- Costco customers swear by certain products the retailer sells, such as olive oil, rotisserie chickens, and even golf balls.
- But other products, like the store’s light beer or bulk-sized produce, might not be worth your money.
- Here are 33 Costco products you should buy and 14 others you should skip every time.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Costco is one of the most beloved retailers in the country, blowing away its members with its great value on bulk items.
Customers swear by the olive oil, rotisserie chickens, and even the golf balls made by Costco’s house brand, Kirkland.
But not everything at the retail giant is a good deal. To some reviewers, for example, Kirkland’s light beer tastes as cheap as it costs, while perishable foods like milk or fresh produce might spoil before you have a chance to use all of it.
We consulted personal-finance experts and accounts from Costco shoppers to compile 33 items that are definitely worth it at Costco and 14 others that you should find at another store.
Here are the Costco products that are worth your money and the ones you should avoid at all costs.
Buy: Rotisserie chicken
Ivo Parashkevov, a creator of Charlie, a personal-finance artificial-intelligence bot, said that at $US4.99, Costco’s cooked rotisserie chicken is a loss leader, as well as a bargain he doesn’t want to pass up whenever he goes to the store. Add a premade salad, he said, and “that’s a dinner for a family of four right there” for under $US10.
Buy: Kirkland bacon
Costco’s Kirkland sliced bacon has a rating of 3.3 out of 5 from reviews on Consumer Reports, with negatives that have more to do with the amount you need to buy at once (the bacon packs come in bundles of four) than the flavour.
Skip: Fresh fruit and vegetables
For many shoppers, when you buy fresh fruits and veggies in Costco quantities, you might as well be shopping for the compost bin.
Costco has an abundant produce section, with lots of fresh and healthy choices. But the quantities of perishables are too much for most households. You’re probably better off buying fresh fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities at the supermarket.
Buy: Fresh eggs
Parashkevov sees two benefits to buying eggs at Costco: great prices, and variety.
“They have a surprising level of choice when it comes to eggs,” he said. You can get everything from conventional to free-range eggs, all at a lower cost than at many other grocery stores.
Prices vary depending on your area, but Reddit users reported prices under $US5 for five dozen eggs and under $US3 for three dozen eggs at their local stores.
Buy: Hot dogs and soda at the food court
Thrillist rated pizza as the best item in Costco’s food court, but plenty of regulars think the hot-dog-and-soda deal is No. 1. In fact, this humble snack has its own fan website, and Business Insider went so far as to name it “the best hot dog in America.”
Amazingly, the price of the deal has not risen from $US1.50 since 1985.
Skip: Milk, unless you have a large family
“You can’t buy milk at Costco” because of the quantities it comes in, Parashkevov said.
There’s nothing wrong with the milk Costco sells, but you have to buy 2 gallons at a time. Unless you have lots of kids to feed, it’s probably impossible to drink that much milk before it goes bad.
Buy: Kirkland organic almond milk
One solution to the milk problem is to substitute Kirkland’s almond milk. The Dashing Dish blog celebrated the great price on this food that can go into everything from smoothies to lattes.
Buy: The acai bowl at the food court
Costco’s filling and inexpensive food court is so beloved that it made national headlines when the warehouse store changed the menu this past summer. And vegans were thrilled. Instead of passing by the pizza and hot dogs with an empty stomach and a heavy heart, people who don’t eat meat can now choose a plant-based acai bowl for $US5.
Buy: Olive oil
If you love olive oil, then the money you save on Kirkland organic olive oil could quickly pay for the cost of your Costco membership. Samin Nosrat recommended this brand of olive oil in her bestselling book, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.”
Buy: Organic almond butter
Organic nut butters are a healthy protein source, but they can be pricey.
Grace Guffin on the Cooking Light blog raved about Costco’s house-brand organic almond butter in a post titled “The One Item That Makes a Trip to Costco So Worth It.”
“This glorious 27 oz. jar of almond is only $US8,” Guffin said, making it much cheaper than you can find elsewhere.
Unless you’re buying for a family reunion, condiments are probably not a good buy at Costco. Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise have a longish shelf life, but not long enough (unless you’re the kind of person who puts ketchup on everything – then go for it).
Cheat Sheet noted that mayonnaise is good for only three months after the use-by date and that even mustard will turn on you after a year.
Parashkevov said he has a weakness for fancy cheeses, and Costco’s cheese aisle is a slice of heaven for him. His favourite variety is Humboldt Fog.
“I think you can typically get a pretty large chunk for well under $US20,” he said, adding that that would easily feed guests “at three to four dinner parties over a couple of weeks.”
Parashkevov also recommended buying parmesan at Costco.
“Per unit, it’s very, very cheap,” he said, and it has a longer shelf life than most cheeses.
Buy: Breakfast cereal
“Cereal doesn’t go bad,” Parashkevov said. “It takes a little extra shelf space” to buy from Costco, he added, but you can beat prices at other grocery stores.
Whether you love Cheerios or Kirkland Ancient Grains granola, you can get a hefty supply for a low price.
Buy: Frozen fruit
While you’re thinking about smoothies, consider adding some fruit from Costco’s freezer section. There are many organic choices at prices much lower than at another grocery store. Reader’s Digest put this item on a list of things you should buy at Costco, and we agree.
Skip: Signateur gas grill
While Costco offers the Signateur gas grill for about half what you would pay for a Weber grill, commenters in a Reddit thread said that its construction was not as durable as a Weber and that it could be hard to find replacement parts.
One Reddit buyer summed up their regret in buying this grill: “Do NOT buy this grill if you like to get a sear/char on your meats. I’ve had this grill for a little less than a month and I’m terribly disappointed by the lack of heat it applies to the food. With all the burners on max, it does not get hot enough to sear a steak or even put some colour on a burger patty without cooking the meat all the way.”
Some reviews of the grill on Costco’s site echo the opinion that it simply doesn’t offer enough heat.
Buy: Organic berries
One exception to the fresh-produce warning is organic berries.
“That might go into your category of, am I going to eat this? Parashkevov said.
“But especially for things that are in season,” they can be a great deal, he added.
Berries also come with big health benefits, but they can be pricey. Costco’s deals on fresh berries can allow you to add this terrific food rich in antioxidants to your daily diet.
Costco’s berry quantities also might be a little more manageable for the average shopper – a pack of blueberries comes in an 18-ounce option, for example.
Skip: Certain prepared foods
Costco offers lots of options for healthier eating on a budget, but you might be better off with raw ingredients such as nuts, meats, and cheeses rather than certain premade food products like chicken tikka masala or enchiladas.
Costco fans on Reddit said the store’s prepared foods are delicious but pricey, so buyer beware.
Buy: Vanilla extract
A 16-ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract can cost upwards of $US30 at Costco, which is still about 30% less per ounce than you’d find in other stores. And the Costco version is pure vanilla, not vanilla flavoring, so it’s the real deal.
The “Today” show recommended this for anyone who likes to bake, since it will last a long time.
Skip: Flour, baking powder, and dried yeast
Flour has a limited shelf life, as do other baking ingredients like baking powder and dried yeast. The website Eat This Not That cautioned against buying any of these items in bulk at Costco. If you don’t run a professional bakery, it’s unlikely that you will be able to use them before they go bad.
Buy: Kirkland organic coconut water
If hydrating with coconut water is part of your lifestyle, you’ll want to pick up a 12-pack of Kirkland organic coconut water, which has many five-star reviews on Influenster.
Buy: Verka organic yogurt
For not much more than you would spend on a 16-ounce yogurt in the grocery store, you can get a 64-ounce tub of Verka organic yogurt at Costco. This cultured-milk product has a surprisingly long shelf life, and the taste and texture are comparable to other whole-milk yogurts.
This yogurt deal made Energeia Fitness Boot Camps’ list of 52 “real food” items you can get at Costco, and it got a five-spoon rating from the Cornucopia Institute, which promotes family farming. You have other yogurt choices at Costco, but this one is the best.
Skip: Las Fortunitas tortilla chips
If your local Costco sells Las Fortunitas chips – the ones that come in a bag the size of a garbage bag – don’t buy them.
It’s not the price; at under $US6, they are an incredible deal. It’s not the taste; these chips are crunchy and tasty. It’s just that you will likely never finish them.
Even if you buy them for a party, you are guaranteed to have at least half of the 5-pound bag left over. No one can eat that much guacamole.
Fooducate gave these chips a B-minus rating because they contain hydrogenated oils.
Simply put, you don’t want to spend the next four months eating your way through this bag.
Buy: Kerrygold butter
Costco sells several brands of butter, including organic Kirkland-brand butter sticks. But if you want high-quality butter, foodies prefer Kerrygold, made with milk from grass-fed cows. The blog Kitchen Stewardship found Kerrygold at Costco to be a good option, though it said it wasn’t always available.
Buy: Kirkland maple syrup
Maple syrup is a favourite at Costco. Not only is the Kirkland syrup organic and pure maple, but it’s also an amazing deal.
Skip: Paper towels and toilet paper
Big bundles of Kirkland toilet paper or paper towels may be a bargain, but not if you live in a studio apartment where you’ll have to use the package as an end table.
Buy: Kirkland vodka
Alcohol of all kinds is a good buy at Costco, but the vodka is a standout.
Costco’s house-brand vodka is so good that some people think it might be Grey Goose undercover, for a fraction of the price, according to The Kitchn. The site did a taste test of Costco vodkas against some name brands, and Kirkland’s French vodka came out on top.
Skip: Kirkland Signature light beer
When Costco introduced a light beer, fans were excited. Then they drank it. It was not good. One reviewer on Beer Advocate opined that it “tastes like battery acid.”
With a review like that, it’s tempting to taste it yourself just to see whether you agree. But you’ll have to buy 48 cans, so just forget it – unfortunately, this product seems just as cheap as its price tag.
Buy: Generic drugs
If you regularly take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen, Tagamet, or an allergy pill, you probably will use up a Costco warehouse quantity before it expires. You’ll pay a fraction of what these medications would cost you in a drugstore, and you won’t run out of an essential medicine as often.
Buy: Prescription drugs
Prescription drugs can be pricey, even if you have insurance. Costco’s pharmacy offers cut-rate prices that are so low, according to Consumer Reports, that you might be able to afford them without insurance.
So it’s worth it to drop off a prescription and have it filled while you shop.
Skip: Hearing aids
Hearing aids are a big expense that might not be covered by insurance. Costco sells them cheaply and takes a small markup.
Despite the good price, you might want to think twice before buying a hearing aid at Costco. Some people have reported poor service at some Costco stores. And some locations may not have the right equipment to properly adjust your hearing aid.
A reviewer on a Consumer Affairs thread said in 2017: “Don’t, don’t, don’t get hearing aids at Costco. I purchased a pair of Kirkland aids 2 years ago and to this day, they are still not adjusted properly.”
A cheap hearing aid that doesn’t work for you is no deal at all. Check the reviews for your location before you buy.
Buy: Prescription glasses
Prescription eyewear can be pricey, especially if you need progressives or other special lenses. One solution is to buy glasses online, but getting the fit and the focal point of the lens right can be a problem with remote purchases.
Costco’s optometry department to the rescue! You can get your eyes tested at the store or bring in your prescription from elsewhere – and if you don’t have insurance, Costco Optical may be your best out-of-pocket bet.
Costco members also receive special online discounts for glasses and contact lenses, making those an unexpectedly good deal for customers.
Buy: Wedding floral arrangements
Lifehacker recommended Costco for the adventurous and penny-wise couple. You could get flowers, like bouquets and full wedding arrangements, to make your day memorable while saving money, at prices up to $US449.
Costco won’t have a big selection of suitcases on any given day, but it does have good quality at a great price. Clark Deals included Costco on its list of places to shop for luggage bargains and suggested that you look for monthly coupons.
Skip: Name-brand clothing
When a piece of clothing comes to Costco with a designer label, beware. It’s likely to be lower quality than what the label sells in its stores. Chances are the manufacturer cut corners for its Costco offering.
If you like what you see, go ahead and buy it, but don’t expect brand-name quality or you’ll probably be disappointed. The Daily Meal blog suggested that you could get better name-brand bargains at a store like Marshalls.
Buy: Shirts and pants for work
Designer brands may not be a good buy at Costco, but regular work shirts and pants were a favourite among some commenters on a 2011 Red Flag Deals forum.
One commenter said: “All my work shirts are Kirkland shirts. High-end tailored shirts aside, I think the Kirkland stuff is the best value on the market, just as good quality (sometimes better) as what you get at The Bay or mid-range stores.”
Skip: Kirkland Ultra Clean laundry detergent
Though some Kirkland Ultra laundry detergent is labelled “free and clear,” some people have reported getting contact dermatitis after wearing clothes washed in the Costco-brand product.
The detergent has a rating of 2.8 stars out of 5 on Consumer Reports’ website.
Buy: Athleisure clothes
If you need clothes to wear to yoga or spin class, or if you just like to spend your days in fitness clothes, check out the bargains at Costco. The blog Tough Nickel described Costco’s offerings as an unbeatable bargain. Move over, Lululemon.
While some reviewers complained about problems with the elastic on Costco’s men’s briefs, most were ecstatic about the comfort and prices of Costco’s underwear.
The reviews on Costco’s website are mostly five stars. “I’m a big, tall, built guy and most other brands don’t stretch well at seams/waist and they chafe and irritate,” one comment said. “Kirkland boxer briefs are extremely comfortable and last me 2-3 times longer than Hanes and other brands.”
Costco’s selection of undershirts and women’s underwear have great discounts and excellent quality as well.
A giant box of Kirkland Supreme diapers may seem like a great idea when your little one is going through a gajillion diaper changes every day. But babies grow fast, and you can quickly find yourself stuck with a bunch of diapers that are too small for your child.
Plus, The Daily Meal noted that you could get better prices at Target, Walmart, or Amazon.
Buy: Flu shots
Consumer Reports found that Costco offered the lowest price for flu shots. If you’re paying out of pocket for your flu shot, Costco is a great place to get it. You can also get other shots, including those for pneumonia and HPV, as well as travel immunizations.
If you have your heart set on a particular TV, you might not find it at Costco. But if you’re flexible, you can probably find a set that works for you in Costco’s electronics department.
When you buy a television at Costco, not only do you get a great price, but your purchase comes with an extended two-year warranty. Credit Donkey rated Costco as tops on price and warranty, over Best Buy and Amazon.
Buy: Golf balls
When you think golf, you probably don’t think Costco. But since the warehouse store came out with a Kirkland-brand golf ball, golfers have been putting happy.
In testing the Kirkland balls on the green, Golfalot found that they compared well with premium golf balls, but without the premium price.
Buy: Gift cards
Costco sells a dazzling array of gift cards at a discount on the face value. This is a great way to give a gift or treat yourself. Gift cards show up on many lists of recommended Costco products, including this one from Reader’s Digest.
“You don’t get a wide selection,” Parashkevov said, but “if you just need good tires, it’s a no-brainer” to get them at Costco.
Tough Nickel put tires on its list of things to buy from Costco because the value price also includes services like balancing.
Parashkevov also recommended filing up your gas tank when you visit Costco, saying that prices at its pumps are usually about 20% lower than at other gas stations and that you can save even more if you use a Costco credit card.
“The downside is you might have to wait,” he said, because members line up to save on gas.
Though it’s a grim subject to think about, caskets and coffins are a surprisingly good deal at Costco.
Funerals are expensive and can cause financial strain at a time that’s already challenging enough. John Moore, a blogger, reported that he saved more than 50% when he bought a coffin through Costco for a relative’s funeral.
Moore said that he spent $US949 while a similar coffin through other companies cost about $US2,000. The coffin looked good, and the funeral and subsequent cremation went off without a hitch, he said.
“Because I wanted to give her something nice while also reducing my financial pain, the decision (at least for me) wasn’t hard to make,” he wrote.
One caveat: Costco isn’t allowed to sell coffins in every state, so check with your local store.
Skip: Giant plush bear
You may have seen it, poking its ungainly head over the top of an aisle.
Avert your eyes and walk the other way. Costco’s 93-inch stuffed bear gets mostly five-star reviews on its site, but even some of the positive ones include some variation of “Wife wasn’t happy.”
And consider this excerpt from a five-star review: “We live in an apartment and he is the dumbest thing we ever bought.” The poster said the bear made their lives miserable, “having to step over him, walk around him, and find a place for him to rest,” though they still loved the monstrous bear.
Don’t let yourself get caught in the giant bear trap.
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