8 Reasons to Shop at Costco

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Shopping at a warehouse store and making bulk purchases can be a great way to save money. Here are 8 reasons why you should shop at Costco.

costco warehouse

It was over twenty years ago that I started shopping at Costco-the-store-formerly-known-as-Price-Club. FishPapa and I were just dating then. (His nickname was Fish.) We lived in Santa Barbara; the nearest Price Club was in Oxnard. It was a good 45-minute drive, but it was worth it.

Often it was his mom and I who would make the drive, eating at the nearby Soup Plantation or grabbing a hot dog at the food court. Years later in my first pregnancy, Fish and I would make that long drive through dinner time traffic just for the hot dogs!

Over the years, Costco has come to provide our family with huge savings on a number of items that we regularly buy. While we don’t buy everything we eat at this warehouse store, we do buy a fair number of things.

A Costco membership is a valuable weapon for me in the battle against high grocery bills. Here’s why:

costco december

1. Lowest prices on many staples

Costco offers us the lowest price on most of the dairy, bread, and fresh produce that we buy. Organic eggs for $3.50/dozen? Yes, please.

My list of regular items includes: sourdough and rye breads, English muffins, bagels, deli turkey breast, Tillamook cheese, shredded mozzarella, sausages, eggs, milk, yogurt, bacon, beans, pasta, tomato products, olives, bananas, apples, and spices.

2. Easier bulk buying

I buy a lot of food. A lot. There are some things that it just doesn’t make sense to buy in small packages. The bulk buying — and the bulk pricing — really works for me. I particularly love buying in bulk when I’m going to do some freezer cooking.

Just pay attention to prices. Costco ginormous package isn’t always the cheapest. I keep a price book in my head to make sure I’m not spending more than I should.

3. Discount non-food stuff

We’ve bought eyeglasses, orthotics, tires, and car loans through Costco. All have been really good deals. Costco sells appliances, tools, dishes, clothes, etc. The selection is not vast, but the prices are generally good.

costco bagels copy

4. Great selection of healthier items

There are some items I will only buy at Costco because they have a better ingredients list. For instance, did you know that a lot of commercial tuna has soybean oil in it? Not at Costco.

Increasingly, Costco is offering more organic and cleaner food products. I love it!

5. Cash back for purchases

After much kicking and screaming on my part, we finally upgraded to the Executive membership. This membership offers 2% back on purchases, up to $750 for a 12-month period. While the Executive membership costs more ($110 compared to $55), it has always paid for itself.

I can’t find the information on their site, but when we upgraded, they told us that our “earnings” check back would be at least the difference of the $55. That is, if we didn’t earn that much in our 2%, they would give it to us. Last year’s check was $62, so we gained back $7.

6. Awesome food court

While it’s certainly not health food, Costco’s food court offers take-out/junk food for great prices. You can get a Kosher hot dog and a soda for a buck fifty. Who else does that?

My homemade pizza is better than Costco’s, but theirs is very decent for ten bucks.

7. Fun food a plenty

Costco offers all kinds of things that you might not think to buy, but that is totally awesome. Use caution: some of it may not be a great deal, may not be needed, or may come in too big a bag for you to consume at a healthy speed without going bad.

But, you can find some awesome stuff there.

costco kettle corn

8. No-questions-asked return policy

If you don’t like something you buy at Costco, you can return it without any issue. You must have original packaging, but they are great about returns, even when I don’t have a receipt.

I had plants die shortly after planting once, and they had me dig the plants up and return them. Then I got the money back. Easy-peasy.

This policy makes it easy to try something, risk-free. They started carrying canned skipjack tuna last fall at a significantly cheaper price than their albacore. I gave it a shot, but we didn’t like it. I took back the other cans in the pack and got my money back.

How does Costco compare to Sam’s Club?

There is no Sam’s in my area currently so I can’t give recent data. In Kansas 2003, we had memberships to both. My feeling was that Costco is like Target (a little nicer, a little cleaner, a little more expensive) as Sam’s is like Walmart (a little less on all those counts). Your mileage may vary.

These are the reasons why a Costco membership is a must-have for our family. While we need to exercise caution — there’s just too much “fun” to buy there — it helps us save money on food costs.

What’s been YOUR xperience with Costco?

Is it worth your membership investment?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Brighid says:

    Love it! One bonus you didn’t point out: cheap gas! Another good bonus for Costco is their pharmacy with really reasonable prices.

    Sometimes when we travel, we forget things or need to buy something when we arrive. When we took a really long series of flights for a vacation once, we didn’t pack much. When we got to our destination, we went to Costco and bought food, a cooler, jumbo beach towels, etc. Hauling all that stuff would have been a pain, never mind the excess baggage fees. Two packages of Costco muffins on vacation is roughly the same cost as two muffins when eating out on vacation. It may not be as “special” feeling to not be pampered at breakfast but sometimes I’d rather just get outside and have fun!

    • Yes! I forgot to mention the gas. Forgot to put it on my outline. My husband gets gas there all the time. I usually run out NOT near a Costco. lol. Great to hear how Costco helped you on your trip!

  2. Angela R says:

    I absolutely love Costco. Another bonus is that they treat their employees really well . We live 3 blocks from one and spent 75% of our grocery bill there. I love their bread, dairy, produce, spices.

  3. Jenni says:

    We live in a rural area with traditional stores about two hours away, Costco included. We are also a family of 6. Monthly we travel to the city and stock up at Costco. Makes me feel like a Pioneer going to town yearly. I love Costco.

    Another perk, free samples! For my tenth birthday I asked to go get samples for my special lunch. ?. Parents had no problem agreeing to that one!

  4. Pamela says:

    Agreed on every point, Jessica. I’m feeding a family of 5.

    For us, Costco makes eating a mostly organic diet affordable. I especially love their greens, frozen fruit, bread, eggs, and meats (all organics). I wish they still carried Earth’s Best organic baby food jars in bulk!

    Their customer service is excellent.

    And, as a musician, I appreciate that they don’t play any background music.

    • I never noticed the music, but my husband (also a musician) recently commented about the music at a local restaurant. I guess your ears are trained to hear that.

  5. Sandi says:

    90% of my groceries come from Costco now. Between the quality and the price savings, it is just a good choice for many things. Except some of the produce, because the two of us just can’t eat 20 lb of potatoes before they go bad. I actually just bought a new TV from there, except so far I’m not thrilled with it and seriously considering taking it back. Our eyeglasses have come from there for years, and the last 3 sets of tires have been Costco purchases also. Better prices and higher mileage life made it the best place to go.

    If your rebate check is not at least the $55 cost of the upgrade, then yes, you can get the difference refunded in cash. However, you also have to downgrade back to the standard membership. I did lose a little the first year, but opted to ride it out and it did improve after that. I still don’t make much with that one, but I also use their AmEx card for the expenses (I use it anywhere that takes AmEx and pay off every month so no fees) and get several hundred back from that. Costco actually recently announced they are splitting with AmEx and will be going with Visa next spring, same/similar benefits and since pretty much anywhere takes Visa, I’m hoping that will increase even more. Fun Money!

    • Good to know about the downgrade. I knew there was a catch, but I couldn’t find it on their website. Thanks!

  6. JIllbert says:

    I’m a big fan of Costco, too! I always pick up a rotisserie chicken when shopping for easy dinner. My favorite items are the bread, milk, butter, flour, tuna, and wine prices! I love their return policy — last fall, I bought a super automatic espresso machine. Three months later it stopped working. I returned it with no problem at all.

    • Great about the espresso machine. That could have been really disappointing otherwise.

  7. Michelle K says:

    It’s funny that you say your Costco experience has left you with the “it’s the Target instead of Walmart” in comparison to Sam’s club. We had memberships to both and after a year we canceled Costco. In our area, Sams is cleaner, less busy, carries more regular items and the overall staff is super friendly. I know those can be regional differences or even vary from stores relatively close to each other. But I just don’t like to fight for my parking spot or block of cheese.

    • Isn’t that funny?! Where are you located? My guess is the South, where Sam’s might be predominant?

      • Michelle K says:

        We’re actually in the Corona, Ca area. Not too far from your neck of the woods.

      • Sandi says:

        I’m in the South, and we had a Sam’s for years before Costco came. I dropped the Sam’s immediately. “Cleaner” and “super friendly” definitely did not apply here!

  8. Crystal says:

    Love me some Costco! In our area, buying milk there, alone, pays for the membership, but all the perks make it completely worth it. We bought a bluray player that stopped working almost a year after purchased- returned it, no questions asked, got a new one, the price had lowered, I got the cheaper price! Amazing! My youngest just potty trained way faster than I thought he would, so I returned some diapers and pullups, no questions asked!(I used to always stock up when they were on coupon). The gas prices are great, the produce is always good quality, everything is always good quality!

  9. Danielle says:

    We love Costco too. Forgetting just the groceries, we always buy our tires from Costco, they’re prices are always the lowest by far. And when we travel domestically we almost always book our rental cars through the Costco website. 99% of the time I get the absolute best car rental prices through Costco. I also agree that their customer service and return policy is outstanding!

    • You know, when we went to Europe, I didn’t even think to check Costco for travel stuff. Will keep that in mind next time. Thanks for the tip.

  10. Heather M says:

    Costco is the bomb! The majority of my grocery spending is Costco and Trader joe’s. At Costco, I have a similar list as yours. I buy most of our proteins there (from bacon and sausage, to ground turkey, chicken breasts, and a variety of fish/shrimp, and nuts–pistachios are my son’s daily staple– I could go on). We love their salsas, tortilla chips, baguettes (alas, no sourdough in the DC area Costco– oh how I wish!), various personal hygiene and household products (only place I buy TP, laundry & dish detergent, etc.). And produce(always the cucumbers & avocados, often lots more), fun food, the occasional book, pretty much anything and everything! We also find they have the best prices for car rentals, which we need at least once a year. I could go on and on and on. And on.

    For my family, having a Costco on Oahu has been a huge saving grace. 3 of my 4 siblings live there with their families, and food is extremely expensive on the island. Costco makes it much much easier for them to feed their families without going completely broke. And the same goes for gas for them. One sibling pretty much almost only shops for groceries at Costco, with just a few minor items elsewhere. Costco truly saves them.

    I, too, have an executive membership. It has always been better than paying for the regular membership. I’ve always gotten back enough $$ that I barely pay anything to renew the coming year. This year, I think I paid $9 for my membership.

    i will ALWAYS be a loyal and passionate Costco supporter. Even with a BJ’s 3 minutes down the street. I have yet to walk in its doors. 🙂

    • Ah, yes, I’ve heard that folks in Hawaii couldn’t survive without Costco. I didn’t know that you had so much family there. No wonder the girl went to college there! Fun!

  11. kathy w says:

    We buy a lot of bulk items on things I don;t want to make multiple trips back and forth to the regular grocery. I didn’t know they sold orthotics? Could you tell me how you found them? Thanks for this post.

    • My husband went in and got fitted, but I’m not sure if it was with the eye glasses or the pharmacy. I’m sure you could just ask.

  12. Leigh says:

    You forgot the big two seat carts. It makes such a difference when shopping with a pack of little ones.

    • I guess it’s been a long time, so that’s not a selling point for me now! ha! My back is so bad, I finally had to make my girls walk since I couldn’t lift them in. 🙁 They’re now 6 and 8 but they loved riding.

  13. Lisa says:

    In our area, we don’t have a Costco so I can’t speak to that, but we do have a Sam’s Club nearby. Lately I have been really surprised to see lots of organic items and things that are more for a special diet or harder to find, for instance, gluten free flour – and in bulk! Another new item I saw just yesterday is organic coconut palm sugar. They have organic coconut oil, organic quinoa, organic hemp seeds, lots and lots of things like that. It’s pretty neat to see that. I’m not sure if they’re just responding to customer demand, trying to compete with Costco, or maybe a mixture of both, but it’s nice.

    Things I usually buy at Sam’s are yeast, dried fruit, frozen fruit, bananas, dairy products, and a lot of times their chicken breasts are under $2 per pound so I’ll grab some of those. I also buy vitamins, rice, beans, spices, and probably some other things I’m forgetting.

    I would like to shop at a Costco but the nearest one is 50-60 miles away. If Sam’s Club keeps adding to their inventory like that though, I’m totally content.

    • Costco is expanding that line, too. Apparently they’ve seen the writing on the wall. 🙂

  14. Kelly Hess says:

    Besides the prices are perks are, 1)Gas – we live close so it is conventient and it is ALWAYS the cheapest in town, 2)Annual cash back on our gold membership, we always make at least double the memebership cost, 3)Annual cash back on their American Express card! Its like paying us to shop there! Oh and take the kids for lunch, they love all the samples!!

    • The food court is pretty amazing. Samples are hit and miss for us, due to food allergies, but give me that hot dog! 😉

  15. Dorothy says:

    I, too, have been a member since the Price Club days. My extended family dubbed it the $200 club since it always seemed like we spend at least that much there.

    I now live in a rural area far from a Costco, but do make a trip every month or two. But I recently got a new boyfriend who lives just around the corner from a Costco and he loves them, too.

    The other day he bought me roses at Costco. He’s done it several times before and they usually last for a week to 10 days. This time they were dead by morning. He took them back to Costco and they happily exchanged them for him!

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