Why I Love Shopping At Costco

One of the best money saving tips for families is to plan your meals in advance.  Meal planning has helped us save hundreds of dollars on groceries each month, and part of our monthly routine includes shopping at Costco.

We purchase food in bulk and then split it up into daily portions for freezing.  Since we always know what we’re having for dinner, this saves us from making unnecessary trips to the grocery store or from grabbing some last minute take-out on the way home from work.

Shopping At Costco

I find that most people either love shopping at Costco or they hate it and think it’s a waste of money.  I love shopping at Costco, but probably for different reasons than most of the people who shop there regularly.

Related: Is The Costco Executive Membership Worth Buying?

First of all we don’t purchase all of our groceries from Costco.  Some stores have better deals than others on specific items, so it’s important to compare grocery store prices.  We shop at Costco once a month and typically purchase the following items:

  • Ground Beef, Roasts, Steak and Stew Meat
  • Chicken Breasts and Thighs
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Milk, Cream, Butter and Cheese
  • Bread, Tortillas and Hamburger Buns
  • Coffee, Pasta and Cereal
  • Frozen Vegetables and Frozen Strawberries
  • Baby Wipes and Diaper Genie refills
  • Dishwasher Detergent, Laundry Soap, Toilet Paper and Paper Towels
  • Cat Litter

It’s Not About The Prices

We spend about 40% of our monthly grocery budget at Costco.  Most advocates for shopping at Costco will tell you that their prices are superior to other grocery stores and that just by regularly purchasing certain items like diapers and toilet paper will more than make up for the annual membership fee ($55).

I don’t find their prices to be all that fantastic.  Some things are difficult to compare because of the difference in size, but I can definitely find better deals at Wal-Mart, Superstore, Sobey’s or Safeway on most items.  Meat, dairy and fresh produce can all be found cheaper elsewhere.

It’s Not About The (Lack of) Choice

Costco is notorious for their lack of choice in products.  Besides Coke and Pepsi, I don’t think you can find any other competing brands in the entire store.  This can make shopping at Costco difficult for many brand loyal shoppers.

For example you’ll notice that we didn’t include diapers in our list of items we purchase at Costco, even though their prices are very competitive.

Costco only carries Huggies brand diapers, which we found to be inferior to Pampers.  My wife uses Sugar Twin to sweeten her coffee, but Costco doesn’t carry Sugar Twin, they carry Splenda.  And we like to support our local canola producer (Richardson Oilseed), but Costco doesn’t carry Canola Harvest products.

Size Does Matter

Buying in bulk can save you money, but some of the items at Costco look like they were meant to feed a family of 12.

Costco is great for non-perishable items or for food items that you can consume (or freeze) prior to the expiry date.  But seriously, who needs a can of tuna the size of a soccer ball, or a 4 litre container of Bull’s-Eye barbeque sauce?  The free samples of crackers are tasty, but the box is going to last me for about 10 Super Bowl parties.

So Why Do I Love Shopping At Costco?

By this point you must be wondering why we bother putting up with the busy parking lot, long lines at the check-out, and the painfully slow moving customers who always seem to be in your way?  Even with their limited selection, excessive quantities, and their sometimes beatable prices I love shopping at Costco for one reason.

The quality of their products are superior to any other grocery store.  Period.

We’ve purchased similar products at other grocery stores and there is just no comparison in quality.  I really can’t describe it any better than this.  Check out the comparison photos of frozen veggies in this post by Squawkfox.  Costco wins every time.

Readers, do you agree?  What do you love (or hate) about shopping at Costco?


19 Responses to Why I Love Shopping At Costco

  1. I’m a recent Costco member (had a BJ’s membership before) and I’m loving it. They have an awesome produce section and their lines seem to always move pretty quickly. I’ve also found a really great bread there, full of grains. I’ve also found children’s clothes to be a good deal (Carter’s and other brands).

    Not everything is worth buying there, but I’m happy with the selection so far.

    • @Glen
      It was your comment on my mom’s article about having too much choice that inspired this post about why I love shopping at Costco. We really like the bread they have there too, the Dempsters 12 grain is especially tasty.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree that part of reason for shopping at Costco is the quality. It definitely makes up for the lack of choice and over-sized quantities. The prices are no worse so once you factor in the quality you’re getting better value.

    Our shopping list is a subset of yours, some stuff we just don’t eat enough of (or at all) to warrant buying it at Costco. It’s really something each person needs to evaluate and be conscious of what else is out there.

    As for the Diaper Genie refills, we got our Diaper Genie given to us, but when I saw the price of refills I decided to take the diapers out to the garbage! We also have an older model that requires an engineering degree to remove the diaper snake and change the cartridge!

    And unfortunately our cat is extremely brand loyal so we can’t buy our litter at Costco :)

  3. Although I am a Costco shopper, you need to be aware of prices. For example, some sizing is too much for two people. Unless a coupon is available, many of the individual items are cheaper at Target. One of my secondary reasons to shop at Costco is to buy gas. It is the cheapest in the area.

    • @krantcents
      We’re getting a Costco gas station in our city this summer, everyone’s getting pretty excited to save 5 cents a litre.

  4. Love love love Costco. I hate when they get you hooked on something and then stop carrying it. They had a mango salsa that was to die for. Then one day it was gone. They started carrying my favorite bbq sauce and then stopped. Bummer. But other than that I just love them. I do probably 90% of my grocery shopping there.

    • Hi Ashley, I find Costco does that quite frequently where they bring in some unique item, get you hooked on it, and then never bring it back. Oh well, at least you get to try new things out once in a while.

  5. “and the painfully slow moving customers who always seem to be in your way”

    I walked into Costco two days ago to pick up one item and there appeared to be a traffic jam on the way up to the registers. I was the only one without a cart and I felt so free as I walked up and got into a line behind just one or two other people.

    I never realized how stressful it can be to push a cart around the whole store on a busy day…

    • Hi Tom, thanks for stopping by. There seems to be a lot of people shopping at Costco on Saturdays and of course we pick that day to go as well. I always wondered why they don’t have one express check-out open for people who just have a few items.

  6. Just made a trip yesterday….love Costco! I agree, it’s about quality. They have the best steak quality around and I stock up on non-perishables like dish detergent, etc.

    Although, I always end up buying some other gadget I didn’t intend to get. Yesterday it was picture frames and a runner. The last trip it was fleece sheets and some glass candle holders. They get me everytime!

    • @Donna – We’ve been pretty good lately for not buying any extras, but I’ll admit that it is pretty difficult at times to not walk out of there with something you didn’t intend to buy.

      I love the steaks there too!

  7. Why I hate shoping at Costco.

    As said by the author:
    – busy parking lot,
    – long lines at the check-out,
    – painfully slow moving customers
    – lack of choice
    but also because:
    – it’s far and it takes me 30 minutes to get there and 30 minutes to come back,
    – it’s impossible to spend less than 2 hours in there so it’s monstrous,
    – I can’t buy everything there so I have to stop elsewhere to complete my grocery shopping,
    – like most families, we are busy and only have weekends to rest. Can’t imagine spending half a day every week to do half of my grocery shopping,
    – I hate having to lay 1000$ for grocery every time even though i know I’d save a few bucks,
    – there is so much crap in there I would like to have (e.g. electronics) that I’d have a hard time facing the temptation to buy stuff I don’t need,

    and the last but not the least I hate the principle of paying membership to get the priviledge to spend my hard eaned money there.

    • @Millionaire
      As much as I hate most of the things that you mention about shopping at Costco I still love the quality of the products they offer.

      And I’m not sure where you’re getting the $1000 amount from, my average monthly bill is $250, maybe $300.

      • @echo

        Our average monthly grocery bill is way over 1000$. I can easily imagine one trip to costco for 1000$ as we have to buy everything in gigantic sizes. I don’t know man. I never go there. :). But one thing for sure, and I know that from friends, is the fact that since they have stuff other stores don’t, people buy a lot more things they wouldn’t buy in other stores and in humungous quantities. So yes its cheaper but you buy a lot more. I don’t call that savings.

  8. Costco is a crazy place. I just got back and I think I’ll need a week to recuperate. I think my stress level goes off the chart–you never know when some cart is going to come flying out of a side aisle.
    I’ve been reading what other people have been saying as well–and I’m definitely not alone. Here’s another fun article:
    http://aemayer.com/blog/2011/07/costcomanners/

    That being said…I love Costco. Can’t wait to go again….next week.

  9. I agree that their products are of higher quality, but my reasoning for shopping at Cost Co differs from yours. I think they have a variety of foods and drinks I can’t find elsewhere. Buying in bulk is always good too.

  10. I am surprised at the number of people who believe that Costco has better quality produce and meat than most grocery stores. I do not agree. Market fresh beats Costco frozen everytime, at least in larger urban centres. Perhaps I am fortunate to live in a city like Toronto where good quality and reasonably priced produce are available.

    • @Laurie – I buy most of our fresh meat and dairy at Costco and find the quality better than Superstore, Safeway, and Sobeys. The prices have been creeping up though.

      They don’t just sell frozen foods, but as the Squawkfox post pointed out, their frozen foods are usually superior to the competition.

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