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What are the best foods to buy at Costco? [Moved from General Topics Board]

I have decided to become a Costco member. My best friend swears by the place, and always finds really cool and high-quality foods there, as well as good deals on other things. He even bought his fiancee's engagement ring there! Also, every article I've read about them says they treat their employees VERY well, and I'm happy to support a company like that, in this day and age of corporate amorality.

Also, I'm throwing a small party this Saturday -- a vaguely Halloween-themed costume party blended with a belated apartment-warming for myself. I'm expecting between 12 and 20 guests, and I'd love to get some good stuff. I really like those fresh mozzarella cheese balls that come marinating in oil and herbs, which I know Costco carries, but what other cool party foods should I look for? And what staples should I buy there as opposed to the supermarket (Publix and Albertson's, in my area)? I understand they have really good meats at a fraction of the cost of the supermarket, decent produce, good baked goods, and some affordable gourmet stuff. (I am a sucker for cold cuts, sausages, other salty cured meats, and cheese of all kinds.) Any advice would be welcomed. Just keep in mind I'm a grad student and I live alone in an apartment, so I don't have a limitless budget to be Foodie of the Century. I love good deals and saving money wherever I can!

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  1. Here are the food items we buy:

    Kirkland extra virgin olive oil
    Phillips jumbo lump crab meat - in the tin - bought it in the plastic a month ago and had to pitch it b/c it was mushy - the recipe for crabcakes on the tin is great.
    Rack of Lamb
    Beef Tenderloin
    Cheeses - they sometimes have some very nice high end cheeses
    Nuts - you could make spice nuts
    Instant Coffee (egads, I know)
    Pretty decent smoked salmon
    Wild salmon in season

    Good luck!

    1. My advice is to just visit the store and see for yourself what they offer - in my opinion your eyes will be a better judge than listening to our opinions on this board. You will see so many tempting, delicious-looking things (and at good prices) that it would be better if you picked based on your own judgment. The thing is, their return policy is great so in the off chance you wind up choosing something that isn't good, you can still get your money back.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monkuboy

        That's a good point - and they often have various "food sampling" stations, which might help you! Also a great place to pick up cookbooks.

      2. Costco ROCKS!

        I know this may sound crazy, but 2 nights ago we had boneless ribeyes from Costco -- 1.5-2lb boneless ribeyes. They were honestly better than the Whole Foods ribeyes.

        So, I know you are a student (as am I, though on a hiatus) but if you havea gf/bf you can go and get one of these gargantuan ribeyes, throw it on a grill and share it with your significant other for not-so-much money.

        1. i love the fresh lamb.
          rotisserie chicken
          crossiants
          cheeses

          i live in a little apartment. so occasionally - i have bought a large package of chicken/sausage/romaine lettuce/etc and then split w/ the friends. so that way your whole fridge/friedge isn't full of just one thing. and you can share the good quality and cheap costs w/ other people.

          just be careful of buying those huge jars of sauces etc. i once bought this gigantic bottle of bbq sauce - over a year later - it was still 1/2 full. i had to chuck b/c it smelled funky. so in that instance - i didn't save any $. even though i'm tempted to buy a lot of stuff - now i only stick to items that i really need or know i'll eat within a certain time limit - or you can go nuts shopping there.

          1. Cans of marcona almonds -- $6.99/lb. Simply irresistable!

            1. I have a terrible time making pot roast. Have never been able to make one but Costco has one that comes ready made all you have to do is heat it make some gravy from the juice and eat. My husband is a huge food snob and we don't eat any processed food but even he really likes it...or maybe it's just because he has tasted the alternative - one of mine - LOL

              1. I've read that while they carry a lot of common items, Costco really customizes it's stores for the area. For example, they have poke in the Hawaii stores.

                That being said, their EVOO is a great buy. I go through tons of the stuff.

                But you should go on a recon mission one quiet weekday afternoon.

                1. sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
                  marinated artichokes
                  marinated mushrooms
                  artisan breads and rolls
                  rotisserie chicken
                  shrimp cocktail
                  jarslberg cheese
                  tortilla chips
                  cashews, pecans, walnuts, or almonds

                  just some of my favorites

                  1.50 hot dog and soda on your way out

                  1. chocolate chip cookies, rugalach, salmon, strawberries, apples, kirkland cereal, rack of lamb, beef tenderloin, st. andre cheese, kirkland coffee, kirkland smoked salmon, kirkland cashews & pistachio nuts, french green beans, fresh spinach, fresh shepards pie, chicken ceasar salad - i could go on & on.

                    1. Two words on your first vist - BE CAREFUL. They have 100,000 square feet, you don't So take a deep breath and maintain the grocery store mentality, you and your family cannot consume 300 lbs of meat before it goes bad. They will not run out by next week.

                      Jfood's favorites:

                      - The shrimp when they have the shrimp expo, major jumbos for $12/lb
                      - jarlsberg $2.99/lb
                      - EVOO
                      - coffee
                      - strip steaks
                      - Quaker chewey granola bars (eating one as he types)
                      - blueberries
                      - strawberries
                      - gum
                      - now they have Eggland eggs, thank you
                      - OJ
                      - Poland springs water
                      - Pellegrino
                      - Sugar Free Red Bull
                      - Glad storage bags

                      And the $1.50 hot dog with soda. jfood buys on the way into the store. They now have Carnegie deli pastrami out here, but have not tried it yet.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        have tried the carnegie deli pastrami which they also offer as a sandwich in the food court in new jersey.....pretty good pastrami either there or at home....

                        1. re: robertjsweet

                          Ditto, add that to the list of things worth buying.. it's good! Seasonal stuff is out now too so stock up on the Belgian Chocolate Cookies (those are soooooo good) as well as the gift boxes of chocolates.

                        2. re: jfood

                          I like most of what I buy at Costco, and I think the cheeses are an especially good deal. What I don't like at all is the flavor of the jumbo shrimp, sold by the pound at a seperate counter. They are sourced from China and Vietnam, are farm raised, and are utterly flavorless. We ate some side by side with some wild Texas shrimp, and the difference was incredible. You'll be much better off paying more for shrimp out of the Gulf of Mexico.

                            1. re: kiwigal

                              Ahh. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Duh.

                          1. Maybe you should ask people what NOT to buy. That would be a much shorter list.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: monkuboy

                              For what NOT to buy... I tasted some jarred shrimp cocktail sauce from Costco once that someone brought to a party. It was utterly vile - just inedible.

                              I live alone so I have to be really careful there. If I get a big package of fresh spinach, I won't buy the broccoli for example. Last night I got smoked salmon, so I didn't get a rotisserie chicken or any other main course foods that could go bad before they are used. I got frozen crab cakes so I didn't get frozen dumplings as my freezer isn't all that big.

                              One of my favorite things they have in the summer months is huge containers of fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries for $5 - $8. Shockingly cheap. I freeze them unwashed and loosely packed and have fresh berries a cup at a time for breakfast for months.

                              I also like their vitamin dept. I think that stuff is a GREAT deal and expiration isn't so much of an issue.

                              I like their Kirkland vitamin water (it tastes great and has zero calories or sodium).

                              Laundry detergent is a great deal.

                              Love their jars of pickled herring - but they haven't carried it for a year or so.

                              Prescription drugs are cheaper there.

                              I NEVER get large containers of fattening snack food - for me that's a recipe for disaster.

                              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                just picked up a large jar of the pickled herring at the van nuys, ca store a week ago. very tasty!

                            2. We go to Costco about once a month, and the items we like are:

                              King Crab legs ( $5.99/lb.)
                              Whole Dungeness Crab
                              Bags of avocados
                              the occasional sheet cake for a party
                              frozen raviolis
                              bulk bags of shredded cheese
                              baby formula
                              tires(the $$ I saved payed for my membership)
                              Bulk olive oil

                              I find their meats above average. I have purchased their baby back ribs, steaks, and some organic ground beef. All decent, but nothing special, and nowhere near the quality, and service that I can get at my local family owned butcher shop. I may pay a little more at my butcher shop, but I get top notch service, and access to prime beef, and dry aged beef if required. I also get to support a local small business owner which makes me feel good.

                              Overall I like Costco

                              1. Coffee, some of the larger warehouses roast their own. You can get a back of fresh roasted coffee, for something like $8 or so for 2 lbs.

                                Kirkland Extra Virgin Olive Oil (mentioned previously) decent quality, but crazy cheap so you can use it everywhere ($11 for 2L I believe?)

                                Cheese selection varies by store, especially the Artisan cheeses. I just bought some Bandage wrapped cheddar by Fiscalini and enjoyed it.

                                Fruits / Vegetables aren't the cheapest but the quality is good, be careful since these go off quickly if you can't finish it. Frozen fish is decent too, with my warehouse recently carrying frozen sockeye year-round, chilean sea bass, and a few other great seafood selections.

                                Some unique items are also available on Costco.com (sometimes with free shipping). If you buy tires there, they'll rotate for life (and provide road-hazard warranty).

                                Smoked Salmon, available in both regular salmon and Sockeye, again crazy cheap.

                                Croissants are average, but all butter (no marge or hydrogenated oil last time I checked) at like $5 or so for 12, it's pretty a decent deal (although they're not all that flaky).

                                Balsamic Vinegar (Kirland brand again) from Italy, at around $10 or $11 a bottle, it's great quality IMO, and better than the cheaper stuff you find.

                                NUTS - As someone else mentioned, Marcona almonds, last time they had a huge bag of sliced almonds, also Pine Nuts are great if you cook with them.

                                Fish selection is decent, but is seasonal and depends on the warehouse too (go on a Friday/Saturday for best results I think).

                                1. Thank you all for the suggestions. Please keep them coming! I'm going on Friday to sign up and shop for the party, and I even found a coupon to get a $10 Costco gift card with the $50 membership. I will report back, of course.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                    Well, I visited Costco today, and they do have awesome stuff. However, they don't have anything I can't get elsewhere, and considering I'm a student with two part-time jobs living alone in an apartment, I don't need their mega-quantities of everything, and I don't feel the need to pay to shop somewhere. Great place, but it just doesn't meet my needs right now. Great hot dogs, though! You guys were right about that.

                                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                      I agree about the mega-quantities. I have a wife and one child, and the quantities of some items are still too big for us.

                                      We often just go for some crab legs, or whole crabs which you can buy by the pound, or individually . Also the individual packs of chicken breasts are a handy item for our freezer.

                                      I agree I like the hotdogs too, an easy, cheap lunch. We also get the pizza @ the snack area

                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        We're just two adults, and also don't buy some things b/c of the quantities but I do find a lot of the food products - esp. meats - to be good value and in reasonable quantities, even for our tiny freezer.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          I agree,

                                          I mentioned upthread that I typically do not buy the meat other than chicken @ Costco. Going to my local butcher shop(I live in the country) on Saturday morning is kind of part of my weekend shopping ritual. I do not like to freeze beef, so i buy it fresh, and support a local businessman in the process. Win, win in my book.

                                          I will definately renew my membership to Costco when it expires, as I do like the things I do purhase there. My closest Costco is almost 50 miles each way, but well worth the once a month trip.

                                          1. re: swsidejim

                                            I also like to support my local butchers, but find the quality of the rack of lamb at Costco excellent, and at a great price.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Ill have to check out the lamb based on your recommendation.

                                              1. re: swsidejim

                                                It really is nice - and $12 - $15 for a rack of eight chops - makes what can be a luxury a great weeknight dinner for us.

                                                I often cut them up and cook/serve as individual chops as they cook much more quickly.

                                      2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                        If you're a student - go for the paper products - paper towel & TP.

                                        You can find a ton of frozen appetizer type deals or bruschetta or crackers/toast points at Costco for your party this wknd.

                                    2. I think that Costco lets you have a second card at no additional cost. Perhaps your friend could add you to her/his membership and you could split the cost when it renews if you think you'll use it? Or maybe just borrow the card for occasional shopping. Cheese and crackers for a party, nuts for baking, anything that you're likely to use in large quantity immediately can be worth the stop. And those hot dogs are really good.

                                      1. I agree with the suggestion that you should tool around Costco yourself and see what they have. Also, the selection varies somewhat by geographic area, so you don't always see everything everywhere.

                                        Food things I buy, not party-specific
                                        --Baked goods they do on-site are really good (this coming from an avid home-baker). Rolls, muffins, cakes, pies, cookies are all generally pretty good.
                                        --Roasted chickens - Only $5.00 and you have something well-within grad student budget.
                                        --Butcher dept. - I second the remark about the rib eyes, if you are treating yourself and also beef tenderloin. Also, skirt steak, ground beef, pork chops. As to shoulder lamb chops, you kind of have to look at them and see if there is/not a lot of fat running through some of the chops or they are not wierdly shaped, due to being from the end of the piece being cut from.
                                        --Cream cheese - Sometimes you can get 6 1/2 lb bricks of Philadelphia cream cheese for not much over $1 a piece. Good ingredient for cheesecakes and certain dips.
                                        --Cereal
                                        --Cold cuts - I forget what brand they carry (Thuman's comes to mind, but that could be BJs...Tends to be salty, as I recall, so this could be for you.
                                        --Poland Spring bottled water - Politically incorrect, perhaps, but very handy
                                        --Canola oil, EVOO

                                        There are a lot of hard goods (foil, plastic wrap, plastic/garbage bags, paper/plastic plates, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, detergent, dishwashing soap, sponges, etc.) that you can use.

                                        True, you can get most everything they have elsewhere, but if you know prices, you know when you are getting a pretty good deal.

                                        While I am no longer a student, I do live alone, so I know people are saying about buying in bulk. You just have to pick and choose and resist temptation. I admit that it's quite a challenge to find room for 12 rolls of Bounty.

                                        1. I shop there a lot for parties - I would also look in the "fresh food" area for dips/spreads - I have bought a great bruschetta topping, artichoke dip, hummous, etc. As mentioned - cheeses are great too. in the freezer section they have they typical party sized quiches, and other finger foods. Also I have bought some of those bite sized creme puffs (also in froz food section) and served them at a party with a dish of chocolate sauce to dip into. mmmmm

                                          1. Costco's ok but I prefer Sam's club in Elmsford, NY. More of a selection for things that I buy.

                                            1. - Pacific organic chicken stock
                                              - canned tomatoes
                                              - cereal
                                              - various cuts of beef - use some and freeze the rest
                                              - Clif bars ($18 for a box of 24)
                                              - liquor (if you are throwing a party, the massive quantities are a great deal) and sometimes wine

                                              I also get the 40-lb bags of lamb & rice dog food for my dog for $20/bag (they just raised the price, it used to be $18 or so). It's made stateside and there's not that much weird stuff in it.

                                              1. Stacy's Pita Chips!! My favorite!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Chew on That

                                                  I'm so with you. But, you should try the Pita Chips with the Hummus also sold at Costco. This is the greatest combination. I also chop cilantro, onion and tomato to offer and it's a hit at parties.

                                                  1. re: NanfromCali

                                                    +1 on the Stacey's pita chips - how do they taste so buttery? Anyway, our Costco recently started carrying a 12-pack of individual hummus cups (Sabra brand) for about $6. These go great in my lunch, for snacking with pita chips or veggies (6-pack of bell peppers, anyone?). My only complaint is that I don't usually finish the dozen before the expiry date...

                                                    Other favorite purchases:
                                                    individually wrapped snack-size cheeses (Cabot 50% light cheddar)
                                                    big jar of shredded Parmesan or grated Grano Padano
                                                    ground beef or turkey
                                                    romaine hearts (in the winter, they're half the price of the grocery store's 3-pack)
                                                    tomatoes - Campari or grape (year-round, saves me from styrofoam tomatoes in the winter)
                                                    paper towels and toilet paper (about the same price as Target not on sale, but worth it to buy less often, and Kirkland brand towels are great)
                                                    dog treats - 3 lbs of chicken breast strips are much much less than at the pet stores
                                                    cereal - the spiced pecan stuff - but I have to take a break between the two bags, or else I get really sick of it

                                                    I could go on and on...

                                                    1. re: truman

                                                      Much love for the hummos packs! And a little secret... you can safely go about 2 weeks past the expriry date. Of course that's what I do. You have to decide for yourself.

                                                2. COSTCO : "Quick n eat" fully cooked angus burgers - awesome
                                                  Aidelles (sp?) chicken sausage
                                                  "Handy" crabcakes
                                                  take n bake pizzas
                                                  rotisserie chicken salad

                                                  1. I live with my boyfriend and we go to Costco to get non-perishable goods (TP, shampoo, dog food, etc) but when I get food it is usually:

                                                    1) Wholly Guacamole-freeze...the only good guacamole pre-packaged

                                                    2) Water

                                                    3) G2 Gatorade

                                                    3) Parmesean Bagels

                                                    4) Costco Trail Mix with MMs

                                                    5) Lindor Truffles( my boyfriend is ADDICTED)

                                                    6) Cara Cara Oranges-LOVE them so juicy

                                                    7) Gogurt

                                                    8) This good black forest ham

                                                    I find that if I get something like frozen taquitos, or a huge box of Honey Bunches-I get sick of it so easily (bc it is only two of us) that it is usually wasted. Now I buy things I eat almost everyday or that I can incorporate in a lot of different ways and if it is freezable.

                                                    1. Just bought the Kirkland organic strawberry perserves, WOW so long smuckers.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: cstr

                                                        just started getting daves killer bread. they just carry the good seed style but its great. I'll have to find out which day its delivered, fresh is best.
                                                        do not get sushi. I've had it good here but mostly pretty bad. only trader joes has worst sushi. I love tj's but even fred meyer has better sushi. best tj is in bellingham.

                                                      2. Always check out the fresh fruit. The stuff they get from Central and South America can be very good.

                                                        Yesterday I picked up raspberris and plums. The raspberries were devoured by suppertime. I just had my first of the plums (great buy at 4 lbs for $5.39) -- outstanding texture and flavor.