Let’s talk about the best things to buy at Costco, and the best things to avoid.
You’ve seen those families who are pushing two carts full of food and household products through the big box store, right?
They must buy everything at Costco, assuming they’re getting the best price. But unless you want to spend most of your paycheck on stocking your fridge, it’s better to go in prepared.
I mean, unless you like spending a whole lotta money.
Most Americans would say you can’t go to Costco and spend less than $200, but if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can do it.
Of course, waiting in those long lines for a bag of tortilla chips and a carton of hummus might not be worth it to you. You can reward your patience with a polish dog though, am I right?
Here is my typical list for a Costco run: 12 things I buy at Costco. I don’t get a lot there, but what I do get more than pays for my membership. (Which, incidentally, I get as my Christmas gift from my parents anyway. Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
After that I’ll show you seven more things to AVOID at Costco. You’re welcome.
12 Things to Buy at Costco
Typically much cheaper than your average gas station. The employees are fast and efficient; a boon if you live in Oregon like I do, where you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas.
Whether you pay out of pocket or have excellent insurance, Costco’s pharmacy is loads less expensive than any others I have ever found. I’ve had ‘scripts run through Walgreens, Safeway, Walmart, Target … Costco beats them all in pricing.
3. Tortilla chips
I have literally stood in line to pay for exactly one item at Costco. It was these chips. The bag is the size of a large toddler, and they’re under $4. It’s ridiculous.
I do occasionally find just as good a deal at the discount grocery chains, like the Grocery Outlet, but when you find a coffee you love and you don’t want to cheat on it, head to Costco. I love San Francisco Bay French Roast.
Plus, they are compostable, so you don’t have to feel so guilty about adding to the plastic floating garbage can that used to be our ocean. A box of 100 runs about $29.99. Your mileage may vary.
When you compare it to the teeny, wee cartons or jars of pesto sold everywhere else for around $5 each, these large jars are a steal at $5.99.
Pesto is delicious on everything from sammies (mix with a little mayo for a spread to die for), pizzas, pastas, kebobs, marinades, soups … It’s so yummy.
Everything is basically in a two-pack, so whether you like the nutty, wholesome goodness of Dave’s, or the simple PB&J beginnings of a loaf of white, you’ll have one for the freezer and one for the bread box.
7. Olive oil
They usually have a few different brands to choose from, but if you go through EVOO like this Italian family does, it’s a no-brainer.
Costco’s massive bags of romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, broccoli florets, and baby carrots are fresh and delicious, and typically they are all at a reasonable cost.
9. Half and half
We like a little dark roast coffee in our mugs of half and half, so buying the half gallon just makes sense. In my normal grocery store, this same size carton is priced at around $5/6, so Costco’s price of $3.99 is fabulous.
Not all of them. I find many of Costco’s cheeses to be overpriced, but I do love me some of their two-packs of grated cheddar or mozzarella. Cheese freezes well, so I toss one in the deep freeze and keep the other in the fridge for homemade pizzas, nachos, salads, and grilled sammies. Their extra sharp white cheddar is to die for as well!
Two-packs of enormous jugs of 100% fruit juice is a steal. They always have grape, apple, and orange, but depending on the type of year, you can find organic blackberry lemonade, mango pineapple, or guava. We mix them with sparkling water for less sugar and calorie content, and they last even longer.
They’re wickedly delicious, and if you’re like me, you can make a whole lunch out of pickles and cheese. Just be aware of the plastic bucket and don’t use the handle. We ended up with a kitchen floor full of pickle brine, a broken container, and a zip-lock bag full of pickles to go back in the fridge.
7 Things to Avoid at Costco
Despite Costco’s generally great products and prices, there are still plenty of things that you can find at a better deal elsewhere.
Compared to just about any of my other grocery store options, Costco is really spendy. I do like their sausages and bratwursts occasionally, and their frozen turkey burgers and meatballs are good.
I’ll get a watermelon here and there, or maybe a package of strawberries, but on the whole I avoid their fruit section. The prices simply aren’t comparable to my other store options, or to the local farmer’s market.
3. Packaged Treats & Snacks
Unless your family are creatures of habit and know they love one brand and one brand only of say, granola bars, it’s just not worth spending so much on such a large quantity of something you might get sick of halfway through the box.
4. Paper Goods
Maybe you’re planning on feeding an army, or have a huge pantry. If you don’t, avoid this aisle. I also had a plumber tell me that Kirkland toilet paper is terrible for sewers and septic tanks.
5. Canned Goods
If you have an enormous pantry, you might find it worth it. For me, I can’t justify buying twelve cans of black olives at one time.
They’re cheaper just about anywhere else, but maybe that’s because they only carry name brand ones and I don’t buy those.
7. Baking Supplies & Spices
I buy these in the pay-by-weight “bulk bins” at my local grocery store instead and save a fortune. Just reuse your old spice containers and keep filling them up again and again.
Well, that’s usually about for me and my Costco shopping cart! Did I miss any yummy deals I should know about? Let me know … I’m likely headed there anyway!