What Am I Supposed to Buy at Costco?

Posted by Madison on September 15, 2008

Our brand new Costco just opened last month. There’s a lot of hype, and I heard through a rumor that they’ve already had 14,000 people sign up since they opened. (No idea if that’s true or not.) Maybe all those people know something that I don’t. So what is it exactly that I’m supposed to buy there?

We had a membership a few years back, so that we could buy our wide screen LCD TV for a ridiculously low price online. But, this is the first time we’ll have access to an actual store.

If I find that it would save us money to shop there, I might sign up. A little bit of extra incentive for me to sign up is the $25 Sign Up Bonus From Costco and American Express. Signing up both my husband and myself will pay for our Costco membership for the first year.

Warehouse Clubs

There is the risk of overbuying and wasting at Costco, as with any warehouse club. Since buying in bulk is cheaper, I can see how it would be easy to have stuff start jumping in your cart and spend more than you planned.

Comparison of Costco versus Sam’s Club

Consumer Reports did a comparison of the two giant warehouse clubs last year (via Free Money Finance).

The result? “Readers gave higher overall scores to Costco for groceries (better perishables), electronics and small appliances (lower prices), and eyeglasses (better service).”

In addition, they reminded me of the terrific business model that I’ve heard about – treating your employees really well. Last year “Costco’s average hourly wage [was] $17.25, employees [contributed] 10 percent of their health insurance premiums, and the turnover rate [was] 17 percent.” I love shopping at places that believe in their employees.

What Others Buy at Costco

I hear that you can buy fancy cheeses, engagement rings (cheaper than at Tiffany’s), coffee, discount postage stamps, and watches at Costco.

Costco Gas

Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need a membership to take advantage of the cheap gas at Costco.

What Do You Buy at Costco?

Tell me, what do you buy at Costco, and how do the prices compare? I’m especially interested in groceries compared to your supermarket and household goods compared to Target.

Based on your input, we’ll decide if it’s worth trying out.





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Comments to What Am I Supposed to Buy at Costco?

  1. I buy their brand of laundry detergent and paper towels. I buy coffee (which you’ve mentioned) and fruits/veggies that we love. Red peppers are significantly cheaper there if you’ll go through 8 in a week! And lastly, I buy bread – 2 loaves of their multigrain/whole wheat bread is $2 – where in our grocery, we’d be doing well to buy it 2 for $5. So $1.50 savings per loaf, and one loaf per week (DH and I both brown-bag sammies for work lunches) and our membership is paid off – all other savings are really that.

    MM’s last post: Reduced Circumstances – Still Partying!

    MM

  2. Personally, I find that their clothing is the best deal at Costco. Brand name clothes at a fraction of the cost.

    Million Dollar Journey’s last post: Market Correction, Web Hosting and Weekend Reading – Sept 12, 2008

    Million Dollar Journey

  3. We live just a few blocks away from Costco, so I use it as one of 2 primary grocery stores that I go to every week or two.

    I second the clothing aspect–most are high quality basic clothes like jeans, shirts, and turtlenecks.

    Basics: organic milk, cheeses (aged cheddar, parmisian, and a locally made brand), crackers, sugar snap peas, peppers, tomatoes, bananas, nuts, dried fruits, snack bars (Clif), and diapers & wipes. Some convenence foods like tabbouli, stuffed grape leaves, pizzas, etc.

    Less frequently: meat (both for soups and splurges), office supplies, storage crates, cleaning supplies, toilet paper (their #1 seller), paper towels, smoked salmon, fresh fish. Their baked goods are good, but as I’m pre-diabetic I try to be good and seldom get them.

    I don’t have time to cook party food anymore, so our last party basically came from Costco. Also, gift items I’ve bought there: clothes, books, suitcase, gourmet food, Brita pitchers, a spa weekend package, etc.

    We have the executive membership, and the amount we spend there pays for it through their end-of-year reimbursement.

    Shelly

  4. Me again…

    Just remembered that we also use a number of their services….car rental and business check printing come to mind.

    Shelly

  5. The only things we buy at Costco are milk, paper towels, toilet paper, batteries, and meats/seafood. On rare occasions we’ll splurge and buy books or DVDs (their DVDs are $10).

    Jaynee

  6. We buy:
    1. Clothes
    2. Eggs and Milk
    3. Great tasting Salmon burger patties
    4. Buy the Non Trimmed Beef Tenderlion. $60-70 (Good Eats on Food network did a show on how to trim this piece of meat.) You will get a roast and filet mignon to last about six months for a fraction of the price. (only meat we buy)
    5. Whole chickens 2 for $10 bucks to make beer butt chicken, chicken salad, chicken tetrazenni and chicken stock.

    michael

  7. Wow. I’m really amazed at how much stuff everyone has found there.

    @ MM: We’ll have to check out the paper towels. I keep hearing about it, so it must be a great deal.

    @ Shelly: I completely overlooked diapers. We spend a fortune on those, so if they are cheaper, we’ll probably make it worthwhile in one month alone.

    @ Michael and Jaynee: Milk, really? I guess I thought they had mostly dry goods. Do you have to buy the milk in bulk, or can you just buy a couple gallons?

    Madison

  8. I get lettuce, whole chickens (79c per pound, the best price around, $8.43 for two chickens this weekend),meats sometimes (too much for one person with limited space), pasta, roasted red peppers, yeast, olive oil, some condiments, socks, laundry detergent, crackers, seltzer water, socks, underwear, some bedding, occassionally DVD’s, my glasses and contacts and I always check them out for presents around the holidays.They sometimes have some great buys on presents. Gas is usually the best price around as well, at least in my area.

    bouncing back

  9. Their meats and seafood are not only cheaper than grocery stores, but higher quality as well. I like to buy their ground beef, then repackage it in 1 pound packages for the freezer.

    Lisa

  10. @ Bouncing Back: Sounds like you get everything there… do you still go to a regular grocery store, or can you just go to Costco for everything?

    @ Lisa: Good reminder to repackage the meat before freezing! We have a chest freezer in the basement, so maybe it’s time I start putting it to good use!

    Madison

  11. The Costco house brand of coffee is really very good. We’re hard to please coffee snobs and we still love it!

    Marsha

  12. You don’t even need a costco membership for their $1.50 hot dog + drink special! I keep an old costco card around just for that steal of a deal.

    Also, you can sneak into Costco very easily (or flash an old card like I do), if you ever just want to kills some time. You just can’t buy anything.

    MMmm….hot dogs…

    DebtKid

  13. costco is the best! you wanna buy everything u can from there, food wise, and assuming it wont spoil, because it will save you tons over time. they also have good deals on electronics and clothes. for only $50 for the year, its totally worth it. plus most of the stuff there is high quality, including fruits and meats.
    -jess

    United First Financial

  14. Bulk bag of frozen chicken breasts is a big one for us. We also get things like garbage bags and laundry and dishwasher detergent there. We try to buy things that will last a long time and that we would otherwise buy somewhere else for more money.

    See My Money

  15. Two of my coworkers go on a ‘date’ every Tuesday to Costco — we call it Costco Tuesday.

    One has a baby at home, and buys milk, diapers, meat and assorted whatnot.

    They will pick up stuff on request, so I’ve had big bags of the most delicious almonds, and 24-can cases of diet Red Bull equivalent. Good prices, good products. If I didn’t live in an apartment (read: no space), my lady and I would be members.

    bigasssuperstar

  16. I love Costco and shopped there for years. To me it was well worth the price of admission. Something I haven’t seen mentioned by anyone here is the price of prescriptions. You don’t have to be a member for that service either and they are the ones that taught Wal-mart. Most of their prescriptions are $4.95 or a little more now that prices of everything have gone up. They don’t gouge like the regular pharmacies, etc.

    If you measure toilet paper by the square foot like I do (2-ply, so many feet vs. price)their brand is usually a great buy. Since the news has come out about bottled water being processed tap, their Kirkland cases of water are a good deal also.

    If you buy your meat at a high-end market than Costco’s prices will look good to you. For the lower end market they are outstanding. Ground beef for the lean stuff is exceptional. It’s a big package, but I just bring it home and break it into the amounts I normally use and freeze seperately. Their pork chops are beautiful and very reasonable. I do the same with those as I do with the ground beef. Pork tenderloin is usually several dollars under the typical grocery store prices.

    I could ramble on forever. If you’re looking to save money and have a little bit of storage area at all, it’s well worth the membership. And yes, milk comes in a 2-gallon pk so you can buy milk a couple gallons at a time.

    The one thing I will tell you over and above all else, is that once it catches on where you’re at, you will not want to stand in the long lines for one or two items, although I’ve seen people do it.

    Ladybeams

  17. I am a big fan of Costco – they have very high quality goods especially under the Kirkland brand – I have been very happy with their extra virgin olive oils (glass bottle), balsamic vinegar, Aidell’s sausages (hormone-free), and cheeses.

    Also, I bought a GPS for the car which had some problems after 3 months – I brought it back to Costco without a receipt, box, or instruction manual – they took it back without any questions and refunded the money, I bought a new one that was on sale and ended up saving $50 dollars!
    Now I buy all of my electronic equipment at Costco.

    sue bette

  18. I buy a lot of things at Costco, but I haven’t noticed anyone mention their good prices on good wine. Agree with Sue Bette – Kirkland is a top notch brand.

    Erroll’s last post: Kirkland Signature Sauvignon Blanc

    Erroll

  19. Obviously, I’ve hit a hot spot with everyone! I had no idea how devoted all the Costco shoppers are. You make me want to RUN to Costco to start saving money!

    @ Ladybeams: The line part scares me. I love saving money, but it’s very easy for me to take the two kids to the neighborhood grocery store and be in and out in a short amount of time.

    Madison

  20. We shop at Sam’s because there is no Costco nearby.
    We are just a two-person household, but we find that buying there is cheaper anyway, and it means a lot less trips to the store.
    We buy cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, fabric softener, light bulbs, air freshner, fragrance plug ins, paper towels, toilet papers, restaurant rags to use as washcloths/ kitchen towel, also their bakeware/kitchen supplies are cheaper there.
    We also buy canned goods, dry goods, frozen meats (which I separate into smaller portions later and freeze them in ziploc bags so we just dfrost what we’ll use), orange juice, iced tea mix, frozen entrees, frozen appetizers, frozen vegetables, snacks, nuts, bread, bagels, basically everything.
    We just commit to eating everything that is perishable within the first two weeks, everything else is stocked up

    Liz

  21. We buy cereal in bulk, organic milk 3 1/2 gallon cartons at a time, eggs by the 18, and fruit.

    But we’re 5 people and waste isn’t usually a problem.

    Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years

  22. Thanks so much for the link love, Madison! I think Costco is great, especially if you don’t have the time, patience or inclination to play The Drugstore Game. Then it’s definitely the cheapest place to get many staples, so long as you have good impulse control (go with a list, a calculator, and a spending limit). But since I started playing The Drugstore Game, I haven’t set foot in Costco in months, though we do buy gas there every week.

    I am hoping I can stay out of the store for a couple more months, until my youngest turns two. I’ll be ordering the cake from Costco since it’s by far the cheapest place to buy a half sheet cake ($15 when I bought my oldest’s cake six months ago, I suppose the price has probably gone up since then along with the cost of wheat, etc.).

    Whether you’ll save money will depend an awful lot on your consumption habits, I think. If there’s something you consume in bulk quantities, it can really be worth it. My friend’s daughter has two teenage boys, so she buys her many of her weekly groceries at Costco, because she goes through so much of it. (This may well be me in a few years!) But otherwise, I think you’ll find that you can easily save just as much money shopping wisely at non-membership stores.

    Cathy @ Chief Family Officer

  23. I recently signed up for costco to purchase a big screen tv. Costco has great deals on tv’s. Additionally, they tack on an extra year to the warranty and if you make the purchase with an AMEX card, AMEX will tack on a third year to the warranty.

    I also use the AMEX and costco true earnings business card for 5% back on gas and 3% on restaurants.

    I just got my membership so Im sure I will discover some more good deals soon.

    Start-Up

  24. I LOVE COSTCO. I love the way they conduct their buisness as well as the savings I receive. I live within a mile of one and used to do all my shopping there. One thing you do have to watch though is there prices do change and not just by a few pennies. I used to just get what I wanted and never paid attention to the price, but not everything is a deal. I do comparison shopping between sales at Safeway and Costco prices. Often times Safeway sales are better than Costco. I still buy milk, cheese, bread & eggs almost exclusively at Costco. I actually made an excel sheet of the items I like to buy there and the prices so before I go I make a note of what I need, add it up and then don’t wander when I get there.

    As far as the lines, the checkers are incredibly fast and if it’s really busy they have people that will total you up ahead of time to expedite the checking out process.

    I also love the $1.50 hot dogs.

    Amy

  25. You have to be careful at Costco. A lot of bulk goods are the same price per piece as grocery (or more). High margin stuff is interspersed in with god deals. You have to pay attention. You can not buy everything at Costco.

    You can bring almost anything back to Costco at any time for any reason – even without a receipt.

    Large Jar of Pickles cost less than small Jar at the grocery.

    I buy all meat at Costco. It is a higher grade than all grocery meat. All the beef is Choice for the same price (or better) than the ratty Select (or Angus, which is not a grade) at the grocery. Chicken and Pork is great. Even the precooked Roasted Chicken is $5 and double the size of the $8 one at the grocery.

    $10 wine (skip the expensive stuff).

    Great produce, but you have to be willing to eat a lot and fast. Good for families with kids.

    Cat litter, dog food

    kirkland Paper towels, napkins, toilet paper.

    Cleaning supplies

    Heinz Ketchup

    $1.50 hot dog and drink and pizza slices.

    Some yard supplies and landscaping plant deals (some not all) in the spring.

    Soap, shampoo, vitamins, tylenol etc…

    Baby supplies, diapers, wipes, and formula.

    eyeglasses and contacts

    best price for big screen tv’s anywhere. electronics are hit and miss but they extend most warranties.

    Andy

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