Millions of people shop at Costco every day, making it one of the biggest stores in America. With a focus more on quantity than quality, Costco sells most of the same foods as your supermarket, except you often have to buy a dozen or more for it to be worth it, but for a play-by-play on what not to do while shopping there, here are 10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do When You Shop At Costco.
10. Seeing Red Sauce
Many people are very picky about the spaghetti sauce they buy; they are loyal to particular brands that they like better than others. Then, there are the people who sneer at store-bought marinara sauce altogether and would rather cook it themselves from scratch. Many people will buy products, including marinara sauce, that they perceive to be a good value and not get hung up on the name brand. Social media tends to be judgy by nature, with people criticizing even the most random things and probably feeling more compelled to chime in when something bad needs to be addressed. Costco’s Kirkland brand of marinara sauce has not been treated all that kindly by many of the reviewers who have posted about it on social media. The sauce has been described as having a strange aftertaste that may or not be a vague garlic flavor. Others have compared it to the sauce used in Franco-American Spaghettios and other canned pasta products. Of course, some people love Spaghettios, so this might all be very subjective anyway. Maybe there are some people who love Kirkland’s sauce, and they regularly buy it at Costco, but they are not the ones talking about it all over the web. Because of this, we are definitely under the impression that you shouldn’t buy the Costco marinara sauce.
9. Bulk Waste
One of the things that shoppers like about Costco is that you can buy most items in bulk. Buying them in bulk means you can store them and have them on hand, but more importantly, you can save quite a bit of money. Canned goods, paper products, and bottled water are all great items to buy in bulk if you have the room to store them. However, some products you buy at the supermarket really aren’t suited for bulk purchases. Apparently, the quality of the fruits and vegetables that Costco sells is fine – pretty much the same as you’d find at your local supermarket. The problem is most people can’t eat all the produce they’ve bought before it starts to go bad. Apples and pears, for instance, stay good for a while, but we all know bananas can go brown in a few short days. If the object is to save money, then you want to be able to consume all the food you buy or, as the saying goes: “waste not, want not.” What’s the sense of buying a huge bag of grapes at a great price if half of them turn into raisins before you can eat them? Unless you’re a really big family or you really, really love fruit, buying perishable items in bulk might not be the way to go. Maybe someday Costco will learn to sell produce in smaller amounts, and we’ll be able to take it off the list.
8. Skaken and Stirred up
Is it common knowledge that Costco sells its own brand of Vodka? Russian spirits aren’t what most people think of when they think of Costco. There is a rumor that Costco’s vodka is actually the French-made spirit from Grey Goose. It’s true that both vodka’s get their water from the same source in the Cognac region of France, but Grey Goose insists it does not produce vodka for the Kirkland brand as well. In fact, Grey Goose even insisted that they use their own “exclusive well,” their own proprietary methods and that they distill their vodka a whopping 800 kilometers away from where Kirkland is made. However, it doesn’t really matter who makes what; Costco’s store brand vodka might even be better than Grey Goose. Not only is it half the price as a bottle of Grey Goose in some locations, but it’s also been put to the test several times. Kirkland’s Signature vodka has won almost every single blind taste test against Grey Goose. So, if you’re a vodka drinker, you might as well buy the cheaper one or at least do your own taste test to see which you like better. Cheers to Kirkland vodka!
7. Hold the Mayo
Only fast-food joints usually need giant vats of gallon-sized mayo jars and other condiments. If you’re not planning to prepare enough burgers to feed a small army, maybe steering clear of the big, intimidating jars would be best. Why? It’s all about chemistry – and the ridiculously huge size of the things. You see, condiments, especially mayonnaise, are filled with preservatives and a lot of sugar. Because of this, they’re more susceptible to spoil after a while, sometimes sooner rather than later. According to the FDA, ketchup has a shelf life of six months and mayonnaise just two. So, unless you’re planning on eating 32 ounces of ketchup or 64 ounces of mayonnaise, chances are, you won’t even finish one jar before it starts to taint. Once the containers are opened, it’s only a matter of time before the flavor fades, and you have to throw them out. So, depending on how much of these condiments you use, it could take your family weeks to use regular-sized bottles – never mind the Costco size – so do you really need a year’s supply of mustard, taking up a lot of room in your refrigerator? Costco is supposed to be about value, but there is no value in buying food and then having to waste it because you can’t eat it all. Wasted food obviously means wasted money, which is what you were trying to avoid by going to Costco in the first place. You should probably stick to the regular-sized condiments and spend your money on something else at Costco.
6. Fizzling Out
Soda is a popular drink among adults and kids alike. Soda can be purchased just about anywhere in the world, thanks to giant bottling companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Costco, like most stores, sells a lot of soda, but does the membership store really have the best prices? Although you don’t have to worry about soda spoiling the way produce or milk does, it will still eventually go past its prime days. Of course, it will also go flat a few days after you open it if you don’t finish the bottle. This is why those oversized bottles of soda never made a lot of sense. A two-liter bottle of soda seems like almost the ideal size for a family, but the 3-liter bottle is just too much soda for most. According to some of the online reviewers, Costco’s many deals don’t really extend to soda. According to them, you can get the deals Costco offers at most of the other discount stores like Target and Walmart. No matter where you go, you’re going to find the usual Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, orange, and ginger ale. Grocery stores like Ralphs and Albertsons offer their own brand of sodas that are sold at lower prices than the name brands, but many soda drinkers prefer the name brands. However, in general, most soda brands are going to be cheaper at retailers other than Costco. So, unless you’re planning a very big party, consider stopping by just about any other store to get your soda.
5. Snap, Crackle, Not
Breakfast cereal is a staple in most households, whether you have children or not. And Costco sells a lot of cereal. The trouble with buying breakfast cereal at the warehouse store is that whether you buy a regular size box or some kind of jumbo box, the prices and deals will most likely be the same at any other supermarket. Kelloggs, Post, General Mills, and the other cereal brands produce a lot of breakfast cereal, so there is a lot of money to be spent and money to be made. Kids and adults alike eat a lot of Cocoa Puffs and Rice Krispies. If you shop at the supermarkets, you’ll often find lower prices on selected cereals that Costco offers. When it comes to cereal, it usually isn’t a matter of the food spoiling because most cereal is highly processed and will last for a while. However, if you buy enough cereal in bulk, you could still find yourself with a bunch of stale cereal you can’t eat. Depending on what cereal you like, you can spend a little or a lot on this breakfast staple, but if you like to save a lot, Costco, unfortunately, is not the place to buy your cereal. However, you can probably get a good price on granola bars or some muffins. So now you know: buying cereal at Costco is something you should never do.
4. Spill The Milk
Costco is a warehouse store that specializes in selling a wide range of products at good prices. Milk is a staple you can get just about anywhere, and this includes big jugs of milk. The problem isn’t with the milk itself because it’s the same as any other milk, and it sells for a fair price at Costco. The problem is that since 2008, the warehouse store has put its milk in sort of square-shaped plastic jugs instead of the usually rounded jugs. Customers didn’t like the new design, and for good reason: the strange shape makes it hard to pour the milk without, well, spilling it. People didn’t like the mess or the waste and went to the Internet to register their unhappiness with the irregular formed jug of milk. Why does Costco sell its milk in these squared-off jugs? It probably has a lot to do with logistics because the square shape fits nicely on pallets which then go on trucks for shipping. The shape does seem like a good design for shipping, even if it isn’t necessarily a good design for pouring and drinking. Apparently, all the complaining on the web did the trick because Costco decided to redesign the opening to make the milk easier to pour. We hope this is true because we’d hate to see people needlessly crying over spilled milk they never should have bought at Costco in the first place.
Canned goods are truly staples that everyone buys, and every store that offers food sells them. If they are stored properly, some of them can last a few years without ever spoiling. The issue isn’t with spoiling, but actually with the price. This is surprising because we are led to believe that warehouse stores offer the lowest prices around, but this apparently isn’t really the case with Costco’s canned goods. Costco doesn’t put its canned goods on sale very often, so you’ll usually pay full price. This full price can be as much as 40% more than you’d pay at your local supermarket. This seems strange, but the truth is stranger than fiction. Why would Costco be so good at selling its wares at competitive prices but fall down on these products? Perhaps the folks at Costco figured that canned goods are fairly cheap anyway, so they aren’t something warehouse stores should compete with. Costco sells everything from vitamins and medicines to electronics and clothes to pizza and cake at competitive prices that beat most of its competitors. So, even if the company has a failing grade when it comes to canned goods, its customers really can’t complain too much because they are getting a lot of great deals to make up for the shortfall.
2. So Much Coffee
Coffee is a morning essential for many, and for those who drink more than one cup a day, it can quickly become expensive. People want to be careful with how much they spend while still getting a decent cup of Coffee. Enter Costco: the warehouse store sells bags of Peet’s whole beans for half the price they sell for at a Peet’s store. It totally seems like a no-brainer. The problem is, coffee, like most food items, has a specific shelf life. Costco’s two-pound bags of coffee beans add up to a lot of coffee, so unless you’re a long-haul truck driver, you might not be able to finish it all before it goes stale. Coffee for half the price is very tempting, but it’s no deal if your not using it; it’s actually a waste of money. Like with some of the other products at Costco, you need to wonder why the store encourages people to buy these large amounts of food when they don’t need them. It’s really a win-win situation for Costco because they make a decent profit off each sale, and after that, isn’t doesn’t matter if you use up the coffee in one day or only use half of it before tossing it, because Costco’s profit is the same. Selling items in bulk and encouraging you to buy them is part of Costco’s business model. This is what they do, and they seem to do it pretty well. If you look at the success of the chain over the years, it has sold a lot of coffee and other products and shows no signs of slowing down.
1. Signature No-No
For those not as familiar with Costco’s foodcourt items, there is a popular item called the Kirkland Signature Chicken Bake. The food is reminiscent of a calzone, hot pocket, or other hand-held foods that feature fillings surrounded by a baked outer crust. Costco’s version sells some for a reasonable $2.99 but had not been available for a while as Costco shut down its foodcourts at the height of the pandemic in 2020. This handheld meal is filled with chicken, cheese, bacon, and caesar dressing and boasts about 850 calories and all the salt you can handle – and then some. As you might have guessed, this is a lot of calories, especially in this age of increased health awareness. But according to social media, there were many happy customers who celebrated the return of the chicken bake. Costco employees, not so much. This item is discouraged by many of them for obvious reasons – it is a monstrosity. It might be ok to indulge once in a great while, but there is no way to justify making this a regular purchase. Many people rave about Costco’s pizza slices, and although they’re definitely not healthy food, they would be an alternative worth considering. People can buy whatever they want, but they can’t say they weren’t properly warned about Costco’s Signature Chicken Bake and the other items on this list.