We compared grocery shopping at Walmart and Costco, and found the discount superstore is better for the average shopper

Shoshy Ciment/Business InsiderWalmart’s name brand and low prices are likely better for the average shopper.
  • Costco and Walmart are two major, nationwide retailers that offer a multitude of quality products at cheap prices.
  • Both stores have large grocery sections complete with meat and produce, as well as bakeries – though neither are traditional supermarkets.
  • We visited both stores to see which was better for grocery shopping.
  • We found that Walmart was better across the board, from its cheap prices, larger selection of name-brand items, and hot food section with options for single-servings.
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Walmart and Costco have a lot in common, from low prices to large grocery sections.

It’s no wonder the two stores have garnered such appeal among consumers who want the best bang for their buck. Both stores offer competitively low prices and quality products.

When it comes to food and grocery, both Walmart and Costco have meat, produce, bakeries, and aisles full of packaged products. Additionally, both stores have hot food options in the form of a food court or take-out buffet.


Read more:
We shopped at Costco and Sam’s Club to see which one does bulk better and discovered that Costco’s extra membership cost is worth it

But despite their similarities, Costco and Walmart have vastly different models, which translates into divergent shopping experiences for the consumer. Unlike Walmart, Costco requires membership for its shoppers and offers wholesale products in massive, bulk quantities. Costco’s in-house Kirkland Signature brand is also a defining feature of the warehouse chain.

We visited the grocery sections in both big-box stores to see which offered the better experience overall. Walmart’s broader selection of name-brand products and its massive hot food section made it the place we’d most likely return for our grocery needs. Additionally, the superstore attracted us with its single-serving options for a snack or small meal on-the-go.


First, we stopped by a Walmart Supercenter in Secaucus, New Jersey.

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The Supercenter sells everything from home goods to clothes, but for this comparison, we limited our judgment to the grocery and food section.

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We found these huge bins of seasonal watermelon before we even crossed the threshold into the store.

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The grocery section took up a large segment of the store. It was also located very close to the entrance, so it was almost impossible to miss.

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We started our journey in the produce stands. There were multiple tables and bins that looked like they were overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables.

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Everything seemed remarkably fresh, especially this corn that was being loaded from rustic, wooden crates right before our eyes.

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The low prices were immediately captivating. Many items were going for less than a dollar each.

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The best part was that it didn’t look like we were sacrificing quality for price. We could hardly believe the deals that we were getting here, and this seemed to be an everyday thing at Walmart.

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These ripe bananas were only $US0.44 a pound.

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There was also a large section of lettuce and other salad goodies that featured similarly low prices.

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When it came to baked goods, Walmart catered to many different types of shoppers. There were single-serve pastries for a customer in need of a quick snack …

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… but there were also bulkier options as well. We appreciated that many of the baked goods had a seal that guaranteed freshness. We also liked the low prices.

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The store had a counter filled with different cakes that could be personalised. There was also an option for ordering wedding cakes.

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Past the bakery section, there were individually wrapped sandwiches that were ready to be picked up for a quick lunch on-the-go. They looked delicious.

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Walmart sold meat in varying forms, from cold-cut platters …

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… to deli-style hams ready to be eaten.

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But the best part of Walmart’s food section was undoubtedly the smorgasbord of hot food available for take-out, which included seafood, meat, and a hearty selection of side-dishes.

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Next, we made our way into the aisles of frozen and packaged food.

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In the frozen section, we found a healthy supply of ice cream. OK, maybe not healthy, but there were a lot of options to choose from.

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There were some green items here as well. This large bag of broccoli florets was the perfect size for hosting a meal or to have as a general broccoli supply in the freezer. Plus, at less than $US6, the price was right.

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Once we were out of the frozen aisles, we found that the store had a plethora of options for each category of food. Walmart didn’t sell items in bulk, but rather had many different options for everything, as seen in this cereal aisle that seemed to be lacking nothing.

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The story was the same with coffee. And there was another major draw, in addition to the array of options. As a woman we met in this aisle told us, “It’s cheaper here than in other stores.”

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This aisle of Oreos seemed to carry every flavour ever created. And it was exhilarating to behold.

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Overall, Walmart carried all the name-brand products we knew best. It felt nice to stroll through the aisles confident that we would find what we were looking for, whether it was chocolate …

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… or classic red party cups from Walmart’s Great Value brand— for a shockingly low $US2.56.

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The checkout lines were short, thanks to the self-check-out option that helped things move along quickly. There were also just enough open registers.

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Walmart delivered on its promise regarding low prices. We also enjoyed the hefty take-out section, individual pastry and sandwich options, and wide variety of name-brand products.

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Next, we stopped by a Costco in Manhattan on the east side of 117th Street. An employee stopped us the moment we entered to check our membership status and then directed us to the membership station at the front of the store.

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Costco is a wholesale warehouse, so the setup of the merchandise in the store was markedly different than Walmart’s. Costco generally sells items in huge bulk-sized quantities that could last for months.

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We waded through the furniture, electronics, and jewellery sections to find the grocery and food area in the back of the store. Here, we found everything from fresh produce to a rotisserie.

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The produce section at Costco wasn’t as nicely arranged as the one in Walmart, but it seemed to boast a nice mix of similarly fresh items.

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We also found bins overflowing with watermelon for around $US6 each.

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Overall, the grocery items here were sold in bulk. This wasn’t the place to come for a quick shopping spree, but you could pick up a 6-pack of avocados for about $US8.

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We then made our way into the refrigerated section. Here, we found that there were a ton of products from Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland Signature.

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There was a massive Kirkland rotisserie counter filled with different types of meat.

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And a sign proclaimed that Kirkland meat products were fresh and of the highest quality.

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There were rows upon rows of poultry and meat. However, though there might have been a few prepared items ready to eat, Costco couldn’t compare to the hot-food buffet in Walmart.

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That’s probably because Costco had its own food court in a different section of the store. Even so, the options here on average didn’t seem as numerous or as tasty as those in Walmart’s buffet.

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There was pizza, churros, and ice cream among other food items. But the food at Walmart seemed less like fast-food and more wholesome.

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Unexpectedly, we found tons of kosher options at Costco, something we did not notice in Walmart.

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It seemed like the bakery in Costco was also capitalising on the kosher market pretty blatantly.

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The cakes on display looked delicious. Like in Walmart, customers also had the option to order their own cakes.

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Though Costco was selling boxes of different danishes and cupcakes, there were not many options for a single pastry or quick snack. It seemed like you could either buy it all, or nothing. These muffins looked like they were sold in 6 packs, but customers actually must buy a dozen, mixing flavours.

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To be sure, the pastries here did look delicious. But they seemed more fitting for an office-wide breakfast than for a kitchen at home.

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We noticed a massive kitchen behind a window, which could have been where the cakes and pastries were being made.

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In the refrigerated section, we found even more kosher products for sale including massive packets of mozzarella cheese …

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… as well as tubs of coleslaw fit for a Lower East Side deli.

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The frozen section was jam-packed with different meal options available in bulk.

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Near the main grocery section, we found the classic cubes of Costco merchandise lining the aisles of the store. Costco had huge quantities of each product, but there was often little variety outside of the main brands for each item.

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So while you might be able to nab a four-pound bag of Craisins, you might have difficulty finding many other brands of a similar product.

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Costco also carries a lot of its own Kirkland Signature products, which further limits the brand-name variety in many of its food categories.

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The Kirkland Signature brand generally has a good reputation, but sometimes, you want the name-brand product you know and love. Luckily, we found these 62-ounce jars of M&Ms.

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Costco seemed to have the basics down. If you were stocking a summer camp canteen or bracing for an impending apocalypse, Costco would be the perfect place to shop.

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There were some delicious findings along the way, but ultimately, we were let down by Costco’s selection overall.

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Though the cheap, bulk items were a draw, we felt Costco lacked the diverse array of brands that Walmart had, as well as an adequate hot-food section.

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The prices between the two were pretty similar, though Costco’s regular membership fee of $US60 a year needs to be accounted for. Prices aside, we found that Walmart was the better option overall for the average shopper.

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