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Share to PinterestThe Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

The Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

By Jo Marshall
Share to PinterestThe Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

Costco, a paradise for savvy shoppers, offers an impressive array of high-quality food and household products. This membership-based warehouse store has revolutionized the retail world with its bulk-buying model, allowing consumers to stock up on essentials while exploring a variety of unique products. It's not just a place to shop; it's an adventure in discovering items you didn't realize you needed until they caught your eye while walking down the aisles.

The Costco experience goes beyond the traditional shopping trip. Picture yourself wandering through its expansive layout, enjoying complimentary samples, and encountering unexpected finds that quickly become household staples. It's a blend of practical shopping and delightful discoveries, all under one roof.

However, of all the products that promise both quality and savings, some items don't quite measure up. While many products are indeed excellent deals, combining quality with affordability, a few fall short of the expectations set by Costco's reputation. These items might not offer the quality or cost-effectiveness savvy shoppers are looking for, leading to a mixed shopping experience. In this article, we'll navigate through Costco's extensive offerings, highlighting the must-buy products that show off the store's value and pointing out those that might not be worth your investment. Whether you're a seasoned Costco shopper or new to the warehouse store scene, this guide will help you discern the best and worst of Costco, ensuring your shopping trips are as rewarding as they are economical.


Pay less for real maple syrup

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Costco’s USDA-certified organic maple syrup isn’t one of those artificial substitutes you buy from a grocery store. It’s the real deal, available at a fraction of what you’d pay for real maple syrup anywhere else. The Kirkland Signature maple syrup comes in a liter-sized jug and has become one of Costco members’ favorite products.


Pass on the baked goods

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They taste delicious and they’re available at an excellent price, but if you don’t have the freezer space to store them, experts say to pass on bulk baked goods at Costco. These products have a shorter shelf-life and go stale within a couple of days. Most people can’t eat a pack of 12 muffins within a couple of days, and if you have to toss them, it isn’t saving you much money.

But, muffins, croissants, and other fresh breads freeze well, so if you have a freezer, keep them around for those early morning treats or late-night cravings.


Pay less for quality olive oil

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Chefs and home kitchen cooks alike have touted the virtues of Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Its cost and flavor make it one of the most affordable and delicious options, even when compared to high-dollar, premium brands.

According to taste testers, this olive oil is complex but mild, so it works as a great all-purpose olive oil to keep on hand.


Pass on the soda "savings"

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While it may be more convenient to purchase your soda at Costco while you’re picking up the rest of the items on your grocery list, you probably won’t find big savings doing so. It’s not that Costco doesn’t have decent prices on soft drinks, but you’ll likely save more money at a local grocery or chain drug store.

There’s always a special on soft drinks somewhere; you can easily beat Costco’s price by checking out sales around town or using coupons.


Pay less for rotisserie over shredded chicken

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Costco’s delicious rotisserie chicken has become one of the store’s most popular items, and they’ve managed to keep its price lower than those sold by other major grocery stores. Costco also sells packages of shredded chicken, but you’ll pay more for the convenience.

According to company insiders, Costco shreds and packages the rotisserie chickens that aren’t sold each day, or they end up in soups sold in the fresh foods section. If you’re making a dish that calls for shredded chicken, buy a rotisserie version, shred it yourself, and save a couple of bucks.


Pay less for engineer-tested toilet paper

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You’ll save big on bulk, two-ply toilet paper at Costco. What many shoppers may not realize is that Costco hired toilet paper engineers who tested the Kirkland Signature brand to ensure its quality is worth putting on the shelves.

While it may not be the most luxurious toilet paper you’ll find, it is a great buy and several steps above those generic brands sold online or in discount stores around town.


Pay less for ground beef

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Costco makes it possible to buy high-quality beef at a lower price. The company’s extra-lean ground beef is available in 10-pound chubs, but you may not see them among the other meat packages.

If you don’t, ask the meat department if they have any available. You could save about $1 per pound by making the effort.


Pass on the supersized salsa (unless you'll use it)

If you don’t put salsa on everything, buying Costco’s duo of two-pound salsa jars may not be the best deal. Opened salsa only has a shelf life of about one month in the refrigerator and if frozen, retains its quality for about two months.

However, when it comes to healthier salsa versions, Kirkland Organic Salsa is lower in sodium and sugar than the major brands and doesn’t contain a ton of unrecognizable preservatives. So if you'll use it, it is worth it.


Pay less for coffee machine single-serve cups

Share to Pinterestkirkland single-serve coffee pods

Most coffee lovers know that one-use pods are pricier. But at Costco, you can save big on these single-serve portions if you have a compatible brewer.

You’ll find just about any flavor you crave, from pumpkin spice to Italian Roast, Venetian, and decaf blends. That means a greater variety for a lower cost!


Pass on the mattresses

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Not only are you more likely to save money by purchasing mattresses elsewhere, but some of Costco’s versions didn’t rank well when compared to other brands, and only a select few performed a bit better in the ratings.

Sleep industry experts say that you may be able to find a better price on top brands through sales at local mattress shops, online stores, or big-box retailers. Since people can often take when replacing their mattress, this is one product that's probably worth a hunt.

For shoppers seeking high quality and great deals on food and household products, Costco offers just about anything you’ll need. The membership-required warehouse store’s unique concept opened the doors to buying in bulk, indulging in free samples, and discovering unique products you didn’t know you needed until you tried them. Mixed in with all the great buys and can’t-live-without favorites, however, are some products that don’t really provide the quality or cost savings members expect.


Breakfast cereal and oatmeal are true deals

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Brand-name large quantities at a significant discount make these two breakfast options a great bargain if you have a family of mouths to feed. These bulk quantities will keep you from making extra trips to the grocery store or having to load up with several boxes.

Even if you have a smaller household, or you consider cereal or oatmeal to be a perfect meal or snack morning, noon, and night, buying them at Costco could be a real money-saver.


Spices don’t have an infinite shelf life

Share to PinterestThe Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

Unless you use a lot of them, buying big bottles of seasonings and spices at Costco may not save you big bucks in the long run. Ground and whole leafy herbs like basil, oregano, and rosemary lose their flavor within a year or two.

Whole spices, like peppercorns, allspice, and caraway seeds last between three and four years. Cumin and chili powder retain their flavors for two to four years, and salt has an indefinite shelf life. If you go through a ton of a specific spice, Costco’s big quantities will save you some money. Otherwise, opt for smaller jars.


Buy your tires here

Share to PinterestThe Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

Keeping your car roadworthy can be expensive, but you can save yourself some hard-earned cash if you purchase tires at Costco. Not only will you save on the per-tire cost of name-brand tires, but you’ll also have a top-notch installation experience here. Plus, you get free maintenance services, like inflation pressure checks, tire rotations, and flat repairs.

Look for Costco’s coupons on specific brands for added savings and be sure to make an appointment online or at the warehouse.


Stock up on Kirkland cashews

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Not only are nuts highly nutritious, but they also make a great snack. Save a considerable amount of money by purchasing a 2.5-pound version of either salted or unsalted cashews at Costco. The nuts are sold under the Kirkland brand. Read the ingredients label, and all you’ll see listed are cashews and peanut oil. And, they’re Kosher.

When comparing the quantity and cost to other popular brands, you’ll get substantial savings. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, Costco also stocks a USDA-certified organic version, too.


Save money on snacks

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Once school starts, it seems like keeping snacks around can turn into a full-time job. Save yourself some time by buying big boxes of snacks packed with individually sized chips to save money and time.

You’ll find a couple of different popular mixed varieties on the Costco shelves, as well as alternatives like trail mixes, crackers, and granola bars. Plus, the convenient packaging makes these snacks lunch box friendly.


Kirkland vitamins might be a great buy

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It’s no surprise that name-brand vitamins cost more, even if they contain similar ingredients. Over time, however, vitamins and dietary supplements break down, making them less effective. Costco sells a variety of its own brand of vitamins under the Kirkland label, along with children’s vitamins, at considerable savings and in larger quantities.

Check the expiration date before buying to ensure you can finish the bottle before it expires, or you’ll be wasting your money.


Buying milk here may not be worth it

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There’s no problem with the milk at Costco, as far as the price and quality. Generally, the expiration date is longer than those found at local grocers. But, there have been lots of complaints about the packaging. Due to the milk’s square jug, pouring is apparently a complicated task and leads to excessive spillage.

The good news is, Costco heeded the complaints, and has started making some changes to the packaging in some regions.


Buy toothpaste elsewhere

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When it comes to buying personal care products like toothpaste, you can probably find a better deal through coupons and sales at local drug and grocery stores. Costco sells multi-packs containing four or five tubes, but if that’s what you need, online retailers often have better savings.


Costco isn’t a bicycle specialist

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The price tag on a bicycle at Costco may capture your attention but stop before you make the purchase. The problem comes with the assembly. Even if you purchase a high-quality brand, you may run into problems.

The employees who assemble the bikes at Costco aren’t bike specialists, and there have been cases where they didn’t install the braking system properly or made errors with other functional parts of a bike. It may be best to pay a bit more and have the peace of mind that a trained technician assembled it correctly.


Running shoes may not be the best quality

Share to PinterestThe Best and Worst Products to Buy at Costco

Costco sells popular, name-brand running shoes, but often, the store has created agreements with manufacturers to construct a specific version solely for their stores. And they’re usually lower quality than what you’d find at shoe stores or sports retailers.

Before making a purchase, shop around, try them on, and then decide if the Costco running shoe has the quality you’re seeking.


Facial tissues are “meh” quality

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They’re soft enough, but it’s the Kirkland brand facial tissue’s strength that isn’t up to par. You can easily find stronger tissues at a comparable or even lower price just about anywhere. A weaker tissue means you’ll use more, so you’ll be spending more in the long run. Pass on the Kirkland brand, and opt for those that can hold up to a hardcore winter cold.


Plastic wrap is cheaper in bulk

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If you opt for buying the more expensive brand of plastic wrap due to the poor quality of generic brands, you’ll do yourself a favor by buying Costco’s big roll. This professional-quality food wrap comes with 3000-square feet and you’ll pay less for it than you would for an equal amount in brand-name, smaller rolls.

The EasyCutter packaging technology also makes it easier to use, plus there’s a slide cutter available as well.


Take a pass on the books

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For any bibliophile, tables lined with books are hard to pass up. Sure, peruse the titles at Costco, but you’ll get a much better deal if you purchase them online or during sales at major booksellers.

The selection isn’t great either. Unless you’re looking for the trending title of the day, you probably won’t find the book that you’re looking for.


Vanilla extract that’s worth every penny

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Bakers and confectioners on a budget will score big with this purchase at Costco. The big 16-ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract ensures that you’ll have it on hand when you get ready to create your latest bake show-worthy sweets. Store the bottle properly, and vanilla extract will last for years.


Bulk rice isn’t cost-effective

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Unless you’re a dining establishment or you eat a lot of rice, those 50-pound bags of rice at Costco won’t really save you any money. In fact, it’s more cost-effective to buy smaller quantities, even if it requires more frequent purchases. The reason? Costco’s big bags cost you up to 35% more than when you buy smaller boxes at the local grocery store.


Stick to your local grocer for canned goods

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Another product that costs more at Costco than at a grocery store is canned goods. One consumer study found that they can cost up to 40% more. Local grocers often put a variety of canned goods on sale, making it more cost-efficient to stock up there rather than buying a massive pack at Costco.


Unbaked cookies are scrumdiddlyumptious

Busy people who love fresh-baked goods should head to their local Costco and pick up a tub of unbaked cookie dough. Forget the time-consuming and messy chore of mixing all those ingredients together. These tasty treats go from your fridge, straight into the oven and moments later, you’ll be chowing down on delicious, fresh-baked delights.

Vegans will love the latest innovation at Costco: a vegan cookie dough. Canadian bakers can buy unbaked versions of cookies, croissants, and other pastries which are already formed into the proper shapes and ready for baking.


Save money on outdoor furniture

It’s no secret that at traditional furniture stores, you’ll pay a huge markup, up to 200%. At Costco, members don’t pay all those hidden fees. If you’re in the market for new outdoor furniture, you’ll find attractive, high-quality options at a great price at this multi-faceted wholesaler. Keep an eye out for their semi-annual furniture sale to pick up real bargains.


Shampoos and conditioners are bargains

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Personal care products can be hit or miss when it comes to savings at Costco. Shampoos and conditioners are a definite plus for savings. To get the best deal, consider switching to the Kirkland brand in the 33.8-ounce bottles. It’s great for dry, normal, or damaged hair, is paraben, phosphate, and dye-free, and it’s 100% vegan.



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