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!