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Oct 23, 2009 01:28 PM

Costo membership - worth it? must-tries etc.

I want to go and check out Costco but I heard that you can not even enter the stores without a membership.

I was wondering if it is really worth it to buy a $55 membership for two people? Where do you save the most money compared to other supermarkets? What are must try products?
How is the selection/price on cheese, bread and meat?


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  1. very ironic, i'm in the same position, supposed to be joining on Monday and have wondered the same, butin my case its only for 1 person, hence the ever-present trepidation

    1. Not everything they have is in MASS quantities. We love their meat. They have a lot of big quantity boxes ie; toilet paper, paper towels, tomato sauce, cheese and some of their produce. I do believe you can get a one day pass to explore the place. They have clothes and books (my wife likes that).

      1. "I heard that you can not even enter the stores without a membership."
        that's not true. you *can* go into the stores without a membership, and you can even purchase things there, but they charge non-members a premium for the "privilege." go there and check it out for yourself to see if you think their selection is appropriate for you...and if you search the board there are lots of threads about CHers' Costco faves, must-haves, and even products to avoid.

        8 Replies
            1. re: bbqdawg

              Sams lets you make any purchase and pay 5% more than marked prices if you are not a member; I have never seen Costco do that and have been a member since 1984. I shop weekly.

              EDIT: You can walk without showing membership to go to the pharmacy, see the in-store Optometrist or buy glasses and contact lenses.

              You have to show membership to make a purchase of the other items. I just called my store and asked.

              1. re: Cathy

                That varies with location (state law??). We walked around a Costco in Georgia as non-members recently, as were told by the optical guy that we had to be a member to use the department. I didn't get into the 5% additional issue with him, but the manager at the entrance said we could shop in the store for the 5% extra.

                1. re: Cathy

                  I agree that must vary by location. I usually avoid anything associated with Wal-Mart, but when we had to make a large purchase on a budget, a friend offered to let us use his Sams Club membership. He came with us and a store employee checked that someone in our group had a membership card before we could enter the store.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    I saw an ad for a 'one day membership pass' for Sam's Club. I figured it would be worth it to stock up- but the fine print said you must pay 10% of your purchase as a service fee!

                  2. re: bbqdawg

                    @bbqdawg Well, what do you want me to say? They stopped us and requested to see a membership card or sign up right there. Which we did.

                    1. re: josey124

                      I was replying to goodhealthgourmet. My comment was meant to support what you said, not attack it.

                2. They have a 1-year money back guarantee. I've seen it used many many times. As in, you can purchase a membership, use it for up to a year, and theoretically if you're not pleased, ask for a refund and they will refund your entire membership, no questions.

                  Now, for is it worth it for only two people? Probably not unless you're big eaters. Because everything is supersized there, and the prices reflect it. I'm still not convinced that anyone saves money at by buying at Costco. They may save time because they can shop for more and go less often, but dollar for dollar, you don't shop at Costco to save money. Unless someone gives me a side by side comparison, I'm of that opinion.

                  Having said all that, it's a no lose for you. Go buy a membership, try it out and see if it's for you. That's what I'm doing this year. I hate to say it, so far the only revelation I've had at Costco has been the $2 hot dogs and sundaes--but then again I can go eat those even without a membership.

                  46 Replies
                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                    And, of course, there's much more to Costco than their food. I've purchased tires for 2 of our cars there this year alone, more than making up the cost of membership.

                    Our sons both get their contact prescriptions filled there. I use their online photo processing routinely. Even their car rental rates are good.

                    1. re: Restaurant Dish

                      <<<Now, for is it worth it for only two people? Probably not unless you're big eaters>>>

                      Quite a curious comment?? Just because you purchase 8 steaks doesn't mean that you sit down and eat them all???

                      1. re: easily amused

                        No, but not everyone wants to be eating steak, pork, or chicken from the FREEZER all the time and that's what you have to do if you buy 8 steaks and are only two people, isn't it?

                        Not to mention the 'supersize' everything else like chips, bread, mayo, BBQ sauce, cookies, cakes, seafood that you either have to freeze or deal with going bad if you don't finish by best before date.

                        Costco was not invented for two people to shop in. I find that you don't understand that kinda curious actually.

                        I will say that Costco is good for some non-food items but I'm not sure that warrants $100/yr membership, which is the one I have. Here in Canada, (Toronto) we also don't have the luxury of Costco gas, so maybe that would make a difference. We do have tires etc but I've not been sure of their quality in terms of labor.

                        Here's what I LOVE about Costco though: their customer service. I wish the supermarkets I frequent had that type of customer service. You can return anything, without question with a full refund - and they don't make you feel dumb. I've even seen people returning meat! Fantastic!

                        1. re: Restaurant Dish

                          >>>Costco was not invented for two people to shop in<<<

                          I have a Costco membership for a two person household and I shop there at least once a week. The price on milk alone is worth a membership.

                          1. re: diablo

                            Really? A whole membership on milk every week? Hmm. What's the cost at Costco and how much do you buy?

                            1. re: Restaurant Dish

                              A gallon of milk at Costco is $1.49 - $1.69 in NJ, so yes, this will pay for your membership for the year.

                              1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                Yes, I live in NJ, so jnk's response is right on the money, so to speak. Plus, I got a deal on my membership. They ran some special where if you join they give you a $25 gift card for the store. So I actually only paid $25 for my membership. I love it so much, though, I would renew for full price. I don't mind freezing things so I'll get the two pack of bread and freeze one. I'll get the four pack of filet mignon and freeze two, etc. I've also purchased clothes, books, shoes...all at a good discount, so, again, I don't understand why it would *not* be a good idea for a two person household. I've saved a ton on grocery shopping since joining. In this economy, I would think it's foolhardy not to join if you have the option, no matter the size of your household.

                                1. re: diablo

                                  I'd say this was a case of the U.S. vs. Canadian stores, but I've actually been to an N.J. location and I also have relatives in California who tell me how expensive it is, so not sure where you're finding all these 'deals'! I was surprised that you didn't need a membership card to shop at their licquor store too! How odd. I'd think that would have been a good reason to get membership out of customers.

                                  Costco is WAY more expensive than regular grocery stores. That's why everyone hasn't joined. It doesn't make sense. Sure, maybe the sale items are cheaper than other places but I don't find that is the norm. I'll say it again, Costco is an expensive place to shop. Yes, they have nice stuff, yes sometimes they have good sales, but on the whole, I stand by my comment that Costco was not invented for a 1 or two person family. I know that a 1 or 2 person family CAN shop there and freeze things, but that's also not the norm.

                                  Look, I'm glad that so many get pleasure shopping at Costco. But I'm not their PR person so feel no need to over-hype their usefulness or debate whether it's an economical place to shop. Just saying that from what I've seen, it's not an economical place to shop if you have fewer than 4 to 6 people in your family.

                                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                    We're a two person family and shop Costco at least once a month. MANY things aren't super-sized. Many. Like every other store, you have to know what you're doing. But we save money on almost everything we buy. We're VERY frugal shoppers so we know what we're talking about. Pehaps you shop differently than we.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Agreed! We're a 2 person vegetarian family, and find Costco membership totally worthwhile. Fantastic bargains on interesting cheese-- and that was the primary reason I joined (besides their great treatment of employees). I don't get much produce there, as I prefer shopping at Minneapolis-St. Paul co-ops. However, co-ops don't sell tires-- that's a non-food item that can make a year's membership pay for itself.

                                    2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                      I'm frugal as can be too. I have checked prices with a calculator oz. to oz. and Costco in my area beats the regular grocery prices. Sometime the sale price at the regular grocery is better and sometimes a really good coupon at the reg. grocery is a better deal. But I don't really want to spend massive amounts of time devising a sale based grocery list, so my Costco purchases give me the price anytime.

                                      We don't eat huge meals. Many of their packaged meats still work for us. They had beautiful wild salmon a few months ago. I cut it into 6 portions, 3 meals for 2 people. I seasoned each set differently and broiled. Ate one for dinner, the next set was mixed into a spread for sandwiches, the last set was the protein for a composed salad the next night.

                                      I'm making lasagna for guests next week - their price on ricotta, mozzarella and fresh Parmesan makes this affordable. Their quantities will cover the dinner party, leftovers for who ever wants them (usually everyone) and several single portions to freeze for brown bagging lunches. One of my favorite everyday red's is $4/bottle less at Costco - I drink it at least once per week, so a savings of $208/year right there!

                                      I'm thinking this may be a difference between countries...My SIL moved from Brooklyn to the Los Angeles area and still goes to Costco regularly. She feels the prices are comparable and better than most area grocery stores.

                                  2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                    well here we do four gallons of milk a week for our three person husband and five year a savings of 1.83 a gallon from the yearly I save about 380.00...and it is better tasting.

                                    1. re: LaLa

                                      Holy cow! Y'all drink FOUR GALLONS of milk a WEEK???? No calcium difficiency in your family, huh? Wow.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        and I don't even drink it....I am allergic!

                                        1. re: LaLa

                                          I feel for you...we go through 2 gallons a week with my 2 year old. I rarely touch the stuff...Costco is a dairy lifesaver! Between milk and butter we more than justify our membership.

                                  3. re: diablo

                                    I shop at costco about once a month for a two member household. And the savings are fantastic! Especially since we're both unemployed at the moment. For example, i can get filet mignon for $9.99 /lb whereas the cheapest i can find in SF, on sale, is usually around 15.99 /lb. I freeze what ever I won't use that week. I also buy all my booze there, which saves me a ton in $ as well.

                                    I buy all my paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper there in bulk too. Plus, I saved money on movies, bath towels and various other items at a good price.

                                    I also like some of the kirkland brands of stuff, like olive oil for every day usage.

                                    It's not the place for my weekly shopping, but it has kept me in steak whilst I've been unemployed!

                                    1. re: diablo

                                      I just joined - I'm a single person and I live alone. So far, I've stocked up on organic milk, soy milk, olive oil, chicken stock, kitty litter, organic tomato sauce, organic apples, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, fish oil capsules (my dogs get 3 a day each). My boyfriend has come with me to buy meats and bags of potatoes. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna get my money's worth out of it.

                                    2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                      I joined Costco for free the first year when it opened about a mile from my house and found that it was worth paying the membership fee even for a single person like myself. I have certain beauty products and medicines I use fairly regularly that cost anywhere from 50-75% more at other stores. I can get a 6-12-month supply of a few products in one visit and that will typically recoup the membership costs.

                                      There are plenty of other non-bulk items that are cheaper too- like books, DVDs, video games, electronics, and clothing.

                                      As for the food, most of it is in very large sizes. If you think you'll be buying enough of the other stuff, then the food is really only a bonus. I live about 45 minutes away from Costco now, so any refrigerated food is limited to a small cooler.

                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                        We now have Costco Gaz at many Costco around Montreal, they are usually 2-3c a liter cheaper than the other gas stations.

                                        As for a membership, i live alone and manage to make the most of my membership with some food items both dry/canned and fresh, gas and household staples (toilet paper, garbage bags) and that's not counting the other items i might have purchased in the past years such as Books and DVD's that are often cheaper than other stores.

                                        1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                          Tire service is great. I'm lucky that my inlaws are in the states. I bought tires down yonder (Michelin) and have have them serviced up here. Twice I drove over something puncturing the tire. Fixed free of charge. They rotate them free of charge as well.
                                          Their oil changes are pretty cheap too.

                                          To say that it's not for a two person household is absurd. There's plenty of things you can buy there cheaper than at another store. It will more than make up for the savings.


                                          1. re: Davwud

                                            That's good to know. Like I said, I've had it for a year and I haven't really seen any really stellar deals that I couldn't get elsewhere and I guess I'm just not a fan of having large sizes of items, like we've been working on a mayo jar for the last little while and it expires in Dec. so I doubt we'll finish by then. Also disappointing is the selection here in Canada vs. U.S. I find many more interesting food items in U.S. I just don't know why you'd want to shop there as a two-person household? A jar of mayo for example is just as cheap at grocery store if you get on sale than a larger one that might be good value, but you'll never fully use. Kind of defeats the purpose IMO. And that's what it is, my opinion.

                                            I will check out the oil change and tire thing though cause last time I got hosed at Mr. Lube.

                                            1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                              Not sure how Costco sources product in Canada, but here in Illinois I've been seeing more multi-packs of retail size product than jumbo tubs. Years ago I shopped at the long-defunct Warehouse Club which was chock-full of #10 cans of just about everything. My local Costco has but a few items in #10 can size (notably San Marzano tomatoes for about the same price as a "large" can in the chain groceries).

                                              1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                It's precisely why I don't by mayo at Costco.

                                                It's like going to any other store. If you don't bother to check against the competitor, you'll save money on some items and not on others.

                                                I'm not sure you're right about the selection here in Canada. I go to the one in Huntsville, Al. alot. It's different but once you're used to what they have, it seems like the same old stuff. It's just perspective.


                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                  I think it's a little more than just perspective. And I find it shocking, yes shocking, that an Alabama Costco would have the same items/brands as a Scarborough or Mississauga Costco. In fact, I'd be surprised if they did, save for a few staple items. When I went to the NJ one, I didn't see a thing in that trip that I've ever seen here, including San Marzano tomatoes, types of snacks, sauces, and frozen products.

                                                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                    I didn't say they have the same items as one in Mississauga. I said, once you're used to the items they have there, it's not as special to go there any more.
                                                    I went to one in Indianapolis earlier this year. It was different. I'm sure if I went there all the time it would be same ole, same ole.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      So then what are we talking about then? I said the U.S. Costco has different, maybe even 'better' items than the Canadian ones I've been too. Then you said, yeah it's different but if you keep going to the same one, it'll seem the same. Whaaaa??? I think you are agreeing with me. But maybe it took a few posts to get there.

                                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                        Maybe I am and just don't know. What I'm trying to say is, the US stores seem better because you see stuff that you don't see here in TO. If the roles were reversed and you came here from you local California Costco, it would seem more interesting because it's a bunch of stuff you've not seen before.

                                                        Get it??


                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          Yep, I 'get it'. But I 'don't agree'.

                                                          I'm going to use the same example that a recent poster on here just used: that's like saying that it's all in my head that the clothes at Nordstrom are better than the clothes at Wal Mart! Does. Not. Make. Any. Sense.

                                                          Now, you can argue 'better' is relative. And it is. I may enjoy great Spanish, Greek olive oils and San Marzano tomatoes and so that appeals to me more when I see that at the U.S. Costco, whereas here, I seem to see the same olive oil and same can of tomatoes. It seems that every time I go to U.S. and I usually go to the same Costco, that they have 'new' products which I just don't see here in my Costco. Maybe your Costco is different here in Canada, don't know.

                                                          1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                            The Costco business model is to turn over an item in 14 days but wait 30-45 days to pay the vendor. That's how the company makes money. There are "regular" items that last more than 14 days as well as "seasonal" items that show up and then vanish for a year. There are also locally produced but similar items in all stores (bread, dairy, some meats, fish and fowl. Kielbasas are in each store, but it is Hillshire Farm brand in San Diego and Kowalski brand in Detroit for example).

                                                            I very much disagree that Costco sells poor quality items. I personally know buyers from different departments and the whole philosophy each has told me over the years is quality is primary with bulk pricing secondary. The fact that the food buyers started concentrating on organic products more than six years ago shows me that they are quality as well as cost conscious.

                                                            The fact that you can return any item even years after purchase (until people started abusing the electronics return policy) if dissatisfied shows the confidence the company has in what it sells.

                                                            1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                              I was commenting to you about not seeing 'new' items. Certainly you have had Halloween and Christmas decor, foods and gifts in your stores, right?

                                                              The person who was commenting about Walmart vs Nordstrom quality seems to have been vanquished. That was the other part of my comment.

                                                     well as rambling...

                                                            2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                              I think we're both in the GTA, no?? I usually go to the two north of Major Mack in RH and NM. Both are good.

                                                              Where is the one in the US that you usually go to??


                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                Yes, GTA but I usually go to the Warden Ave. one out of more convenience. I think I'll try the RH one to check any difference.

                                                                I go to a few when I'm in NJ/NYC and they are in the Short Hills/Montclair areas. Checked out the one in Brooklyn once, it was neat. Had some good deli and cheeses there.

                                                                A writer friend was going to do a comparison on shopping at Costco for a month vs. regular grocery store and compare, but not sure what happened to that article. I'd love to see the results.

                                                                1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                  The Warden one sucks. It's closest to my Godparents and they go to the RH one. The one at Elgin Mills and 404.

                                                                  It's too bad there aren't any in the WNY area.


                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                    That might be the problem then. I'll check out the other one.

                                                                    And yes, it is too bad. It'd be nice to hop over the border and get some U.S. products other than those at Wegman's.

                                                                    1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                      try their jelly bellies around easter, with coupon. that's half of what "banged up mishappen" costs at the factory.

                                                    2. re: Davwud

                                                      Gotta disagree with you there, DT. My wife always goes to Costco when she's in the states, just because she feels they have many items that don't show up on Canadian shelves.

                                                    3. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                      Don't let yourself get hung up on expiration dates. Being a single person, I buy their large size Mayo; and I'm sure I have consumed some that has "expired". Can't tell the difference. This suggested expiration date does not meant that you will get sick if you consume the product and, like I said, I can't tell the difference and I'm generally particular on quality, in addition to being a "brand snob". Also, I scoop it out of the large container and put some in canning jars (pint and pint and half size). They fit better in my refer than the large original jar. THAT is my chief conplaint!

                                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                        Oh, really... you must not like beef much. their choice is best on the market, bar none. And if your supermarket has anything like the cost /lb. for 50lb. flour bags, I want to know where you're shopping.

                                                        People drive 100 miles to shop at my costco. I save tons of money... After all, who can't eat 10lbs of carrots before they go bad? same with five of onions...

                                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                                          Agree that Costco meat is pretty good, but RD mentioned Wegmans, and Wegmans' beef is better, without question, IMO. Of course, if you don't happen to live near a Wegmans, that's not much help.

                                                          1. re: johnb

                                                            Hate to bust your bubble but, USDA Choice, USDA Prime et al pretty much all come from about 5 processing houses in the US and get shipped to various retailers. Wegman's is no better than the other super markets. What we choose to pay is a personal choice.

                                                            1. re: cstr

                                                              Hate to bust your bubble but there are more than 5, and individual chain buyers can and do exercise leverage on the quality of meat that packers send them. There are subgrades and other specs within the general grades of choice, prime. etc., that are transparent to the shopping public but are used in the business, some official and some not. Some Wegmans stores, by the way, have their own in-store aging rooms and sell their own dry-aged beef.

                                                              Bottom line -- There can be big differences in the quality of beef that shows up within any particular grade category, and some stores do indeed make it a point to buy the better stuff. There are, also of course, differences among individual pieces in any given meat case, which is where personal knowledge of what makes different pieces better comes into play.

                                                              1. re: johnb

                                                                *tsk* *tsk* think you're changing subject on me. i said Costco's choice beef was best (for choice beef)... do you routinely buy choice beef from Wegmans? if so, is it "juicier"?

                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                  probably depends on how it's cooked, unless cooking is included at Wegman's!

                                                    4. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                      Actually, that is only if more than half is left. I had a 4 pack of tuna when I noticed that the last can was bulging. They wouldn't let me return it because I had already eaten the other 3 cans. I left it there.

                                                  2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                    I'm a one person two dog household and I have found being a member very worthwhile... for 15 years now.

                                                    I use my FoodSaver sealer and freeze meats. I use my Green bags for veggies. I buy tires and toilet paper and vitamins and prescriptions... It's perfect when I have parties.

                                                    As for what's good to eat. Their smoked salmon is an amazing deal. And you can freeze smoked salmon easily. For holiday baking I stock up on their dried fruit and nuts.

                                                    1. re: Jennalynn

                                                      One person, 3 big dogs. The savings in kibble alone more than pays for my membership. The Kirkland dog and cat kibbles are very highly rated by independent organizations that test pet food quality. A 40# bag costs slightly more than a 20# bag of comparable quality supermarket food. If I bought the latter, I would spend about $70 per month. Buying at Costco, it's around $44. My other "every time" purchases there are vitamins/supplements, dish detergent, shampoo, cheese, and store-baked bread (comes in 2-loaf packs; I slice both and freeze one loaf). Frequent purchases include 3# bags of nuts, rotisserie chicken, books, onions, wine for cooking, peanut butter.

                                                  3. tires, computers, books, glasses, wine, produce, great steaks - ribs - cheese - roasted chicken, paper goods, in season stuff like fertilizer. We just priced a safe at Home Depot $269/same safe but better at Costco for $229.

                                                    I have an executive membership and I buy a regular one for all my emploees and their spouses/partners.

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