Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days:: Costco, Part One: The Good and the Not-So-Good

[Please note: I did not publish an article yesterday, so today you'll see two articles as part of 31 Days of Saving Money in the Kitchen.]

Those of you who have asked for more articles about Costco and Aldi will (hopefully!) appreciate the articles that will be published this week and next.  Today and tomorrow, I'll give you the lowdown on Costco.  And next week Monday, I'll publish two guest posts that will cover all things Aldi.

Those of you who don't have a Costco or an Aldi nearby, well, you'll just have to bear with me during these posts.  Costco is not the only warehouse club around (Sam's Club and BJs are the other ones I know of), and Aldi is not the only discount store around (Save-A-Lot is another), so it's possible that some of the concepts we talk about will apply to those stores.  And don't worry, I'm not spending two whole weeks posting about these stores.  There will be other articles mixed into the next two weeks too.

If you know me personally, you know I love Costco!  Here are just some of the reasons why:

1.  They have a money-back guarantee on everything in their store.  If you don't like it, you can take it back for a no-hassle return.  This means that you can try virtually any product in their store and not worry that you'll be stuck with a huge amount of it if you don't care for the taste/texture/style.
2. Their store brand (Kirkland) is fabulous.  I've tried a lot of Kirkland products and have been extremely happy with everything.
3. Low prices on name-brand products.  If you're a name-brand "snob" (I'm not, with the exception of a few things...Mrs. Butterworth's, anyone?), Costco will often beat your local grocery store on price.
4.  Bigger is better!  If you have a medium-to-large-sized family, it's definitely worth buying the 36 pack of toilet paper or the jug of syrup.  Shopping at Costco means you don't run out of things very quickly :)
5.  They send me coupons!  The coupon book comes in the mail about every 3-4 weeks.  Most of the coupons in the book are on name brand products, but occasionally they'll include some coupons for Kirkland brand products.  If it's in the coupon book, it's usually a good deal.  
6.  They hand out free samples!  If you hit Costco around lunchtime, you'll find 5-10 booths that offer samples of various food items.  Sure, they want you to buy their product.  But if you can resist their sales pitch, you'll score plenty of free food...sometimes enough to count as lunch!  Oh, and all those samples are a great way to entertain your kids as well :)

Having professed my love for Costco, there are a few things that I don't love about the store.  I wouldn't necessarily call these things "bad", because "bad" and "Costco" don't belong in the same sentence!  Instead, let's say that they're "minor annoyances".  Here is my short list, and a good explanation for each minor annoyance:

1.  They don't accept manufacturers' coupons.  I'm OK with this most of the time, because if I use coupons from Costco's coupon book, I'm still getting a great deal.
2.  Their prices vary on some items.  Eggs, cheese, and other dairy products are where you'll see the most price variance.  I used to regularly buy the package of 3 dozen eggs from Costco.  At $1.19 per dozen, it was a great deal compared to what I would pay at Meijer.  One day, I noticed that the price had gone up.  At $1.49 per dozen, it wasn't worth the space in my fridge to save 20 cents.  I was disappointed, but a few months later, I checked again and the price had gone back down.
3.  They shuffle their products around, so sometimes it takes me awhile to find what I'm looking for.  They don't move things around every week, and they don't move everything.  But a few things will get moved around every 3 months or so.
4.  Bigger is not better.  Oh, wait, didn't I already say bigger is better?  Because there are six of us here, we don't usually have a problem finishing the Costco-sized jars/boxes/containers before they go bad or get stale.  However, it's possible to fall into the trap of using more than you need to of a product, simply because you know you have tons of it.  "I have about 10 pounds of shredded cheese in the freezer, so I'll just throw an extra handful on this pizza" or you whip 13 paper towels off the roll to clean up a mess instead of grabbing 4 - because, after all, you have 10 more rolls under your bathroom sink.  Be aware that this is not just a Costco problem.  If you stock up on anything at your grocery store, it's easy to fall into this way of thinking.  Be aware of it, don't use more than you need, and you'll be just fine.
5.  They charge a membership fee.  Of course they do.  It's a warehouse club.  But...are you ready for this?...I calculated that we more than make up our membership fee just by buying our cheese there.  I buy Colby Jack cheese in a 2 lb block, crumbled feta cheese, and shredded cheddar, mozzarella, and Mexican.  The price does vary slightly on the cheese items, but it's always cheaper than Meijer.  (OK, almost always.  Sometimes Meijer stacks their deck right and you can score cheese for 88 cents/8 oz bag.  But it's pretty rare.)  I save over $55 each year just by buying my cheese at Costco.  And I buy (and save money on) many, many other items at Costco...which means that in spite of the membership fee, I still save money by shopping at Costco.

Do you shop at Costco?  What do you like (and dislike) about the store?

Still to come: 
Costco, Part Two:  10 Tips for Shopping at Costco
Costco, Part Three:  What I Buy at Costco (it's not a short list!)

Looking for more ways to Save Money in the Kitchen?  Check out the rest of this series, here.


  1. I LOVE Costco!!! We get our membership fee back and more because we have the Costco American Express. I realize some families are not able to use credit cards and do not, however, two credit cards are used in our household for us to get the benefits, but we pay them off every month. If you are not disciplined, then obviously it is not a good deal. We usually get at least $75 in free product after using our rebate towards our yearly fee. AWESOME! Our Costco also has gas and we purchase nearly all our gas there if at all possible. We make sure to fill up anytime we go by so as to not be forced into paying a higher price somewhere else and losing 3% rebate. Loved this article with the benefits!

  2. for those who don't have a Costco membership, cheese is a good deal at GFS - especially the shredded kind. Yes, you have to come home and bag it in smaller portions, but I'm assuming you do that with your Costco cheese, too?

  3. The bad: occasionally they will discontinue stuff that seemed to be a good value and that we loved, e.g., dried peaches.