And The Best Wholesale Club For Organics Is…

Costco, BJ's, Or Sam's Club—which big box store reigns supreme for organic shopping at bargain prices?

June 15, 2017
the best wholesale club and big box store for organic food
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It used to be that you had to go out of your way–and often out of your budget–to buy USDA-certified organic food. A 2015 Consumer Reports study found that organic foods cost an average of 47 percent more than conventional, meaning that for many, buying organic all of the time is out of the question.

But as organic products become more popular, competition is growing in the sector, and that’s a good thing. In fact, in 2016, Costco passed $4 billion in annual sales from organic produce, beating out Whole Foods as the top organic retailer in the United States. Costco’s appetite for organics is so big that the store even began lending money to farmers to help them produce more organic fruits and vegetables to help meet its demand, and since Costco prices are exponentially lower than elsewhere, organics are suddenly much more affordable. (Here are 11 surprising ways organic food is better for you.)

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But Costco isn’t the only big box store making the move to organic. Sam’s Club and BJ’s have also made the leap, which made us wonder – which store reigns supreme for organic shopping at bargain prices?

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Sam’s Club

At a Glance. Sam’s Club is an international chain with 660 American stores in 47 U.S. states and a presence in Brazil, Mexico, and China. A yearly membership costs $45.

Given Sam’s Club’s parent company Wal-Mart’s commitment to organics, it’s perhaps no surprise that Sam’s Club has been increasing its presence in the organic sector: after a two-year partnership with Wild Oats that spiked the chain’s organic offerings, Wal-Mart decided last year to forge forward into its own organic lines and severed ties with the organic and natural chain.

 

In 2015, the CEO of Sam’s Club told the Seattle Times that the store had increased its organic offerings by 20 percent since the beginning of the year, and things have only been looking up since then.

Related: 6 Processed Foods You Should Always Buy Organic

Organic Produce. Today, Sam’s Club carries a small selection of organic produce, including organic spinach, spring mix, and peeled baby carrots in most Clubs year-round. Select Clubs also sell a limited offering of other organic fruits and vegetables, including berries, apples, and other produce items.

Organic Meat. The store’s fresh organic meat selection is pretty limited, though it does include organic, grass-fed filet mignon, strip steak, and ground beef. However, in the frozen food aisle, there are quite a few more options, including frozen organic chicken breasts in individual packages for easy single-portion cooking. (Here's how to choose the best, healthiest salmon at the grocery store.)

Organic Dairy. Sam’s Club offers approximately the same variety of organic dairy as other wholesale clubs, with organic eggs, butter, Horizon milk, and a few varieties of organic cheese, including Mainland organic cheddar and Organic Creamery organic string cheese.The Member’s Mark store brand also has its own line of organic milk.

Related: Why Grass-Fed Dairy Is Better For You—And How To Avoid The Fake Stuff

Other Organics. Sam’s Club has a fairly good variety of other organics, including name brand items like Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Newman’s Own, and Bertolli Organic. Its Member’s Mark line includes a few dozen organic products, including olive oil, coconut oil, maple syrup, chicken broth, canned beans, frozen vegetables, spices, and coffee.

Related: The 5 Worst Sweeteners You Should Avoid—And 5 Safe Alternatives To Try Instead

The Bottom Line. As compared to other warehouse stores, the selection at Sam’s Club is a bit paltry, particularly in the produce section. Sam’s Club is going to need to do some more work if it wants to stand out in organics.

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BJ’s

At a Glance. BJ’s is a regional chain with 215 stores on the East Coast of the U.S., with clubs in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio. A yearly membership costs $50.

While BJ’s organic commitments haven’t been in the news quite as much as Costco, as of 2015, BJ’s actually had more USDA Certified Organic products than any other big box store, at 150 distinct items.

Related: I Tried To Eat Organic For A Month Without Spending Extra On Food—Here’s How It Went

Organic Produce. BJ’s offers a pretty good variety of organic produce, including bananas and berries as well as more exotic items like organic ginger. Several bloggers including the Paleo Mama note that BJ’s has an even wider selection of organic produce than Costco, though this seems to vary by store.

Organic Meat. BJ’s organic meat selection is pretty good, with Verde Farms organic grass-fed beef and Harvestland (Perdue) certified organic chicken and turkey. While prices vary depending on the individual store, it’s worth noting that Kiplinger reported that BJ’s organic chicken breasts cost about $1 to $3 less per pound than those in other stores.

Organic Dairy. BJ’s offers organic milk and string cheese and organic yogurt. Its store brand, Wellsley Farms, has also begun producing some organic cheeses and yogurts. BJ’s also offers organic and free-range eggs. (Here are the 12 best organic egg companies in America.)

Related: I Ate 3 Eggs Every Single Morning For A Week—Here's What I Learned

Other Organics. BJ’s stocks some well-known organic pantry brands including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Barilla, Muir Glen, Bertolli, Amy’s, and Imagine Organic. Health foods like raw organic apple cider vinegar, pink Himalayan salt, and raw virgin coconut oil are easy to find. Wellsley Farms selections are pretty wide-ranging, including honey, agave, ketchup, olive oil, coconut oil, salad dressings, salsa, tortilla chips, nuts, trail mix, ravioli, quinoa, spices, and tons of frozen fruit and veggie options.

The Bottom Line. BJ’s still has a bit more work to do as far as fresh offerings are concerned, but its store brand is one of the best for inexpensive organics.

Costco

At a Glance. Costco is a national big box chain. With 727 warehouses in 44 states, it is the largest warehouse store in the United States. A yearly membership costs $60.

Despite efforts from other stores, Costco remains the one to beat: its expansion of its organic lines have resulted in a large amount of choice and the same low prices offered by other big box stores.

Organic Produce. Costco is obviously selling more than enough organic produce, given its ever-increasing demand. Costco has already invested in one San Diego organic farm in exchange for first dibs on its organic berries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Selections run the gamut from basics like apples, berries, and lettuce to more specialized products like organic wheatgrass and dried mushrooms.

Related: The Most Pesticide-Laden Produce Of 2017

Organic Meat. Organic meats meet and exceed expectations. Organic beef and chicken are available in both the fresh and frozen aisles, and options from brands like Rastelli and D’Artagnan allow consumers to seek out high-quality choices. (Here are 12 fish you should never eat.)

Organic Dairy. Costco carries a good variety of organic dairy, including Horizon and Lifeway brand milk and kefir as well as several different options for organic butter, eggs, and cheese. (Here's how to make electric mixer butter in minutes.)

Other Organics. Not only does Costco have a great variety of pantry staples from brands like Annie’s, Kashi, Nature’s Path, Seeds of Change, and Clif, its store brand, Kirkland Signature, makes a large variety of products too. (Here are the 10 best organic cereals you need in your kitchen.)

The Bottom Line. While other big box stores are increasing their offerings, Costco remains the brand to beat.