Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days:: Costco, Part Two: 10 Tips for Shopping at Costco

[You can find Part One of the Costco mini-series here.]

[I did not publish an article on Sunday, so I'm posting two articles today as part of 31 Days of Saving Money in the Kitchen.]

Now that I've convinced you to join Costco (right?), here's what you need to know about shopping there:

1.  Avoid, if at all possible, shopping at Costco on the weekend.  On Saturdays, you can hardly find a parking spot, and the check-out lines are ridiculous.  We don't shop on Sundays, but we've driven past there on Sunday, and the parking lot is full!
2.  Stay out of the center section of the store if you don't have disposable income.  The food, office supplies, and household items are usually on the outside aisles.  The middle section is a rotating display of eye candy.  Clothing, cutesy serving dishes, toys, books, small appliances, and more are all displayed in the middle.  And yes, the prices are decent...but if you walk in to buy groceries and walk out with a Carters blanket sleeper or lovely knife set every time you shop there in a year's time, think about how much extra money you'll have spent.
3.  Compare apples to apples.  Yes, the Hellman's mayonnaise may be a great deal, but if you usually buy Meijer brand mayonnaise on sale, then compare the Hellman's price to the Meijer brand sale price.  Or the Cinnamon Toast Crunch might look like a good deal, but if you usually buy it on sale with a coupon, then make sure you take that into consideration. 
4.  Bring a calculator.  Or make sure your phone has a calculator.  All that figuring is just way too much mental math for me.  A side note here:  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the "cost per ounce".  The savings are more real to me if I compare prices like this:
  • 1- 49.5oz box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch from Costco (don't worry, there are two packages inside so you won't be eating stale cereal at the end!) = about 4 - 12.25 oz boxes of the same cereal at Meijer 
  • Costco price (with coupon) = $4.99, which comes out to about $1.25 per 12.25 oz box 
  • Compare that to what I would pay at Meijer (on sale, with a coupon), and that's a pretty good deal, especially considering how high cereal prices have been lately. 
5.  Don't feel like you have to buy all the good deals in your first few shopping trips!  Tomorrow, I'll share my list of what I buy at Costco.  But if you go and buy all of that at the same time, you'll probably run out of room in your pantry, as well as faint at the checkout.  Remember that Costco puts out coupons, so many of the items will eventually be in the coupon book...which, of course, is the time to buy them.  Some items rarely, if ever, appear in the coupon book.  You can pick up a few of them each shopping trip, and that way you'll get on a rotating basis of what you need to buy each time at Costco.
6.  Check the dates on your coupons.  Costco coupons have an expiration date and a start date.  The first time I tried to use my coupon book there, I had all the coupon items in my cart when a kindly Costco employee noticed what I was doing.  "Ma'am, do you know that those coupons don't start until tomorrow?"  Sigh.
7.  No least, not for now.  Most of Costco's coupons say "limit 2" or "limit 4".  This used to mean "limit 2 total", but now it means "limit 2 per transaction".  The last few times I shopped at Costco, the cashier handed me back my entire coupon book and told me I could use the coupons again the next time I came in.  He told me it was their new policy.  So at this point, if you find a really good deal in the coupon book, you can really stock up by using your coupon multiple times before it expires!  I have no idea if this policy is permanent, or just something they're trying stay tuned.
8.  Bring your debit card, your checkbook, or some cash.  Or you can sign up for a Costco credit card.  But heads up:  Costco does not accept most major credit cards.
9.  Say "yes" when they ask you at the check-out if you want boxes!  Costco does not bag groceries for you (most of the items wouldn't fit in bags anyway!) but they do offer boxes to corral some of the smaller items.  Those boxes make things much easier (and speedier) when you are loading and unloading your vehicle.  Alternatively, you can put a laundry basket in the back of your vehicle, and load some items into that.  It's a great way to carry a bunch of boxes/packages at a time into the house.
10.  Pack a bib and some baby wipes if you have really young kids.  Or even just the baby wipes for older kids!  Some of the samples can be really messy, and although there are napkins at every station, sometimes a dry napkin just doesn't do the job.

I hope these tips will assist you in shopping at Costco...because shopping there is a great way to Save Money in the Kitchen!  For even more ways to Save Money in the Kitchen, check out the rest of the articles in this series.

Stay tuned for The Big List, coming tomorrow!


  1. I love Costco so much. Unfortunately, I usually go in there with a product in mind and come out with full cart. It's so hard to pass up on great deals in bulk!

  2. Have been A Sam's member for years. Once I got the idea I didn't really NEED the 2 gallon case of mayo no matter how good the price, I started really saving money there. :-)

  3. Costco DOES accept American Express. No, you don't have to have the Costco Am Exp card. I love Costco, particularly their meats, especially the lamb chops and fabulous rib roasts (can you say Merry Christmas!) wonderful bakery items, and many organic items. I wouldn't buy vitamins anywhere else. They have many items available under their house brand, Kirkland, that I think are superior to many name brands.

  4. The best canned white tuna in water is the Kirkland brand...Once you try it, it's good bye Charlie!