Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Checking out the food at BJ's Wholesale Club

The BJ's Wholesale Club in Paramus (September 2013).


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor


I am a big fan of the food sold at Costco Wholesale, but it's not the only game in town. 

On Monday, I started a two-month trial membership at BJ's Wholesale Club at Routes 17 and 4 in Paramus.

I had to bring an invitation I received in the mail to a courtesy counter, and the woman tried to sell me a BJ's membership right then and there, saying, "We're better than Costco." 

She then checked to see if I was a lapsed member; if I was, she was going to charge me $45 for a renewal. I told her I wanted just a trial membership for now.

Differences

BJ's is different than Costco in that it takes all major credit cards, not just American Express, and honors manufacturers' coupons, as well as its own. Costco issues its own coupons, but doesn't accept anyone else's. Both give cash rebates.

Both also have snack bars with whole pizzas under $10 and Hebrew National's preservative-laden hot dogs, but neither has coffee. BJ's also is alone in having self-service checkout -- with the usual problems.



The entrance in Paramus.


Food shopping

On this, my first visit, I browsed BJ's food aisles and noticed signs above the refrigerated cases; Costco's cases don't have them. Overall, BJ's seems to have less food, including produce, and less variety. 

BJ's does have more Goya-brand food than Costco, including frozen tostones or fried green plantains, which we love. The package recommends deep frying them, but I plan to heat them up in the oven.

I plan to return several more times to BJ's during my temporary membership.

Meat and poultry

I saw organic spring mix, one pound for $4.99, compared to Costco's $4.49.  BJ's carries a brand of fresh and frozen chicken that is raised without antibiotics; Costco has some organic chicken. 

Both sell meat and pork that  are raised conventionally. I didn't see any Australian lamb for sale at BJ's, and I'm not sure it has fresh fish. You'll find lots of fresh fish and naturally raised lamb at Costco.

I spoke to one woman who is a member of both wholesale clubs. She said prices were pretty much the same in the two stores, but she preferred the staff at the Clifton Costco over the Hackensack store, where I shop.  A friend says Costco employees belong to a union.

Taste test

I made three purchases at BJ's, and used the self-service checkout:

Ten 6-ounce cups of Wallaby organic, low-fat yogurt, $7.99; Michael Angelo's vegetable lasagna, two 40-ounce packages for $11.99; and two 32-ounce tubs of Smart Balance "buttery" spread, $6.99.

I heated up the lasagna for dinner Monday night; it had too much sauce and not enough pasta, but the vegetables were firm and it tasted great. Still, when I saw Michael Angelo's eggplant parmigiana at Costco today, I kept on walking.

My wife went to Whole Foods in Paramus today for a one-day sale on 10 cups of Stonyfield Farm organic, low-fat yogurt, the same size as Wallaby's, but at half the price -- 40 cents each.

By the way, I was told BJ stands for Berkley & Jensen.

BJ's Wholesale Club, 30 Route 17 south, Paramus; 201-909-9800.


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