Saturday, October 17, 2009

What to buy at Costco & What to avoid at Costco?

In a new TV show Modern Family’s “Come Fly with Me” episode, character of Cameron describes himself as “I'm like Costco. I'm big and I'm fancy and I dare you to not like me.” It indeed describes essence of Costco. At first, Costco can be overwhelming and maybe inferred as a wasteful example of American consumerism. However, after shopping at Costco, you can see its value.

If you are planning a party or have a big family, you can shop nearly everything at Costco. For a regular-size family, daily shopping at Costco needs some basic strategies. Here are my suggestions for what you should buy at Costco and what you should not buy at Costco.

Must buy at Costco
  1. Computers and Consumer Electronics – Although Costco downgraded its return policy to 90 days for TV, computers, cameras, MP3 players, and cellular phones, its warranty and service is still better than any other vendors. I highly recommend buying high price electronics through Coscto not just for its reasonable price but for the peace of mind. For example, my Vizio TV's  HDMI port broke down after a year and Costco's warranty covered the cost of a replacement TV. Compare that to a LCD monitor from, which had one dead pixel out of box, and I was horrified to learn that I need to pay 15% fee to return a defective item. However, another LCD monitor bought from Costco showed similar problem after 2 months and was promptly returned.
  2. Frozen Food – Get your frozen veggies, fruits and meat, even butter at Costco. It's frozen foods are affordable and good in quality. The best thing is that frozen foods don't get ruined quickly.
  3. Ready-to-Eat food – Instead of takeout, try Costco's rotisserie chicken (which is bigger than average size) and pizza (big and lots of toppings).
  4. Seafood and good cuts of meat – Good quality surf and turf are affordable at Costco. Even it's same price as the general grocery store, I would recommend buying them at Costco for its superior quality and freshness.
  5. Non-perishable food – Buy generic food items such as rice, dried fruits, sugar etc at Costco. If you can limit yourself to the particular brand items, Costco has limited selection for cereals, coffee, canned food, chips etc.
  6. Daily Basics – Milk, eggs, cheeses (good selection at great price), paper towels, toilet paper, etc., are cheapest at Costco.
Avoid at Costco
  1. DVDs and Books – or other online store would have wider selection, better pricing, and have option to buy used.
  2. Salads and other quickly perishable foods – Don't buy salad at Costco unless you have big family, planning a party or extremely dedicated in eating salad every meal (you may then consider a diagnosis for eating disorder). Having said that, sometime salads and other quickly perishable items are so cheap in Costco that you will be saving money even you throw out unused portions.
  3. Sodas and Beers – Sodas are usually cheaper at a local grocery store or even at a gas station. As far as beers, they are not significantly cheaper at Costco. Moreover, you should only get them if you don't mind drinking a same beer 36 times in a row. However, Costco usually have a decent wine selection (in states that allow it).
  4. Clothes – You can't try clothes at Costco. You can return but most people are less likely to return unless clothes are really bad.
  5. Apple products – Apple's warranty is good. I say this even I had problem with their warranty (see my post on Apple's warranty). In addition to that, Apple offers free shipping and some other deals (such as student deals) with their products. I suggest go to Apple Store, use the display model before buying it. Also, needless to say research and think over.
I would love to hear about what you recommend buying at Costco and what you suggest avoiding at Costco.


  1. Hello this may sound weird but they all so sell caskets 75% cheaper then the funeral home.

  2. crapCo? I should give the place a whirl sometime, but where would I put 50 rolls of Toilet paper? Or 3 tons of cereal?

  3. I'm surprised you say that about the beer.
    24 case of Sam Adams is $24 at my Costco. 12 pack at my supermarket is $14.99. 20% cheaper at Costco, not bad. They've also introduced a private lable Kirkland beer at $18 the case. Not bad for a Costco micro-brewed beer.

  4. @Get Rich- Thanks for comment. I would never have thought Costco did sell caskets.

  5. @HallyZ. I agree that Costco's portions are big. However, there are some items that do not come in a big package and for others sometime you can get away with sharing. Recently, me and my sister shared some common items such as paper towels, food etc. form our Costco trip.

  6. @JoeTaxpayer - Costco is indeed cheaper than most other stores but my go to place for beer has become Trader's Joe. They have a nice selection at a decent price.

  7. Interesting perspective in this WashPost article about trade-offs between fidelity (the quality of an experience) and convenience (the ease of getting it).

    The tag line was "Why Wal-mart can't go upscale, Starbucks can't go low-brow."

  8. I love Costco for many reasons. The first one is that I bought stock in it, when it was still Price Club around 1980. Second, the quality/price ratio is excellent. I refuse to go to WalMart and have no reason to go there, when I can get everything I need at Costco or Trader Joes. I agree with you regarding perishables like salads and produce. I live alone and I hate to waste food, so I don't get anything that will go bad before I can finish it. Since I don't go shopping very often, buying large quantities of paper towels, bathroom tissue, etc is not a problem.

  9. Guess, who else goes to Costco?

    (hint Modern Family's cutest cast member)

  10. Costco always gives trouble to customers deliberately....with too many restrictions on memberships....and I saw things are more pricey in Costco than Sams...(Fiber one bars 6 dollars in sams and 8 dollars in Costco)...
    So....absolutely no point or STUPID to thing Costco membership helps...