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.
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?