Time To Seal Those Deals: The Best and Worst Bargains at Costco
If anyone is hunting for a good bargain, one of their first hunting grounds should always be Costco. Where else can someone find peanut butter the size of their heads, or twenty-packs of toothpaste? But sometimes our eyes are bigger than our closets. Before the check-out counter, check out this list to see which Costco deals are worth taking home and which are best left on the shelves.
1. Worst: Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent
What is the only thing that smells better than an incredibly good deal? Why, an incredibly good laundry detergent, of course. But anyone actually looking for a decent detergent ought to take their search elsewhere, basically anywhere else other than Costco’s Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent.
The superstore’s own laundry detergent has been touted in the past for being environmentally friendly, but the brand received a failing grade from the Environmental Working Group due to its effects on the planet. And an even closer look shows that the brand has run into issues with consumers complaining of skin rashes, irritations, and ruined clothing, all reportedly caused by the detergent.
2. Best: Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Frozen fruits are one of those groceries that people always forget they have, only to revisit the treats much later when they are discovered by chance in bags buried in the back of one’s freezer. And that is exactly why they are the perfect grocery to pick up during the next Costco run.
Because frozen fruits last practically forever, they make the perfect item to purchase at a bulk store like Costco. And, luckily for consumers and for the store, Costco has plenty of frozen fruit: basically any fruit someone can think of comes in a frozen option. And because they go great in smoothies (and who can say no to a fresh smoothie?) frozen fruits make an excellent Costco deal.
3. Worst: Fresh Fruits and Veggies
We won’t sit here and haphazardly knock the fruit and vegetable selection at Costco. The truth is, the bulk store has a ton of fresh options for shoppers to choose from. But the issues that arise with buying produce items at Costco are not because the products are not fresh. Rather, there’s just so darn much of them.
Unless someone is buying for a particularly large and veggie-loving family, there is just no way that anyone can consume that many fruits or veggies so as to ensure that the produce does not just go bad and end up in the trash. So while a tub of spinach seems great, we are not all able to achieve Popeye-level consumption.
4. Best: Kirkland Signature Olive Oil
That Mediterranean must-have, olive oil is an absolute essential for any kitchen and any cook. The best part? It basically never expires. And that fact alone would mean that it is a great product to pick up at any Costco store. But that’s not the only reason why the store’s olive oil has made this list of Costco bests.
Not only is Costco olive oil relatively cheap compared to other brands, priced at just about $19 for two liters, it is also a surprisingly high-quality product. When UC Davis conducted a study on extra virgin olive oil, Costco’s was one of the few to make the cut of what was considered to be “real” olive oil. It was even the olive oil of choice recommended in Samin Nosrat’s seminal cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.
5. Worst: Shampoo and Soap
Like many of Costco’s products, it is hard to pass up taking a stroll through the shampoo, conditioner, and soap aisle. Seeing as we wash our hair so often, it could seem like a practical idea to buy a pack of 10 shampoos at one time. So why not?
Unfortunately, while it might seem like Costco has the best deals on shampoos and conditioners, odds are that better deals can actually be found elsewhere. Shampoos and soaps are two of the most commonly-found items to be discounted in local grocery stores or pharmacies. And using the same shampoo for as long as it would take to finish a giant Costco bottle is reportedly not good for anyone’s hair anyway.
6. Best: Gas
If shoppers have not gotten their bargain fill at a regular Costco grocery store, maybe they should try filling up their car’s tank at a Costco gas station. The added membership perk of having a Costco card allows the store’s members to take advantage of discounted gas at their branded stations.
Costco’s gas stations have received high praise in surveys over the years for having low fuel prices in comparison to its competitors. And for people who drive an above-average amount, saving a few dollars here and there on gas can really add up over time. Next stop: some major savings.
7. Worst: Ground Coffee
We don’t want to get in between people and their precious coffee. But caffeine lovers may want to look somewhere other than Costco when looking to make some ground coffee purchases. In the past, coffee addicts have been enticed by Costco’s extremely cheap prices for gigantic bags of ground coffee beans. However, if people were shopping smarter, then sales should grind to a halt.
Ground coffee is known to lose a lot of its flavor over a pretty short period of time, so anyone buying a gigantic bag of ground coffee beans will be disappointed after about two weeks when their weak coffee lacks the flavor it once had.
8. Best: Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup
When it comes to maple syrup, there are a lot of impostors out there. Many bottles disguised as maple syrup are actually just caramel-colored high fructose corn syrup. But before anyone pours any of those imitators over a stack of perfectly amazing pancakes, consider picking up a bottle of Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup instead.
Consider that it is 100 percent pure syrup, Costco’s prices are hard to beat. For a 34 ounce (or 1 liter) bottle of the good stuff, Costco only charges $13.29. That’s what some people pay for a similarly-sized bottle of fake maple syrup. And the fact that taste testers have consistently ranked Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup among the top grocery store options is just the icing (or syrup) on top of the (pan)cake.
9. Worst: Condiments
So this is a bit of a tricky one. When it comes to prices and quantity, it is pretty hard to beat the offerings in Costco’s condiments section. Shoppers can pay relatively little for just about the largest tub of mayonnaise or ketchup that they have ever seen.
But there’s a catch to picking up these enticing offers and adding them to a shopping cart. These monstrous jars of condiments take up a ton of room in someone’s refrigerator. And unless you’re the kind of person who puts ketchup on anything and everything, it is hard to go through all of those condiments before they ultimately go bad and end up wasted.
10. Best: Kirkland Signature Bacon
Of course bacon has made it onto this list of best Costco purchases, but not because buying bacon is pretty much always a good idea (which it is). Luckily for all of the bacon lovers out there, Costco’s packs of bacon come in bundles of four.
Not only can shoppers get a lot of bacon for a small price, but the bacon itself is actually really good. Consumer Reports conducted a bacon taste test that compared Kirkland bacon to brands like Oscar Mayer and Hormel and found that “Kirkland Signature was the only excellent product,” writing that the bacon “crisped up nicely and consistently had balanced fat and meat flavors complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness.” Okay, pass the bacon over here.
11. Worst: Spices
It might come as a surprise to some that kitchen spices do not actually last forever. Sure, they will not really show visible signs of aging or going rotten, but popular spice brand McCormick says that normal ground spices have a shelf life of only about 2-3 years. After that, they begin to lose flavor and potency.
So while it might be enticing to pick up a pretty large 4-ounce bottle of ground spice, or even some 5-pound containers of certain spices, think again. Is this a spice that is going to go to good, regular use? Otherwise, consider picking up a small size with a smaller price tag elsewhere.
12. Best: Kirkland Signature Vanilla Extract
Unlike spices or condiments, the trick with vanilla extract is that it never really goes bad or loses its flavor over time. So buying a Costco-sized bottle of pure vanilla extract can actually go a long way, and is an investment that’s worth making.
Kirkland Signature vanilla extract from Costco will cost a shopper $30 for each 16-ounce bottle, which is much better than the prices found at many other standard grocery stores. And the best part? The product is of reliable quality, since it is pure vanilla rather than just vanilla flavoring. And let’s be honest, it’s always good to have some vanilla extract around in case anyone gets a late night baked goods craving.
13. Worst: Electronics
We never know what we might find when browsing at a Costco. While many shoppers come for the groceries, it won’t be long before that same person is hopelessly distracted by the sections of books, clothing, and accessories. But the electronics section is hands down the most difficult to casually pass by without a wandering eye.
While all those flashing lights on the televisions and displays of the best vacuum cleaners and other appliances might seem like a good idea, oftentimes at Costco it is not. Market researchers have found that other electronics stores that don’t require a yearly membership offer better prices for the same products.
14. Best: Rotisserie Chicken
Any professional Costco bargain hunters know this familiar route. All the way in the back of the warehouse store, after passing through the electronics, the clothing, the books, and the grocery sections lies Costco’s crown jewel: its perfect rotisserie chicken.
The Costco rotisserie chicken is the stuff of legends, with a crispy outside and a moist inside. It has gained quite the cult following, and for good reason. This delicious dinner is healthier than anything anyone could pick up at a fast food joint, it’s just as fast to prepare for dinner, and costs only $4.99. Seriously, what could possibly get better than that?
15. Best: Vitamins
Really, what can’t someone get for themselves at a Costco warehouse store? It even has vitamins. And while it might not seem like Costco should be the first place that someone stops to pick up their health boosters, the membership store actually has a great selection of everything a person might need.
It’s a common misconception that some of the name brand vitamins that people recognize are inherently better. Instead, Costco usually sells the same exact vitamin with the same list of benefits, without that name brand. No name brand means no high price tag, so there’s tons of potential for great savings. And no amount of vitamins makes a person instantly feel as good as they do when they find a great deal.
16. Worst: Kirkland Signature Tissues
Sure, buying an entire 12-pack bundle of Kirkland Signature facial tissues might seem like a practical idea at the time, especially for a healthy shopper. With 110 tissues per pack, that’s 1,320 tissues for a cheap price. But for anyone who routinely gets a bad case of the sniffles, they know why this is a pretty bad idea.
Kirkland Signature tissues have been given bad reviews for being uncomfortably thin and a bit rough. And at times of sickness and seasonal allergies, everyone could use a comfortable, padded, soothing tissue, even if that means spending a few more bucks for that added comfort.
17. Best: Kirkland Signature Toilet Paper
There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and the need for toilet paper. When buying toilet paper in bulk, there is no worry about a shelf life or expiration date, making it the perfect item on a shopper’s list to pick up from a place like Costco.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand toilet paper, which they modestly call “bath tissue,” comes in a 30-roll pack, with 425 sheets per roll (yes, that’s 12,750 sheets of toilet paper for anyone who is counting). And while it might take a long while to get through all of that toilet paper, a chic homeowner can use the giant package as a lovely side table in the meantime.
18. Best: Nuts
There are some nuts out there that we are just nuts about, and everyone has their own preference. Luckily for all of the Costco shoppers out there, the warehouse store offers just about every single nut imaginable, and all of them come in pretty unbelievably gigantic packages. It’s nuts.
But anyone who is nuts about nuts also knows that this particular grocery can come with a shockingly high price tag. Also nuts! All that just for a bag of nuts? Instead, Costco offers cheap prices on nuts, and most of them come in resealable packages to keep them fresh. That’s what we call sealing the deal.
19. Worst: Kirkland Signature Paper Towels
Much like buying a 30-pack of toilet paper, buying paper towels in bulk probably seems like a good idea. And in some ways, it is. But if that means a shopper is buying a 30-pack of Kirkland Signature Paper Towels, it might not be considered a great investment.
According to a Clark study that tested a few paper towel brands (Kirkland, Viva, Bounty and Walmart’s Great Value brand), Kirkland placed third out of four. And in a Consumer Reports study of the top five most popular paper towel brands, Kirkland landed in dead last. It seems that these flimsy paper towels are too thin to clean up some of the tougher messes.
20. Best: Cereal
All parents know that kids have a strange ability to be able to go through breakfast cereal at almost lightning speed. And anyone who has ever had to do the grocery shopping knows that cereals can be a bit expensive, and over time the cost can really add up.
So next time you find yourself at Costco, consider stocking up on some cereal favorites during the visit. Cereal, if the plastic bag inside is not opened, can last for a surprising amount of time in a pantry, making for a solid bulk item purchase. Not only will the kids be thankful, but so will shoppers when they don’t waste as much money buying boxes at other grocery stores.
21. Best: Kirkland Signature Oatmeal
Calling all oatmeal lovers. For anyone who can’t start their morning without their coffee and a bowl of hot oatmeal, Costco is the must-stop shop for all oatmeal needs. Kirkland Signature has a few oatmeal options at Costco, in flavors like original, maple syrup, apple and cinnamon, mixed berry, and oats and flax.
For the indecisive oatmeal lovers, Kirkland Signature also offers a variety pack that has 9 packets of each flavor. The 45-packet boxes not only taste delicious, but they also come at the unbeatable price of just $14.50. That’s a lot of whole oats, and a whole lot of savings.
22. Worst: Soda
While pushing a shopping cart through the aisles of Costco, it could be pretty tempting to pick up a 36-pack of sodas to go along with all of those groceries. Or maybe you’re planning a party, so a 36-pack of soda is the name of the game. But before adding this to your cart, inspect the prices elsewhere.
That’s because sodas are one of the most commonly discounted items at any supermarket or pharmacy. Frankly, there are deals on sodas just about everywhere. This means that the deals found at a local grocery store might put Costco deals to shame.
23. Best: Pills
Seeing the receipt for what was originally just a simple trip to pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy can be a tough pill to swallow. But for both prescription pills and over-the-counter medications, a trip to Costco could in fact be just what the doctor ordered.
Consumer Reports conducted a study comparing prescription prices at 150 pharmacies across the United States, and found that Costco was the clear best choice. The exact same prescription that would cost $105 at Costco could be found for $752 at Walgreens, $866 at Rite Aid, and $928 at CVS. It’s pretty hard to argue with numbers like those.
24. Worst: Salsa
Anyone out there considering throwing a party for every single family in the neighborhood, plus their extended families, friends and loved ones? Then sure, go ahead and pick up the Costco brand salsa that is sold basically by the bucket. Otherwise, we can’t really think of a use for that much salsa.
The Costco brand salsa is probably all the salsa someone would need for the rest of their lives. But unfortunately, salsa does not keep well at all once it’s been opened. Instead of buying this gigantic vat, try picking up a family-sized package at another grocery store. This way, salsa will not go bad before everyone gets just about halfway through it.
25. Best: Batteries
Is it just us, or does everyone else feel like there are never any batteries around when we need them? Instead, we find ourselves scurrying around the house looking for other appliances that we can borrow batteries from, kicking off a game of never-ending battery replacement.
Instead, anyone at Costco should just go ahead and stock up on batteries during their shopping trip. One box of AA batteries comes in options of a 48-pack or a 72-pack. And while we might not all need 72 batteries right now, trust: they’ll come in handy later and help avoid that game of musical batteries.
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