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What's up with Costco?

Ok. I hope nobody's going to get angry at me, but what's up with shopping at Costco? I see lots of posts where people talk about doing their groceries at Costco. You would think that, of all people, Chowhounds would appreciate the labour and work of small, local groceries and food stores.

To me, unless you have a big family, shopping at Costco or any other huge chain supermarket is just killing the small and more personnal businesses around.

Am I the only one to think that way?

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  1. It's cheap, we can drive our SUV's there, get everything we need, and fill up at the same time!

    Actually, it is good for certain things . . . so called "raw ingredients" and us CH's love to cook. I mean, if you're gonna chop and stew the onions and peppers, why not get the best price for them?

    Speciality ingredients I still get from local stores and will continue to do so because, well COSTCO doesn't sell everything :¬)

    TT (does not drive an SUV).

    1 Reply
    1. re: TexasToast

      Just a little reminder, Folks-

      Chowhound is about food and drink, please focus on the food and beverage items available at Costco. Discussion of non food items, Costco's business model, whether or not Costco is a socially responsible company, or the impact of big business on small independent businesses, etc. are not appropriate for this forum.

      Please help us maintain the value of Chowhound as a data trove for information on finding great food and drink.


    2. We buy all our paper (TP, paper towels, tissues), health and beauty, storage bags, juice, bottled water and other misc. stuff at BJ's (another wholesale club) because we can get a lot at once and because it's cheaper than at our local grocery store. We don't buy anything perishable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SarahEats

        Yeah, toilet paper, tissues, washing powder, all that good stuff, too! I forgot about that!


      2. There are a lot of interesting frozen and fresh foodstuffs that are often difficult to get at the local grocery store. For example, big bags of frozen edamame or jap snacks.

        Also, because of their commercial orientation (as differentiated from Sam's Club's consumer orientation) it is possible to get large quantities of restaurant-quality dinners and appetizers for really good prices, making them great for catering a party.

        1. Every year they have great deals on dried Porcinis and other mushrooms. I keep it in the freezer because it is such a large amount.

          I also buy their very reasonably priced orchids, which look beautiful on the dinner table.

          1. You must have access to great smaller stores and local merchants because in NYC, I can get a greater variety at bigger stores and a lower price. I like fairway but i dont really consider it a "local merchant." Costco has great deals on frozen shrimp and other fish.

            2 Replies
            1. re: belle

              Actually, I live in Montreal and I really enjoy to go to the small, specialized stores. And they know me where I get my fruits and vegetables, my meat...and the owner of my fish place calls me whenever he gets my favourite fish. I'm willing to pay more for that sort of service.

              1. re: Frenchie

                I would give my left arm for that kind of service, but alas...the suburbs are not exactly brimming with small specialty stores. The best I can do is shop at the local farm markets (which I most certainly do).

            2. I think a store needs more than family ownership or community roots to attract business. That something can be personal service, a great deli or butcher, sparkling produce, or a certain je ne sais quoi. Some reason to go out of the way to get there. Otherwise, market forces will take their toll, as many, many shopkeepers and large national chains have learned over the years.

              1. Costco is a pretty good company. Their produce and other foods destory the local chain groceries. They take a good approach to food.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Xericx

                  They also have good wages and good benefits for their employees. Late last year there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about how stock traders and market analysts were criticizing the CEO of Costco because they felt he paid his employees too much and treated them too well.

                2. Costco is a very responsible company that regularly shows up on the lists of companies that employees are happy to be working for. And the CEO has a formula for his salary that is a reasonable function of his employees' salaries.

                  That said, Costco has very high quality meats. It's the only place in Los Angelese I know of where I can get Vidalia or Walla Walla onions. I can get *six* boxes of raspberries for the price I'd pay for two in any other store.

                  Besides that, Los Angeles doesn't have family owned stores anymore. So I shop the farmers' market for great produce and a variety of stores including Costco for all the other things I need.

                  ...and it's the only place I know of to get that $1.50 lunch. ;>

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rainey

                    LA definitely has family-owned grocery stores -- but they're not large. Carniceria Don Juan, for example, has three or four stores in the Valley and is a great destination for meat, so sometimes I end up buying my groceries there.

                    As for the $1.50 lunch, how about a banh mi?

                  2. Here's a link to the NY Times article about Costco; they call it the Anti-Walmart: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/bus...

                    As others have noted, there really aren't any "family grocer" options in the Los Angeles area anymore. I still mourn the passing of Mayfair, which was so much better than Gelson's (who took it over).

                    I patronize local wine shops and cheese purveyors, because those we have. I go to the farmer's market when I can, because I really believe in supporting locally grown produce. But for most other groceries, there really isn't any option other than going to a "big" grocer. With Costco's employee-oriented policies and dedication to supplying interesting, tasty products, I feel pretty good about shopping there, to be honest.

                    1. I shop Costco for meats, paper products, printer ink, batteries - and I buy some of my appliances/housewares there. But at this time of year, I'd never buy any fruits & vegs at Costco because the farmer's markets are going. The rest of the year, I really don't care where I'm getting the Mexican produce - although it's good to know that if I buy it at Costco, I'm supporting a responsible corporation.

                      1. We stopped going to Cotsco because the "savings" were killing our budget. We'd go in to get a few "specialty" items and leave with a huge cart of stuff we didn't need. We bought Santa Margharita Pinot Grigio there when it sold for 13.00 a bottle!! Those were the days.

                        We love Taylor's Market (here in Sacramento) for their wonderful butcher shop and fresh, fresh seafood. It is also close to our house...plus down the street is Freeport Bakery, another local wonderful spot to shop. We go to the Farmers Markets for produce.

                        I saw a piece on the CEO of Cotsco and he seems like a "regular guy" and their employees are well compensated.

                        1. As others mentioned, Costco is socially responsible, so I don't feel guilty like when I pass by the mentally impaired greeters at Wal Mart and realize how little they are paid, plus the other workers who may or not be legal or have health insurance,etc, etc.
                          Costco is also much less depressing in terms of lighting, atmosphere, etc.

                          I bought a new Sprint phone at Costco for 1/2 the price of the sprint store models. the guy helping me was also really nice and there was no line.
                          It is a little repulsive to buy all your food items in bulk, but you sort of pick and choose what you need -- and everyone needs paper towels, toilet paper, and Perrier!
                          It is also ridiculous to feel you have to patronize "local" establishments when there are no quaint little groceries around you. I think of Whole Foods as my local establishment, but I am not going to buy paper towels there.
                          This weekend I bought: a large bag of red, yellow, and organge peppers in beautiful shape for around $5 (they are $2.50 each at the local Harris Teeter), a large container of vine tomatoes from my side of the country, and a large tub of hummus that is far better than what most lebanese restaurants in NY serve! I also bought two containers of Marcona almonds which sell for $20/lb at Whole Foods. They taste the same, only less oil was added.
                          Please tell me why I should feel guilty, I just feel that I got great bargains.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: fara

                            Ooooh, Marcona almonds. How much were they charging? I've never gone to a Costco because I assumed they'd be mostly like Sam's Club.

                            1. re: citizenconn

                              They do great big jars of Cashews too! And you can get a lot more nut for your buck around Xmas time! I mean, pure Danish butter cookies are only $6 for a massive tin! You can't beat that.


                                1. re: citizenconn

                                  A 1 lb. tin of Marcona almonds went for $8.

                                  1. re: fara

                                    Couldn't find these almonds in Mountain View, CA last night. Hope they arrive soon.

                                    1. re: Jefferson

                                      I remember seeing them at the MV store as an end cap item maybe a month ago so it could be that they are out of stock.

                                      1. re: Jefferson

                                        Well, I'm currently buying Marconas at HEB here in Houston for about $12.99 per pound, which beats the $20 a pound at Central Market and Whole Foods Market.

                                        The $12.99 per pound ones are sold bulk and not in as much oil as the $20 per pound ones. Anyone else ever get those in oil?

                                2. When you are feeding a family and most of their friends , Costco helps a lot ! Plus they sell Peter Lugars steak sauce !

                                  1. The raspberries (Driscoll from Watsonville Ca.) and blueberries were very good this year. I will not buy blueberries for 3.99 a basket (4oz.) at normal stores so my only chance to eat them this year was Costco.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Neilo

                                      Driscolls anything are the bomb. I've never tasted such sweet strawberries. How do they get 'em so sweet!

                                      1. re: davinagr

                                        I guess it pays to be in California - here on East Coast, Driscolls anything sucks.

                                        1. re: davinagr

                                          Ick, can't agree with you, icky poo ca ca. I bought a quart of Driscolls strawberries and the equivalent number of baskets from my go-to guy at the Studio City farmers' market (Kelly Farms) and had a taste test at the in-laws'.

                                          No contest whatsoever. The Driscolls ones tasted like wood.

                                      2. I don 't shop at Costco very often, but I do find some things, such as the quality of their meats, outstanding. Also, if you're having a party, they have some pre-made things that save a lot of time.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: MsDiPesto

                                          I used to hit Costco when I need party supplies and decent cuts of meat for bbq: ribs, pork shoulder, flank steak. But with the big Asian markets like Super H, I can get better deals there. Also, the Costco in Northern VA has kinda gone downhill in the beer department.

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                            The beer selection at the Costco here is Chicago has gone down lately as well. I used to be able to find one or two products from local micro-breweries, but lately all they have stocked is grocery store brands (Miller, AB, Sam Addams etc...)

                                        2. My Costco standard list.
                                          Mushroom burgers
                                          Garlic Pretzel chips (maybe the greatest invention ever)
                                          Organic Spinach
                                          Some brand of Brushetta that I'm addicted to.
                                          Cases of flavored water.

                                          All things that my local stores don't have, except spinach. I can get 5 times more spinach for the money than from local natural foods store. Am I putting them out of business? I don't know. I don't care. I don't shop there because they don't fill my needs.
                                          I buy sandwiches from local places and spend more money than I would at a chain. I do it because they are BETTER. Justify your price. Just cause you open a business doesn't mean I owe you a living.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Bobfrmia

                                            My Costco stopped carrying these tasty Mushroom burgers and I haven't found a good replacement anywhere. If anyone can get me the brand name of this product I'd like to try to find it some other place.

                                          2. Actually in San Diego, the price of fuel is around 5¢ a glalon less than surrounding stations. I know a lot of people joined up to get that discount...

                                            Hoever if you don't go to purchasewhen the station opens, the lines can be long, it doesn't pay for me to wait 30 minutes to save 50¢.

                                            That being said...the rotissiere chickens at $4.99 are larger and cheaper than anyplace around. The bottles of water come out to be 16¢ each, butter is less than $5 for 3 lbs...and in the heat of the summer, I don't have to cook, but can walk up and get a hot dog, or Polish dog or a slice of pizza for cheap...

                                            1. Costco meats are excellent and priced lower than the meats in our grocery stores or Whole Foods store here. Their fruit selection if also excellent - mangos, mellons, apples, berries, peaches, you name it. A month ago I found fresh figs there - something that is almost impossible to find in my area of the country. And as with the spinach mentioned above, you can buy 5 times the amount of baby salad greens for the price of a pound and a half in the Whole Foods store - same salad greens. And avocados at half the price. Not to mention lemons - when ONE lemon here is $.99!

                                              I also buy their bottled water, coffee (a Jamaican brand), paper products, CDs, paperbacks - everything much cheaper than regular stores.

                                              I still shop at the farmer's market when produce I want is in season, but you can't beat many of the finds at Costco.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Jeanne

                                                MEAT is my primary reason for Costco, the beef is terrific in all cuts, and the pork too. Although I don't buy the seafood very often, others in my family do and I find it very good.

                                              2. For large parties Costco is such a timesaver. The location near me doesn't offer wines, so I travel to another for that at holiday time. Holiday time, Costco is a staple for so many restaurant quality items. Some of the Kirkland products have been good to my surprise.

                                                My only complaint is the price of membership. As it continues to rise (I believe currently 50.00 a year) I find myself wondering why I must pay a fee in order to purchase inventory that is bought in bulk and sold in mass quantities. I wish membership was free.

                                                1. Costco has impressed many with the quality of its food offerings. On the social side, suffice it to say they are employee friendly, union friendly, and customer friendly to the extent that the New York Times dubbed them the "anti-Walmart."

                                                  1. we go to costco for staples - things like cheerios, peanut butter, snacks for school lunches, butter, philly cream cheese, lipton tea bags for my wife, tillamook cheddar, some frozen foods, etc. plus non-food items like cleaning supplies, batteries, etc.

                                                    they rotate a nice selection of decent beer (i.e., bell's oberon) at a good price and their wine selection is pretty good.

                                                    one of the things that has impressed/suprised the most is the quality and price their meats and seafood. i now go their extensively for pork loins, briskets, and to some extent rib eyes. shrimp is a good deal, too. i do better at my local market, however, for chicken.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: xman887

                                                      Their beef filets are wonderful.

                                                      Went there last night to pick up something for a luncheon at work. I'm not a fan of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant - BUT they had pumpkin cheesecakes made by the CF for $13.49. I bought one for today's luncheon and everyone loved it. It was very, very good!

                                                    2. Poland Springs sports bottles and Coffee beans are the anchor tenants in my shopping cart. I am very focussed when I go and avoid impulse shopping. Bounty is about as cheap as you can find, twelve packs of gum and let's not forget batteries and print cartridges.

                                                      I did break a golden rule this week and walked into the food aisles. Friend of mine BBQ'd their strips a few weeks ago and they were very good. So i tasted a few grapes and $1.29/# versus $3 in the local grocer and they were very sweet. The U-12 shrimp (from Vienna vs China at Food Emporium) were $11.99. Tried 1.5 pounds sauteed with a little garlic on top of veggie risotto and they were great. Rest of the produce did not look that great.

                                                      I am an exclusive with the local store, employee owned and am there every day. Funny thing is a few weeks ago I saw the local grocer truck at Costco buying stuff to sell in their store (mainly staples).

                                                      So on my monthly venture to Costco I may sneak a shrimp or grape again. So much for focussed.

                                                      1. Their Onions are badass!

                                                        I'm pretty sure that they have the best onions in town.

                                                        It angers me to buy onions anywhere else.

                                                        And they treat their employees with a modicum of respect, sorry chowhound forum...that's not happening so much these days.

                                                        But man, those sweet onions they sell...amazing. It makes my wife sick the amount of onions I eat when I go there. They are sweet and delicious and don't cause tears.

                                                        I want their secret, the best onions ever.

                                                        1. Frenchie

                                                          I think the bottom line here is. If you don't get Costco. Get a membership and start using it. I think you'll get it.
                                                          We shop so much we have an executive membership. It ends up we get a rebate of around $80/yr. Well worth it.


                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            Or- find a friend with a membership and tag along at first. I also have the Executive Membership- I used Costco for all business supplies and even clothes (Lucky jeans for $40??) at times, but mostly for food. The rebates cover the cost of the membership and then some.

                                                            The meat is good quality, they almost always have artichokes (which I can eat my weight in), and like others have said, the fruit is good too.

                                                            Once I bought bananas that didn't "yellow", just went from green to brown, and they happily took them back. The return policy is amazing- even on food.

                                                          2. I purchase all of my bulk nuts (pine, almonds, walnuts, and pecans) at Costco and freeze them for extended use. I know some people who swear by their meats but we don't purchase that much meat in bulk so I haven't firsthand knowledge of how good it is/isn't. And you can't beat the price of their alcohol and condiments such as sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Even when the huge jar is opened, they'll keep provided they are refrigerated because they are packed in oil.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: rosielucchesini

                                                              We don't have a Costco near us, but a new one is going in near where we spend some time in Colorado, so I have a question: Do they sell meats only in large lots or do they sell individual steaks, roasts, etc.? Also with veggies -- do they sell in bulk or only packaged?

                                                              1. re: River Rat

                                                                Steaks come about 4 to the package (rib-eye/strip) - porterhouse 2-3. Hamburger is about 3 lbs. Tips 3-4 lbs. They have flank steaks 2 to a pack. Pork chops about 10 to a pack. Whole tenderloins and strips are available cryo'd as are both pork spare and back ribs. Their vegetables are generally packaged at 2-3 times the sizes you find in Grocery stores. Their canned goods are also often large only (gallon size can of whole tomatoes) or plastic wrapped to 4-6 at a time.

                                                                We also are members at BJ's and their sizes are much more reasonable - more like standard Grocery store sizes. Canned goods are most often sold individually and in small cans. Also, they have a much better selection of cryo'd meat sections, including pork butts, beef rounds (top and bottom outside and inside sections). HOWEVER... their beef quality is nothing like Costco's. They may both be labeled USDA Choice, but the marbling on the Costco beef is just so much greater and finer - Costco has some direct deals with beef grower associations, and they get the best picks. While I buy the cheap cuts at BJ's (esp. the pork butts), I will buy strips, rib-eyes, porterhouses exclusively at Costco. They both sell briskets, but I buy mine at BJ's because they leave it as a whole flat. Costco cuts off the flat ahead of the deckle (called a first cut), which may be fine for the fat-conscious - but then what are you doing eating brisket?

                                                            2. They generally have multiple servings in a package. I buy the salmon filets all the time - they are gorgeous! I can't speak for the veg, because I much prefer waiting for the weekend farmers market.

                                                              1. Just adding to the product reviews: Costco hummus (Sabra) was aweful. But then again, I don't like most pre-packaged hummus.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: jsaimd

                                                                  I don't agree at all. And I think it's fair to say that Sabra hummus is commonly recognized as the best pre-packaged hummus sold in the United States.

                                                                  1. re: Arthur

                                                                    I second the rave for Sabra hummus. I can't use a tub size sold at Costco, so I purchase a 1lb. size at another local market--but the flavors in the Sabra line at outstanding in my opin.

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      Agree with jsaimd that Sabra is not good hummus. In Detroit area, they are carrying Garden Fresh hummus which is much much better. I noticed when I was in Wash State that they carry GF salsa (also fabulours) but not the hummus.

                                                                2. I was prepared to hate Costco but I have to say that their beef and salmon are consistently top notch and very reasonably priced.The salmon sides have already been skinned (my dog hates that) and are perfectly fileted. I bought some porterhouses the other day that were as good as I have ever seen in a store, rolled choice but very heavily marbled.

                                                                  Who knew?

                                                                  1. If you're a non-profit serving food to the homeless or a church shopping for the Sunday School picnic you can't go wrong at Costco. They have good quality food at great prices and they don't run out. I used to follow loss leaders at the chain supermarkets and they were always out of stock or I was only allowed 2 six packs of soda at the sale price. The quantity sizes are also wonderful when shopping for a crowd and the $1.50 hot dog lunch is a nice perk for volunteers.