The PiePhone Diaries: Scoping Out the Deals at Sam’s Club

The PiePhone Diaries is an occasional feature here, an iPhone photo journal accompanied by a few words of possible interest – or possibly not – to pie aficionados and other home cooks.

Like most men, I would rather have teeth pulled than go shopping. Taking me shopping – my wife learned long ago – is a quick way to get in touch with my inner 10-year old.

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course

One notable exception is shopping at Sam’s Club. I like shopping at Sam’s because of the bargains, in particular on baking supplies, and because if I time it right – and arrive around noon – I can sample my way through lunch on their dime.

Here’s my Sam’s Club. It probably looks like yours except maybe for the palmetto tree out front. I wish I could tell you that the tree – which was swaying gently from side to side in the 85° breeze when I shot this – was an accident. But in fact I’m no better than your creepy friends who send you postcards from the tropics when you’re shoveling snow up North in January. By the way,  my barber – who cuts the hair of one of the managers – tells me my Hilton Head Sam’s is one of the smallest in the country, but with one of the greatest volumes of wine sales. Go figure.

I check out produce prices wherever I go and I can tell you it’s hard to beat the prices you find on fresh fruit at Sam’s. These apples were priced a good 25- to 75-cents a pound less than comparable apples at other locations. I’ll shop here for many of my pie apples this year.

A lot of my fall pies have nuts in them – in the fillings, toppings, and sometimes even the crusts. I don’t have to tell you how expensive nuts have gotten over the past few years, so if I can save a buck or more a pound on them – like I can at Sam’s – I will.

Two items where I believe you can save a bundle are chocolate chips and vanilla – especially the vanilla. Buying those small bottles in the grocery store is like throwing money away. And even if you can’t use the whole bottle, split it with a neighbor.

Those are 10 pound bags of sugar at a very good price. I’ve noticed that many of the supermarkets are now selling 4 pound bags, and no longer 5 pounders. That’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: keeping the price the same – so hopefully consumers won’t notice – but reducing the quantity. Shame on them.

What do you like for kitchen towels? I’m very particular. About the only ones I’ll use are these cotton flour sack towels. Check out the price: barely a buck each. Nothing wipes up like these thirsty things do. They sell the same thing in high end kitchen shops – perhaps cut a little straighter and packed a little fancier – but you’ll pay five times more for them.

Have you noticed that some of these photos are a bit out of focus? That’s because at some point a big guy wandering around Sam’s with no cart, taking photos, starts to draw unwanted attention and I’ve seen enough TV to know that when security-looking guys start eyeing you it rarely ends well. So some of these shots were taken on the fly. I did pause just long enough to snap a shot of this media rack and note Sam’s good taste in cookbooks, that being my new one on the lower right. I found the manager and asked him if he’d like me to sign their copies. I no longer felt like I was being watched. Works every time.

PS – In the interest of full disclosure, I was not paid or otherwise compensated to say nice things about Sam’s – I should be so lucky – and if I had been, I would tell you. Probably.