Costco shopping! It’s a love/hate relationship. You love the store, but can’t seem to walk out of there under at least $100-200! And you keep going back.
I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, but I always love seeing what people get at grocery stores, especially Costco. I want to know what people choose to get there vs. at a grocery store (is it a savings or do they just need bulk).
Last Sunday we went to Costco (we often do this on Sundays after church…along with the rest of mankind). Goodness gracious, that place is so busy. Our last visit was the most expensive bill we’ve had there, so I thought I’d do a haul and show you what we buy, as well as just a brief overview of “how we do Costco.” By the looks of other people’s carts, we definitely are low spenders there, so I’m baffled how people can afford to shop there even just once a month.
Here is an overview of what we bought (ignore the missing hardware…we’re replacing). Our total bill was $164.70!
All of the things above, with exception to a couple of things, we buy often at Costco. We have a very simple method of buying at Costco, which applies to much of how we buy things…we buy mostly what is in the monthly coupon book that is mailed to your house. About 85% of our trip is items that are on sale that month. Costco discounts items regularly, so we wait to buy them when on sale. I’m not sure what the rotation of items is, but we seem to be able to buy them every other month (or 2 months in between at the most).
The coupon book looks like this…
And when you open it up, it has several different items with the discounted amount for each one. I really wish they would tell you the price of the item regularly because we have to wait to get there to see the price and then evaluate if it’s a good deal with the sale price (which is good marketing…get customer in store).
There are some things we get at Costco, whether on sale or not, because they are cheaper. We like to get vanilla extract, toilet paper, tortilla chips, dryer sheets, and dish sponges to name a few. Here is the breakdown of some of the items.
–Muscle Milk Whey Protein (6 lbs) – $39.99 – 8.00 = $31.99
*My husband uses this and it lasts us forever (about half a year, depending on how often he works out)
–Fiber One Bars – 13.99-4.00 = $9.99
*These are great for Ryan at school when he’s on the go or after school when he rushes out to ref a game. The boys love them too.
–Applesauce – 10.99-2.50 = $8.49
*For the boys lunches. The Costco brand is a great deal too, but these had a variety of flavors so we did this. At Walmart, they are .50/each, so this is a great deal on sale.
–Baby wipes (no sale) – $19.99
*We actually bought these out of emergency. M had a dirty diaper and I had zero wipes, so we bought these (we were running low at home anyway). We buy wipes here usually, but it’s usually Huggies brand when on sale. I like how they are in packs too (easy to throw in diaper bag).
–Bisquick – 5.39-1.50 = $3.89
*I can’t remember the amount on the box (we threw away), but it’s about twice the size of the grocery store size. This is a great deal. I use this a lot for pancakes, waffles, and biscuits sometimes.
–Chicken Nuggets – 12.49-3.50 = $8.99
*This is such a killer deal. This bag is about 4 times the size at Walmart where they’re sold for close to $6.00, so we only get them here.
–Capri Sun Juice – 9.99-2.50 = $7.49
*This is also a better deal when on sale. I’m kind of picky about juice and usually get the Honest brand because it’s a lot of water, but went ahead and got this for the boys’ lunches. They only get juice at lunch sometimes.
–Tortilla Chips (no sale) – $3.99
*These are also a better deal than in store and Ryan loves chips with salsa and eats them often. These are great for when we host people for dinner.
–Clorox Wipes – 13.49-2.80 = $10.69
*I love wipes, especially for the toilets. In the past year I’ve scaled down on using them and use the Method cleaners instead, but these are great for wiping down bathroom toilets, doors, light switches, door frames, and even counters when in a hurry. These come out to $2.13 a container which is great because they’re usually almost $4.00 at Walmart.
–Fruit Snacks (no sale) – $10.99
*We actually wanted the ones they had on sale (I think Welch’s brand), but they were out (we got a raincheck), so we got these as they were the best deal there. My boys like them, but I don’t think they are near as good as the other fruit snacks. Again, I used to be picky about fruit snacks and only buy those leather strips (real fruit, organic), but they’re just too expensive. Maybe I’ll just only allow fruit snacks for school lunch and continue to buy the expensive ones, but we’ll see.
–Danimals Smoothie yogurts – 9.99-3.00 = $6.99
*This is a great deal for 36 yogurts, but I was worried about using them in time. If the kids eat one a day, that’s 18 days from when we bought them and they wouldn’t expire. The boys LOVE these things. They’ll also be a staple in their lunches. I’m curious if I can freeze these and use them as the ice pack in their lunches, but have them thaw by lunch time.
–Ziploc baggies – 13.59-2.70 = $10.89
*Great deal for all of these baggies when on sale. I prefer the Ziploc brand to Great Value, but I usually only buy them at Costco.
–Jet Dry – BOGO (buy one get one free) $9.99
*These basically came out to $5 each which is an awesome deal. I won’t have to buy Jet Dry for probably a year.
–Multi-vitamins for kids – 9.99-2.50 = $7.49
*For 2 large bottles, this is a good deal. Beckham has 2 daily vitamins and Maddox has 1.
–Chocolate Chips (no sale) – $8.99
*These are just a plain good deal. A small bag at Walmart is around $2.50+ and these are about 5 times the amount, if not more. These have gone on sale, but I can only remember once.
How we buy at Costco:
-Buy primarily on sale items from the monthly coupon book. If you’re not familiar with the coupon book, it’s simply a monthly ad. All of the sales are in store (you don’t have to cut coupons or anything).
-Do your research – If there are things you eat often or need in bulk, just check the grocery store you shop at (we compare Walmart since it’s primarily the cheapest in comparison) and compare per unit. I still need to do this on more items to see what is cheapest, but that would require me going without my kids. Ryan and I go together and it’s still difficult.
-Have a budget – It’s easy to spend tons of money there, but sometimes we just can’t afford to buy all the items we want to buy. If there are items that are similar in price at other stores, sometimes we buy them at the store more often so our monthly budget isn’t blown all in one trip. We try to stick to $100 at Costco, but this month had a lot of great deals that we buy often. We go to Costco almost every month, but only really buy big like this every other month (maybe it’s the cycle of items, but that’s just how it works out).
*These are not mind blowing tips, but I feel like they keep us in check with our monthly grocery budget. I want to be the receipt checker so I can see people’s bills. Is that bad? I can only imagine some of those carts tally up to $500+!!!!!
Do you have any tips for Costco or know what is a good deal there? I’d love to hear.
Super helpful, thanks! I’ve really been wondering recently if Costco v. Aldi is a better deal! I know you’ve tried Aldi before, any ideas??
I have tried Aldi a couple of times, but to be honest, I haven’t been too impressed. I need to give it another try for a good month too to see if I can find majority of what I want that’s cheaper than Walmart…my only thing was the selection at Aldi is so limited. I also want to try Winco for a month and see if they are better too. I can’t visit multiple stores like I used to before kids, but I’d be willing to visit 2 if great deals. We like Sprouts for a lot of produce!
Lydia @ Thrifty Frugal Mom says
I’m probably weird, but I love seeing other people’s shopping habits and trips. We don’t do Costco, mostly because I can’t get past having to pay an annual fee to shop somewhere, plus, we have other stores in our area that I can do super good at with coupons and so I actually can get better prices there or at Aldi. However, we are moving to another area soon and I may end up checking into Costco then depending on how good/bad the new selection of stores is. And I love your tip about shopping the coupon items!
As far as what Laura asked about Aldi or Costco being better. Like I said, I never have shopped at Costo for myself, but I have shopped there with my sister-in-law a few times and I have read various posts like this one that lists the prices of things and honestly, from what I’ve observed Aldi pretty much always beats the prices of Costco! For instance, I’m guessing that bag of chocolate chips is no more than 5 lbs. Aldi has 16 oz. bags of chocolate chips for $1.29 which means 5 lbs. of chocolate chips there would only cost $6.45. And they periodically even drop the price lower than that! And their sour cream is $1.29/16 oz., their cream cheese $1.29/8oz., many spices are $0.99/bottle etc.
It’s true that Aldi doesn’t have a huge selection of products, but I love that about them. And they have a double money back guarantee on almost all of their products too, which means if you don’t like something for whatever reason, they will give you your money back plus replace the product if you want them to. I’ve only ever had to do that once though in my 9 years of shopping there.
Very cool to know the deals at Aldi. A lot of readers have highly suggested shopping there. I’d definitely have to make another trip elsewhere since I found the selection minimal, but I really should give it another shot to see what all I can get there for a good deal. The one closest to us was about 20 minutes away but they just opened one closer to us so it is definitely an option now. Are the products name brand or Aldi brand? I’m not too much of a brand snob so I’m okay with store bought foods. My hubby really likes the Nestle brand of chocolate chips so it’s a good deal at Costco (super good when on sale too). The $1.29 price you mentioned is better than Costco…although I’m not sure if that is Nestle brand or an Aldi brand (I’d have to compare it to Great Value, where we usually shop, if it is store brand). Thanks for the tips, I’m excited to check out Aldi again…those prices sound great!
We buy lots of similar things at Costco. Except the baby wipes! I have recently started using the monthly coupons like you do. When I get it in the mail, I make my Costco shopping list, making sure to buy the things we use that are in the booklet. I also love seeing what other people buy…gives me ideas on what to try. 🙂
We don’t have a Costco by us. Only a Sam’s Club, which doesn’t accept coupons to my knowledge. We have a BJ’s too, and they do accept coupons but I prefer Sam’s for their meat and produce.
I have the same issue with Costco. I go with 5 things in mind and end up spending $160! 🙁 It’s pricey and sometimes we could have just bought a smaller size for less money and still be fine but the “we’re here so get it” mentality kicks in to save another trip. I love their Kirkland baby wipes. You don’t meet as many as the Huggies pack but the Huggies don’t treat my daughter’s skin very nicely. She gets a red bottom with them. The Kirkland ones don’t give her any issues and they are a nice sized wipe.
Their Kirkland laundry detergent in the big container with a spout is a great deal, I think $14.99 in our area? Smells great and cleans just as well as Tide. I like getting the kids juices there also, boxes or Capri suns. I sometimes get two loaves of bread and freeze one when we get home because it comes out cheaper than buying at other stores. Dunkin Donuts brand coffee in a bag, we drink coffee every morning so a bag lasts around a month.
Printer ink refills!, orange juice, strawberries
I am never getting bananas from there again. mine went from green to a dark yellow and then icky brown in just 3 days. They didn’t spot like bananas usually do when they get ripe. They were uneatable and not worth the waste of money.
is uneatable even a word? lol. inedible 🙂
Haha…it’s okay, I got ya!
I hear ya 🙂 I do love the Kirklands wipes so far. I will have to check out printer refills…wouldn’t have thought to look!
One of the best discoveries I’ve made at Costco is the ability to take an OLD ink cartridge from your printer to the costco photo department and they have amazing prices to refill them! so much cheaper than buying new, and better for the environment!
That is awesome Gretchen. Thanks for letting me know. We are about to get a new printer so I’ll keep that in mind!
I finally have a system down that works great for my family. I shop once a month at Costco and once at Winco, so every 2 weeks. My brother in law works at Costco, so our membership is free which makes a difference too. I’m not sure if paying for the membership would benefit us that much. I like Costco for the staples that we use frequently (meat, quinoa, baking products, etc.) and then I use the Winco trip to get the other random items that we don’t need in bulk or just for one or two meals. Winco is about a 25 minute drive for us, so I will occassionally swap that trip out for Fred Meyer (Kroger) when I have a good selection of their coupons to use. We get their coupon books in the mail at least once a week.
I love seeing how other people shop, thanks for the info!
Sounds like you have a great system! I’d love to check out Winco more often and see if I save more there vs. Walmart. I can’t tell a difference yet, but haven’t shopped enough…Walmart is so much closer to use than Winco, but not far enough to not try.
Just a tip – we don’t have Costco, but we do shop at Sam’s. I compare price per unit online for items that we want to check on, then hit the store. Big time saver for shopping with kids if I already know where to buy!
I wish we had a Costco near us, we only have a BJ’s. I try to buy only what I know is cheaper there – milk, milk boxes for my daughter’s lunches, razor blades, etc. – and use manufacturer and/or BJs coupons. Sometimes produce is a better deal, sometimes not, but since we’re a family of three, it’s hard to use most things up before they go bad. I’m definitley guilty of walking out with one or two items I didn’t anticipate buying, when I go there at times, though.