The Best and Worst Deals at Costco

I read an article in the Financial Post about the best and worst deals at Costco.  While the writer certainly had her opinion, I’m going to one up the list with my own, and with more specifics.

As Costco has captured a large part of our grocery and shopping budget over the years, here is what we have found to be the best and worst deals at Costco.

Financial Post 10 Best:

1. Dairy products
2. Gift cards
3. Fresh produce
4. Glasses
5. Baking necessities
6. Wine (in the U.S.)
7. Meat and poultry
8. Gas
9. Bakery and deli products
10. Hot dog and a soda at Costco’s famously cheap food court

My List of the 10 Best Deals @ Costco (at least in Eastern Canada)

From our shopping at Costco, this is what we have found to have better prices that other big box stores.

  1. Rotisserie chicken ($7.99) – For the price, you cannot buy the same size uncooked chicken around here.  For $7.99, Costco offers a tasty (they use an injected saline solution to keep the meat moist) and large rotisserie chicken.  Who needs to cook when you can buy a versatile and instant protein for a great price.
  2. Fruit and Veggies – Being on an island (we live in Newfoundland), our supply of fresh fruit and veggies can be quite pricey at the grocery store.  Bananas, apples, grape tomatos, cucumbers, celery, sweet potato, and peppers are almost always cheaper at Costco than at the local Loblaws.
  3. Milk and Eggs -With two young kids in the house, we consume a whole lot of milk and eggs on a weekly basis. A 2L carton of milk in a local grocery store is $4.17, the same carton at Costco is $3.49 (20% savings).  Extra large eggs are typically around $4/dozen, at Costco it’s $3.09 (30% savings).
  4. Gasoline – Gas at the local Costco averages between $0.05 and $0.08 cheaper per liter than surrounding gas stations. However, such low prices come with a catch – the endless line ups filled with large pickup trucks.  If you also use Costco to fill up your vehicle, a trick to get through faster is to pick the line with the least number of pickup trucks.
  5. Ground Pork and Beef – While not all meat is cheaper at Costco, some ground meats, especially ground pork is much cheaper at Costco.  Locally, Costco’s ground pork is about half the price of the grocery store.  The only thing is that the ground pork packages are massive and you’ll likely need to subdivide into reasonable meal sizes, then freeze.
  6. Eye Glasses – When my wife needed a new pair of glasses earlier this year, we decided to give Costco a chance.  We typically shop at the local buy-one-get-second-pair-free shop, and they inevitably simply over price their first pair.  What really set Costco glasses apart from the other stores was their Kirkland frames which were really great value for the quality.  In the end, we ended up getting two pairs of glasses for about 15% less than the quote provided from the other local shops.
  7. AA Batteries – While Costco offers slightly better prices for big battery names like Duracell, where they really excel is with their Kirkland brand batteries.  The Kirkland batteries perform surprisingly well, so much so that they are competitive with the big names.  Big performance with a low price, you can get 48 AA batteries for $11.80 which is about the same as what you would pay for a 12 pack of a competing brand.  It’s likely though that the Kirkland battery is simply a rebranded Duracell or Energizer.
  8. Kids Clothing – For parents of young kids out there, Costco can be a mecca for quality kids clothes for a reasonable price.  When the kids were younger, we picked up quality pajamas and onesies for a steep discount.  Even as the kids get older, we often find clothes quality brand name clothing for a fraction of the full retail cost.
  9. Kirkland Paper Towels and Toilet Tissue – For whatever reason, we go through a boatload of paper towels and toilet tissue.  The Kirkland brand of each are very comparable with leading brands, the Kirkland paper towels even have the select-a-size feature.  On a per square meter basis, the Costco brand items are significantly lower in cost that the leading brand.
  10. Kirkland K-Cups – I’m the only coffee drinker in the house, and I usually only have one in the morning which is why a Keurig coffee machine works for us.  While its ability to produce one cup at a time is a real bonus, the cost of the k-cups can get to be pretty insane.  For example, Starbucks k-cups can get up to almost $1 a cup in grocery stores (why not go to Starbucks for that kind of price).  While I like to use my reusable filter with freshly ground beans, there are times where it’s convenient to use a k-cup.  Costco branded k-cups work out to be about $0.40/cup or even less when they have sales.  From my research, anything under $0.50/k-cup is a good deal.

My List of the “Not So Great” Deals at Costco

Financial Post 10 Worst

1. Hygiene products
2. Diapers
3. Dry goods, like cereal
4. Laundry detergent
5. Books and DVDs
6. Feminine products
7. Designer clothing
8. Condiments
9. Snacks
10. Paper goods

As a regular Costco shopper, I will say that most things in the store offer good value.  However, some items may be at market value and not cheaper than competing stores.  I had to think hard about this list, and could only come up with 8. :)

  1. Electronics and Computers –  This is perhaps where Costco is the weakest – their competitiveness on consumer electronics and computers.  The Costco business model revolves around buying everything in bulk.  So when a particular electronic item is not quite up to speed anymore, they are slow to reduce pricing to compete with other big box electronic stores.  So if you find an item from their electronic section that appears to be a good deal, make sure to shop around online first.
  2. Packaged Food and Baked Goods – Although Costco has a bakery section, they don’t bake everything on the bakery section.  Pre-packaged sweets like snowballs and lemon squares are outsourced from local bakeries.  As a result, their prices are good, but not great.
  3. Protein Powder – Workout junkies who use protein powder on a regular basis will know the sources to get a decent deal on protein.  First, the cheaper Costco Leanfit stuff foams up and does not mix as well as it should.  However, the higher end Kaizen whey protein isolate mixes and tastes good, but it costs almost $50 a tub.  Good quality protein can be found elsewhere for lower cost – like at local supplement stores (but not GNC).
  4. Orange Juice – We went through a phase where we consumed quite a bit of orange juice with the Tropicana stuff being our favorite.  Costco regular price is $12.99 for 4 cartons which works out to be $3.25 each.  The grocery store regularly has it on-sale for $2.99/carton.  In Costco’s defense, they occasionally have sales on juice bringing the price down to $2.75/carton.
  5. Chips and Bars – We find that these “junk food” items are not competitive with the local grocery store.  First, they are sold in bulk so you end up eating more “junk” than you would with a smaller bag.  In addition, this type of food goes on sale often in regular stores, so you are usually better off picking up a smaller portion at the local store during a sale.
  6. Fruit – While fruit at Costco can be the best deal, there is also some fruit that can be quite pricey at Costco.  For example, I find their melons and mangos generally to be more expensive than competing grocery stores.
  7. Gluten-Free Pasta – While Costco has a decent selection of gluten-free (GF) products, their gluten free pasta is one product that is overpriced.  1kg of their GF pasta costs $8.99, the same amount at a grocery store will cost around $5.
  8. Home Appliances – On the same vein as the Electronics and Computers, there are some home appliances that are not cheaper at Costco.  For example, their Dyson Vacuums can often be found at Bestbuy and other stores on-sale for less – even their regular prices are very close ($579 vs $599).  Same goes for pots and pans (except the Kirkland brand), cutting boards, knives, and blenders.

Ok back to you, what do you think are the best and worst deals at Costco?


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3 years ago

Our Costco (ON) is the best place for cereal. 2 pack of jumbo boxes of cheerios for $6.99-$9.99 (I have seen the price change throughout the year).
The box of applesauces.
36 for $10.
Fantastic to have on hand for kiddo lunches when they have ran theough the fresh fruit!
Canned tuna.
The vinegar (I use it a lot for cleaning).
The snacks @2 bags for x price are good for parties when you know large amounts of snacks are needed.

4 years ago

Costco is NOT as great as its made out to be. With sale prices, Manufacturer cpns ( which Costco doesn’t accept ), other stores are often much cheaper.
I know lot of people, who have cancelled their membership fees.

5 years ago

Marketplace (I think it was them) just did a comparison on batteries and Kirkland came in at #1 or #2 for best choice.

5 years ago

It’s convenient. Yes the juice is often on sale at IGA or Metro or wherever. But its not predictable.

One thing I never buy at Costco is oil. I’ve never seen any olive oil in anything but plastic bottles. I know that’s all the rage in North America but I like to have my oil in glass bottles. So I stock up on olive oil in small glass bottles whenever I see it on sale while at IGA anyway and I just buy 5 or 6. It’s weird. IGA has the small bottles made of glass but the bigger ones are plastic (same brand, same oil) while I used to buy the same oil (same brand) back in Europe in the big bottles made of glass.

We spend about $110 per week on food (family of 4) and most of it at Costco.

Sustainable PF
5 years ago

My wife likes to bake. The large bags of white flours are a good price per unit.

Tony @ Investing Track
6 years ago

Can’t comment on specific deals at Costco, although I gotta say that I love the return policy and the warranty. I had two bikes with gear problems, and Costco took them back no questions asked.

However, I don’t use Costco as much as I used to. A lot of their grocery prices skyrocketed last year. No idea what happened.

6 years ago

When we went vegan 3 years ago I worried Costco wouldn’t be worth it anymore. However we found the following best deals (we are in QC):
-nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
-bread 3pack for price of 2 at grocery store + the loaf is longer
-seeds (chia + hemp)
-fresh produce (baby spinach and mushroom especially)
-gas (at least 4cents cheaper and store not out of our way)
-kirkland peanut butter
-cocoa powder
-frozen fruit

Those are regular purchases weekly/biweekly. Occasionally we also get good deals on clothes/gifts etc.

Mandy Katz
6 years ago

Costco has never promised its customers the lowest price. Their goal is the best value. We’ve been Costco members for more than 17 years and even held on to our membership for three years after moving, waiting for a reasonably close by warehouse to be built. And we’re thrilled to be only a 63 mile drive away.

In the interim, we’ve been Sam’s Club members — what a downer THAT place is. Nothing among Sam’s house brand even comes close to the quality of Costco’s Kirkland brand items. And Sam’s employees remind a friend of mine of when she taught high school English: a bunch of sullen faces staring back at you, obviously longing to be anywhere else on Planet Earth.

Jess @ Best Credit Cards Canada
6 years ago

We live in the core of a big city so there are no Costcos close for us to visit. However, we do ask my inlaws to pick us up double packs of Frank’s Red Hot sauce when they go. It comes in 2 huge bottles and is way less expensive than what we pay at a downtown grocery store. We love that stuff so it is worth having someone pick it up for us :)

6 years ago

Just to let you know Tropicana and most of the other main brand orange juices use flavor packets in their juice, but Costco’s orange juice is fresh squeezed. Research the full story about orange juice and flavor packets.