¢/can
Costco: 36-pack | $9.99 | 28¢/can

“Frankly, I don’t think anybody should pay more than 25 cents a can for a can of name brand soda,” said Rocha, “because we see it on sale all the time.”

We go through a lot of printer paper in the WCCO newsroom, but both warehouse stores sell home sizes for a bit less than a penny a sheet. But other stores are in the same ballpark, and Staples had a sale price that beat them all:

Staples: 500 sheets | $3.99 | .79¢/sheet
Costco: 800 sheets | $6.99 | .87¢/sheet
Target: 750 sheets | $6.89 | .92¢/sheet
Sam’s Club: 750 sheets | $6.98 | .93¢/sheet
Office Max: 500 sheets | $5.00 | 1¢/sheet

“Copy paper is an item that’s similar to soda in that somebody has it on sale every single week,” said Rocha.

And finally, what about batteries? If you need AA Duracells, it’s hard to beat the Sam’s Club 48-pack, or Costco 40-pack. Both are 37 cents per battery, and the other stores weren’t even close:

Sam’s Club: 48-pack | $17.87 | 37¢/battery
Costco: 40-pack | $14.89 | 37¢/battery
Target: 24-pack | $15.49 | 65¢/battery
Staples: 24-pack | $19.99 | 84¢/battery
Office Max: 20-pack | $16.99 | 85¢/battery
Family Dollar: 8-pack | $7.25 | 91¢/battery

But generic alkaline batteries are a different story. Sam’s Club and Costco both cell 48-packs for 27 cents apiece, but a 4-pack at Dollar Tree is just a dollar, our best price at 25 cents apiece.

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