The Best and Worst Bargains at Costco
Over 94 million people shop at Costco and despite the annual membership cost (starting at $60), shoppers love the deep discounts on bulk items, all those free samples and the seemingly endless rows of products from TVs to produce to boats. However, there are certain things you should never buy at Costco. We’ll let you know which products you should and shouldn’t buy from Costco. It’s better to be prepared and informed so you can shop smart and stockpile. After all, you never know when exceptional circumstances will hit you hard!
1 Don’t Buy: Kirkland Laundry Detergent
It would seem logical to think that buying detergent in bulk is a good idea. Yes, you will definitely save some money buying this bargain brand in bulk.
But it might surprise you to learn that detergent has a shelf life. Experts say after six months of being opened, detergent begins to lose its effectiveness. So unless you have a large and very messy family, you’re probably better off skipping this purchase.
2 Buy: Maple Syrup
Real maple syrup is expensive. As a result, most syrup out there is actually artificial maple flavoring and corn syrup.
Honestly, there is no substitute for the real stuff and it turns out Kirkland’s pure maple syrup is a great deal. Expect to pay almost half the price of what you would pay for pure maple syrup at your local grocery store.
3 Buy: Uncooked Cookies
Hardly anyone knows this, but in Costco stores across Canada, you can buy cookies, croissants and other uncooked pastries for a lot less! Just go to the bakery counter and ask them for a box that they will gladly give you.
This buying alternative will save you a lot of money. For example, a box of 21 cookies would usually cost you $7.99 on the shelf, but if you go get a box of uncooked cookies, you can get 120 for $22.99! That’s a great value for your money!
4 Don’t Buy: Books
It’s impossible to miss the giant tables of books in the middle of every Costco. And books don’t exactly qualify for the normal bulk discount.
Turns out the savings don’t add up and you can usually find better discounts online (Amazon) or during sales in bookstores. Plus, you will have a much bigger selection.
5 Buy: Toilet Paper
Unless you are the kind to take your quadruple layer quilted ultra-soft and strong toilet paper in your weekender whenever you leave the house for more than 24 hours, you should add one of those enormous Kirkland bags of toilet rolls to your cart.
Sure, you must find or make some storage space. But if you have a mortgage to pay every month, you’ll be glad to sacrifice a little more room to save a few bucks. The same goes for paper towels.
6 Buy: Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple in most kitchens these days. So why not purchase a few big containers at a time, especially since it will allow you to save money.
Besides being a total bargain, Costco’s olive oil is high quality, extra virgin and even organic. This one is a definite buy for everyday cooking which will allow you to splurge on a small bottle of fancy olive oil for special occasions.
7 Don’t Buy: Ground Coffee
Most Americans drink coffee every day so it might seem logical to purchase coffee in bulk. And yes, you will save some money for doing this.
The problem is that once ground, coffee beans lose their strength and flavor through contact with air. Therefore, stick to smaller containers of ground coffee or better yet grind your own beans for the best flavor.
8 Buy: Gas
If Costco suddenly decided to close all of its warehouses and only keep their gas stations, owning a membership would still be worth it for those who fill their tanks up a lot.
You don’t even have to spend your days on the road to enjoy the price of this brand’s gas. So next time you need to fill your tank, don’t just take out your credit card, take out your membership card as well!
9 Don’t Buy: Kirkland Light Beer
Beer lovers should stick to their favorite brands whether it be Guinness, Molson, Budweiser, Corona, etc. Sure you can save a little money buying the Costco brand.
Some consumers actually said the beer tasted like “urine,” gross. So it’s only natural to learn Costco discontinued Kirkland Signature Light beer at the end of 2018.
10 Buy: Frozen fruits
It’s widely regarded that buying frozen fruit at Costco is a great bargain and many of the fruit is organic, too. They even come in resealable bags, unlike the smaller bags you find in your local grocery store.
The only catch here is that you may need to clear out some space in your freezer, invest in a separate appliance or start drinking more smoothies!
11 Don’t Buy: Fresh Fruits and Veggies
This one is tricky because in some cases, purchasing your fresh fruits and veggies in a big store can be a good idea, especially if your family eats a lot of it.
However, if you opt for fruits and veggies that are in season, you can often find better deals at the grocery store. Also, if you can’t eat them all before they spoil, did you really save money by buying the larger portion?
12 Don’t Buy: Spices
Much like ground coffee, spices do not have an indefinite shelf life. Although your giant jar of Italian seasoning won’t show signs of moldiness, it will lose flavor over time.
Unless you regularly cook up your infamous spaghetti sauce to feed your whole Italian family, which can barely fit into your dining room, and that your secret ingredient is a Kirkland mix of dried herbs, purchasing a smaller jar of spices would be smarter for more flavorful meals.
13 Buy: Vanilla Extract
Unlike spices, prepared vanilla does not lose its flavor over time. So as long as you are not the fancy type that only uses fresh vanilla beans, purchasing a Costco size bottle of vanilla extract is a good investment.
You can keep it in your pantry for last minute and late night baking envies and as an emergency backup for whenever you run out of actual vanilla beans.
14 Don’t Buy: Tissues
For a simple sneeze, most brands of tissues can be suitable. However, when a cold strikes, the quality of the tissues you have on hand is important.
Tissues sold in large quantities are always financially advantageous, but they are rarely the best to relieve our irritated nose. Kirkland tissues may not be the best option for you.
15 Buy: Tires
Besides getting a great low price when you buy your tires, you will also receive high-quality service for free.
Costco’s Tire Centre is, therefore, the number one stop to change your tires. No wonder people who aren’t even members chose Costco when it’s time for a new set.
16 Don’t Buy: Soda
Buying soft drinks at the same time as the rest of your food is normal. It’s much easier to put it in the basket with the rest.
However, if you really want to save money, check the specials elsewhere! Why? Soft drinks are one of the most popular specials in all stores, so big stores will not always offer the best discount!
17 Buy: Breakfast Cereal
Do you have kids who love cereal for lunch? Whether it is for your children or for yourself and your two roommates, Costco is one of the best places to make this purchase!
Cereals at Costco are often at a discount and the quantities are difficult to beat! They can be kept for a very long time in a cupboard without ever losing their flavor. However, do not open all the bags at the same time, you will lose the crunchiness after a few weeks.
18 Buy: Plastic wrap
If you have the space at home, buying bulk plastic wrap makes a lot of sense. It’s actually easier to use since the weight of the box holds it in place on the counter making it easier to use.
Not only will you save a good amount of money over buying the small ones, you may never need to purchase plastic wrap again!
19 Don’t Buy: Shampoo or soap
As with soft drinks, soaps and shampoos are two products that are often on special in all stores! You should never pay full price for these products.
So don’t worry about buying these products in bulk, just wait until they go on sale at your local supermarket!
20 Buy: Oatmeal
If you are a big oatmeal eater and that you consume it every morning, the large format is certainly advantageous on your budget.
If you buy 60 individual packets in a traditional supermarket, you will end up paying nearly $10 more each time. If you calculate, it’s a bargain not to be missed.
21 Buy: Healthy bite-sized snacks
Everyone knows that eating well is very expensive and not accessible to everyone. Fortunately, we can now find some interesting options on the market a lot more easily!
These healthy snacks are sold for only $12 for 32 bites. So you can have healthy snacks all week long without breaking the bank!
22 Buy: Cashews
If you have ever bought nuts in your life, you know how expensive this delicious product can be.
By buying large formats, you will be able to save a few dollars in a very short time. In addition, with its reclosable lid, these roasted cashews can be kept for a very long time. You can even freeze them if you want to buy large quantities.
23 Don’t Buy: Condiments
Yes, condiments have a rather long shelf life and unlike coffee or spices, they don’t lose taste over time. But they do need to be kept in the fridge after opening.
Did you think about that? Knowing that most people already lack some fridge space, try fitting those giant ketchup and mustard jars in your refrigerator door. Good luck with that. So unless you are hosting a major garden party or have a backup fridge for all things Costco sized, we suggest you skip it.
24 Don’t Buy: Salsa
People at Costco sure know that salsa and chips mean party. And it is clear that when Costco people don’t do things halfway when it comes to throwing a fiesta, at least judging by the size of their salsa jar. Or should we say bucket?
Consequently, if you are indeed hosting a pool party for the whole neighborhood, by all means, get that Costco salsa jar. Otherwise, you might want to consider saving some fridge space and some money and get that family size jar at the grocery store that will provide a good amount and won’t go bad before you get halfway through it.
25 Buy: Snacks
If you have kids, and especially if they are in school, or simply if you are a snacker, plan a stop in the snacking aisle to stuck up on all your favorite crunchy, sweet and salty goodies.
Those big boxes filled with individually wrapped snacks are super practical and financially profitable if you usually spend a lot of money on crackers, nuts, cookies, and other lunch box friendly treats.
26 Buy: Vitamins
Too often when purchasing drugs or vitamins, you are paying extra just because the brand is well renowned when the actual product is exactly the same as some other no-name ones.
By buying large format Kirkland brand vitamins, you will get the same vitamins, but at a really cheaper price. In addition to getting value for your money, you won’t have to head to the store as often.
27 Buy: Batteries
If you’ve still got some gadgets at home that run on batteries, you’ll know that these little guys are not cheap. Next time you head to Costco, it’d be wise to stick upon them.
One pack should be enough to power your electronics for some time and you will find them to be a lot cheaper than in other stores. Don’t shy away from purchasing the Kirkland brand as they are actually made by Duracell.
28 Buy: Milk
If your five kids and three kittens drink enough milk to go through one of these Kirkland one gallon jugs before it goes bad, go for it.
Most websites advise not to purchase this product at Costco but to buy it at any other market instead. Their only reason? The big quantities! Still, if you are certain to use it all, you will be saving a lot of money by going for the Kirkland brand.
29 Buy: Coffee cups
Even if it is not recommended to buy coffee in single portions, we understand that the product can be interesting when you live on your own!
If you have a coffee machine that is compatible with this product, the individual formats sold at Costco will be very advantageous for you. You will get much more for your money!
30 Don’t Buy: Toothpaste
There are products that are very often on sale in local grocery stores. Toothpaste is one of them! Whether or not you buy it in a large format, it is the final price that really matters!
So rather than having to store 20 tubes of toothpaste in your bathroom, keep an eye out for sales which will actually save you more than Costco!
31 Buy: Peanut Butter
It is a staple in almost every home and whether you have a large family or not, buying a family-size jar of peanut butter is always a good idea to save money and never run out.
It will not have time to go bad and you will never have to hide your PB from your roommates again. The same goes for organic almond butter which is also a total bargain!
32 Buy: Bagel
There are the New York bagels, the Montreal bagels…And the Costco bagels. Whenever you hit the warehouse, grab two bags (they are sold in twos) of these perfect-for-breakfast-and-lunch cream cheese vessels.
You can pick any two flavors you want and easily freeze whatever won’t be eaten in the first week to save money. These are totally worth it for the price.
33 Buy: Kirkland Almond Milk
Unlike buying dairy milk, almond milk has a great shelf life and is more popular than ever these days.
Almond milk is great for smoothies, coffee and even to use in baking. Kirkland’s brand tastes just like the name brands at a fraction of the cost.
34 Buy: Tahini
If you love to cook and make your own hummus at home or use a lot of tahini in salad dressings and home-cooked meals, you know that it is not cheap.
It is, therefore, a great idea to purchase it in bulk size at Costco. You will save a lot of money for this 100% pure sesame paste. Just make sure to keep it in the fridge.
35 Don’t Buy: Bicycles
It might be tempting to buy his bike at Costco. After all, the price is great, and what could go wrong with a bike?
Costco employees, for all their good will, are not bicycle specialists, and sometimes even assemble them upside down! If you would like to purchase a bicycle, visit a specialized shop. You will pay a little more, but the bike will be assembled properly and, most importantly, will be custom made for you!
36 Don’t Buy: Mattresses
Many people have a mentality of not wanting to pay too much for a mattress, and could therefore be tempted by those sold at Costco, and yet! It’s an average of 8 hours per night that a person spends in bed, so it’s worth a good investment, don’t you think?
Not only is it possible to find mattresses on sale in specialty stores that are less expensive than those sold at Costco, but in addition, you will be sure to buy one that really suits you in order to get the comfort you need.
37 Buy: Gift Cards
If there’s one thing you don’t want to miss at Costco when it comes to saving money, it’s gift cards! Whether it’s to give to someone or even to yourself, it would be foolish to miss out.
Not only does Costco offer a ton of different gift cards, but you can also buy them for less than their cash value! In fact, you can save up to 25% if you buy more than one. For example, it is possible to buy 4 movietickets.com gift cards, each worth $25, for only $74.99.
38 Buy: smartphones
No matter where you get them, smartphones can be quite expensive, especially if you want the latest model. Still, buying a smartphone from Costco can be very advantageous.
Buying your smartphone at Costco allows you to choose not only from the latest models but also from various distributors such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. But the biggest advantage is probably the additional bonuses that are not available elsewhere, such as free accessories or Costco gift cards!
39 Buy: Pet Food
If you own a pet and are used to giving it quality food for its own good, you know that it can quickly become quite expensive. Luckily, it’s another smart purchase to make at Costco to save money.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain food is the best brand you can find at Costco. It is important to know that the giant is using recognized existing brands such as Diamond Naturals to produce its food, so it is quality food at a very competitive price!
40 Buy: Cheese Wraps
Wrap inevitably means cheese. A wrap without cheese is sad, and it’s certainly not as satisfying! But why settle for a few slices of cheese inside when you can have much better?
Costco literally sells wraps made with Parmesan, Jarlsberg or cheddar cheese. In addition to being delicious, they are lactose free, gluten free, and allow you to have a low carbohydrate wrap. These cheese wraps are available in packages of 4 or 10 and are sure to get you hooked!
41 Buy: Ready-to-Drink Strawberry Margaritas
When the good weather arrives, it is difficult to resist a good aperitif in the sun. It’s always nice to have a light, fruity alcoholic beverage while having a good time, isn’t it? Luckily for you, Costco now sells the drink that will become your favorite!
A Margarita is always good, but what about the Ready-to-Drink Strawberry Margaritas that Costco now sells? Made with agave wine, real lime juice, cane sugar and strawberry, you won’t be able to stick to just one glass. But the best part? A 1.5 liter bottle with an ABV of 12.7% costs less than $10! It’s time to stock up!
42 Buy: Pickles
Pickles are not necessarily loved by everyone, but many people love them to accompany their hamburger or smoked meat. Some even like them as a simple snack! And if there’s a good place to buy them, it’s at Costco.
If you want to stock up on pickles, for as little as $4 or $5, you’ll leave Costco with a 2-liter jar of pickles. And good ones, that’s for sure!
43 Buy: Egg’wich Breakfast Sandwiches
Are you concerned about your health and diet and want to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat in a day? Whether you’re on the keto diet or not, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the Egg’wich breakfast sandwiches offered at Costco.
Red’s All Natural brand Egg’wich breakfast sandwiches have recently made their appearance at Costco. Keto-friendly, they are available in two varieties: Turkey Sausage Egg’wich and Chicken Apple Egg’wich. Each containing 15g of protein, they will make your breakfast both delicious and nutritious, and this, at the very reasonable price of $12.99 for a box of 8!
44 Buy: Thermacell Mosquito Repellant
One item that you should buy at Costco consistently gets excellent reviews. Thermacell’s Radius Mosquito Repeller is a great product that won’t break the bank. According to its website, this model effectively repels mosquitoes by creating a 15-foot zone of protection and is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
One reviewer wrote, “Highly recommended! The Thermacell Radius has given us our deck back in the evenings. We like to grill and eat out on the deck, but we were getting shredded by mosquitoes. The Radius works better than anything else we’ve tried. It’s simple to use, powerful, and small enough to be portable/packable.”
45 Buy: Costco Sheet Cakes
If you’re looking to buy a cake for a birthday, graduation, baby shower, or any other celebration, then you should consider checking out the sheet cakes at Costco. For starters, they’re cheaper than the cakes you’ll find at other big box stores. They offer many different designs and flavors.
Costco doesn’t just offer vanilla or chocolate options, either. According to Taste of Home, they offer a vanilla sheet cake filled with a vanilla cheesecake mousse topped with white buttercream, or a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate buttercream. Not bad for a discount store!
46 Don’t Buy: Barbecue Grill
Summer is upon us, and you may fantasize about grilling out. Many people buy big-ticket items at Costco, like grills, but you should skip the Urban Islands 4-Burner by Bull. Consumer Reports had plenty of negative things to say about this model.
For starters, it’s pricier and doesn’t perform as well as the other grills that they rated. The report stated, “It’s particularly bad at maintaining even heat at high temperatures, a must for perfectly seared steaks.” If a top-notch grill is what you’re seeking for your next backyard barbecue, then this model probably isn’t for you.
47 Buy: Outdoor Furniture
With the arrival of summer, many families are spending more and more time outside, so now is the perfect time to buy outdoor furniture. Costco has a large variety of products to choose from for a steal. You’ll be impressed by both the quality and the price.
From patio furniture to an outdoor dining set, they’ve got you covered. They offer many stylish and weather-resistant sets that would be perfect for your deck or backyard space. Start entertaining today with the amazing deals at Costco. This is one product you won’t regret buying.
48 Buy: Outdoor Playset
When it comes to buying an outdoor playset for children, Costco has a great selection at discounted prices. These aren’t the swing sets we grew up with. Many of them come with all the bells and whistles. From twisty tunnel slides to multi-colored rock walls, they have many fun options.
The quality is top notch and many of the models they sell have impressive reviews. One consumer wrote about the Cedar Summit by KidKraft Austin Playset, saying, “Instructions are clear and easy to follow. Kids love all the features. Took longer than expected to set up, but worth it at the end.”
49 Don’t Buy: Running Shoes
Costco often sells name-brand running shoes and while they may seem like a good deal, they have disappointed many customers when it comes to quality. RedFlagDeals has an entire thread dedicated to the running shoe brands available at Costco, and most of the comments are not good.
One commenter wrote, “Some of you may think you are getting a good deal by buying running shoes at Costco. You would be very wrong. These are Walmart quality running shoes and I think Walmart would sell them for less.” You’d be wise to shop around and buy your running shoes elsewhere.
50 Buy: Electric Scooter
Costco sells many big-ticket items, so if you’re in the market to buy an electric scooter, they often have them in stock for a bargain. It’s important to know which products you should or shouldn’t buy, and you can feel confident buying a scooter from Costco.
They offer the Segway Ninebot ES3 KickScooter, which has mostly excellent reviews. One shopper wrote, “The Segway scooter is just like the ones you rent in downtown, very strong, sturdy and very quiet. It also folds down very quick and easy, so you can put it in the trunk of your car and take it with you.”
51 Buy: Rotisserie Chicken
This one has been a cult favorite for years. Considered to be a loss leader, at $4.99 it might be the best deal on this list.
For a very low price, you will have a good meal for the whole family and you may even have some leftovers. Fun fact: Costco sells an average of 157,000 chickens every single day!