The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sam's vs. Costco vs. Walmart

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RebelBakingCompany's picture
RebelBakingCompany

Sam's vs. Costco vs. Walmart

For several items I make, I just need a standard AP flour, brown sugar, salt, etc....and I've been buying multiple boxes and bags at Walmart for a while but as I look to increase production and actually sell at farmer's markets...I'm wondering if I need to invest in a bulk store account?

My concern is that Walmart (or really, any grocery) tends to randomly and suddenly run bone-dry on some baking items.

Has anyone used Sam's or Costco? Is it worth it?

Any other options I'm not considering?

Thanks!

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Just a bout any town has a flour mill that can sell you flour cheaper, better, local and more direct than Wally World. And you'll feel better about it.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I had a Sam's card for a year or two several years ago. I never used it much and here's why. If you buy name brand stuff, you can save money buying it in bulk at Sam's Club. If, like me, you normally buy store-brand stuff, you will be disappointed. The Wal-Mart branded items are not available, and the Sam's Club branded stuff is more expensive than what you could buy the Wal-Mart brand stuff for at Wal-Mart! So, you pay a yearly fee, to get the priviledge of paying MORE for everything you buy! Granted, the Sam's Club branded items MIGHT be better quality, but tell me why we paid for a membership! Here's the trick: Sam's Club is not for poor shoppers like me. Sam's Club is for businesses and for people who only buy "The Best", which loosely translated means "Big Name Brands". As noted by Pioneer Foodie above, you would be better off buying from a local mill, if there is one near by. It will be much better quality, and probably a lower price, too.

RebelBakingCompany's picture
RebelBakingCompany

I can't find a single mill in Charlotte, NC and I'm not in a position to drive an hour-plus away...

linder's picture
linder

Not small scale but located in Charlotte, NC

http://www.adm.com/en-US/Milling/About/Pages/facilities.aspx

Hope this helps.

Linda

PeterS's picture
PeterS

ADM probably won't supply small quantities direct from a mill.

How about going to a local bakery and asking them where they buy flour, i.e. who their local food distributor is. Many local distributors will do a cash business. Or, you could call the likes of King Arthur or General Mills and ask them who their local distributor is. Charlotte is a large metro area, they should have a local distributor.

This place looks like it does a walk-in business:http://www.usfoods.com/about-us/chef-store/charlotte.html, They should have flour by the bag.

My local pizza joint sells me fresh yeast and I'll bet that they would order flour for me if I asked. You could ask a local independent pizza parlor where they get their flour, they may even order some for you if they like you. A loaf of fresh bread should help to grease the wheels...

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I don't know how much searching you've done, or whether this is what you're looking for. I just did a quick Google search and found this: http://www.yellowpages.com/charlotte-nc/flour-mills. Also, you could try home delivery grocery, such as Lettuce Carry. http://www.lettucecarry.com/

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

We had a Sam's account for years, then switched to Costco a year or two ago.  In terms of buying large quantities, both offer advantages over going to the local supermarket although, as DavidEF notes, you do need to be aware of pricing.  Bigger packages don't always translate to better unit prices.  And, if you only need 1 dozen eggs, why buy 3 dozen?  Prices on things like nuts or oils or chocolate chips or dairy are usually as good or better than the supermarket prices.  The Sam's and Costco stores do let you buy flour in 25# (which have almost disappeared from grocery stores in my area) and 50# bags.  Thing is, you get what they got--there's no such thing as selection.  And the flour is usually either AP or Bread; rarely ever any whole-grain flours.  If you want IDY, and they only stock ADY, then you buy ADY or go elsewhere. 

If you are ramping up for higher output, it might be a good idea to talk to a Sysco or Dawn Foods or other distributor to see what they can do for you.  Or, if you are friendly with a local baker or a supermarket manager, maybe you can special order through them.

Paul

Red5's picture
Red5

Depends where you are

I'm in Rochester, MN and the Costco here stocks a locally milled whole wheat flour from Great River Organic Milling - they are an absolute top-notch mill, the mill and the products are certified organic and the flour is amazing in quality and performance, plus the price is great through Costco. But then they only carry plain ConAgra white bleached flour for AP and Bread. 

Sam's Club was carrying 25 pound bags North Dakota Mills flour (which I'm finding to be much higher quality than King Arthur in the same price range) and Wal-Mart had 10 pound bags, but we switched from Sams to Costco so I'm not sure what they are doing now since the local Wal-Marts stopped stocking the North Dakota Mills. 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Our local costco tried selling Great River Milling organic whole wheat in 10lb bags. It was good stuff and very reasonably priced; it was especially nice getting fresh product. But alas, it probably did not move fast enough and they did not restock. Now, it's just the same old eagle mills white whole wheat and con-agra H&R and bread flours.

Great River does sell through Amazon, their imputed shipping charges are not as much as some of the others. http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&keywords=Great%20River%20Milling&tag=grerivorgmil-20&index=gourmet&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325

varda's picture
varda

I took a look around the local Costco and saw they sold 25lb of KAAP for 60c per pound compared with $1.10 in the supermarket.   That was it for King Arthur though.  Do they respond to customer requests?   I have heard that they don't, but I have never been a customer.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

You need a source that is reliable and cost efficient. I am fortunate enough to live in the town where King Arthur Flour has its northeast distribution center so I'm spoiled. But in a city the size of Charlotte there is certainly some kind of wholesale distribution outfit that sells to the other small bakeries and your task is to find out who that is. (Maybe ask them?)

When I lived in California I belonged to Costco, and loved it. High end stuff at bargain prices. But it goes in and out of stock and you can't get your customers relying on one type of flour then Costco stops selling it. I also found their stock varies unpredictably from store to store. And no, Varda, they're not interested in taking customer requests for specific items. (I tried for years to get them to carry whole briskets.)

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for the info.