You've been asking for it, and we're delivering! After comparing Costco to Walmart and to Trader Joe's, we're now comparing Costco prices to Sam's Club. At first glance, these two seem quite similar, and certainly the value proposition is the same: Bulk buys of the brands you like, plus their signature in-house brands (Kirkland Signature for Costco, Member's Mark for Sam's) for even better value. I visited locations in Raleigh, NC — each 2.5 miles from my house, one to the south, one to the north.
Walking in, the layout of Sam's Club was almost a mirror image to my more familiar Costco, with what seemed like a bigger selection of household goods and clothing. But to really compare, I needed to get down and dirty with the prices. So here we go.
Note: Because prices can vary by location, we went to two stores in the same town on the same day. But in case you're interested, about half of the Costco prices were exactly the same in Raleigh as they were in Danielle's tests in Portland, OR, specifically for the meat and most of the household products.
Spoiler alert: These two stores were neck and neck. Many comparable items have virtually identical pricing. The basic membership fees are comparable ($60 at Costco, $45 at Sam's — although my receipt from my trial day at Sam's offered me a first year at $32, which starts being significant). On many items, the price difference was just one cent for a pretty big package of whatever.
1. Greek Yogurt
Sam's didn't offer a Member's Mark version of yogurt, but instead a jumbo-sized, name-brand container for the same price as Costco's private label. Costco didn't have big Chobani tubs, so these two were the closest price-wise. Costco's closest name brand in a big tub was Fage for a bit more money ($5.99 for 48 ounces).
- TIE! Costco's Kirkland Plain Nonfat Yogurt: $5.79 for 48 ounces ($0.122 per ounce)
- TIE! Sam's Club Chobani Original Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt: $4.89 for 40 ounces ($0.122 per ounce)
2. Frozen berries
Both stores offered many frozen berry options — a great choice if you like smoothies — but the Sam's bag was significantly cheaper.
- Costco's Kirkland Organic Three-Berry Blend: $9.69 for four pounds ($0.151 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Natural Triple Berry Blend: $7.98 for four pounds ($0.125 per ounce)
3. 2% Milk
The milk was a tie between Sam's and Costco, with those big gallon jugs each clocking in at $2.25 per gallon. They looked identical to me, too.
- TIE! Costco's Kirkland 2% Milk: $2.25 per gallon
- TIE! Sam's Club Member's Mark 2% Milk: $2.25 per gallon
You can save some money on eggs at Costco, and this was one line-item where the price was exactly the same in the Southeast as the Northwest.
- WINNER! Costco's Organic, Certified Humane, and Cage-Free Large Eggs: $6.39 for 2-dozen ($0.266 per egg)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Cage Free Large Grade A Eggs: $6.98 for 2 dozen ($0.291 per egg)
Bacon is cheaper by 50 cents a pound here compared to Portland! Does that surprise anyone? At each store, the bundles were conveniently divided into 1-pound packs inside.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Bacon: $14.99 for four pounds ($3.74 per pound)
- Winner! Sam's Club Member's Mark Natural Hickory Smoked Bacon: $10.48 for three pounds ($3.49 per pound)
The Sam's I went to didn't have old-fashioned oats, just quick ones. I might be willing to pay the minor upcharge for the convenience here.
- WINNER! Costco's Quaker Old Fashioned Oats: $7.99 for 10 pounds ($0.050 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute Oats: $8.79 for 10 pounds ($0.055 per ounce)
Both stores had a few honey options, so the raw and unfiltered local versions were the closest comparison. Here, Costco came in quite a bit lower. You can go cheaper with its organic raw honey if you're not looking for your regional brand.
- WINNER! Costco's L.R. Rice Raw & Unfiltered Honey: $12.99 for 48-ounce jar ($0.271 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Nature Nate's Natural 100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey: $13.28 for 44-ounce jar ($0.301 per ounce)
Alas, Sam's doesn't carry Kerrygold! My local Costco, on the other hand, carries nice manageable 1.5-pound packs of that cult butter (for $8.99) compared to the 4-pound bundles offered elsewhere. But if you're not buying Kerrygold, know that the Costco's private label is cheaper than the Sam's Club version.
- WINNER! Costco Kirkland Signature Salted Sweet Cream Butter: $10.39 for 4 pounds ($0.162 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Member's mark Salted Sweet Cream Butter: $10.98 for 4 pounds ($0.172 per ounce)
9. Frozen Waffles
Neither store had a private label version of frozen waffles so I compared Eggos to Eggos here. Same exact product, but slightly smaller package at Sam's. Although maybe that's a good thing if you need to save on freezer space?
- WINNER! Costco's Kellogg's Homestyle Eggo Waffles: $9.89 for 72 ($0.137 per waffle)
- Sam's Club Kellogg's Homestyle Eggo Waffles: $8.78 for 60 ($0.146 per waffle)
10. Maple Syrup
Mmmm maple syrup! Save a penny per ounce when you go to Sam's.
- Costco's Kirkland Organic Amber: $10.99 for 33.8 ounces ($0.33 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Organic Maple Syrup: $10.28 for 32 ounces ($0.321 per ounce)
1. Pasta Sauce
This was one of the harder items to compare, because I couldn't find Costco's Kirkland Signature brand when I went. But the best value option came from Sam's in a 1.06-gallon jug (for $6.48), which was just … a little more marinara than I would normally buy at once. So here is a comparison of more normal-sized options:
- WINNER! Costco Premium Organic Paesana Tomato & Basil Sauce: $6.95 for two 25-ounce jars ($0.139 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Imported from Italy Romano Pasta Sauce: $6.96 for two 24-ounce jars ($0.145 per ounce)
2. Ground Beef
Both places divided their organic ground beef (but not the non-organic kind) into convenient one-pound portions that you could snip off and freeze. However, Sam's came in significantly cheaper here!
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef: $19.99 for four pounds ($5 per pound)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Organic Grass-Fed Ground Beef: $7.98 for three pounds ($2.66 per pound)
3. Dried Penne
There were similar-looking pasta options at both places. Sam's edges out Costco on this one, if you're making pasta for a crowd.
- Costco's Garofalo Organic Pasta: $9.49 for a variety pack of six, 1.1-pound packages: ($0.090 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Penne Rigate Macaroni Product: $6.88 for six of the same 1-pound packages ($0.072 per ounce)
My local Sam's had a smaller meat section than Costco did, but just about the same amount of variety for fresh meat.
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Whole Young Chicken: $1.99 per pound (sold in packs of two chickens)
- Sam's Club Coleman Organic Whole Young Chicken: $2.29 per pound (sold individually)
One of the few items with a direct cost comparison! Costco is 9 cents cheaper.
- WINNER! Costco's Taylor Farms Organic Baby Spinach: $3.89 for 1-pound box
- Sam's Club Taylor Farms Organic Baby Spinach: $3.98 for 1-pound box
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is cheaper in North Carolina than it is in Portland! The Sam's brand is from a mix of European countries, not just Italy, but the cost is virtually identical.
- TIE! Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Italy: $14.99 for 2 liters ($0.222 per ounce)
- TIE! Sam's Club Member's Mark Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: $14.98 for 2 liters ($0.222)
This was a little tricky to compare. Costco didn't have any wild salmon in the fresh seafood, just frozen. But the Sam's wild salmon was previously frozen, so these two seemed like similar products. Next time I go to these stores I'll compare the farm-raised, which I later realized they both had.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon fillets $32.99 for 3 pounds ($11 per pound; $0.69 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillets: $8.98 per pound ($0.56 per ounce)
Quinoa in my North Carolina Costco is a full dollar less than it is in Portland's Costco, and that nets out to less than the Sam's version. I mean, three cents an ounce less expensive!
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic White Quinoa: $8.99 for 4.5 pounds ($0.125 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Nature's Earthly Choice Organic White Quinoa: $9.98 for 4 pounds ($0.156 per ounce)
Lunch and Snack Items
1. Sandwich Bread
Another spot where you have identical products and nearly identical prices. Maybe Sam's wins this one for shaving off a penny.
- Costco's Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread: $4.99 for two, 1-pound loaves ($0.156 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread: $4.98 for two, 1-pound loaves ($0.156 per ounce)
2. Peanut Butter
I didn't see an organic peanut butter version at Sam's, so I went with "natural" here. Sam's is a better value, but I'm not sure it's a true direct comparison.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter: $9.99 for two 28-ounce jars ($0.18 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Natural No-Stir Creamy Peanut Butter Spread: $8.98 for two 40-ounce jars ($0.112 per ounce)
These are big jars of jam, people.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry jam: $6.59 for 42 ounces ($0.16 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Strawberry Preserves: $6.86 for two 32-ounce jars ($0.107 per ounce)
4. Sliced Turkey Breast
Both stores had many sliced turkey breast options, in both the deli and freezer sections. These prices are for the thinly sliced fancy-looking stuff.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Oven Roasted Sliced Turkey Breast: $6.59 per pound ($0.412 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Oven Roasted Sliced Turkey Breast: $7.98 for 22 ounces ($0.363 per ounce)
5. Cheddar Cheese
Here, I went with the big blocks of cheddar as opposed to the sliced kind. I know I've seen the enormous ones at Costco, but today I could only find the "small" 2-pounders, which were about a penny per ounce more than the Sam's versions.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Sharp Cheddar: $5.39 for 2 pounds ($0.168 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Sharp Cheddar: $12.62 for 5 pounds ($0.158 per ounce)
6. Albacore Tuna
The Sam's Club packaging for the private-label tuna — and many of the other products — is quite cute and design-forward, if you're into that kind of thing. But maybe that's what that extra 2 cents an ounce is for.
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water: $12.99 for eight, 7-ounce cans ($0.23 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Premium Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water: $9.98 for eight, 5-ounce cans ($0.250 per ounce)
7. Kind Bars
Similar offerings, slightly cheaper at Costco. I didn't notice if they were the same flavor options because at this point, Costco was about to close on me.
- WINNER! Costco's Kind Bars Variety Pack: $18.99 for 20 bars ($0.950 each)
- Sam's Club Kind Bars Variety Pack: $17.98 for 18 bars ($0.999 each)
To me, all of these bags of nuts looked identical except for very small packaging details. Makes you wonder if they came from exactly the same place. Wouldn't you know, pecans are $1.20 a bag cheaper here than in Portland? The price difference on the walnuts is actually a surprise, considering the other two are virtually identical (except for saving that penny again!)
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Pecan Halves: $14.79 for 2 pounds ($0.462 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Pecan Halves: $14.78 for 2 pounds ($0.462 per ounce)
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Shelled Walnuts: $13.99 for 3 pounds ($0.291 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Natural Shelled Walnuts: $14.98 for 3 pounds ($0.312 per ounce)
- Costco's Kirkland Signature raw almonds: $12.99 for 3 pounds ($0.27 per ounce)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Natural Whole Almonds: $12.98 for 3 pounds ($0.27 per ounce)
1. Paper Towels
I have never once thought of my paper towels in terms of square footage, but here you go. The Costco brand rolls are a little longer (100 versus 89 square feet per roll), plus they have that select-a-size perforation lots of people like, but a half-penny less per square foot.
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Paper Towels: $15.69 12 rolls (1334.6 total square feet; $0.012 per square foot)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Full Sheet Premium Paper Towels: $21.98 for 15 rolls (1335 total square feet; $0.016 per square food)
2. Paper Napkins
Costco just beat out Sam's on this one.
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature 1-ply napkins, $8.49 for 1,040 napkins ($0.008 per napkin)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark 1-Ply napkins: $10.46 for 1,200 napkins ($0.009 per napkin)
3. Kitchen Trash Bags
This time, Sam's squeaks by with comparable trash bags costing 21 cents less per package.
- Costco's Kirkland Signature Flex-Tech 13-gallon trash bags, $14.99 for 200 ($0.0749 per bag)
- WINNER! Sam's Club Member's Mark Power Flex 13-gallon trash bags: $14.78 for 200 ($0.0739 per bag)
4. Sandwich Bags
I didn't find private-label sandwich bags at either store, which is funny because a lot of grocery chains offer them. But they both carried similar name-brand configurations.
- TIE! Costco's Ziploc Sandwich Bags: $10.99 for 580 ($0.02 per bag)
- TIE! Sam's Club Ziploc Sandwich Bags: $10.99 for 580 ($0.02 per bag)
5. Liquid Dish Soap
Costco's dish soap was cheaper, and it says it's environmentally responsible right there on the packaging!
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Environmentally Responsible Ultra Liquid Citrus Dish Soap: $7.89 for 135 ounces ($0.058 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Ultimate Clean Liquid Dish Soap: $6.98 for 100 ounces ($0.070 per ounce)
6. Dishwasher Detergent (Packs)
Costco wins again with slightly cheaper private-label detergent packs.
- WINNER! Costco's Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Detergent Packs: $9.99 for 115 ($0.087 per pack)
- Sam's Club Member's Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Detergent Packs: $9.98 for 105 ($0.095 per pack)
7. All-Purpose Cleaner
Same exact product, but Costco squeaks by as the winner by shaving off a penny here.
- WINNER! Costco's Clorox Clean-Up All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach: $9.55 for 32-ounces spray bottle with 180-ounce refill (212 total ounces; $0.045 per ounce)
- Sam's Club Clorox Clean-Up All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach: $9.56 for 32-ounces spray bottle with 180-ounce refill (212 total ounces; $0.045 per ounce)
Sam's Versus Costco: Which Store Is Better?
Despite each being a warehouse-style store, I will say that my Costco seemed to have a slightly more upscale feel with a bigger variety of imported/European-type items, and more healthy-sounding frozen foods. Costco also has a slightly bigger meat and product section.
The Sam's Club I went to, however, appeared to have more home goods and apparel than the Costco did. And both stores are decently comparable when it comes to price. Which store is best for you? I think it should come down to whichever one is more convenient to your home and which one carries your favorite brands.
Which store do you prefer?