It’s cheaper to shop at Costco.

Last week, I started a little series here at Kosher on a Budget about some of the misconceptions surrounding coupon usage. The first one I addressed is that it’s not worth it to use coupons, since the store-brand is cheaper. Not true! At least, not when you use a coupon to buy an item that’s already on sale! Today, I want to look at the assumption that shopping at Costco is the most frugal way to go.

I am a huge fan of Costco. HUGE. We have a membership, which we more than make use of every year. There are many, many products — including kosher cheese and Empire chickens — that we buy from Costco, which we couldn’t get anywhere else in town. We also get great deals on milk and chumus, and appreciate their low, low prices on organic spinach, mixed greens and carrots.

But I have to be very careful when I’m at Costco. Very careful! If I shop with a list and stick to the outside aisles, I’m good. But if I wander into that middle section and let my impulse be my guide, a quick $40 trip to Costco can easily turn into a $140 trip.

Beyond the impulse factor, Costco is also a potential danger to your budget because not everything they sell is a great deal. Yes, some Costco-sold products are an amazing deal – like their gallon of milk, which although not organic, contains no growth hormones. Even with coupons, I haven’t found a better deal on 1% milk.

But there are plenty of Costco-sold products that are far from a good deal. For example, we love Morningstar Black Bean burgers. They recently started carrying them at Costco, but I never bothered pricing them since they didn’t have a hechsher (even though Morningstar products generally due have an O-U). Well, the other day, my husband called me from Costco with the good news that the burgers now have a hechsher.

I asked him the price per burger, since had I recently bought a package with four burgers on sale and with a coupon for $1.99. Admittedly, Costco’s burgers are a larger portion size than the ones I bought at Target, but they were also over $1 per patty. At more than twice the cost, I told my hubby to pass.

Other over-priced examples, which I’ve recently noticed, include their plastic storage bins (Hello, my name is Mara and I have a love affair with plastic storage bins.) Even the full-price at Target is cheaper than Costco’s shoe box size or their jumbo size. And Target always has their storage bins on sale. Costco’s blueberries and raspberries are far more expensive than the sale price at my local HyVee or Hen House, as are their apples, clementines and even watermelon.

In short, shopping at Costco is no guarantee that you are getting the lowest price. Shopping the sales and combining that with coupons can net me a 50-70% savings over the regular Costco price. I would never forsake my beloved warehouse store, but I have learned that it can’t be my only stop that week.

What about you? Are you a Costco-lover? What items do you buy there? What products have you found for cheaper at other stores? Join the conversation, I love hearing from you!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Mara- do you just remember the pricing for most items, or do you have a spreadsheet of some sort to keep track? I know what’s a “good deal” on some things, but I’ll admit I am terrified to go to a place like Costco and get taken for a ride on things that would be cheaper at the regular grocery.

    • @Amy – Mostly I keep it in my head, but I’m increasingly realizing that my memory isn’t what it used to be! I’m sure you can relate ;-) I am working on a post about the benefits of a price book, as I really do think that would help me be a more efficient shopper.

  2. Dana Horesh says:

    We call Costco the “the $200 club” because that seems to be the amount every time we go in. Yes, we have fallen prey to buying way more than we intended to as can be documented when we went in for two gallons of milk and came out with an $800 leather couch. Now the couch is my most favorite one in the house, and I am glad we bought it, but you cannot make that ‘mistake’ too often.

    Costco does have the best price on milk and Empire chicken. We are a large family so we eat huge quantities of fruit and eggs. If the fruit does not last, Costco readily takes it back. I returned two large bags of lemons recently. Costco is the best price for Pineapple (although I cannot comment on Aldi’s price – perhaps they are competitive). We eat one pineapple per week for Shabbat.

    On other products, I wait for the Costco coupon book to come to me in the mail. Usually I have to ascertain whether our family really needs beaucoup restaurant quantities or whether we would ‘save’ more by simply getting the smaller amount we need from Hyvee or another store. I am of the mindset that having too much around clutters, and I need NO MORE CLUTTER!!!

    • @ Dana, I’m totally LOL at the milk –> couch trip to Costco. I’ve been admiring an L-shaped couch there lately! Yes, Costco’s price on pineapple is great. Sometimes Aldi beats them with a sale, but most of the time, Costco’s reg price beats out other sales. I totally hear you on clutter, too! Thank goodness, I have a basement with tons of shelving to store all my stockpiles.

  3. Leah Rosenbaum says:

    HI. I somehow found your blog. I live in Brooklyn, NY. I shop in KRM if you heard of it, they have the cheapest prices on meat. you can always get kosher chicken breasts for 3.50 a pound if you buy family pack, ditto for ground red meat. chicken bottoms are sometimes on sale for 1.29 a pack.

    am posting here because of my Costco find- Meal Mart coldcuts are even cheaper than KRM. I think its 9 dollars a pack. I think that’s 1.5 pounds worth. Its basically the only thing I buy in Costco, besides the huge plastic Kedem Grape Juice. Do you get those too in Kansas or are they exclusive to the Brooklyn store?

    • @Leah – Thanks for finding my blog! Our Costco has started to carry more and more kosher meat (Hooray!), including Solomon’s fresh beef. We also get the Kedem Grape Juice — I only wish it was white and not just red. The cold cuts we haven’t gotten yet, as far as I know. Thanks again for commenting!

    • Groyseh Macher says:

      COSTCO KOSHER 2011 you’ll always find huge metziyos at Costco. At the end of March you’ll find Kosher poultry prices at Costco will come down in price by a huge amount.The Kosher beef prices will come down a lot as well sometime in end of April 2011.

      Kosher frozen Pizza is priced to knock your socks at $14.99 for two full size pies. It’s the best kosher pizza around. The Meal Mart Delis are 1 1/4 lbs at 9.99

  4. We’ve been buying wholy guacamole at costco. Do you know if it’s worth it? Oh, yeh we got the kosher frozen pizza there too!

  5. deb martino says:

    will you ever get in stock the 96 ounce kedem grape juice we need to buy it in the 96 ounce size we could always get it at sams club it would be nice to get it at costco we always shop there is it something you can consider its great for your heart not much sugar either and i know for a fact costco always buys good stuff please let us know or where we can buy the big bottles in our area we live in ill in tinley park thanks so much deb martino

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