Just signed up for Costco - find me their best deals!
June 13, 2014 6:05 AM   Subscribe

I recently purchased a Costco executive membership, and am pretty thrilled with how much I'm already saving. But I only want to nab the good deals, and it's hard to individually compare each item's price to the other supermarkets I shop at. So, I'd like to hear what you consider to be Costco's consistently top bargains; also, are there any sites that list Costco's prices for the month relative to other stores' prices? (and maybe even show the items with the biggest savings?)

So far, all I've heard is that the coupons are quality and the savings on bacon is pretty rockin'.

(I don't eat bacon.)
posted by Kamelot123 to Shopping (74 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
The rotisserie chickens are a fantastic deal. They're large and tasty. Eat 'em as is, tear them into pieces for a salad or soup, in tacos, etc.

As said above, the Kirkland bacon is a great deal.

If you like cheese, their cheese prices are pretty good, but you have to (as usual) buy large hunks.

I also find that their salad greens are priced very well.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:12 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

This article might be of some help
posted by ohmy at 6:17 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Check out the comments on this recent Lifehacker post. Links to the article ohmy mentioned but I find the comments to be more informative.

Enjoy Costco, it's a place of greatness. Especially now that they're rolling out self-scan and express checkout (at least at 116th St. in NYC).
posted by xiaolongbao at 6:19 AM on June 13, 2014

Some more links:

15 Things You Should Buy at Costco

Top Ten Things to Buy at Costco

And here's a thread about what foodstuffs to buy at Costco from Chowhound.
posted by ohmy at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I found this article to be very interesting and useful. It's about interpreting Costco's prices, and what the information they present can tell you.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:23 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I pay for our annual Costco membership purely through my office gum consumption (~$12 for an outer of a dozen, vs ~$2.50 a pack at the kiosk). Everything else is a bonus.
posted by scruss at 6:25 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stay away from electronics. You can almost always find a better deal with a bit of googling.

Also, not sure if this falls under the category of "deal," but buying a mattress there is awesome, because if after six months or even longer you feel like you really don't love the mattress, they will take it back. Nowhere else is this true, and a mattress is impossible to evaluate in a mattress showroom.

(downside: no mattress showroom at Costco, you check on the specs online and roll the dice)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

You buy larger quantities at Costco than at a regular grocery - but the unit cost is lower and the quality is always much higher.
Costco also pays their employees a living wage, refunds your money with no hassle when you're not satisfied with a product, and, of course, the 4.99 rotisserie chickens...
posted by Pudhoho at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lunch Meats
Lettuce and mixed leafs
The photo processing is supposed to be a great deal, although I don't use them.
Almonds, walnuts, blueberries, dates, etc.
Craft beers that they are trying to clear out of the warehouse (prices ending in '7' are reduced, e.g., $5.97 is a reduced price).
Anything from the bakery
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forgot The Big One:

Kirkland "Bathtissue" (toilet paper, or bog roll if you're from the UK!)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by bq at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2014

We have found that anything you can buy in bulk and realistically use before it goes bad is cheaper from Costco. So with a pantry or extra fridge/freezer space it is well worth it.

In Canada, at least, the meats are all excellent quality and at the very least the same or less than in main stores. Mind you, I'd buy it for the extra quality alone, so to save as well is great. Pharmacy stuff (basically anything Kirkland in the whole store) is a good price if the quality is good for you (We're trying dishwasher and washing detergents currently versus Tide based on reviews).

Again, might be Canada Centric, but we got the Costco Amex card (which gave us Executive membership for a year) and if we use it a fair amount we get good deals back - last year, just using it on Costco Fuel (SO MUCH CHEAPER) and Costco shopping trips (and not much of that) we ended up with a $130 in-store voucher and $540 cash back. We're now using the crap out of that card after getting that little surprise....
posted by Brockles at 6:43 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

The coffee they roast on sight
Organic milk
"Spring mix" salad greens (can be hard to get through)
Bulk produce in general
posted by jgirl at 6:45 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you've got a dog. The Kirkland dog food is good quality and at around $25 a 40lb bag it will pay for your membership in. About 2 bags. They also have a great deal on raw hides.

Oh we also buy $100 of Peets gift cards for $80. We go there daily for coffee.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:48 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another thing I appreciate, here in Washington, is that the shelf price for liquor is also the register price.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:52 AM on June 13, 2014

the best deals at Costco for me: butter, cheese, lettuce, sliced multigrain sandwich bread, Kirkland brand ibuprofen & other OTC drugs, gas, rotisserie chickens, beer, Keurig pods, fair trade whole bean coffee, laundry detergent, canned cat food. electronics because they give you an extra year on your warranty.
posted by katieanne at 6:54 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gasoline. I have paid for my costco membership about a dozen times over with just the gas.

Also, I buy vinegar in bulk to kill weeds in my patio and gravel.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

butter, coffee, peanut butter, coconut oil, olive oil - all (mostly) Kirkland brand, rather than just larger boxes of national brands
posted by belladonna at 6:59 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

They have pretty fantastic deals on wines and other alcohols. I was able to bump up the champagne quality considerably for a special party, while keeping well within my estimated-from-the-grocery store budget.
posted by chatongriffes at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Parmesan cheese.
posted by ostro at 7:02 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Let's not forget tires!
posted by Pudhoho at 7:02 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Tortillaland tortillas.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Half the benefit to Costco for me is all the perks that come with membership.

So let's just talk cars, for example.

If you ever need to rent a car, check Costco's travel website. I always rent cars through this because I get prices significantly lower than just going to vendors directly. It's saved me hundreds of dollars at this point, maybe more. I have friends who swear by the vacation packages, too.

Want to buy a car but you're not interested in haggling and hassling with an awful salesman? Costco has a car buying program where they handle all the negotiation for you and essentially come back to you with a low, take it or leave it price. I've used this once and loved it.

Costco's gasoline is cheap, too. It's not a top quality gas in my opinion (though it's better than stuff like Arco), so I don't usually put it in my new car, but in my older cars, Costco all the way. It's regularly 10-15 cents per gallon cheaper than other stations in the neighborhood.

Continuing on the car theme, Costco has a manufacturing deal with a great seat cover company. Made in the USA and custom made to fit your car. For my new car I got excellent seat covers, shipped, for $150 for the whole vehicle, front and back.

You may even get a great deal on car insurance through them because they sell it.

So that's just cars alone. Costco kicks ass.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2014 [16 favorites]

I'll pay more for some stuff at Costco just because of their return policy.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

To me, part of the value of buying in bulk is not just the price but the fact that you're not constantly making more store trips because you ran out of stuff.

Cheese: two-pound blocks of cheddar, so much cheaper.
Dish soap (I may be dead before we use up this jug, and it's good-quality)
Dishwasher soap (same)
Laundry soap (though the Kirkland brand has kind of a weird pump-dispenser thing)
Cheese sticks (much cheaper for much more/better quality than in store)
Almond milk (provided you like the brand/flavor they offer)
Brita water filters
Gluten-free noodles--big deal in my household, you can get tiny bags for too much at local stores, or giant Ancient Grains bags for a reasonable price at Costco.
I think their regular pasta is a good price too, but we don't usually buy it.
Toothpaste; again, we are sloooowly going through the three tubes I bought that were cheaper than three smaller tubes from local groceries.
Q-tips: same
Cat litter (provided you can lift it)
I think they have a good deal on that flea-medicine stuff you put on cats/dogs' necks too.
Toilet paper (their brand is cheapest, but the Charmin is a good price too, if you're picky)
Paper towels

The fresh food/produce is actually problematic for us. Except for grapes, we as three people just don't eat enough to go through the amount you have to buy at once, before it spoils. We can get through the enormous chickens, and we crock-pot the boneless ribs (our favorite) but the giant pizza, for example, barely fits in our fridge or our oven. And I can only eat so much pizza.

If I had two more people in the house, it would be ideal.

I agree electronics are not really well-priced. Appliances, it depends, but I haven't bought any there. I am always shocked at how much their furniture costs. I picked up some good-quality t-shirts (men's) but there isn't much else I would buy in their clothing section.

Their towels are nice (and huge and fluffy!) but not particularly cheap.

I did just get some neat waterproof-fabric seat covers for my new car, just in time for kid-wearing-wet-swimsuit season. 19.00! Not bad.
posted by emjaybee at 7:14 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend works at Costco, and I am constantly amazed by some of the things they get for various prices. Last winter, I got some lovely fleece blankets, queen-sized, for $17.

Everybody usually finds "the one" item that makes it worthwhile for them to have their Costco membership. For my friends, it's their high-quality dog food for a fraction of t he price of lesser dog food from elsewhere. For my mom, it's the paper goods -- toilet paper, paper towels, party supplies, etc.

I like being able to get baking ingredients: sugar, chocolate, fresh fruit, butter, heavy cream, half and half, nuts, and other stuff like that.

For me, the price at Costco isn't always the cheapest, but it's always fair. Knowing firsthand how fair the wages, business practices, and scheduling is, I don't mind not always getting the cheapest price.
posted by PearlRose at 7:19 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh! And our sofa. We got our lovely leather sofa and ottoman for $750 there last autumn.
posted by PearlRose at 7:20 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mostly we shop for food at Costco. Staples are generally a lot cheaper, so as mentioned, butter, coffee, bread, etc, but it also depends on how much of shopper you are, and how much storage space you have.

At our house we eat a lot of goat's milk products (due to an allergy to cow's milk); Costco by far has the best price on goat cheese vs. all of the other surrounding markets.

Fresh seasonal produce like berries are often more expensive per unit; staple produce like onions and apples are a good buy. Actually, for any seasonal item, like sunscreen, I think Costco can sometimes be more expensive, since everyone has got seasonal items on sale, again, if you are a careful and savvy shopper.

Sometimes on a great sale at the local discount grocery market I can get canned goods a for a bit less per unit, or bread, which is worthwhile if you have a big freezer. But that takes a lot of legwork and running around town, so the cost savings of a few pennies usually doesn't outweigh the cost of my time and gasoline.

For larger ticket items, I will often buy at Costco even if the price is higher, because the quality is often much much better and the item will last longer. I hate having to buy something twice if I can pay a little more and only have to buy it once.

Here is a good article about clearance prices at Costco.
posted by vignettist at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2014

Can't remember where I read it - but the Kirkland house brand has insanely high quality standards - so much so that companies who co-brand with them (brand name and Kirkland label both appear on the packaging) are often better quality and cheaper than the national brand sitting next to it on the shelf!

If you have a cat and use clumping litter, their 40lb box for a little over $8 is really great quality and pays for your membership in just a couple months!
posted by trivia genius at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, the pharmacy! We buy a lot of stuff that we would otherwise get from CVS or Target in their pharmacy department (and also any meds that are not covered by insurance). My hubby takes SAM-e, which is a great price at Costco, but we avoid most of the vitamins or supplements that have multiple ingredients, such as multis or pre-natals, as we have found them to have cheap/inferior ingredients.
posted by vignettist at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2014

Massive bags of frozen organic veggies. That, and the nuts.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

My region is awaiting its own Costco in the fall (sob), but my parents are devotees:

Cat food/cat litter
Bulk frozen foods
Frozen fruit/vegetables
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Random items of clothing (completely unpredictable, but you can get great casual wear there for extremely low prices)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got a great deal on a 2-year 24 Hour Fitness membership. It was at least 50% less than any pricing I could get straight through the gym. I was able to order it online.

Speaking of online, they have an even wider selection of items on the website.
posted by radioamy at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with most of the above -- the nuts! the generous return policy! the decently paid employees! -- but want to strongly disagree with a couple of recommendations.

Unless you're buying something from Apple (they don't carry Apple products), Costco is THE place to buy electronics. You may find cheaper prices up front, but try returning something, even if it's not working correctly. (Yeah, Best Buy, I'm talking to you.) Mr. kestralwing wanted to finally get a television that streams. He did lots of research, but on getting the first one home, he wasn't happy, so he took it back, and got another one. Still not right, returned it, got a third. (in Washington state you have 90 days to return electronics.) Looks like we'll keep this one, but if not ... when they say "hassle free returns" that's just what they mean. PLUS they offer Costco Concierge Services: Free technical support for any electronic device you purchase from Costco. For us it's absolutely not worth finding the cheapest possible price online, compared to a fair price and lack of hassle and stress about making the right decision.

There was a recommendation about eye exams up thread. Strongly second that for getting glasses made. But the actual eye examination and getting the prescription is handled by an outside vendor, and the one at our store in Bellingham is awful. Very surprised the store keeps them.

On the other hand, the outside vendor that handles hearing exams and hearing aids is great. And you get to use the hearing aids for THREE MONTHS before returning them, with no re-stocking fee. It takes a while to get used to hearing aids, and this is a huge blessing for those of us who aren't helped by current technology, but need awhile to confirm that.
posted by kestralwing at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Paper products, for sure. I have used their photo printing service before and it is cheap and very fast. I usually get my Christmas cards printed there because they are so much cheaper than all the other options.

I have two hungry children and getting a big box of snacks like granola bars or veggie straws is great because we don't run out after three days. Their sandwich bread comes in two-packs and it is cheaper than the supermarket for basically the same thing.

We also use our Costco membership to stock up on meat, and we get tasty, affordable sheet cakes for birthday parties.
posted by sutel at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Vanilla extract is insanely cheap compared to regular grocery store prices.
posted by belladonna at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Their olive oil (though I have not traced its provenance) and olive-canola-grapeseed blend oils are a good deal.

My fortnightly Costco run is:
3# bag fresh broccoli florets
3# bag brussels sprouts
5ct bag avocadoes
1 24-pack boiled eggs (I suddenly cannot find these at either of my nearest Costcos)
1 2-pack broccoli cheese soup (4g carbs per serving; also can't find these now)
1 chunk cheese, alternating between Lake Country Asiago, the Welsh mining cheese with the crystals in it, the Dublin cheddar, and a double-log of goat
2 magnums of the Kirkland cabernet sauvignon
As needed bottles of store-brand vodka (the 6-times-filtered), reposado tequila, or Hendricks gin
As needed olive or olive-grapeseed-canola oil
Meats if the grocery stores aren't offering better

2-pack of frozen eggplant parmesan
giant bag of meatballs
frozen taquito/gyoza/etc for party snacks

I keep seeing that Kirkland toilet paper is actually a worse deal and worse quality than most, but I like it fine and it's right there.

I do not buy edible dog products at Costco. And every time I start to change my mind about that, there's another recall with confirmed deaths. The dog *food* hasn't been recalled in several years, but after a coworker lost two dogs in 5 days from Kirkland treats I just don't do it anymore. Their dog beds, on the other hand, are fantastic.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

The vanilla extract is not only insanely cheap, it's also very good.
posted by Kreiger at 8:13 AM on June 13, 2014

Snacks (any kind of granola bar/protein bar type thing). Buying these in bulk really saves money.
posted by sevenofspades at 8:24 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

We really liked the frozen spanakopita triangles, but it's a seasonal (winter) item.
posted by belladonna at 8:25 AM on June 13, 2014

Almond flour for 40% cheaper, plus it's the good brand; frozen berries; gluten-free bread; beer; fresh berries; Kleenex and tiller paper.
posted by carolr at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2014

Oh, I forgot: white corn tortillas. We go through a lot of them, and you can buy a set of two bags full. We freeze one and eat on the other. They come out fine, since we mostly bake quesadillas with them and my kid likes them "crispy".
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2014

Always do a price check on the pharmacy at Costco. The prices tend to be much lower than other pharmacies.

Also, if you need lactaid pills the house brand is way cheaper.
posted by just.good.enough at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Treat yourself to Kirkland Signature's Ultra Soft toilet paper. It feels like you are wiping your behind with the most beautiful of fluffy, white clouds. I never knew what toilet paper could be until I tried it.

Only problem is that you can never go back to normal TP ever again. Well worth it though.
posted by krakus at 8:46 AM on June 13, 2014

Kirkland Allertec (generic Zyrtec) - 1 year's supply (365 pills), less than $20.
posted by candyland at 8:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

The 48oz tub of FAGE plain yogurt is the best value anywhere I've found. Its high level of protein puts other yogurts to shame. Also, Kirkland Greek Yogurt is decent, with smaller containers.

Nthing the Kirkland toilet paper.
posted by oxisos at 8:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Costco Travel car rentals. I just discovered it and the rental for the trip I'm on right now was like $100 cheaper than anywhere else, plus adding a second authorized driver was free.

I've also go great deals and service buying tires from Costco.
posted by ghharr at 9:00 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm a Costco member, but I only go occasionally.

I usually get:

Organic Meats
Garbage Bags
Party Foods
Enteric 81mg Asprin
Cat Trees (right around Christmas time, they have GREAT cat trees)
Ling Ling Pot Stickers
Kosher Hot Dogs
Peeled and Deviened Shrimp
Booze (they don't have it in GA, more's the pity.)

I don't have a lot of freezer and fridge space, so I can't make the huge freezer bags work for me, otherwise I'd buy the frozen Organic veggies too.

Some stuff it's sort of, "Hey, cool, I'll buy this." Their housewares are like that. It comes in, they sell it, it goes back out again. There is a seasonality to it, so be aware, if you see it today, you may never see it again.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My favorite is the big bags of fruit. I have a dehydrator, so I just dehydrate it all within 2 days and I'm good to go. No waste, nothing spoils, and I got 25 apples for the cost of 4 at my local store.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

To summarize the advice given upthread: Buy All The Things!

But seriously, most everything is both high quality and sold at a very reasonable price.
posted by axismundi at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like trivia genius says, Kirkland brand tends to be really good quality. If they make something I need, I'll always at least try it. So I'd recommend just taking your time and going aisle by aisle to just check it out and see which of your staples they carry.

Our Costco is a little bit of a hike, so I don't go there as often as I might otherwise, but here are the items that trigger a mandatory Costco run for us:

Spaghetti. The other-shaped pasta is good, too, but I'm not a big fan of the little twisty shaped noodles, so I sometimes skip that.

Toilet paper and paper towels.

Coffee. The regional variety ones (they alternate among Kenyan, Guatemalan, and some others) are very good quality for the price. Not the greatest coffees ever, but they hit my sweet spot for price and quality.

Olive oils. They carry both regular quality EVOO, which I use for cooking and most salad dressings and things, and they also have limited runs of fancy olive oils at certain times of year. Sometimes those fancy ones run out. Both are worlds better than what I get at other grocery stores, and the fancy stuff is just delicious. Much better than anything else I could regularly afford.

Parmesan. It's real actual Parmesan cheese, with a Kirkland label on top of it! Their other cheeses tend to be really good, too, and I get other kinds, too. Parmesan's the big staple in our house, though.

Veggie burgers. They have a good selection of popular brands, and I got some serious sticker shock the last time I considered getting veggie burgers at our regular Kroger store. I think I stood there for a full minute just re-reading the price tag because it seemed like it must be a mistake.

I usually also pick up an 18 pack of free range eggs for really cheap, and then make shakshuka or frittatas for dinner when we have guests over so I can get it down to a more normal amount of eggs.

Plus big packs of whatever vegetables look good and then I plan meals around those for a while too to accommodate the size of the packages. Spinach week!

If something looks like a really good deal, but it's too much and it's perishable, I just portion it out and give half to a friend who lives nearby, and she does the same. And there've only been maybe four or five times that we both got the same good deal and gave each other half of the same thing.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

All of the above plus my personal favourites: cubed butternut squash, Kirkland brand pesto, and the kid's organic cotton pajamas.
posted by sillymama at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Photographic Prints - 4x6 for 13 cents, 12x18 for $3
I've gotten them at the NYC and Atlanta locations, and the quality is excellent. Speaking to the techs, they care about properly running the machines. And you can get ICC profiles for the in store machines, for example the one in NYC was updated in February.
posted by Sophont at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have been a Costco member for more than 10 years.
Buy a deep freezer if you don't have one; you won't regret it
I looooove their frozen mahi portions. Much less expensive than the grocery store or a local seafood place, and almost as good.
I have bought two down-alternative comforters there for less than $30 each, and they are snuggly and warm.
Paper towels
Olive oil
Seasonings and powders
Avocados (OMG yes)
Fresh and dried fruit
Trail mix and nuts
Ground beef (I don't buy their chicken breasts because they are cheaper at Harris Teeter, but the Kirkland brand is tastier and probably healthier)
Rotisserie chickens
Take-out pizza is pretty good; better than chain pizza
Almond milk
Water filters
Eggs! Yes to their eggs! Their egg whites are also pretty good
Glasses lenses
Their photo center is awesome! You can order prints done while you're shopping, or order them in any size online for pickup
Deli meats and cheeses are a bargain
Frozen veggies
Whey protein if you like EAS/Muscle Milk/sometimes they have Optimum Nutrition - same pricing as Amazon, but it's in your hands
Laundry and dish detergents
Body wash and other toiletries (including razor blades) are a great deal - even cheaper than Walmart
Cleaning supplies if you want something different than the generics at the Dollar Store/Tree
Synthetic motor oil if you change your own
I got a $30 Stanley shop vac that is better than some of the Craftsman vacs we have at work; small though

Also, if you're in the market for a new credit card, as a poster above was saying, I can't speak highly enough of the Costco American Express card. I have cancelled all of my other credit cards and I use the Amex exclusively. It's wonderful!
posted by sara is disenchanted at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding candyland - 365 generic Zyrtec for so so cheap.

Also, came back here to say that magazines, which you can never get for less than full price are 30% off. The K cups for Keurig end up being about $0.40 per cup in bulk and the chocolate chip cookies, if you eat them at a rate they are eaten in my house, are well worth the 4.99 for 3 dozen.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2014

A lot depends on how much storage space you have available and what your family needs are. We're a suburban family of four, two young children, who like fancy food. What I always buy at Costco:

toilet paper
paper towels
Ziploc bags
garbage bags
Fancy cheese
berries and bananas
deli meat
bacon, as mentioned
pajamas for the children
pants for me
dress shirts for my husband (actually, it's funny; here in seattle you can often look around a room and see that easily 50% of the business-casual men are wearing shirts from Costco, if you are familiar enough with their stock)
OTC medications (you can buy a year's worth of Costco-brand Zyrtec for less than $16!)

Fresh meat / poultry really only makes sense if you have a big freezer.

Last but not least -- eyeglasses. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, Costco is such a deal. We have no vision insurance, and my husband just got a pair of polycarbonate transitional bifocals in designer frames for $220.

Friends of mine who have less storage space use it for medications, liquor, work clothes, gas, and party supplies. The basic membership is $40, you can save that so easily.
posted by KathrynT at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2014

posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2014

Something that I don't think has been mentioned is the Snapware food storage, sometimes they have the plastic versions, sometimes glass, but the price for the set is so much better than trying to find them other places. Though they do change what comes in the sets (shapes and sizes) periodically, so if you want a good stock that all match (i.e. stack and don't make you crazy when you open your tupperware drawer) buy multiple sets at the same time.

Sonicare replacement heads.

Pur water filters.

Bona, when they have it (if you need it in bulk that is).

Organic half & half and heavy whipping cream.

Personally I'm not a fan of their store brand butter (but I'm picky with butter).

Oddly I've noticed that the Kirkland free and clear detergent is more expensive then All, not sure why - but one of those weird instances that remind you to check the prices and not assume the store brand is less.

And we prefer the Kirkland paper towels to the national brand.

And our dogs have been fine (actually quite healthy) eating the dog food for at least 6 years (probably closer to 10). We don't however get treats there, so not sure about those.
posted by pennypiper at 10:31 AM on June 13, 2014

I disagree with staying away from electronics. We are BIG comparison shoppers and have lots of electronics. I have learned to stay with Costco because of the return policy. I may have spent 10 or 20 dollars more on a 500-1000 dollar item several times but the no hassle returns, no "restocking fee" has saved us literally at least two thousand dollars and lots of head aches.

"The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones." A full 90 days has really saved us a couple times.
posted by beccaj at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Folks have covered most everything up thread.

Remember that not everything is automatically cheaper at Costco, always check the unit pricing when comparing.
For instance, paper goods are more expensive in our Costco when compared to sale prices in the grocery.
Same with milk for some reason.

You might be interested in decoding the price tag(search for Costco).
I don't know if it's 100 percent accurate, but it's help up pretty well in my experience.

Also, Pretzel Rolls.
posted by madajb at 10:37 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

sardines: boneless, skinless.
posted by goethean at 10:38 AM on June 13, 2014

a great deal on a 2-year 24 Hour Fitness membership

Just understand this only works at their cheapest facilities. If that's a 'Super Sport' or 'Ultra Sport' club near you, and you're thinking of using that Costco deal, sorry.
posted by Rash at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2014

We only go to Costco every couple months or so because it's just too easy to get overeager and spend way more money than is reasonable...that said, we find that there's great value in the big boxes of chicken breasts (freezer section), the frozen berries, protein powder and bags of broccoli (fresh). I find the produce to be way, way too expensive, but I expect produce prices vary a lot from region to region. Oooh! And we get those 2 movie ticket + popcorn coupons there too.
posted by kitcat at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2014

CostCo good:

Beef - this is a "watch the price" kind of thing. I really like their boneless ribeye steaks, but the price isn't always worth it. When it is, I stock up and freeze them. I've bought full cryopac tenderloins (again when the price was good) and cut them up myself into either small roasts or medallions/filet mignon then froze them packed separately. I've also bought full roasts and cut them into halves (which are still substantial) and again, into the chest.



Berries (fresh or frozen)

Smoked salmon


Canned crab meat

Baby I/O (formula, diapers, ass wipes)

CostCo not so good:

Fish - might be our local CostCo (Springfield, MA), but it honestly hasn't looked that good (plus we steer away from the disaster that's farm raised salmon). Mussels at $2.50/lb is decidedly not a deal when you throw half of them out because they're dead (trust me, you do not want to get sick on shellfish).

Glasses - selection not so good, cheaper to get them from Zenni.

Bananas - never had a good bunch from CostCo.

For better or for worse, many of the items we see at CostCo fall into our "not with a 10 foot pole" category as we steer right away from processed foods, but most of the 1-ingredient items are decent enough quality.
posted by plinth at 12:19 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

CHIA! by far
posted by the twistinside at 3:17 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I'm comparison shopping online, I always check Costco's prices first. Other retailers rarely beat it, especially when you factor in shipping, concierge service (if applicable to your purchase), and the generous return policy.

In addition to the excellent suggestions already mentioned by others, I'd also recommend their jewelry. I've been very, very happy with my Costco jewelry purchase, both in terms of price and quality.
posted by jazzbaby at 3:44 PM on June 13, 2014

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but Costco (online and in-store) often has great deals on passes to various regional amusement parks. IIRC one need not be a member to buy, say, Sea World passes online. Buy them well in advance of your trip, obviously.
posted by hush at 3:49 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thirding the generic Zyrtec.

I just got new glasses from Costco, and I'll never get them anywhere else from now on. Though I have decent vision insurance, they only give me glasses every other year, and I really needed them this year, so I tried Costco.

Their name-brand frames run about $50 (compared to $200+ at my optometrist's and ~$150+ at Kaiser). Their lenses are $79 for a pair of regular lenses or $99 for high-index (thinner, if you have a strong prescription). When I was there, they were having a sale that was $30 off a second pair. I mentioned to the woman helping me that I have the insurance and she said "Well let me look that up and see if they'll chip in at all." Sure enough, she found that my insurance would put $80 towards my glasses -- which is something that the optometrist failed to mention or didn't bother to check.

In the end, I walked out of there with a pair of regular glasses and a pair of prescription sunglasses for a grand total of $155. Totally stoked.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:32 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Salmon: our local Costco stocks both farm-raised and wild salmon. We've tried both and declare them delicious! Wild salmon costs more.

Fish Oil capsules: if you're a fan, Costco caries usually 2 or 3 different brands/strengths, and at least one is usually on special offer, which saves a few bucks.

Bulk rice (I mean MAMMOTH sized bags!) if you're into that.

(They also sell big packs of men's and women's razors, however I don't know if these are a bargain or not. Knowing Costco, they probably are.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2014


Peace out.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:02 PM on June 13, 2014

My husband and I got our wedding invitations printed at Costco, and they turned out gorgeous (We bought the design from a graphic artist through Etsy, then had Costco do the prints)

Our favorite things at Costco:
- 6-packs of red/orange/yellow bell peppers
- The parisian kale salad bagged kit in the the produce department
- 3 packs of english cucumbers
- 5 packs of avocados
- Honeycrisp apples (Over $1/lb cheaper than my local grocery stores)
- big bags of frozen cherries
- fresh salmon
- Kerrygold butter
- the rotisserie chickens
- cases of San Pelegrino water
- Bath towels (Their "Charisma" bath towels are as big as bath sheets from other stores, and they have an even larger size, but it's bigger than we like)
posted by antimony at 10:30 PM on June 13, 2014

Response by poster: Oh geez. Too many quality answers for me to mark any of them as "best". Thanks for the input, this will take a while to process!
posted by Kamelot123 at 7:02 AM on June 20, 2014

If you consume soft drinks like I do, their price is excellent.

For the workshop, those rolls of blue shop towels are also excellent and a great price compared to buying them singly at your local hardware store.

For the non-fashionable, their jeans are super-inexpensive and durable. I don't know if they still sell the Kirkland house brand.

Seasonal stuff is usually very competitively priced. Holiday wrap, bows, tags and all that are inexpensive and good quality. All of the wrapping paper I have purchased there has grid lines on the back! Which is awesome for cutting.

We've purchased rhodies, fruit trees and assorted plants there at prices that are a fraction of the nursery cost. Very seasonal and even on a per-store basis, so store a may have rhodies and store b may not.

Their 100' garden hose is the best hose I've ever owned. It's not advertised as "non-kink" but it's the only one I've ever had which doesn't kink at all without your putting a lot of effort into trying to get it to. (The one you want is gray in color.)

There was key advice up-thread: If you see something in costco which you might want and it's not a regular item (ie, a house brand or a staple) buy it that trip. It's almost certain to be gone next visit.

For example, today my local costco had Cyberpower UPS units in the computer area. Never seen them before, probably won't be there next time.

Weird quirk: There is such a creature as a "business costco" which is the only place certain items are stocked. For example, if you want powdered milk, you can only get it there.

Weird quirk 2: Online costco and physical costco don't share all that many items, so don't look up something online and then hope to see it in the store. However, you can return online items to the physical store.
posted by maxwelton at 10:54 PM on June 23, 2014

Another thing to think about: Some of their quantities may seem ridiculous, but if you're concerned about how much packaging we all throw out, a single large container uses a lot less material than three smaller containers, or whatever.

Also forgot: If you run bird feeders, their bird seed is an excellent value that birds actually seem to enjoy. When we've bought "bulk" seed from other places our snooty avian friends have made it clear it wasn't satisfactory.
posted by maxwelton at 11:03 PM on June 23, 2014

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