Costco vs. Sam's Club vs. Walmart: Which Costs Less This December?

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KEY POINTS

  • Sam's Club beat Costco and Walmart on price using Instacart as a price comparison tool.
  • Comparing prices on groceries can be a great way to save money.
  • If you're looking for bargains, you'll often find better deals if you go to the store yourself.

Find out where you can find lowest-cost groceries this month.

We often compare prices when buying big-ticket items like electronics or domestic appliances, but it isn't as easy to do when it comes to grocery shopping. For starters, products come in different sized packages, so you need to calculate the per-item cost. Then you need to factor in variables such as the type of apple, whether it's organic, and whether there's an in-store promotion. Plus, some stores charge an annual membership fee, which muddies the water even further.

All the same, it's worth doing. Many Americans have had to dip into their savings this year to pay for essential living costs, which is understandable, but could be difficult to sustain longer term. Given that there was more than 20% difference between the lowest- and highest-price store, switching stores might free up cash for other essential bills.

How Costco, Sam's Club, and Walmart stack up this December

For our Costco versus Sam's Club versus Walmart comparison, we selected some common grocery products and used Instacart (with location set to Los Angeles) to help us compare like with like. On a per-item basis, Sam's Club came out on top, with Walmart second, and Costco trailed in third place.

Here's how the three stores compare:

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  • Best for low prices: Sam's Club
  • Best for organic: Costco
  • Best for small households: Walmart

Please note, we used Instacart as a price comparison tool -- not a shopping service. Instacart prices are often significantly higher than what you'll find in store. If you're looking to save money you're better off going to the store yourself. Also, Instacart prices listed below do not include the Costco or Sam's Club membership discounts. This skews the analysis, but it seemed fairer as not everybody has a membership to each store.

Instacart lets non-members shop at both Costco and Sam's Club, but it tacks on a premium. Ridester estimates that Costco prices are about 20% more expensive on Instacart. The Krazy Coupon Lady made a similar estimate for Sam's Club.

Costco prices: Dec. 2022

Costco Item Price Cost per lb / gal / item
Organic Yellow Onions (10 lbs) $11.18 $1.12
Organic Carrots (6 lbs) $4.96 $0.83
Kirkland Signature Extra Large White Eggs, Cage Free (24 eggs) $6.83 $0.28
Kirkland Signature 2% Reduced Fat Milk (2 x 1 gal) $8.43 $4.22
Organic Snacking Apples Gala (3 lbs) $6.83 $2.28
Gold Potatoes (10 lbs) $8.07 $0.81
Organic Royal Traditional Basmati Rice (20 lbs) $32.33 $1.62
Kirkland Signature Fresh Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs $38.32 $4.34
Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef, (4 lbs) $31.09 $7.77
Garofalo Organic Spaghetti (8 ct) $15.54 $1.94
Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn (12 x 15.25 oz) $14.29 $1.19
Total $177.87 $26.39
Data source: Instacart (non-member prices). Nov. 29, 2022

Sam's Club prices: Dec. 2022

Sam's Club item Price Cost per lb / gal / item
Yellow Onion Bag (10 lbs) $7.73 $0.77
Organic Whole Carrots (5 lbs) $3.31 $0.66
Member's Mark Grade Aa Cage Free Large Eggs (24 eggs) $6.88 $0.29
Member's Mark 2% Reduced Fat Milk Jug (1 gal) $4.44 $4.44
Gala Apple (5 lbs) $7.64 $1.53
Yellow Potato Bag (10 lbs) $7.07 $0.71
Royal White Basmati Rice (20 lbs) $23.90 $1.20
Member's Mark Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
(Approx 6.38 lbs)
$21.88 $3.43
Member's Mark 90% Lean 10% Fat Ground Beef (4.5 lbs) $21.76 $4.58
Barilla Elbows/Spaghetti/Penne Pasta Variety Pack (6 x 1 lb) $10.33 $1.72
Del Monte Golden Sweet Whole Kernel Corn (8 x 15.25 oz) $8.95 $1.12
Total $123.89 $20.44
Data source: Instacart (non-member prices). Nov. 29, 2022

Walmart prices: Dec. 2022

Walmart item Price Cost per lb / gal / item
Yellow Onion Bag (3 lbs) $1.66 $0.55
Organic Carrot Bag (2 lbs) $1.96 $0.98
Great Value Cage Free Large AA White Eggs (18 eggs) $5.18 $0.29
Great Value 2% Reduced Fat Milk (1 gal) $3.49 $3.49
Gala Apple Bag (3 lbs) $4.68 $1.56
Organic Yellow Potatoes (3 lbs) $5.48 $1.83
Royal Basmati Rice (5 lbs) $8.98 $1.80
Freshness Guaranteed Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (approx 3.0 lb) $10.44 $3.48
Beef Chuck, Ground, 80%/20% $4.58 $4.58
Barilla® Classic Blue Box Pasta Spaghetti (2 lbs) $3.18 $1.59
Del Monte Corn, Whole Kernel, Golden Sweet, Value Pack (4 x 15.25 oz) $5.38 $1.35
Total $55.01 $21.49
Data source: Instacart. Nov. 29, 2022

Bottom line

Shopping around is just one of many ways you can save money on your groceries. Others include cutting back on food waste by using or freezing any leftovers, cutting down on meat, or seeking out coupons on regular purchases. That said, switching to a lower-cost store could make a big difference to your bank account balance.

Even so, cost isn't the only factor. For example, each of the stores above have their own credit cards that pay decent rewards on in-store purchases, especially in combination with membership programs. You may find that you get better rewards or a more pleasant shopping experience in a particular store. A lot depends on your household and habits, and being conscious about where you can lower your grocery costs.

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