Why should I shop at Costco?
March 18, 2014 9:39 AM   Subscribe

What deals can I get at Costco that make it worth the hike and membership when I already have walking distance access to Trader Joe's, Walmart, Jewel and independent local grocers?

I'm married with no kids and live in a small apartment with a regular sized fridge, limited pantry space and no car. There is a Coscto about 2 miles away and it is just about a straight shot by bus.

I'm not fussed about whole foods style food restrictions and not averse to frozen foods. There is some space in my freezer. I do however have to be able to carry whatever I buy.

[I am already aware of Costco's labor practice positives ]
posted by srboisvert to Shopping (47 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a similar situation with space and family size, and most of what I get is things like frozen burritos for lunch at work, fig bars for breakfast at work, and giant tubs of hummus, plus lots of other staples that don't go bad quickly.

They let you in to look around for free, though, so I'd suggest just going in and making a list of things you might like to get there, and comparing prices to your other local store options.
posted by asperity at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I bought a mattress online (gasp, horror) from Costco back in October. I know diddly squat about mattresses, and in trying to buy a new mattress I was overwhelmed by choices, options, and kind of horrified at how expensive everything was. Buying my mattress at Costco was relatively cheap, removed the choice issue because there were only a small handful of choices, and delivered to my house right into my bedroom for no extra cost. And, because it's Costco, the return policy is amazing. If I don't like it, they'll come and get it. For free. And completely refund the cost.

Turns out I love the mattress I got, but knowing that I had an out if it didn't work for me completely removed the burden of making a decision. That alone has made my entire Costco membership experience worth it.

They also have these fudge square mint cookies that come in a nondescript unbranded box and are so so so amazing.
posted by phunniemee at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here are the things on my staples list that are either cheaper to buy at Costco, or are used up fast enough that it's worth it to buy in bulk to run out less frequently:

Olive oil
Laundry detergent
Trash bags
Toilet paper
Half & Half
Salad greens
Peanut Butter
Green Tea
Frozen vegetables & berries

But a lot of that stuff is heavy and/or bulky, so if you're not loading up a car it's probably more hassle than it's worth.

They also have good deal on electronics, light bulbs, and casual clothing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:49 AM on March 18, 2014 [11 favorites]

you don't have to buy a costco membership or go into a costco to buy from it. the small country market in the tiny town just north of me has a kiosk where you can order stuff from costco, and a truck comes out once a week to deliver it to the market. i think it's run by an independent contractor; look around to see if there's a similar program in your area, if not, start one.
posted by bruce at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2014

Well, the limited pantry and requirement of being able to carry it on a bus eliminates a few obvious things I would have listed (paper towels, toilet paper), but here are a few less space-sucking items (assume large numbers, even if the items are small) that I stock up on there from time to time:

-Drugs (advil, zyrtec - generic brand, aspirin, things along these lines)
-I tend to go there when I need a cheap external hard drive fast, or multiple flash drives for a project
-shampoo and conditioner
-certain basic spices
-razor blades
-if you wear contacts, lens solution
And, at Halloween time, or for parties or whatever, CANDY in large bags, or just hit the bulk candy aisle if you feel like being particularly generous and buy the full size bars.
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:58 AM on March 18, 2014

Medications (both OTC and prescription), supplements, and other drug store items.

Their rotisserie chicken is like crack, but I'm not sure if your fellow bus passengers will appreciate having to smell it.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:59 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband gets his allergy medication at Costco, where it is exponentially cheaper than anywhere else: a 365-pill bottle for around $15. I also get my lactase pills there, as they're also much cheaper--the box is about $16, and contains 180 caplets, as compared to the generic version at the grocery store, which is about $12 for 60.

(Also, if you make ice cream, Costco carries the super-uber-fatty cream.)
posted by telophase at 9:59 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had a family member that would routinely let us tag along on costco runs; there were a couple things that I'd buy on a pretty regular basis, but honestly, it was pretty narrow (at the time I was a studio dweller, so same as you; no real space to store things). The nice thing about them is that they're starting to move towards organic products. Their quality is better than your average grocery store, but not quite as good as like, an upscale Whole Foods or similar joint.

-Their meat is pretty legit, but their cuts selection is pretty restrained. Their butchers are pretty knowledgable, but again, limited selection.
-Almond butter/high quality peanut butter.
-Nuts in general.
-Olive oil for sure (they had really good californian stuff when we shopped there).
-Rice for sure (but, it's usually cheaper at the asian market…)
-Kitchen supplies like plastic bags, foil, etc. All mega cheap.
-(depending on your state) Beer. And. Wine. They usually have great mid-range wines for 10-20% less. Also, in some states, depending on your liquor laws, you can shop their beer and wine sections without a membership…so that might be worth checking up on. This is true in Oregon.

Even in moderate buys from costco, you're going to need a car. Offer your membership up to a friend or ask to borrow a car….there's just no way to haul that shit around on a bus. The packages are usually just too damn big.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you give parties, it's nice to be able to get cheeses, wines, beers and party trays at Costco.

The rotisserie chicken is the bomb-diggity.

When you go you can get lunch for $1.50.

You can buy organic chicken and then repackage it for your freezer, ditto ground meat. (Or non-organic, but good quality meats.)

You can get daily OTC drugs and supplements at VERY good prices.

If you have prescriptions for drugs or glasses, Costco is very competative for these things.


Peeled and deveined shrimp.

Jewelry (we got our wedding rings at Costco.)

Clothing, socks, underwear and polo shirts.

I have a Costco Amex so my annual fee covers my card AND my membership.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got a super great deal on a gym membership (24 Hour Fitness) through Costco, which I was able to do online. Actually you can buy pretty much everything except for perishables online.

OTC drugs, razors, and such are way cheaper. I have heard their pharmacy is affordable, but it's not convenient for me so I don't use it.

That said, I do have a car but we hardly ever go to Costco because I just don't have space to store it. We only have a membership because my MIL has one and gave us a card.
posted by radioamy at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2014

Considering your alternatives and transportation situation, I'd say Costco doesn't offer all that much for you. They are good for quality groceries in large quantities (though not necessarily better that your alternatives), various odds and ends. I have a membership through AmEx, with a Costco about three miles away, have a large enough car and a dedicated freezer, and still find little reason to go there more than about once a year, usually for some specific product. I also have plenty of groceries available closer, Kroger, TJs around the block, several independent and ethnic markets.

If you have a friend with a membership, it might be a good idea to accompany him/her once in a while and make it a bit of a fun shared activity.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:03 AM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Things I buy at Costco that I believe they have good prices for and that would fit in a backpack:

dental floss
Gum soft pics
fish oil
OTC medication
macadamia nuts
spray for cleaning my glasses (free refills!)
flower bulbs
Clif bars
organic peanut butter
organic strawberry jam
Scotch tape
facial moisturizer
Christmas cards made from my photos
bath towels
Swiffer stuff

Perishables that meet the above qualifications and that come in two-person sizes:
Odwalla juice
greens (the bag is large but we go through it quickly)
chicken breasts that are already sliced, for salads
some of the cheeses
wild Alaskan smoked salmon (maybe a bit too big)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:11 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

My regular Costco list for a 2-person household, albeit with a car and freezer space:

tub of salad greens
sharp cheddar or gouda cheese
Ciabatta bread
ground beef
chicken thighs
olive oil
half gallon of half and half
bag of Skinny Pop popcorn (which is like crack to me)

The membership fee always seems just slightly more than I'm willing to pay, but then we are having a party and/or it's so nice to have a good supply of meat for summer grilling in the freezer that I cave in.
posted by sarajane at 10:33 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love costco. I also have a car. The one time I took public transit to costco to meet my wife I noticed how pedestrian unfriendly it is. There are no sidewalks or pedestrian walkways. Be prepared to walk up the very busy roadway entrance. I couldn't imagine waking out with stuff.
That said costco has been great for me. There are so many services that you wouldn't even think about. Tire repair , buying a mattress, even buying a car. Pharmacy services, optical services. Plus the bulk deals. If you can go with a friend who had a membership you can purchase items on their card if you think you won't be able to b use it enough. We do this for a friend.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:34 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is also this other thread in which a bunch of people say what they shop for at Costco.
posted by unsub at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2014

Here's what we buy at Costco that's in almost all cases significantly cheaper and/or better than other stores (we live in a small 1 bedroom apartment with a converted bookshelf as a pantry):
* Olive Oil (best price to quality ratio)
* Canola oil
* Popcorn
* Organic chicken
* Steak
* Organic ground beef
* Spinach
* Mushrooms
* Tomatoes
* Apples
* Cooked beets (occasionally)
* Hummus
* Salsa
* Toilet paper
* Paper towels
* Freezer bags
* Lunch meat (Columbus)
* Peanut butter
* Tomato sauce
* Almond milk
* Rice (if we can find a 25 pound bag of Basmati/Jasmine)
* Soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste
* Oral-B brush heads when they go on sale
* Laundry detergent (Kirkland is nearly as good as Tide for 1/3 the price).
* Organic eggs
* Bacon
* Frozen mixed veggies
* Frozen mixed berries
* I bought a UPS backup battery there for $30 less than I could find it anywhere else.

Obviously, much of this is easy to carry. Trader Joes generally has really good prices as well, but we've price compared, and everything we buy at Costco is significantly cheaper and/or a better value than other places we shop.
posted by cnc at 10:41 AM on March 18, 2014

Another note about it being unfriendly to pedestrians - I am pretty sure they don't have bags, you just load everything into your car. Maybe they do now since they sell a lot of smaller things and not just giant packages of TP, but you need to bring enough bags with you.

Oh also this is not easy to bring on the bus but you could get delivered - they usually have good deals on office furniture like office chairs.
posted by radioamy at 10:48 AM on March 18, 2014

Quick follow up: Meant to say that much of the Costco stuff isn't easy to carry. If money is a bigger issue than weight/bulk/convenience Costco is the way to go.
posted by cnc at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2014

You don't need a membership to use the pharmacy.
posted by hooray at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2014


They have the best grapefruit. Sweet and tasty. A++ Would eat again.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Drugs, toiletries and supplements alone make it worth the price for me. Lara bars, hummus etc are also only affordable for me at Costco
posted by fshgrl at 11:06 AM on March 18, 2014

If it's only two miles away, don't forget that you can always bus there and then cab home. That way you can buy all your bulky stuff at once. (I visit now and again with Zipcar myself.)
posted by maryr at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I see mentions of electronics above; it's worth mentioning that what makes the deal good is not so much prices as it is that they extend the warranty significantly. And while their return policy on tvs is not as great as it once was (because of extreme usage) it's still more expansive than anywhere else.
posted by phearlez at 11:18 AM on March 18, 2014

Toilet paper!
Kirkland Signature body wash (orange stuff) or bar soap
frozen salmon fish patties
Starbucks and other brand coffee beans
artichoke six-packs

I too live in a small apartment but we manage to fit the super-sized packs of toilet paper and paper towels into our limited closet space.

Plus the food court is a blast - a hot dog and a soda is $1.50, and the old-fashioned chocolate-dipped ice-cream bars are outstanding.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:23 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Costco travel stuff can be a good deal, and the car rentals through them are usually the best deal I can find anywhere. When we have traveled to Hawaii, for example, the difference between the Hotwire/Expedia/etc. prices and the Costco prices was in the hundreds of dollars per week.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:59 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I too have a small apartment, although I have a car. I have had a costco membership in the past and did not find it worthwhile for me. Without having the storage space to store giant packs of toilet paper or frozen spinach, it's not really useful for me. Fresh food is usually sold in quantities too large for my household of two.

My doctor recently put me on an OTC probiotic that's really expensive. At CVS it's $90 for a month's supply, at Costco it's $45! So, if you happen to also take this stuff, it might be worth it.
posted by inertia at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2014

One thing I've done in the past is to recruit a friend or two to split Costco purchases. Even better if they have a car. I'd buy loads of fresh produce, big packs of butter, massive containers of snacks, etc, and then split the packages up as soon as we got home. Twice as high quality, half the price of a "regular" grocery store.
posted by instamatic at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can buy a lot of Costco Kirkland in house brand stuff, like allergy medicines etc online through Amazon, the price is no more expensive than what shows up on the Costco website, I don't know if it's the same as the instore price but it is still way cheaper than anything else I've found. So if you have Amazon prime already that might be another thing to consider.
posted by wwax at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

No car? CostCo sells them! My mother got a car for $11K cheaper from CostCo than she would have buying it from the dealership. I'd say that's worth $50. So, adding to the "big things and expensive purchases" items like the matress.

Also, books and allergy medications. Woo! Just in these two categories - without food - I could amortize that membership. If only there were CostCo in my current country...
posted by whatzit at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by I am the Walrus at 12:56 PM on March 18, 2014

When we lived in NYC, the discounted movie tickets alone covered the cost of the membership, and they are easy to carry by bus.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2014

Stuff I like to buy there:

Raspberries and blueberries
Prime beef (holidays, parties, freezing)
Organic chicken
Discount movie tickets, gift certificates, stamps
Frozen giant scallops and shrimp
Laundry and dishwashing detergent
Toilet paper and paper towels
Cleaning products

I've used their car buying program before and felt I got a good deal
posted by cecic at 1:10 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you ever have to rent a car, you can usually get an extra driver for free using the Costco travel program. I hardly ever go to Costco, but that benefit alone makes membership worthwhile for my partner & I.
posted by wearyaswater at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2014

I'm an experienced Costco-by-bike shopper with limited storage space and but one mouth to feed (with occasional guests).

Raw almonds and other nuts, olive oil, organic chicken thighs and ground beef, large blocks of cheese. Decent, not great, coffee. Large bags of avocados or lettuce.

Once or twice a year I borrow a car and stock up on toilet paper and dish soap and laundry detergent.

And seriously the best thing I've ever bought ever was the food-service roll of plastic wrap. I spent $10 and have at least a year's worth of plastic wrap. Possibly significantly more, It's been about a year now and I'm not close to running out.

Honestly, though, I have a membership for business reasons and I wouldn't get one if it were just for my own personal use. I'd be able to access a car or membership often enough if I wanted to put in the effort.

ALSO, Instacart in my area will deliver an order from Costco, and you wouldn't need a membership to use that. If that happens to apply to you.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2014

Here's a protip for Costco: bring a couple of tough as nails blue ikea bags (they're only 95 cents a piece and work great for laundry). They are the only bags big and strong enough I've found for trips to Costco, and they're pretty comfortable to carry because they have two handles, one over the shoulder and the other is shorter for hand carrying, so you can alternate if they get too heavy.

As far as products others haven't mentioned:
Costco has some of the best photo printing services around, and they are super quick. You can upload online, and pick up within an hour or two typically.

Bulk organic coconut oil (1/2 the cost of anywhere else)

Kirkland Beef Jerky is crazy good (just wish it didn't have any sugar)

Any of their liquor represents a great value, and I especially like their vodka and bourbon.

Their wine selection is pretty much the best because instead of having a million wines, they have a great cheap bottle, and a great expensive bottle for each varietal. (Check out Costco Wine Blog which is a great resource)

Kirkland V-neck Undershirts are the best undershirt of all time, and they are 4 for $17 (I think).

My wife swears by Kirkland Wool Blend Hiking Socks (she likes them more than smartwool, i find them too thick)
posted by ghostpony at 1:50 PM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I didn't have insurance and was price-shopping my medications by calling every pharmacy chain in town, I found that Costco almost always had the best price, usually be a significant amount.

They also have very good prices on dried fruit, which is crazy expensive in regular supermarkets.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2014

Oh, yeah, the extra driver for free on the rentals thing was awesome before I married my husband (most places give you a spouse for free, but not a partner even if they live with you); otherwise we were either trapped with just one driver or had to pay something like $15-25/day.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2014

We drive Just over an hour to Costco every couple months. The quality and price (along with their practices) keep us going back. (The whole crew there is terrific and very helpful)

Why we go- their AmEx card. My husbands travels for business and uses it for expenses (hotel, air and car). We got a thousand dollars cash back this year. The car rental deals are amazing.

Their return policy. I've saved a thousand dollars at least by getting to return something instead of being SOL when something broke.

Their eye glasses. We see the doctor there and get those glasses. Saves at least a hundred each time.

Food and products-
Bought an incredible engagement ring at a very steep discount.
Bakery. Their cakes have been written up in Saveur. Their cupcakes are huge and delicious and so cheap. Their pies and cakes are just amazing.
Their meats are VERY good for about the same price of lesser quality meats. Rotisserie chickens are huge, delicious and way cheaper than what I can get in the supermarket.
Kirkland wine and beers. Again great quality at an incredible price.
Their ice cream. Down side you have to buy 2 half gallons. The only one that comes close is Trader Joes.
Their ready to make meals/pizza. They have a terrific kitchen. I just made their fresh Shepards pie for a party this weekend.
Their coffee. Huge 3 pound can for cheap. Great coffee.
Their spices and vanilla! I wish their spices were smaller but they are SUCH a good deal (my dream is to have a Costco spice party where where 10 of us split them up).
(boy i could go on and on but I am going to skip some things)
WRAPPING PAPER. It's the best wrapping paper on these huge rolls. It has saved us from lots of cursing on Christmas eves.
ALL their seasonal stuff. Fancy chocolates for Easter, Mothers day and Christmas. Sporting stuff. (My $900 bike got stolen but I wasn't in a position to spend that much this time around. I was So disappointed in every 400 dollar bike I tried but got one from Costco for $300 bucks and I love it). Gloves, coats and clothes. Their t shirts and socks. (I got smart wool type socks for my boys this year- normally about 7 dollars a pair- 4 pair for 5 dollars).
I just got 3 camping pads which we've needed for years but I didn't want to spend the money. I just picked them up for 35 bucks- about 30 dollars cheaper than comparable.
Big items, mattresses, furniture, tires.

Maybe the best thing is I trust their quality so much I don't stress about buying from them.
Not only is it more than likely to be good, but if I decide I don't like it I can return it in a couple months (since we go there so infrequently) and they will take it back no problem.

Sorry this is so long, but between me being pretty frugal, loving great quality/value and their labor practices being so important to me, Costco is practically a religion to me.
posted by beccaj at 2:22 PM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding what beccaj says about their bakery: almost every item we've bought from Costco bakery has been outstanding and very good value compared to similar bakery items from, say, Safeway (although I do love me a Safeway eclair).

The Costco flans and cheesecakes are out of this world, the butter croissants are simply wonderful, and their apple and pumpkin pies also deserve a mention. And, oh yeah, those carrot cupcakes... mmmmm.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:33 PM on March 18, 2014

The savings on medications are huge. Both prescriptions and OTC stuff like ibuprofen, allergy meds, antacids, and even vitamins & supplements if you take those.

Toiletries, if they carry your brand or you're willing to switch. And supplies like replacement toothbrush heads for electric toothbrushes.

And batteries! I think we maybe have to buy more once a year or so? If even that often? And that's in a household that goes through an awful lot of batteries.

Kirkland olive oil is great.

They have a very nice cheese selection, including big wedges of nice blue cheeses, imported parmesans, tubs of chevre, and big blocks of good cheddar.

They also tend to have nice, high-quality meats for very reasonable prices. Costco is the first place we turn for good steaks as well as the more expensive stuff like prime rib and whole beef tenderloins. The seafood can be hit-or-miss, but on the days when the seafood kiosk is set up (usually weekends around here, especially during holidays and crab season), it's always great.

Oh, and if you drink and live in a state where Costco sells alcohol, it's wonderful. Great wines at reasonable prices, and absurdly large bottles of hard liquor. (You can probably carry the huge bottle of Patron home. Maybe not so much the very tall vodka bottles, unless you're willing to have them sticking out of a backpack.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:19 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and nthing their eyeglass department.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2014

Best answer: I think not having a car (or be willing to uber/take a cab back) would make Costco a nightmare unless you have a lot of big ticket items to buy there such as prescription and over the counter drugs, toiletries, that kind of thing. Especially given how close you are to Trader Joe's and presuming it's easy for you to buy things off of Amazon.

Alcohol is substantially cheaper than just about anywhere else with pretty few exceptions, but let's be honest taking a bus round trip to save $10-15 on a single liter of vodka (maybe 2...) probably isn't going to be worth your time.

Also, Costco stuff is often bizarrely and elaborately packaged, which may make it difficult to efficiently pack into a couple of reusable grocery bags.

You will never be able to get your week's worth of groceries onto a bus given that everything is in bulk so any week you'll go to Costco, you'll have to take a separate trip to the regular grocery store.

So do what I do, find a friend who has a Costco card and tag along! Best of all worlds. I go about 4 times a year this way. I've had Costco memberships in the past and rarely used it more than this despite having a car. Going to Costco is a pain in the ass (at least where I've lived, crazy crowded), I don't know how people can will themselves to go once a week, but I suppose if you have a big family then it's worth it. I'm pretty sure having to only buy a few things at a time, rather than everything you need, so you can get it on the bus would only compound your frustration with Costco.
posted by whoaali at 5:34 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We live a block or two from you--we also have no kids and oodles more space AND a car. Our Costco membership has now lapsed twice because we just don't use it. Even though the prilosec is cheaper and sometimes so is the booze (honestly, Binny's specials, and the case discount, works out about the same and is closer and delivery is still free--I think), getting to that Costco is annoying on a good day and tear your hair out why-am-i-doing-this a not-good day (say, friday, saturday or sunday).
posted by crush-onastick at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2014

My wife and I never considered Costco until we moved out of the apartment, bought a house, and had kids. Now we're there all the time.
Are there good deals? Sure. But you will be buying things in large quantities, and your space is at a premium right now.
I'd look into their online store and the various membership perks (rental cars, car buying, etc) to see if any of that would benefit you. But just going to the store on the bus and coming home with something worthy of the time and effort is unlikely.
posted by rouftop at 7:51 PM on March 18, 2014

Things I've found to be great buys for our household of two (definitely some duplicates with things already mentioned by others):
*Bags: garbage, Ziploc
*OTC drugs and pet prescriptions, if relevant. People have mentioned allergy drugs, and they are right. We're talking 10-25% of what you would pay in a normal grocery store or drugstore.
*Things that clean: laundry soap, dish soap, toothpaste, shampoo
*Snacky foods: nuts, cheeses, crackers, fresh fruits, baby carrots, snow peas, hummus
*Oils: olive oil, even including olio nuovo in the fall, avocado oil
*That amazing roasted chicken that people keep mentioning...I swear they feed their chickens a diet of bacon
*Paper: paper towels, TP, tissues
*Veggies: in addition to the snacky foods, I love to get onions, avocados, spring mix, and red bell peppers there. They all are pretty easy for two people to to consume without spoilage.
*Prepared food: they sometimes have boxes of Tasty Bites Indian food packets. Amazing for those days when you don't have leftovers and don't want to eat lunch out at work, and they don't need refrigeration.
*Meats: frozen chicken tenderloins, fresh packages of chicken thighs and pork chops to freeze individually in Ziploc bags mentions above, Morton marinated steaks...super yum
*Discount gift cards/tickets for all kinds of things: movies, car washes (probably not relevant to you), chain restaurants if you're in to that, and more
posted by christinenewkirk at 7:55 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have allergic dogs and so we go through a lot of Benadryl. 3-5 pills a day. We can get it at most stores for $4 for a 100 count bottle. We can get it at Costco for $4.65 for a 600 count bottle. That savings right there is enough to pay our membership fee for the year.

Half and half - they sell organic half and half for $4.75 or so for a half gallon. We use it in our coffee, and the expiration on it is usually a month and a half or longer out.

Spices - if they have a spice that you use, it's a no brainer. They have a nice big package of Saigon cinnamon for $2.65. That's ten times or so what we can get at the grocery store in the Mexican spice aisle (which is pretty cheap) for twice the price of a small package. They have a sizable bottle of good quality vanilla for $6. If you bake bread, you can get a package of yeast that will last you a long time for $3.

Clothes - they tend to carry quality clothes at good prices. Socks, underwear, shirts, shorts, pants and more.
posted by azpenguin at 10:39 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alcohol is substantially cheaper than just about anywhere else with pretty few exceptions, but let's be honest taking a bus round trip to save $10-15 on a single liter of vodka (maybe 2...) probably isn't going to be worth your time.

Assuming OP's state's liquor laws allow Costco to sell alcohol. In Virginia the moronic booze laws prevent Costco locations from selling anything beyond beer and wine. I'm not sure, given Maryland's distributor laws, that they can even sell wine. DC alone is civilized in this area.
posted by phearlez at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2014

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