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BJ's Wholesale--why do i dread walking in the door??

Against my wishes, my husband got us a membership at a Ct. BJ's.

the place just overwhelms/exhausts me. Other than picking up 6 packs of Goya canned beans, I just haven't really explored.
We're empty nesters, but often have adult children/small grandchildren for extended visits.

Any suggestions? We eat mostly vegetarian, with some meat (try for grassfed beef, pastured eggs milk, etc, wild salmon)

Basically my husband got the BJ's membership because the Whole Foods bills were outrageous.

The atmosphere of BJ's is so weirdly depressing though...help?

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  1. I agree about BJ's - we had a membership for a while but let it lapse because of that. I much prefer Costco, and if you have one nearby I'd switch. That said, there are a lot of good buys to be had at BJs, but we'd need more specific information about what you eat/use to help.

    2 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      We have a new BJ's near us that is very nice and more like a Costco. Having said that, I had no problem with our other BJs, which is much older. Not sure how to get past the OP's dislike of the atmosphere.

      In any event, I heartily second mojoeater's suggestion -- when you have some time, just walk up and down the aisles and see what they have. For example, our new BJ's has a very large selection of cheeses, hummus, snacky things like that -- perfect for visits from relatives.

      I would also wipe WF from your memory bank -- the chains are so different it's not fair to compare one to the other.

      1. re: Bob W

        I have a shopping trip to BJ's on the schedule for later today. My list includes:
        toilet paper
        dishwasher soap
        cat food

        I buy all my household paper goods there, as well as soap, toothpaste, and other personal and pet care items. None of them go bad so I don't care if I'm buying what amounts to a year's worth of laundry soap at once.

        In terms of perishables and food products I do buy less there than I might at another store. I nearly always get hummus, pickles, bottled water for the office, four, sugar, and butter at BJ's as we go through those pretty quickly. If I'm shopping for a party or other large event, BJ's will be my first choice.

        At least in my area, their gas is by far the cheapest ($0.10 less a gallon last week than other stations). I also use the optical department and get my tires there.

    2. My two staples at BJs are: their brand cat litter 40 lbs for $8.99 (probably doesn't apply) and the case of two Poland Spring jugs (5 gal total) for $4.98. Also cases of individual Perrier when they have a coupon. What really makes it worthwhile for me is the eyeglass dept, I get my contacts there every year and save more than the $50 fee on just that. Their cheeses aren't necessarily cheaper but they have some very good quality ones. Nuts for cooking, and for snacking, are very reasonable. Their bakery dept isn't too bad. Office supplies OK if you use in bulk. I'm also going Black Friday for a HDTV, they don't open til 7 and since you have to be a member, there's not too much of a stampede. But things like paper goods or soap you can probably get at a better deal on sale at the local supermarket (if you do go there?) Their produce dept is pretty good, compared to local places (but I'm not talking Whole Foods).

      I worked in warehouses most of my life so the atmosphere doesn't bother me much. But I guess it's sort of a shock if you're used to Whole Foods. My SIL was the same way with Walmart, but as the economy got worse she seems to have overcome her disgust ;-) They do have samples at lunchtime, if you want to sample the wares.

      1. I agree about the warehouse clubs, whether it be Costco, BJs or Sam's. They just aren't the greatest atmosphere to shop. Whole Foods is beautiful and warm and fuzzy, but the prices are ludicrous. So I would suggest going to BJs when you can spend some real time there. Go down every aisle and get to know the offerings. There are usually some great fish, meat and cheese deals. And of course dried goods are super cheap. Once you get to know the layout and can make your way around with intent and ease, the warehouse places can be a boon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mojoeater

          I feel the opposite. I love the wide aisles at BJ's, and detest the cramped feeling at Whole Foods.

        2. I had a membership at BJ's and let it lapse. I found no real savings, from regular super markets, and most gas stations in the area beat their prices. I find Costco has higher quality and more organic products at better prices. As far as the sizes of the big box stores, that's what they are but, you'll save a bundle compared to Whole Paycheck!

          6 Replies
          1. re: treb

            I too prefer Costco products, but their aisles are unlabeled, which is a pain. BJ has labeled aisles which makes shopping quicker.

            1. re: greygarious

              That's a good point. Even though I've been going to the same Costco for years, I still have to traipse up and down the grocery aisles to find stuff. I'm sure that's deliberate on their part but it is indeed a pain. At BJ's you know where the canned beans will be.

              1. re: Bob W

                Yes, the unlabeled aisles are by design. I have two friends who work there and they say Costco strategy is to get you to go up and down the aisles because you'll always buy something that wasn't on your list. Evidently it's very effective because I can't leave there without those "extra, must have" items!

                1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                  LOL I actually used to read Progressive Grocer magazine. Nothing is by chance in the supermarket.

                  1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                    That's true only to a point. As I have told Costco, for people with mobility problems, it means not buying as much as I would if I could easily find things. The longer I am in there, the more pain I'm in. It is not possible for me to browse the aisles. Even with items on my shopping list - if they've been moved since my last visit I will not buy them unless I happen upon them.

                    1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                      I call it the Ikea effect, design the store so you have to walk through the whole place before you exit.

              2. I like BJ's for:
                • Flour
                • Sugar
                • oatmeal
                • Cases of water
                • ketchup
                • Bulk cheese
                • Boneless skinless chicken breast
                • (sometimes) lamb or veal
                • Butter
                • Laundry detergent
                • Dishwasher detergent
                • paper towels
                • Toilet paper
                • Cleaning supplies
                • Personal care (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, contact solution)
                • Hard alcohol

                Overall I “break even” after the first or second shopping. Hands down the personal care stuff is the cheapest out there for me. Things like the cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper can occasionally be found cheaper when I take the time to shop the circulars and don’t mind driving around, getting one at one store, another at a different store, etc. The baking stuff is comparable and or cheaper but I do so much baking it’s just plain easier to have the bulk quantity. Though recently they have added more everyday sizes. The food, again, can occasionally be found cheaper if you really do your research. But net/net I considerably save more than save the cost membership each year.

                Couple of key points is that I rarely, if ever throw anything away. I have a food saver and box freezer so I break down a lot of what I buy into more reasonable quantities and vacu-seal/freeze it. I also have the space to store all those cleaning supplies, etc. There are only three of us so we don’t go thru that stuff very fast. I probably only buy the paper goods 3 times a year and the cleaning supplies twice a year. Amy I tying up some of my “cash” in “Inventory”? Maybe but what I am saving overall I wouldn’t

                1. "Basically my husband got the BJ's membership because the Whole Foods bills were outrageous."

                  WF has done a wonderful job of making you feel good about spending a ton of money on food.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Thanks for all the suggestions--I think i'm just going to have to go shopping when i'm well rested and in a good mood, and not let the warehouse vibe overwhelm!
                    ps--scubadoo--I don't feel good AT ALL about spending a ton of money at WF; that seems like a kind of weird thing to say...feel like i'm always struggling to have healthy good food for self and family but believe me, I've been at the register of WF and when the total rang up my heart sank...

                    1. re: lenorelenore

                      'I've been at the register of WF and when the total rang up my heart sank' and your wallet cried out in pain!

                      1. re: lenorelenore

                        Sorry, I meant people in general not you specifically.

                        1. re: lenorelenore

                          I too think Costco has a slightly happier vibe to it, but we've got memberships to both and use both. I second the recommendation for BJ's cat litter, we've got 7 cats and it does the job.

                          As for the food, they have some great deals on food that fits with your lifestyle. The produce can be hit or miss but I've found good deals on high quality vidalia onions or Texas Sweet onions. Around here they can cost as much as I like to (but no longer can) pay for meat. As others have mentioned nuts for snacking and baking, baking goods in general etc. They have a nice selection of spices and oils and condiments. Things like 3 color pepper blends, etc. Good prices on 6 packs of canned diced tomatoes, beans etc.

                          The cheese selection is nice, and they often have various types of hummus, snack items etc. If you check the frozen section you will probably find some wild caught salmon etc, plus other seafood choices.

                          1. re: Ariadanz

                            I agree about the vibe at COSTCO being better.It could very well be a happier employee.Last time I looked at a survey,COSTCO was rated by the employee as one of the top ten employers,places to work for US.

                      2. We don't have WF in our state, which may or may not be a good thing!! I don't mind the atmosphere, I don't really notice it. I do like BJs as it's closest to our house, so we just make a 1 trip shopping for everything. That way, we don't have to drive around to multiple stores.

                        1. I am interested in which BJ's you are going to? The newer ones (e.g. Wallingford) are a bit (just a bit) less wharehouse-y and overwhelming than some of the older ones (e.g. North Haven). That said, we LOVE to shop at BJ's, and there are just two of us. With my allergy medication alone we break even after 2 shopping trips. It does help immensely if you know your prices.

                          I generally agree with coll and foodieX2's lists with a few additions:

                          Peanut butter- MUCH cheaper at BJ's than anywhere else
                          Pork loin (I buy a whole one and cut it up into chops and roasts)
                          Pork Butt or shoulder for pulled pork.
                          any medications at all- especially their store brands
                          'cheater' reading glasses
                          Milk (about a dollar less a gallon than anywhere else)
                          Bread-e.g. Arnold 100% whole wheat is about 1/2 price
                          Party supplies (Chaffing dishes, trays, etc)

                          The one in Wallingford has a surprisingly decent produce section, and I have gotten great baby carrots (real ones, not the cut-up little nubby things) and haricot vert. I would pass on the pre-bagged salads as they are no bargain. In the summer they had a selection of heirloom tomatoes that was out of this world!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: justme123

                            I go to the BJ's in West Hartford, Ct

                          2. What drives me nuts about the local Bj's is the long lines, no matter what time of day. I just want to run in and grab a few items, but then get stuck in an outrageous checkout process.

                            That said, I do like saving money on some of the items there. However, I do find better deals at my local food coop and other grocery stores. (I'm a gluten free whole food vegan for health reasons, and I get my bulk grains and peanut butter there)

                            BJ's is getting better about whole and natural foods. I can get some items there, but often realize I can't use the whole thing before it goes bad, like soy or almond milk.

                            But all in all, it can be an adventure. The books are sometimes very interesting and reasonably priced, their natural food selection is expanding, and hey sometimes I need camping gear. But I wish their lines weren't so long.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: adventuresinbaking

                              Since my husband retired I've been going later and the lines are horrendous. But I used to go at 9 or 10 AM, when they open, and would breeze in and out with no problem.

                              1. re: coll

                                Everytime! I go into BJ's and there are so many people there I usually just put back what I was going to buy and then leave.

                              2. re: adventuresinbaking

                                I find it strange that you mention long lines at BJ's. Here it seems to be just the opposite. Our local BJ's is right across the street from Sam's Club, and I often wonder how BJ's stays in business. It always seems as though there are hardly any people in the store, while Sams's is always busy. Even so, I have almost always found that the self-checkout lanes at BJ's are almost always available without a wait. Sam's finally got the hint, and their new self-checkouts are wonderfully fast, better than those in any other store where used one.

                                1. re: Cheez62

                                  Consider yourself lucky! But when Costco opens down the block next spring, maybe we;ll get lucky too. People drive for hours just to get to ours, since it services the entire east end of Long Island.

                              3. After my Costco membership lapsed the other year, I tried out BJ's, as their hours around here are much more convenient for me. I was hopeful that their smaller package options on perishable food would make them a better choice, but what I found was that the smaller packages came with smaller savings -- they were about the same price as what I bought in the supermarket. (I'm a single guy, and so warehouse club sizes frequently don't work well for me.)

                                I found that Costco seemed to have a little bit better selection of the kinds of things I tend to buy at warehouse clubs -- electronics, kitchen stuff, office supplies, etc. -- and more interesting nonperishable foods, so I ended up switching back. Not entirely sure I'll renew either, though.

                                1. For anyone who needs to take CoQ10 pills: I just bought a bottle of 90 count, BJ brand, 200mg (they also pack 120 of 100mg) and the cost on sale for either was $15.99! Regular $19.99. I usually pay $35 for 30 at the chain drugstores, when it's buy one get one free, but lately it's get the second for half price. This is a spectacular savings for me, and I'm very happy about it.

                                  1. I dont know if the BJ's in your area have this problem but I used to go to a BJ's in Nottingham, MD every time I went in there a young man would come up to me and try to get me to sign up for a free estimate on new windows, it was incredibly annoying because they were always very pushy. I know BJ's has lots of extra services but I do not go to one of those stores for replacement windows

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: efrashhi

                                      How pushy can they be? They come up to me and I say sorry I have a brand new house (been saying it for 10 years now!) and they turn right around.

                                      1. re: efrashhi

                                        Absolutely agree with efrashhi.

                                        While I have no problem saying, "no thank you," it's still an annoying practice (even more so, because I rent).

                                        I'm reading this thread while deciding whether to renew Costco, switch back to BJ's (geographically closer) or forgo both altogether...this post reminded me of one of the things I really dislike about warehouse shopping.

                                      2. I suggest going in the morning when things aren't too crazy. I like them for their fish selection, ( rainbow trout and sometimes wild American shrimp), their flour, 2 ten pound bags for 4.99, coffee, and fresh veggies and fruit. Their selections for fresh veg and fruits aren't' as enormous, and equally fresh. They also offer some good software deals. Just picked up "dragon" the other day. This is at the West Nyack location.

                                        1. being a west coaster, never heard of it.
                                          Beverly Jean

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            They're pretty much a northeast coast player.

                                          2. I don't think there is much chance that someone who likes shopping at Whole Foods and believes that is the way a grocery store should look is going to like BJ's (or Costco or Sam's.) They are totally different shopping experiences.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              KaimukiMan: I respectfully disagree. I certainly like both shopping experiences, as well as the experiences at Trader Joe's, Wegmans, and my usual grocery store, Harris-Teeter.

                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                I respectfully accept your disagreement. I'm not a good shopper. I am one of those people who wants to walk in to a store grab what I want and walk out.

                                                I also realize my comment was overly simple and that the majority of people probably agree with you, and it is probably the better approach.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  I'm generally a walk-in-with-my-list-and-walk-out kind of guy too (except at Trader Joes). I've been doing family grocery shopping since I was 16. The problem at these places -- both warehouse stores and higher-end stores and everything in between -- is buying JUST what's on the list!

                                                  Grocery shopping is an exercise in psychological warfare. Nothing is where it is by accident. Shop when you're hungry -- you'll lose. Shop without a list -- you'll lose. Shop with kids -- you'll lose. Etc.