Everything You Need to Know About Buying Formula
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for Sam’s Club and Amazon Associates which means that if you click on one of the product links, I receive a small endorsement at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links provide a source of income to keep my blog running. For more information, my disclosure policy can be found here.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is not to persuade the reader to buy the cheapest formula, but to give them all the information needed to make an educated decision. I am not a licensed medical professional, so be sure to check with your pediatrician before selecting or changing your baby’s formula.
Having a baby is expensive, there’s really no way around it. Being a numbers gal, I ran all the numbers on various baby products to make sure that I was able to stretch our budget as far as possible. I’ll start by telling you that I had two babies in 17 months, which is why I had to be so focused on saving money, because to be honest, with daycare costs, our monthly budget was (and still is) tight. (If you want to read more about that, I reveal what I pay for daycare in this post). To date, you can find The Master Guide to Buying Diapers, where I summarize what a good price is for various sizes of diapers across several brands and reveal the 2 store chains that consistently have the lowest prices. In the near future, I plan to write similar posts about the prices of wipes and training pants. Make sure you subscribe to my blog, so you can hear when all these posts become available! Additionally, I’m working on a writing an eBook that will contain all my tips and tricks for saving money during your baby’s first year, as well as mom tips I learned along the way and products I fell in love with. I haven’t calculated it, but I would estimate I saved at least $3,000 with each child during the first year!
Selecting a baby formula isn’t always an easy process. For me it was, because both my babies tolerated various brands and types of formulas with no problem. With Jack, we initially received free samples of Enfamil in the mail (I still have no idea how I received them!) and our pediatrician gave us samples of Gerber. However when all the free samples disappeared, I tried Member’s Mark formula because it was the cheapest I could find. Like I said, neither of my kids ever had a problem with various kinds of formula, but I do know that some babies are very sensitive to certain ones. Therefore, I get that choosing a formula based only on price may not be an option for everyone. But I also know that knowledge is power, so if you want to see the astonishing price difference between various brands of formula, look no further.
I want to start by telling you that I uncovered some VERY SURPRISING information about store brand formula while I was researching this post! If you want to know what I uncovered, subscribe to my blog (enter your email address in the box on the sidebar) and I will tell you what I found. What I found is not common knowledge in the “mom world” and could save you LOTS of money!!!
Choosing a formula for your baby can be overwhelming.
Not only are there various brands of formula, like Enfamil, Similac, and Gerber, but there are various formulations in each brand, like Advantage (also known as Advance), Gentle, Infant or Sensitive. On top of that, some brands of formula come in different forms: a powder, a ready to feed form, and a concentrated form (which requires you to dilute it with an equal portion of water). As you’re standing in the formula aisle at the grocery store, its by no means easy to calculate which brand or form (powder, ready to feed, or concentrate) is the most cost effective. It’s very easy to grab a tub (any tub) and run for the checkout, especially when you consider the very cute ticking time bomb snuggled in a car seat in your shopping cart.
So what I wanted to do was give you the numbers you need to know, especially if money is tight. The 5 questions I set out to answer were:
- Is there one retailer who consistently has the lowest prices on various brands of formula?
- Is there a significant price difference between the powder, ready to feed, and concentrated forms?
- Is there a significant difference in price between the various sizes of powder?
- How much difference in price is there between store brand and name brand formulas? How much do these price differences add up to annually?
- How much more does non-GMO formula cost?
Before getting to the results, let me explain how I selected the brands of formula and retailers.
Almost all chain retailers carry Gerber, Similac, and Enfamil in their formula aisle. Additionally, most carry a store brand. For this post, in addition to Gerber, Similac, and Enfamil, I chose to include the following store brands: Babies R’ Us, Parent’s Choice (Walmart), Up & Up (Target), Kirkland Signature (Costco), Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club), CVS Health, and Little Journey (Aldi). I tried to choose popular store brands that were representative of different types of stores to see if there was a trend in overall formula prices. Therefore I chose Babies R Us to represent a store that specializes in kids gear, Walmart and Target to represent supercenters, Costco and Sam’s Club store brands to represent warehouse clubs, CVS to represent a drugstore brand, and Aldi brand to represent discount grocery stores.
As mentioned, each formula manufacturer tends to make more than one “formulation” of baby formula; such as Advance, Gentle, Sensitive, or Infant. For Similac, I decided to choose the Advance formulation because most store brands carried the generic of this formulation. To be specific, I always chose the formulation that was NOT non-GMO (sorry for the double negative!) The formulas labelled non-GMO are typically more expensive. I will tell you exactly how much more later! Gerber and Costco only carried non-GMO formula. For Gerber, I selected the Gentle formulation and for Enfamil I chose the infant formulation. Neither of these brands carry an Advance (or Advantage) line. The exact formulas I selected are pictured below.
Name Brand Formulas:
Store Brand Formulas:
To be clear, I only recorded regular prices for all the formulas, I did not account for any sale prices. I felt that the variety of retailers examined represented a variety of different store types, with hopes that a trend would emerge with one store (or store type) consistently having the lowest prices. To be clear, I only collected prices on the Walmart website for items that were currently in stock at the stores. (Walmart has started a marketplace that allows other sellers to post items on their website.)
Before telling you the results, let me explain how I determined the “price” for each formula. To make the prices more comparable, I calculated how much it would cost to make a 4 oz bottle with each formula type, in all the various container sizes and formats (powder, ready to feed, and concentrate) from all the stores (Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, CVS, Aldi, and Babies R Us). I then made the assumption that babies on average drink 28 oz a day and multiplied that number by 365 days a year. Numbers are much easier to understand when they are larger! I can walk you through this math if you would like, but I think that is a post in itself. If you want to know how I calculated it, comment below and I can tell you!
Question 1: Is there one retailer who consistently has the lowest prices on various brands of formula?
From my research, I found that Sam’s Club had the lowest prices on both name brand and store brand formulas. Sam’s Club prices were significantly lower than all other stores, typically saving at least 10 cents per 4 oz bottle when compared to the retailer with the next lowest price. How does that add up? Well over the course of a year, if you assume your baby will drink approximately 28 oz per day (7 – 4 oz bottles) saving 10 cents per bottle adds up to over $250. That means that paying for a Sam’s Club membership is totally worth it! Click here if you want to sign up for a Sam’s Club Membership (or just check out the prices!) Just to be clear, I’m basically telling you that if you buy Enfamil, Similac, Gerber, or even a store brand, you should buy it at Sam’s Club.
Question 2: Is there a significant price difference between the powder, ready to feed, and concentrated forms?
Yes, there is a pretty significant price difference. For this comparison, I will use Similac Advance Infant formula. A similar trend was observed with all name brand formulas (The store brand formulas only came as powders). I calculated the price of a 4 oz bottle in each formulation and estimated the annual cost, assuming a baby would drink 28 ounces of formula per day for a year. To make this a fair comparison, I compared the prices from the cheapest store that carried all three formulations. Here are the results.
Annual Cost of Similac Advance Powder versus Ready to Feed versus Concentrate
So as you can see, the price of the powder is the most economical by far. By using the powder instead of the ready to feed or concentrated form will save approximately $800 a year. The only time I thought the ready to feed was worth buying, was when I was traveling.
Question 3: Is there a significant difference in price between the various sizes of powder?
There is a huge price difference based on container size. Although the price range fluctuated, for most formulas I found that the smallest container cost at least $0.10 more per 4 oz bottle in comparison to the biggest container available. How does that add up over a year’s time? Buying the largest container (in any brand) instead of the smallest one, you will save at least $250 a year.
Question 4: How much difference in price is there between store brand and name brand formulas? How much do these price differences add up to annually?
The easiest way to discuss these results it to show you a graph compared the estimated annual costs for each formula.
Annual Cost for Formula Based on Brand (Assuming 28 oz a Day)
So let’s discuss these results. I was somewhat surprised to find that out of all the formula prices, the CVS brand (a store brand) was the most expensive. Basically, you should never buy formula from CVS. When it comes to name brand formula, they will cost you approximately $300-$400 more per year. The two cheapest store brand formulas were at Sam’s Club and Costco. By selecting one of these two formulas instead of a name brand formula will save you over $550 a year. One important thing to point out is that if you would prefer a Non-GMO formula, Costco’s store brand formulation is what you should buy! (Sam’s club is not non-GMO!) Therefore even if you have to buy a membership, the warehouse stores have the best value when it comes to formula. (Remember, I found that Sam’s Club has the best prices on all brands of formula, not just the store brand!)
When I was researching this post, I found some VERY SURPRISING information about store brand formula! If you want to know what I uncovered, subscribe to my blog (enter your email address in the box on the sidebar) and I will tell you what I found.
Question 4: How much more does non-GMO formula cost?
So perhaps the last question to answer, especially now that I’ve revealed that the Sam’s Club and Costco store brand formulas are the best value, is: how much more does non-GMO formula cost? I compared the cost of various non-GMO formulas to their regular formulations and found that there wasn’t a huge difference. Usually the cost of non-GMO increased the cost of a 4 oz bottle by $0.04. Over the course of a year, this adds up to roughly $100. But basically if non-GMO is important to you, I would strongly suggest buying your formula from Costco, because not only is their formula the second lowest price (comparable to Sam’s Club), it’s also non-GMO.
This post covered a lot of information regarding the price of formula. I hope it will help you save some money! I know how expensive the first year can be and how big of a difference a couple hundred dollar difference can make. So just to give you a brief summary, here’s the take-home messages:
- Sam’s Club has the lowest prices on both name brand and store brand formula out of all retailers in this study.
- By buying the powder (instead of the ready to feed or concentrate), you will save $800 a year.
- By buying the biggest tub of powder you can find instead of the smallest, you will save roughly $250 a year.
- By buying the store brand formula from Sam’s Club or Costco instead of a name brand, you can save at least $550 a year.
- Non-GMO formulas cost approximately $100 more than the regular version. In this study, the Costco and Sam’s Club store brand formulas were found to be the best prices and Costco’s store brand is non-GMO.
As mentioned earlier, I found some VERY SURPRISING information about store brand formulas when I was researching this post. If you want to know what I found, subscribe and I’ll give you access to all my super secret files! Additionally, I will be writing more posts about how you can save money on wipes and training pants in the near future, so be sure to subscribe so you can hear when those posts become available. If you have ideas for other things you’d like me to write about, leave a comment below!
Now get out there and rock your busy mom life! (And save some money while you’re at it!)