The Costco conundrum

Ahhh, Costco.  I have a love/hate relationship with this particular retailer.  I love their products, but I hate what they do to my budget.  For me Costco is a lot like Target — you go in for just a few things and walk out having spent five times as much as you intended all on stuff you didn’t realize you “needed”.

However Costco does have many amazingly great deals, if you can maintain enough discipline to only purchase those things you absolutely need.  And by absolutely need I don’t mean the gigantic bag of peanut M&Ms.  Well unless you’re pregnant.  Because then a huge bag of peanut M&Ms is definitely a necessity.  And no, I’m not pregnant, but M&Ms was something I would have eaten a whole bag of when I was.  With any three of the girls.


I was going to list some of the items I love from Costco and are definitely budget friendly.

Milk.  Currently it’s only $2.14 per gallon, vs. $3.19 at the grocery store.  Now we have not graduated to organic milk yet.  Even at Costco organic milk is about $3 per half gallon.  So three times the price of non-organic.  I’d love to purchase that, but with as much milk as we go through, it’s just not in the cards for now.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  They carry the Kirkland brand in I think a 2-liter plastic container for like $10.  That’s ridiculously cheap.  You can buy like 1/4 of that at the grocery store for the same price.  And I personally don’t taste any major difference between the Kirkland brand and name brands.  I even heard Martha Stewart one time say to get EVOO (yes, I’m channeling my inner-Rachel Ray) in bulk and that name brand did not matter.  And if Queen Martha says it, it must be true.

(Okay, this is not actually the EVOO that I mentioned.  Last time I needed EVOO Chad was going to Costco by himself.  I told him to find the EVOO that was $10.  In all fairness, this was $10.  It just wasn’t the large size I wanted.  I’m not sure the difference between this one and the larger one, except that this one is about half the size of the other one but the same price.  But I wanted to share a picture of EVOO anyway.  And I like writing EVOO.  I think Rachel Ray would be proud.)

Dried Cranberries.  You can get a huge 48 oz bag for around $7 – $8.  The grocery stores carry 6 oz bags for around $2.  I’ll let you do the math on that one.  I put a handful of these in my oatmeal and use them a lot.  Plus they’re great in cookies and muffins and breads. 

Maple Syrup.  Not the fake pancake syrup that is really just corn syrup, I’m talking the real deal.  Maple syrup.  From trees.  Maple trees, I assume.  Anyway, we just bought a 32 oz container of Kirkland brand for around $12.  At the grocery store the cheapest I’ve seen is around $6.  And I’m guessing the amount was aroudn 6 to 8 oz.  Maybe less.

Vanilla.  A 16 oz bottle of Kirkland brand real vanilla is around $6 – $7.   At the grocery store you can get a 3 oz bottle for $4.  Seriously.  Even if you don’t bake much, this stuff stays good on your shelf for a LONG time.  It’s totally worth it.

Black Peppercorns.  Okay, I can’t find my receipt to verify what price I paid, but I know it was much cheaper than at the store.  Like maybe $3 or $4 for a 14 oz bottle vs. the same price for something like 1/3 as much from the store.  But trust me on this one, it was cheaper.

There are probably a bazillion other items that are cheaper to buy at Costco than at the store.  These are just some that stick out to me as being much cheaper, so much so that it warrants a trip to Costco just for these items.  Well, except maybe for milk, otherwise I’d be there weekly and I really don’t need that temptation.  Unless its during taste testing time.  Then I get a free lunch while I shop.  Yum.  But I do know there are many items that are NOT cheaper at Costco, so you do have to beware and do your homework.  Don’t just assume it’s a good deal.  I’ll let you know what some of those are at another time.

What items do you buy from Costco (or Sam’s) that you’ve found to be significantly cheaper than the regular stores?  Are there any items you would like to know a price comparison on?  I’d love to help you out!


5 responses

  1. Kirklands (Costco) milk is better for you. Did you know it is Hormone free? Next time you go and want to split a jug of maple syrup, let me know! I also will run in to Sams just to get eggs, salad or bread. I get the delightful bread at Sams. You cannot beat the price! Also, a lot of times if you go to Sams on a Monday morning and they have not sold a lot of meat over the weekend, you can get a great deal on ,meat or chicken that is marked down even lower. Worth having a business membership just for that! Most veggies are cheaper there but if you watch sales, the fruit can be beat most weeks.

  2. The frozen chicken, in this case Tyson and not Kirklands, is the cheapest that I’ve seen. I only get the boneless, skinless chicken breasts…these are also trimmed so there isn’t any of that other yucky stuff. It’s less then $1/lb but it’s something like a 20 lb. bag.

    I also love the Kirklands chicken broth or the other Pacific brand…I generally buy the organic and pay more, but the non-organic tastes great and is very budget friendly. Especially since I use chicken broth for everything!!

    One other tip, you can use their coupons without clipping…just ask the cashier to apply the coupons and they typically will. If they scan one coupon, it takes all applicable discounts off.

  3. We make a weekly trip to Sam’s for milk, bread, and samples. Asparagus is usually a good deal (if you will eat it all). Strawberries, too. Cheezits, Rotel, vanilla, pan spray (buy the giant no-name can), and shredded cheese are other frequent purchases.

  4. I have been using your site to try to inspire me to do better with our grocery spending. I shutter to think of the money I spent last month at Costco and Sams. It’s disgusting.

    The oatmeal is much cheaper at Costco- twice the size for the same price.

    My problem is buying things and not eating them before they go bad/or no one likes it. Wasteful!

  5. Pingback: Menu Plan 7/9 to 7/15 | Living the Dream

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