As I said yesterday, we recently renewed our Costco membership after a year long hiatus. I want to show you how I shop at Costco, and what's on my always buy list and my never buy list.
First thing you need to know, is your pricing. I'm sure if your keeping an eye on your grocery budget, your familiar with what you pay for most of your groceries.
You will notice on the price tags at Costco, there is per item pricing in the bottom left corner. This can be listed in per gram or per load. Sometimes when I look at a bag or box, I also figure out how many meals or lunches I can get out of that item.
For example, fresh brussel sprouts at Costco are $4.99 (regular price) and I know we can get 2 meals from this bag. I factor that in when I'm trying to keep our dinners to $10 a meal. A ready made item like Chicken Cordon Swiss which is $12.49 per 8 pieces is too high. For our family, this will only work for one meal, and therefore it's cheaper for us to make that from scratch.
Since packaging is so much larger at Costco, the per item pricing is handy for comparison. Let's look at taco seasoning. One use packets, on sale at other grocery stores are about $1 for 35g. The large Costco version is $4.89 for 735g. I can get 16 meals out of the Costco version, so that works out to $.30 cents a meal. Obviously, I am buying taco seasoning at Costco!
Another tip for pricing is to know your "stock up" price on items you buy a lot. Things like laundry soap, toilet paper, kleenex boxes and cleaning supplies. I know my stock up price for laundry soap is .10 cents a load or less. The Ecos brand at Costco is $14.99 for 105 loads. This works out to .14 cents a load. Not a bad price, but this weekend at Safeway you can get a 96 load of Sunlight for $7.97 or .08 cents a load. Stock up price means you're going to buy a couple bottles to get you through to the next sale.
Don't assume that the regular price never changes. In the last month, Kraft Peanut Butter has gone up to $7.69, then down to under $6, then back up again to $7.69. At under $6, it's a good deal, but not at almost $8, I can get it cheaper at another store.
I like to use coupons when I can and Costco doesn't accept them. (except phone apps like Checkout 51). Items like toilet paper, paper towels, and shampoo, I know I can get cheaper with a coupon, so this is one of the reasons I never buy them at Costco, on top of the high price.
What I buy at Costco at regular price:
Parmesan cheese blocks
Bacon (if I can't find a good price match at Walmart)
Rice or Quinoa
Popcorn Kernels, not microwave popcorn
Other items like clothes, books, seasonal and kitchen items I may buy if I find a good deal or I really like it. Most of the time, I buy items like this at Target - on clearance!
Items I never buy at Costco:
paper products (kleenex, toilet tissue and paper towels)
toiletries (body wash, haircare)
Produce - except spinach, brussel sprouts and kale salad
crackers/cookies (except Premium Plus crackers)
Now there may be exceptions to this list, and that exception would be a sale. Costco does have weekly sales, but 90% of the time I can get these items on the "do not buy list" cheaper at places like Walmart, Superstore or Target.
Items like eggs, butter, and milk - I usually get at Shoppers Drug Mart because they are the same price or cheaper and I get Shoppers Optimum Points. I also don't like getting eggs in packs bigger then one dozen, because they take up too much room in my fridge. Eggs are also cheaper at Shoppers and we go through at least 3 dozen a week, so this can add up.
Bread, I can buy cheaper at Safeway on the clearance rack or price match at Walmart. Safeway also has sales on their store brand bread at 3/$5 quite often. (While we do eat brown bread, the males in my family don't like grainy bread so I can get away with buying a cheaper brown bread this way.)
Paper products like toilet paper and paper towels I buy at Target or Shoppers Drug Mart and 90% of the time, I am using a coupon.
Toiletries like hair products, toothpaste and body wash, I buy at London Drugs or Target and I am getting them for free (using coupons) or paying very little for them.
This doesn't mean I am going to Target, London Drugs, Safeway and Shoppers Drug Mart every week. (okay, maybe Target, but who wouldn't want to go there every week?!)
When I find a good deal at these stores, I stock up. For items like toothpaste or toilet paper, I am buying 4-6 at a time. This saves me time every week looking for a deal when we run out and makes it more convenient for my family to just grab what they need from our storage room.
This is how I look at purchases at Costco:
First, the pricing. If the price is a major difference then I won't buy it at Costco. If it's a matter of a few cents and it's going to save me an extra trip to another grocery store that week, then I will buy it.
Secondly, the time. I am driving my kids to school everyday, so to stop at Shoppers Drug Mart and grab milk and eggs, it's not costing me extra gas or a lot of time. We live on an acreage so I am pretty efficient with my use of time when I come into town. If your week is looking especially busy though, then you may be better off to stock up on the weekend at Costco to save yourself last minute drive thru or grocery trips.
Third, is space. I really don't have a ton of extra room in our house and I don't have a walk in pantry in my kitchen. Space in my kitchen is precious. I think about how much room these big packages are going to take in my home and whether that is worth the few pennies of savings. It has to be a significant savings for me to give up space.
Fourth, I like to shop! I don't mind running into Shoppers Drug Mart 1-2X a week, because I usually find some great clearance deals. I also like discovering unadvertised sales in other stores like Target or London Drugs. If you hate shopping, then Costco is probably a good idea for most or all of your groceries. You can get the unpleasant task over with and get on with your day.
My shopping week usually means I'm in Walmart and Target once, and Shoppers Drug Mart 1-2x. I do most of my shopping during the day, and not on the weekend to avoid the lines, and spend more with my family. If I do need to shop in the evening, I usually have an hour or so while waiting for a soccer practice or piano lesson to finish.
Finding the balance between price, time and your lifestyle is unique to everyone. What works for my family, may not work for yours. How you shop is also going to change based on what season of life your in and if you have young kids at home or a spouse that works long hours.
My two key tips for getting the best deals at Costco is to know your prices and be organized. Take the time to look at the weekly flyers and make a detailed list. Once you're in Costco, you can easliy spot the good deals.
Starting tomorrow, I will be bringing you a weekly post on what's on sale at Costco every week to help you decide if you need to drop in and of course, save you some cash!