Does Costco really save your family money? - Mothering Forums
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Frugality & Finances > Does Costco really save your family money?
freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 10:36 AM 08-26-2011

Or are you like me and it brings more delicious treats into your home? 

 

Help me learn how to save money with our Costco membership.  We're inclined to buying organic meat but usually skip on organic junk.  We're not big juice or alcohol drinkers either.

 

What do you buy at Costco that saves money?  I need to start making a list.



miss_sonja's Avatar miss_sonja 02:33 PM 08-26-2011

It saves $ for us for several reasons. They have little variety, so there are fewer choices to make. Fewer choices means fewer purchases. Our Costco list includes:  eggs ($2.99 for two dozen), coffee (2.5 lbs of freshly roasted Costa Rican for $10), all our meats (good prices on everything--big packages, yes, but we have a freezer), organic lettuce & spinach, toilet paper, bacon, nuts, vanilla. When we ate pasta, we got Italian organic pasta there for less than $1.00/lb. 

 

We raw feed our cats and Costco has chicken legs at $.99/lb--it's no salt added, unlike much grocery store chicken.

 

The trick to saving at Costco is to keep out of the snacky aisles. I just don't go down the chip, cookie, etc. aisles. If I go with the kids, I let them have every sample they want as it allows me to say "yes" to something. :-)


_ktg_'s Avatar _ktg_ 02:50 PM 08-26-2011

We have a monthly list of items we get from costco (family of 4) and we stick to it for many of the basics.  We steer clear of buying many items "displayed" items.  We stock our pantry at home and then shop from that at home as items run out. As for snacky items - I have a firm rule that 1 snack is open at a time and we have to go through that first before we open another.  It keeps me from having 3 things open (goldfish, wheat thins & ritz) and not being eaten by anyone, going stale and then me throwing it out.

 

 

The key to shopping at costco is looking at the unit price vs. the display price - that's how you can determine if you are getting a deal or not.  Sometimes I will find a better unit price for an item at the store instead.  It just depends on sales and your need of an item.

 

Our list usually includes (this is not every month, but as we need it so sometimes every 2 months or 3 months as we run out):

Ground beef

Chicken thighs

whole chicken

pork ribs (we oven roast these ourselves)

pork loin (we chop it up into porkchops)

1/2 gal of 1/2 & 1/2

1/2 gal of heavy cream

Butter (4#)

eggs

Snacks (goldfish, wheat thins, granola bars, annie's fruit snacks)

fresh fruits

10# of potatoes

Cereals

Yogurts

Cheeses

 


philomom's Avatar philomom 02:53 PM 08-26-2011
I use my Costco mostly for the organic beef, bacon and olive oil. They are consistently lower on these items. I don't go there with my whole list because a family of four with limited freezer space just cannot use up the quantity of stuff I have to buy to make it worth the price.
mumkimum's Avatar mumkimum 04:01 PM 08-26-2011

I try to use costco to get certain basics plus regular/reliable cost 'treats'.  

 

Some things are the same cost as elsewhere, only come in bigger quantities so save me time to get at costco, others are cheaper.  Price per item is helpful in figuring it out.  Only buying things that you will use up makes a difference too.

 

I get: frozen pizzas, eggs (when not from our farmers), yogurt, spinach, berries/grapes/kiwi/banana (only one of those per trip), flour, butter, , peanut butter, jam, tortillas, tortilla chips regularly.  

 

Sometimes we get veg burgers or sausage, sliced cheese, frozen burritos, coffee, vanilla, sugar, rice, olive oil, tunafish.  

 

For treats I might get croissants or muffins once every few months (and we freeze half or so of them).  (I'll add that I overdid this for awhile, and am now a little burnt out on these, but since I find them pretty cost effective and they're the only 'treats' I really allow within grocery shopping it's ended up balancing out nicely).

 

 

I find the biggest money savers to be the pizza, yogurt, flour, spinach, tortillas & chips, and eggs when we get them - similar quality or quantity of those elsewhere would cost a lot more for us.  We take out cash only for costco and try to use that to help limit buying too much (which helps a lot, but so does me going there without dh. . . winky.gif)     


mamapigeon's Avatar mamapigeon 04:25 PM 08-26-2011

Any savings are usually wasted on something else there! I find my biggest food savings are on bread, peanut butter, cereal, meat, and organic produce.


zebra15's Avatar zebra15 05:13 PM 08-26-2011

When I go it really depends what I need vs what I need to really stock up on and what Im shopping for. (if that made any sense).  For example i always NEED toilet paper and the kirkland brand is cheap.  Right now I need to stock up on meats and the prices are decent on pork.  produce is hit or miss.  i will also look at the gifts and toys as the holidays are coming and they are lower on nintnedo and DVD's and such.  Sometimes they have shoes/clothes that DS will wear and they are priced right too.


lilyka's Avatar lilyka 05:28 PM 08-26-2011

I have a sams club membership.  it does save me money.  My membership was $20 so I don't need to save a lot to make it worth my while.  I save about $1 a loaf on bread which we go through 4 loaves a week.  Also produce is cheap.  Organic blueberries the other day for $3 a pound! and usually some variety of apples for $1 a pound.  we go through about 50 pounds of apples a month.  So bread and apples alone pay for my membership.  Also pads and tampons, protein bars (these make a good meal replacement when I don't have time to eat), and other things here and there.  I have gotten some good deals on clothes.   I have no trouble with impulse buying and buying junk.  That stuff, even though it is cheaper than my local grocery store, is still really expensive.


freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 07:23 PM 08-26-2011

Thanks ladies!  These are helpful.  I like the idea of a list of things that we actually eat.  Last time I went I came home with two vats of Nutella.  It's good, but it kind of speaks to my issue.


lilyka's Avatar lilyka 03:10 PM 08-27-2011

Nutella is very good.  especially in vat sized containers....


trekkingirl's Avatar trekkingirl 05:12 PM 08-27-2011

tortillas are way cheaper

whole chicken way cheaper

rottiserie chkn too

bacon

toilet paper

coffee

broccoli florets

milk

eggs

 

some stuff is really not cheaper. especially if you shop at TJ's or an outlet grocer.

 

if you have an itch for take out, their cooked pizzza blows everyone out of the water, and they don't skimp on the cheese.

 

 


its_betty's Avatar its_betty 05:25 PM 08-27-2011

With the executive membership Amex card, we get several hundred dollars back each year, which more than pays for the membership. My favorite good buys at Costco are romaine lettuce, sliced turkey or ham (half the cost of the regular store), some of the frozen items such as frozen fruit (we make smoothies) and frozen Ling Ling potstickers (good quick meal), crumbled feta cheese. Frank's hot sauce (which my family eats by the gallon!). My husband buys the Kirkland jeans when he needs them.


Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 05:40 PM 08-27-2011

Electric tooth brush heads

toilet paper

dishwasher detergent

laundry soap

light bulbs

napkins

their meat is really good quality and their lamb prices are awesome

I will buy some fruits and vegetables like alphonse mangoes when they in season

my dh likes their brand of coffee

pool chlorine

great prices on charcoal, but now we buy lump so we get it elsewhere

Their cakes are great, if I'm feeling too lazy to make one from scratch

my daughter loves the camisole tops they sell

sheepskin boots

movies

memory cards for the camera or game systems

we used to buy their milk although we have non homogenized available locally so I'm no longer buying it

imported cheese

dh buys clothes there, jeans, shorts, shirts

saffron

chocolate chips

nuts

 

 


Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 05:47 PM 08-27-2011

Electric tooth brush heads

toilet paper

dishwasher detergent

laundry soap

light bulbs

napkins

their meat is really good quality and their lamb prices are awesome

I will buy some fruits and vegetables like alphonse mangoes when they in season

my dh likes their brand of coffee

pool chlorine

great prices on charcoal, but now we buy lump so we get it elsewhere

Their cakes are great, if I'm feeling too lazy to make one from scratch

my daughter loves the camisole tops they sell

sheepskin boots

movies

memory cards for the camera or game systems

we used to buy their milk although we have non homogenized available locally so I'm no longer buying it

imported cheese

dh buys clothes there, jeans, shorts, shirts

saffron

chocolate chips

nuts

our flat screen tv

 

 

We have an executive membership too, so we get cash back at the end of the year. Some years I've basically gotten my membership for free. Depends on how much I've shopped. For the last year I've lived in a state with no Costco after having shopped there for 25 years. Boy have I missed it. Sam's club does even compare, the quality of the items like clothes and meat and the selection is much much better at Costco. I'll be back in Costco land next month and I can't wait! 

 

 


freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 05:49 PM 08-27-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by its_betty View Post

With the executive membership Amex card, we get several hundred dollars back each year, which more than pays for the membership. My favorite good buys at Costco are romaine lettuce, sliced turkey or ham (half the cost of the regular store), some of the frozen items such as frozen fruit (we make smoothies) and frozen Ling Ling potstickers (good quick meal), crumbled feta cheese. Frank's hot sauce (which my family eats by the gallon!). My husband buys the Kirkland jeans when he needs them.



Do you use the Amex card there or everywhere? The lady who sold us the (executive) membership tried to get us to get one, but we never used the last Amex card we had and let it close.  We get at least 1 free flight a year with our Discover miles card and we also get hundreds back at Amazon with our Visa there. 

 

Thanks to all of you who listed what's cheaper there.  I was very pleased with the lunch meat and cheeses that we bought as well as the bread.  The co-op here is really far from our house, so I can see us kind of using Costco the way we used to use our old co-op (and still probably doing an occasional run to the actual co-op). 


Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 05:59 PM 08-27-2011

I think it's easier to shop there if you have the storage space at home for the bulk items and if you can budget for the future. IE We have 2 fridges and a chest freezer so I have the space to store frozen stuff and I used to stock up on their milk so it saved me trips to the store later. I have no problem buying their 4 pounds of chocolate chips because I store them in the freezer same with nuts. No need to run out to the store to make cookies or a pie at the last minute. Same thing with cleaning products and stuff like toilet paper. Some stuff is probably not cheaper but the volume is making my life easier by cutting down on shopping trips and as such saving me gas and headache. 


its_betty's Avatar its_betty 11:24 PM 08-27-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by freestylemama View Post


Do you use the Amex card there or everywhere? The lady who sold us the (executive) membership tried to get us to get one, but we never used the last Amex card we had and let it close.  We get at least 1 free flight a year with our Discover miles card and we also get hundreds back at Amazon with our Visa there. 


The Amex is our main credit card (paid off each month). We use it at Costco, to pay some bills, and for the occasional meal out and for expensive purchases like plane tickets. We buy gas at Costco and that's a lot of the cash back -- dh drives for a living. I should look into other credit cards to see if the benefits would be better for us than the Costco card, but we don't really put too much on credit (we're pretty frugal and use cash for most day to day things).

 


HeatherB's Avatar HeatherB 12:05 AM 08-28-2011
Costco saved me a ton when my boys were in Little League and we had to provide snacks periodically. Being able to provide natural/healthier snacks for a fraction of the cost of Whole Foods made a huge difference for us.

I shop mostly for the organic produce (when the apples are good, they are very, very good) and a few of the organic/natural processed foods - oatmeal, spaghetti, pasta, chips, snacks - plus some staples like organic sugar and flour. They've been good for juices (we don't buy regularly, but will get them for parties or individual packs for ballgame snacks) and the occasional case of bottled water, too. Should we get a hurricane headed our way, I'll be heading to Costco for the non-perishables and drinking water!

I also love to look through their clothes. They have been carrying small numbers of Hanna Andersson items (including baby zippers, lately) for great prices. They also have their own brand of organic kids' jammies which have been nice. It's entirely possible to lose all of ones' savings on the clothes, books, etc., but when we need clothes or gifts, it's worth taking a peek at the great deals. smile.gif
Poddi's Avatar Poddi 02:57 AM 08-28-2011

I think so.  We get enough rebate to pay for the membership card anyway so saving money is not a big concern.  Our regular purchases tend to be:

 

Milk, eggs and butter

Paper products like TP and tissues (I'm not sure if the price is good, but I like not running out for a looong time.) :)

Chicken, pork, some frozen veggies like corn and soy beans

"Smart" sandwich bread (made with white whole wheat) and some other bread

Electronics, some underwear and socks

"Natural" cleaning products (I got a 1000 load bucket of detergent, similar to Charlie's.)

Gift items before Christmas (like imported chocolate)

Almond butter, olive oil and grapeseed oil

 

I rarely buy snacks as they're too big, unless I'm planning a party.  I don't buy their fresh produce much either for the same reason, just too much.  It depends on the people and families though.  My mom buys costco sized fruits all the time, and eats them all by herself.  I think she eats enough fruits and vegetables for 6 people to qualify as "eating healthy". :o  I think it's really easy to over buy and overeat when shopping at Costco. (You see lots of large people there.) Have a shopping list and stick to it is very helpful.

 


ChristyMarie's Avatar ChristyMarie 06:11 AM 08-28-2011

It does but you have to have a LIST and stick to it.


We've saved on some larger items: a tv once and some portable a/c units.  Other things have been cheaper elsewhere: chest freezer, our new tv, our outdoor playset.  You have to look around

 

Sometimes they have awesome deals on suprise items.  I bought my coffee grinder there for about half the regular cost.  I have several dozen party wine glasses I got for less than $1 a stem which is unheard of.  I bought huge boxwoods for $15 this year.  At my local nursery they would have been $45.

 

My normal list includes:

wine (not hard liquor, my local liquor store is cheaper)

some meat (ground beef, whole turkey, whole salmon, pork chops, hot dogs, chicken sausage, smoked salmon)

frozen pizza

oj

milk

eggs

bottled water

paper products

coffee

diet coke if it isn't on sale on the grocery store

apple juice

peanut butter

all things dairy

frozen berries

onions

some veggies

pretzels and goldfish

many toiletry items and otc medications, vitamins

peanuts

olive oil

party crackers

party cheese

ketchup

dog beds

 

Holiday items:

ribbon & wrapping paper

 

BATTERIES!!!  Cheapest I can find.

 

I think it depends on what you buy and what your local stores do for sales.  I don't buy laundry detergent there because it is cheaper on sale at the grocery store.  But I do buy dishwasher detergent there.  You just need to avoid impulse buys (unless it is a really good deal and not something they always carry) and stick to a list.

 

Plus we get a rebate each year.  I just got a check for $121.  Sweet!


Adelio's Avatar Adelio 08:45 AM 08-28-2011

I am in same boat as others.  I buy very few things and stick with it. 

olive oil

spices

almonds

walnuts

toilet paper

laundry soap

fruits/veggies in season

coffee

milk

frozen salmon

meat

almond butter

 

 

Sometimes I do pick up a sweatshirt or something cute, but the prices really are good.   I don't eat most prepared foods or foods w/ hydrogenated fat, soybean oil etc so it is easy for me to stay away from a lot of that stuff


enkmom's Avatar enkmom 09:54 AM 08-28-2011

I don't have a Costco, sadly, but I do have a Sam's club.  I always let my membership lapse until I need tires on one of our cars, then shop for selected things.  If we had had Sam's while my children were younger, it could have saved us quite a bit of both time and money, but now the quantities are just too big for the 2 1/2 of us still at home!

 

My list:

Laundry detergent (there is no cheaper place for me, even with coupons)

fruits and some vegetables

bread, english muffins, tortillas

health and beauty items, especially razor blades

liquor and beer (now that we are all over 21!)

tires

 

I would buy peanut butter, but we can't finish it in a reasonable amount of time.  Same with the condiments and spices.  Great prices, but too much for us to use in a reasonable amount of time or too large a container to have with me for years!


nstewart's Avatar nstewart 10:36 AM 08-28-2011

I am with the others.  I do save money with Costco but only because I am strict with my "list", only buy items on my list when I am there, and don't buy much for prepared or processed food.  Also, you have to be sure to price compare because Costco isn't always the best value.  Sometimes Superstore or even Safeway is cheaper especially if stuff is on sale there.  I used to be TERRIBLE about picking up things (like flowers or magazines and books, etc.) "just because" but I've been really strict with myself of late and it saves me big time $$.

 

My Costco list includes:

- frozen fish

- meat

- organic frozen peas and other veg

- frozen berries (for fruit smoothies)

- bacon

- chedder cheese (although it is sometimes cheaper on sale at the grocery store)

- chevre

- organic pasta sauce

- pasta

- olive oil

- laundry detergent (kirkland "green" brand)

- TP

- paper towel

- eggs

- kirkland brand coffee and espresso beans (roasted by Starbucks)

- PJs for DS

- Kitty Litter (the savings on this alone pretty much pay for our membership!)

- cream cheese

- wrapping paper, etc. at Christmas

- small propane bottles during camping season (half the price of sports stores)

 

That's about it! 

 


bodhitree's Avatar bodhitree 07:37 AM 09-01-2011

One way I save money at Costco is by using the monthly coupons to stock up on nonperishables. If you pay attention to the coupons, you can buy dish soap, baby wipes, diapers/pullups, ziplocs, sponges, and lots of food items without ever paying the full price. (Diapers and wipes are still slightly more expensive than I could buy them elsewhere, but much better quality.) We just got a package with 19 different Ziploc lidded food containers for about $7 by using a coupon, which is a huge savings over what you'd pay at any other store.

 

As for non-coupon items, I find that what PPs have said is right on. If you avoid impulse buys and make sure you're comparing prices with other stores, you can save a lot. I think my membership pays for itself several times over.


freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 12:20 PM 09-01-2011

I went again and did a little better.  Darn those cute Hanna things though!

 

 

I tried to stick to what you all suggested and to stuff that we actually eat.  DD talked me in to a really expensive keifer thing for her lunches.  When I got it home and looked at all of the packaging and how little was in there I regretted it and will just stick to regular keifer at the grocery.

 

I did get some great deals on meat though.  I'm not going there again for the month.


mumkimum's Avatar mumkimum 08:00 PM 09-01-2011

In the event that you don't like something (or hey, maybe even sometimes if you realized it was too expensive and you shouldn't have bought it) you can ALWAYS return it at costco.  I mean, you don't have to and it might make sense to keep it, but their return policy is great (woe that I realized this after I forced us to try and use up a whole box of some horrible veggie burgers I once got there that we really hated - would have totally returned those).  

 

 

(I too have to look away from the 'oh, but they're so practical! they'll go with everything!' hanna leggings at our place, or we'll end up with more)


_ktg_'s Avatar _ktg_ 09:23 AM 09-02-2011

Woohoo!  That sounds like a very successful trip to Costco!  It's hard to turn/walk away from the cute stuff.  I get stuck on the pjs, or books or plants they have out. disappointed.gif I'm a complete sucker for a book or cute PJs for my kids (or me)  Sheepish.gif

 

As for the kefir thing - well that's a lesson learned!  We typically might get 1 item which the boys might want and realize it was not such a good deal later - so we just start looking for a better deal at our stores, or via homemade (i.e. with the kefir - we just make our own now).  Fruitsnacks are my current issue de jour and we used to get the Annie's one for lunches and alas they didn't carry them this month.  So now I'm on the hunt for a suitable replacement, until they get restocked at Costco.

 

Is your Costco close by?  Ours is an easy 40 minute drive away which keeps the trips down to just once per month. I am getting nervous that a new one is opening soon closer to us which might tempt DH to stop by to "pick up" stuff when we run out and drive our grocery bill up.


freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 10:08 AM 09-02-2011

It's like 1.5 miles.  Dangerously close, lol.

 

How do you make your own keifer?


_ktg_'s Avatar _ktg_ 10:55 AM 09-02-2011

That is dangerously close!!! I would be like - Honey I'm running out to get some eggs since we're out and then come back with the uber 90ct pack because it was a better deal winky.gif

 

As for kefir - you need to just get some milk kefir grains and add them to regular milk (just make sure it's not ultra pasturized).  I use whole milk from the grocery store and make about 1 gal every week all for the cost of a gal of milk ($3.50 right now).  It's plain so I just add a bit of sugar and whatever flavor I want (like blueberries, strawberries, peaches or just plain vanilla).

 

If you check in the TF forum, sometimes a MDC user is willing to send a batch out or you can checkout http://www.culturesforhealth.com/  as they have a bunch of different starters, kefir grains and such.

 


shantimama's Avatar shantimama 12:44 PM 09-02-2011

My nearest Costco is 3 hours away. I had a  membership at one time and it saved some costs but unless I will be near one at least once every two months it really doesn't save us any money. Because I went so rarely there was also the question of having the cash flow to buy ahead and that didn't always work out. If we had one closer I would use it but for now I do okay with watching discount grocery store sales very carefully.


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