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Costco membership worthwhile for 2 adults and 1 infant? (organic buyers)

Riceball Nov 21, 2010 03:57 PM

We are a family of 3, consuming mostly organic veggies and seafood (wild if available) for diet. I heard that Costco is great for diapers but I can't seem to find Huggies Pure and Natural which is what my baby uses at a nearby Costco. My baby feeds on breast milk and home-made solid food soI don't need the formula or baby food there either. I am also aware that Costco offers a lot more organic choices nowadays, but I am just not sure if I can get my $50 back annually with our spending pattern.

I currently obtain my organic veggies, fruit and seafood primarily from local farmer's market and Trader Joe's with a few Whole Foods trips to top it off.

Any insight is welcome. Thanks.

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  1. t
    tzurriz RE: Riceball Nov 21, 2010 04:03 PM

    If you can afford it, I'd advice getting the $100 membership if you decide to get a membership at all. You get a rebate back on every $ you spend and we've always managed to get at least $100 back in that rebate check.

    Okay, I don't know about disposable diapers, because we use cloth, but I know you can buy good quality cloth from their website and occasionally at the store. They carry organic milk, milk products, and eggs at excellent prices. Their regular milk is not organic, but is RGBH free and is much less than at the supermarket.

    I'd say a very large percentage of their packaged products are organic, and if your family is anything like mine (we get a CSA delivery box every week), we still need to get other fruits and veggies to round it out and I'm very happy with what we can get at Costco. I just wish they carried organic potatoes all the time.

    But for us really, the main cost savings at costco are from non-food items. Their toddler and little kids clothes are good quality, and far less expensive than retail. Your baby will probably very soon be on more solids, and the bulk size cheerios box has been a lifesaver for us.

    Costco also has great prices on baby wipes (random there, but thought I'd mention it).

    My suggestion would be to get a membership and try it out. If you don't like it, you can cancel your membership at any time for a full refund. We didn't think we'd spend nearly as much at Costco as we do, but honestly it has replaced most of our other shopping.

    (Oh, we are a two adult, two toddler household, if that helps)

    3 Replies
    1. re: tzurriz
      Erika L RE: tzurriz Nov 21, 2010 04:09 PM

      I'm a single person household and rarely buy food at Costco. I do, though, find membership worthwhile for other things: vitamins and OTC meds such as generic allergic stuff; contact lens solution; ummmm...girl products, gift certs for the nephews (iTunes, movie theaters), pet food/supplies. The prices on these items is so dramatically less than in other stores that a membership actually is cost-effective, even for a single person.

      1. re: Erika L
        Ruth Lafler RE: Erika L Nov 21, 2010 07:40 PM

        I'm a single person, and I probably save $50 on Fage yogurt alone. But for the buying patterns you describe, I don't think it's worth it.

        1. re: Erika L
          emily RE: Erika L Nov 22, 2010 08:27 AM

          Same here. I rarely buy food at Costco. Here is what I always buy there, though: bulk paper towels, toilet paper, kleenex, dishwashing detergent, organic sugar, contact lens solution, lotion. At other times, I've purchases Brita filters, vacuum cleaners, microfiber cloths, etc. Plus, I get my auto and home insurance through Costco (I know that the auto was a lot less than what we were paying before) and my tires. So, I feel the $100 is worth it w/o foodstuffs.

      2. m
        maxie RE: Riceball Nov 21, 2010 04:14 PM

        Shopping for two adults and no infants, and eating primarily organic foods, I question the value of my membership. At this time it is used primarily for toilet paper and organic frozen fruits, the supply of which is somewhat erratic (fruit, not tp). For my purposes, Costco quantities are too great and quality is inferior to what I purchase through the farmers market or my local natural foods store. I prefer to pay more for higher quality and waste less -- possibly we break even, though I'm not sure. I would get a one day pass and evaluate the inventory with a critical eye. The few packaged foods we buy are seldom offered at Costco, as they buy with an eye for the desires of the masses.

        3 Replies
        1. re: maxie
          LuckyCharm RE: maxie Nov 21, 2010 09:36 PM

          Costco does not offer a one day pass. If a person would like to look around to see what the store has and pricing, they're more than welcome to do so. However, if they'd like to make a purchase, they have to have a membership

          1. re: LuckyCharm
            Chowrin RE: LuckyCharm Nov 22, 2010 07:47 AM

            so, get a membership and ask for your money back after one day if you don't like it?
            "one day pass" ;-)

            1. re: Chowrin
              LuckyCharm RE: Chowrin Nov 23, 2010 07:28 PM

              Yep, you can. I had someone who wanted a refund 2 hours after getting their membership, and another who wanted a refund about 15 minutes later. (The first person was someone acting very entitled and didn't want to wait in nonexistant lines--they thought they were special enough to come up to the refund desk and want to check out there--PS, the registers up there are programed to not allow a purchase! The other just wanted it for gas, and refused to pay for gas with anything but cash, and didn't want to purchase a cash card. Oh well.)

              People confuse use with BJs and Sams that do offer the one day pass or 60 day trial.

        2. m
          ML8000 RE: Riceball Nov 21, 2010 04:26 PM

          It might not be worth $50 bucks...but if you split the membership with someone else, it's $25 bucks and worth it for many other items. The membership can be split between people in different states...they don't care.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ML8000
            LuckyCharm RE: ML8000 Nov 21, 2010 09:37 PM

            Costco is cracking down on the "other state" issue. If you read the application for membership, the additional household card is for an adult over the age of 18 who resides in the same household as the primary cardholder.

            1. re: LuckyCharm
              ChowMulanno1 RE: LuckyCharm Nov 22, 2010 11:51 AM

              My Costco card is international (primary membership is outside US) and I have had no problem using it in the US.

              1. re: ChowMulanno1
                LuckyCharm RE: ChowMulanno1 Nov 23, 2010 07:29 PM

                I didn't say it wouldn't work. What I said was that they're looking for ID now for the free household card, and not issuing it to someone whose address doesn't match that of the account.

          2. Gustavo Glenmorangie RE: Riceball Nov 21, 2010 06:50 PM

            IMO: No. Not even remotely. Unless you plan to buy lots of non-food items. Save yourself the hassle of shopping there (it's got to be worth at least $25/yr to never set foot in the place).

            Depends on where you shop ordinarily. If you shop at Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery or Berkeley Natural Foods (I think that's the right name, on Hopkins?), you'll find organic produce to be cheaper if you're willing to buy in huge quantities. But if you shop at Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market, not so much, and you have the luxury of buying what you need as picking it out individually. And, I'm less than convinced that the quality of Costco's organic produce is up to snuff compared to local suppliers.

            I joined a while back for a single purchase item. It was an extraordinarily good deal, so it was worth it to me. But I found I hated shopping there and when I did, I found little to buy. Sure I saved a bit on paper products and what not, but for me the ordeal of Costco was not worth the small change.

            Of course, you'll save a dime a gallon or so on gas if you're willing to wait in those interminable lines. Let's see, on a fill up you save the princely sum of a dollar or two. Go there once a week and you've come out ahead, I suppose.


            Berkeley Bowl
            2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

            Rainbow Grocery
            1745 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

            2 Replies
            1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie
              ferret RE: Gustavo Glenmorangie Nov 22, 2010 07:39 AM

              Costco is more than just food and gas. For tire replacement alone you'll save the $50 you pay and then some (plus they rotate and fix flats/leaks for free).

              1. re: ferret
                Bada Bing RE: ferret Dec 13, 2010 03:43 AM

                I second the point about tires. The convenience of being able to have your tires rotated for free while you shop is great, as are the prices for initial tire purchases.

            2. c
              cstr RE: Riceball Nov 22, 2010 11:26 AM

              If your budget allows for organic prices, a Costco membership is chump change. I get lots of organic items at Costco and have never been disappointed, veggies, honey, strawberry jam, flaxseed, veggies, eggs just to name a few and no place beats their prices. You'll hear a lot of noise about the lines, I try to avoid week-ends and have had little problems with lines for both food and gas. Lastly, if you don't like the place, within the year, you can get a full refund, no questions asked so the downside risk is zero.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cstr
                Vetter RE: cstr Nov 24, 2010 10:00 PM

                I totally agree and think it's well worth it. They're getting a lot more organic stuff. I have a two adult household and it absolutely saves me money, and I have access to a good coop and Trader Joe's. If you just bought organic olive oil, enviro-friendly laundry detergent, and organic sugar and quinoa, say, it'd pay for itself.

              2. rockandroller1 RE: Riceball Nov 23, 2010 12:06 PM

                It really depends. We are a pretty "green" couple of an 18 mo. old and they don't sell hardly any green products there, including wipes. We cloth diaper but use disposable wipes, but at least try to get green wipes but they don't sell them. The huge containers things come in are generally worthless for us. Pretzels go bad before we use them, so does cheese, so do lemons, and so many other things are full-fat or conventionally grown, we don't get a lot of use out of the membership. We buy local so much more often and smaller in size/scale than what they offer, you know? We don't use paper towels, we use cloth napkins, so no go there. The TP they sell is not from recycled paper. They don't sell our cat food. The meat, that everyone raves about, is all factory farmed and is not from what I consider safe sources so we don't buy it. About all we buy there are the mini packs of Sabra hummous which are great for lunches, big boxes of Zone bars and the occasional spiral ham for picnics. The pharmacy and eyeglass stores deliver excellent bang for the buck but you do not have to be a member to use them.

                We seem to buy just "enough" to get a small rebate every year but have often wandered around the store trying to find something to buy with it. We live in a very small apartment and don't have room for big patio furniture or a 40,000 cup crock pot or 500 bags of coffee, you know?

                2 Replies
                1. re: rockandroller1
                  treb RE: rockandroller1 Nov 23, 2010 12:13 PM

                  Just like most places, they're not for everyone.

                  1. re: rockandroller1
                    Jen76 RE: rockandroller1 Nov 29, 2010 07:55 PM

                    Hmm, they have a brand of recycled TP at my Costco (and paper towels for those that use them). I also like the Kirkland laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and dish soap (all supposedly "environmentally friendly" products). They have organic coffee beans in 2-3lb bags which isn't that large. I do buy Kirkland dry cat food as well, and they have grain-free dog food, too, which a friend of mine buys for her dogs. The ingredient lists on both are decent - probably not as good as something like Wellness, but a whole lot less expensive. We don't have kids yet, so I don't know about that stuff. I did just get a pair of Skecher Shapeups shoes for $50 though.

                  2. r
                    Riceball RE: Riceball Nov 26, 2010 09:01 PM

                    Thanks for all of you who have chimed in, really appreciated your input.

                    My other concern about Costco is, is their organic really organic? Organic as a label is different from organic in quality, for example, I will never buy Horizon "organic" milk since it is really borderline organic, and those who care about quality know that Horizon is just a glorified factory-farm brand that tweaks its operation to qualify for being organic, but the Horizon milk cows produce twice as much milk as average organic milk cows, so go figure. I somehow have the same concern with Costco organic, because any farm that serve Costco volume will have to sacrifice on quality, there is simply no way around it. I cannot expect to find Strauss quality for milk at Costco. Is it my prejudice against big retailers? What do you guys think?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Riceball
                      cstr RE: Riceball Nov 27, 2010 06:20 AM

                      As a member who uses Costco across the country, you'll find a lot of organic products in stock. The suppliers are regionally oriented, meaning that I can get organic flaxseed, corn, green beans, peas in So CA but not in BOS. Also, in BOS Costco has different suppiers for organic extra virgin olive oil etc., their suppliers vary from region to region. So your concern has validity, probably the same when you go into Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or even a farmers market, you have to be knowledgeable about what you're purchasing. Lastly, I'd suggest that you call Costco corporate headquarters and pose your question to them.

                      1. re: Riceball
                        rockandroller1 RE: Riceball Nov 30, 2010 08:53 AM

                        We have the same concerns, plus we would prefer to buy from local sources whenever possible. I mean, we have local dairies here, which produce organic, hormone-free milk. As great a company as Costco is, I would much rather my $ go into the local community, plus I can go visit the farm (and have done so) and verify what they're doing.

                        Getting a giant sized bottle of phillip berio "olive" oil is just not a bargain to me, since most of that was found not to be pure OO anyway, right? we buy imported greek olive oil from a small greek grocery - the owner even made suggestions as to which brands were better to buy from based on where in Greece the oil was produced. Now that's good OO, and it tastes out of this world - makes the stuff in the grocery store seem like it has absolutely no taste at all.

                        We buy coffee from a local roaster. Again, supporting a local. This is why it's so hard for us to find things to buy there. We keep the membership, but honestly don't buy that much there. The few things they do have that we'd want, we don't have room to store in the huge quantities that they sell, and often go bad/stale before we can get to using them. I guess it really depends on your household and what your specific store offers. You should probably go shop in there a few times before you make your decision.

                        1. re: rockandroller1
                          monku RE: rockandroller1 Nov 30, 2010 09:25 AM

                          Shopping at your local Costco supports your community with sales tax revenue and employs your community with good paying jobs with benefits.

                          1. re: monku
                            ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 09:29 AM

                            And Costco pays better (with better benefits) than just about any local "mom-and-pop" tyype business.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 30, 2010 02:01 PM

                              Those local businesses in your area are probably Costco members too.

                              1. re: monku
                                ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 02:17 PM

                                I can't imagine a local business operating profitably, or efficiently, without being a Costco member.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 30, 2010 02:43 PM


                                  Costco Connection runs those local merchant stories that credit their success to Costco.
                                  It's amusing to hear people discount Costco. But, there is no retailer(local or big box) that goes to the lengths they do to save members money or guarantee your satisfaction.

                                  1. re: monku
                                    ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 02:57 PM

                                    Hard to imagine what those businesses did before PriceClub/Costco.

                                    1. re: monku
                                      EWSflash RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 04:28 PM

                                      They sometimes fall short, but not often, and so much of what they offer is really, really good.
                                      you can also use their buying power for vacations is you so desire. I have no idea what it entails, but it is a service they offer. Also flooring, auto purchasing, all sorts of services.

                            2. re: rockandroller1
                              ferret RE: rockandroller1 Nov 30, 2010 08:05 PM

                              From a recent CBS Moneywatch, citing to the recent UC Davis report:

                              "Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil may be the best-kept secret in the store. At $9.99 for 1.5 liters, it is roughly half the cost of the well-known Bertolli brand, and yet, according to at least one independent study, it’s much better. In a recent comparison of 19 olive oils on the market, The Olive Center, a research group at the University of California-Davis, found that Kirkland Organic was one of only five in the study not mixed with cheaper refined olive oil that can spoil the taste. The other four at the top of the list were all high-end brands that cost as much as five times Costco’s. Make sure you buy the Costco version that’s labeled organic, though, as opposed to the one that’s simply called “extra virgin olive oil.” It’ll cost a little bit more, but it’s worth it."

                            3. re: Riceball
                              Chowrin RE: Riceball Dec 13, 2010 11:24 PM

                              costco has decent milk. not the greatest, but the price point is good. and their quality on most things is excellent (try their green olives!)

                            4. ipsedixit RE: Riceball Nov 27, 2010 08:06 PM

                              Only you will know if the membership is "worth" it.

                              Why not try it and if you find that you are not shopping there enough, or it's inconvenient, or the selection is not to your liking, simply ask for a full refund. With Costco's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee Membership policy, you're fully protected.


                              15 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 27, 2010 09:08 PM

                                They can afford the 100% membership satisfaction guarantee....
                                In 2009 they collected $3.3 billion in membership fees.

                                1. re: monku
                                  Stephanie Wong RE: monku Nov 27, 2010 11:43 PM

                                  Wow, guess plenty of folks &/or businesses thought it was worthwhile (I know our 2-adult, no children, 1 cat household does).

                                  1. re: monku
                                    ferret RE: monku Nov 28, 2010 04:48 AM

                                    No idea where you're getting that number; their annual report shows less than half that amount - which is the vast majority of their profits. Costco just about breaks even on their merchandise/service sales; the fees make up the bulk of their profits.

                                    1. re: ferret
                                      monku RE: ferret Nov 28, 2010 05:40 AM

                                      My bad, I was looking at an analysis of the stock price and market value and they estimated it was worth 15% ($3.3 billion). They estimated the total market value at $21.9 billion.

                                      You are correct...2009 the membership revenue was $1.53 billion.

                                      1. re: monku
                                        ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 28, 2010 04:25 PM

                                        You are correct...2009 the membership revenue was $1.53 billion.

                                        Still not chump change.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          cstr RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 07:18 AM

                                          That's one reason why they can offer lower prices. I still recover the membership cost, and then some, with the cash back membership and AMEX.

                                          1. re: cstr
                                            ipsedixit RE: cstr Nov 29, 2010 08:32 AM

                                            I don't believe the membership fees are what allows Costco to ffer lower prices (if that's even the case). It's really their business model (i.e., purchasing power, lowever overhead, etc.)

                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 09:11 AM

                                              The membership fee has a lot to do with their bottom line.
                                              I forgot what percentage it represents of their profit, but it's a significant portion.

                                              1. re: monku
                                                ferret RE: monku Nov 29, 2010 10:31 AM

                                                For 2009 they collected $1.5 billion in fees and reported $1.086 billion in net income. Their gross margin on sales is 10%, which is to say they sell for 10% more than they buy, so after costs of doing business are deducted they run a loss on merchandise sales.

                                                1. re: ferret
                                                  monku RE: ferret Nov 29, 2010 10:39 AM

                                                  Still a god business model.

                                                  1. re: monku
                                                    ferret RE: monku Nov 29, 2010 11:14 AM

                                                    I'm in no way knocking it. We've purchased a lot over the years (I've covered my membership in rebates for over a decade, buying furniture, tires and even a granite counter-top through Costco).

                                                    1. re: ferret
                                                      monku RE: ferret Nov 29, 2010 12:42 PM

                                                      Never thought you were knocking it, just adding my 2 cents.
                                                      I'm so faithful to Costco no matter where I go on vacation a visit to the local Costco is on the itinerary...from Cabo to all the Costco's in Hawaii.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit
                                                cstr RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 10:40 AM

                                                It's all a part of the business model and that's why they can offer great prices and remain profitable. Membership fees are like maintenance contracts, great guaranteed cash generators that add to the base bottomline. I applaude how they operate offering better wages, health benefits, stock options etc to their employees. Can't knock success.

                                                1. re: cstr
                                                  monku RE: cstr Nov 29, 2010 10:51 AM

                                                  No need to convince me. I'm a 20 year member and stockholder.

                                                  1. re: cstr
                                                    EWSflash RE: cstr Nov 30, 2010 04:31 PM

                                                    The genetically jealous types will always knock success!

                                    2. MikeB3542 RE: Riceball Nov 29, 2010 11:17 AM

                                      Full disclosure: I find having to PAY to shop in someone's stinkin' store more than a little obnoxious.

                                      I can only speak generically (Costco has a minimal presence in SE WI, with one store in the Madison area and another in Grafton, which is 20 mi north of Milwaukee), but my experience with Sam's Club was OK but could never justify the price of membership -- the savings was just not that great.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: MikeB3542
                                        monku RE: MikeB3542 Nov 29, 2010 12:46 PM

                                        There are $1.53 billion in memberships around the world and I'm sure the majority of those members can justify paying that annual fee.

                                        1. re: MikeB3542
                                          ipsedixit RE: MikeB3542 Nov 29, 2010 01:20 PM

                                          Full disclosure: I find having to PAY to shop in someone's stinkin' store more than a little obnoxious.


                                          At Costco, you pay a membership fee.

                                          At other stores, you pay via higher prices.

                                          Whether you pay directly (membership fee) or indirectly (higher prices), you pay.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                            ferret RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 01:47 PM

                                            And depending on your shopping habits you can pay much, much more than $50 a year for shopping elsewhere.

                                            1. re: ferret
                                              monku RE: ferret Nov 29, 2010 02:00 PM

                                              I save that much eating the $1.50 hot dog special instead of something else every year. And most Costco's you don't have to be a member to buy unless the food court is inside.

                                              1. re: monku
                                                ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 29, 2010 02:02 PM

                                                You could never step inside a Costco and "make back" the membership fee (probably 2x over) just by buying a set of tires.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  Breezychow RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 02:22 PM

                                                  Exactly!!! It's just my husband & I, but we've been CostCo members since way back when it was called "Price Club" - think 1980's.

                                                  We get tires there (& excellent quality tires too!), as well as bulk paper towels, toilet paper, cat litter, fabulous Berio extra-virgin olive oil by the gallon, gallon jars of drool-worthy marinated artichoke hearts, lots of excellent frozen goods (pastas, snacks, shrimp), cheeses, wines, books, gifts, clothing, over-the-counter meds & vitamins. We also make it a point to get our Xmas wreaths there every year - absolutely fresh gorgeous large wreaths of fresh different mixed evergreens & pine cones for less than anyone else is selling their sad little small plain pine wreaths for.

                                                  And the quality of their house brand - Kirkland - is far far better than nationwide name brands. Toilet paper, paper towels, marinated artichoke hearts, pistachio nuts & other nut products - you name it - put other brands to shame. I absolutely hate it when for some reason I have to buy another brand locally because I've run out & can't make it to CostCo. Am always disappointed.

                                                  I've done the math & we EASILY make back our annual membership fee several times over during the year.

                                                  (Oh, & yeah - their pizza is good too! Both slices in-house, & take-home-&-bake.)

                                                  1. re: Breezychow
                                                    monku RE: Breezychow Nov 30, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                    Must be something to that Kirkland toilet paper, it's their #1 selling item in the US.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit
                                                    monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 29, 2010 02:23 PM

                                                    I meant being a member to get inside to buy the $1.50 hot dog special if that's what you were talking about.

                                                    Thanks for reminding me(not a happy reminder) I need 2 sets of tires in the next two months...I'm waiting for the $70 off on a set of Michelins coupon.

                                                    1. re: monku
                                                      Stephanie Wong RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 07:57 PM

                                                      Actually the food court is on the exit side of the registers (along with the customer service/returns counter) so one can enter via the exit to just go buy the $1.50 hot dog special. The $1.50 ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and rolled in cracked almonds is really good too.

                                                      1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                                        monku RE: Stephanie Wong Nov 30, 2010 08:12 PM

                                                        I'll be at your SF food court to check out the $1.49 Gelato when I'm there for Christmas.

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit
                                                      artemis RE: ipsedixit Nov 30, 2010 01:26 PM

                                                      Costco.com also has amazing prices on very high quality saffron - I bought a 14 gram jar of 250+ color rated spanish saffron for $85. Between that and the tires, membership is a hell of a deal.

                                                      They seem to only have the smaller size jar in stock at the moment: 5 grams for $33. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product....

                                                      1. re: artemis
                                                        Cathy RE: artemis Nov 30, 2010 01:30 PM

                                                        Perfect for a Christmas gift!

                                                2. re: ipsedixit
                                                  Chowrin RE: ipsedixit Dec 13, 2010 11:26 PM

                                                  membership fee worth it for the amex alone.

                                                3. re: MikeB3542
                                                  Chowrin RE: MikeB3542 Dec 13, 2010 11:25 PM

                                                  had a horrid experience with sam's club. costco is where millionaires shop. big diff in quality.

                                                  1. re: MikeB3542
                                                    LStaff RE: MikeB3542 Apr 29, 2011 12:10 PM

                                                    I used to take that same attitude about these memberships stores, until I actually joined one. One or two people in a household may not be worthwhile, but once you have a child or two, I find it is.

                                                    My wife and I spend enough on diapers, baby wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, condiments, spices, claritin, bathroom and cleaning products to justify the $50 membership each year. Access to cheaper and better quality meat, seafood, (sometimes) produce, and liquor/wine/beer than our local grocery and package stores offer is just a bonus.

                                                    1. re: LStaff
                                                      rockandroller1 RE: LStaff May 5, 2011 11:16 AM

                                                      If you used a lot more cloth products, you could save a lot of $ and wouldn't need that costco membership! We have a baby but we don't buy diapers, wipes, paper towels or napkins, we use cloth for all those things. It is a significant savings. Just something to think about. I do love Costco, and we have a membership, but wanted to mention that you might want to consider switching at least some of your lifestyle to reusable products as it can help stretch your dollars even further.

                                                  2. MikeB3542 RE: Riceball Nov 30, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                    OK, a "membership fee" -- I'm with Groucho, I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that will accept people like me as a member. Besides, the amount of money people sock into any venture is not a sign of wisdom (see Enron, Lehman Brothers, Amway (ooh, let the flame war begin!) et al.) We could get into the whole "present value vs. future worth" thing, but that's a bit much for this forum.

                                                    My experience was, yes, you save money on a given purchase, but you end up with spending way more, since you buy a lot more. If you can manage bulk purchases ("but I saved the cost of the membership on the freezer chest"), it CAN work. Rotting veggies and freezer-burned meat is not a deal.

                                                    Tires? Meh, I can get a great deal at my local Farm and Fleet. BTW, I hope you aren't driving around on worn out tires waiting for some crappy coupon. The extra cost for buying regular priced tires is way less than your deductible if you get in a wreck!

                                                    Peace and love, y'all!

                                                    16 Replies
                                                    1. re: MikeB3542
                                                      ferret RE: MikeB3542 Nov 30, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                      Sounds like you haven't been in a Costco. Yes, they have some bulk items, but most of their items are not oversized. Instead of a huge tub of something they offer a multipack. It's definitely not for everyone. However, if you entertain a lot, which we do, especially at summer barbecues, you can make up the membership in one or two visits (cases of beer are easily $5-10 less, especially for premium beers that aren't usually sold in cases of 24). Liquor and wine offer similar savings.

                                                      We get it, it's not for you. But that doesn't necessarily make it bad.

                                                      1. re: ferret
                                                        MikeB3542 RE: ferret Nov 30, 2010 08:59 AM

                                                        No problem....I agree that it's not bad if you can manage it, and if you are really shopping and not just trying to buy enough to justify the savings. For me, I prefer to shop around locally and buy what I need. A good example of where buying bulk works is my son's scout troop -- with 70+ boys and 30+ adults at a week-long summer camp, the savings are huge.

                                                        And, yes, I haven't been in a Costco. The only one in the area is too far away to justify the drive (50+ miles round trip). Around here, Sam's is the only game in town.

                                                        1. re: MikeB3542
                                                          Cathy RE: MikeB3542 Nov 30, 2010 09:54 AM

                                                          Sam's has a membership fee.

                                                          We happen to have both Costco and Sam's out here and the Costco prices are better for the same items.

                                                          1. re: MikeB3542
                                                            monku RE: MikeB3542 Nov 30, 2010 10:20 AM

                                                            I'm sure when and if a Costco opens close by you will become a member.
                                                            Almost all the families in a scout troop I know the size of your son's are members.

                                                            The number one excuse for not joining is the bulk size one, but there are far more items and services they offer you don't even know about that will save you money. The free
                                                            Costco American Express card with cash rebates is just one of many services.

                                                            1. re: monku
                                                              ferret RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 11:15 AM

                                                              And when we were pricing out our granite countertops their local partner quoted a price $1,400 less than the next lowest bid. I left it in my wife's hands reserving my right to say "told you so" if the job ended up badly. The countertops came out beautifully and the vendor couldn't have been more professional.

                                                              1. re: ferret
                                                                monku RE: ferret Nov 30, 2010 12:26 PM

                                                                That savings alone would pay for 10+ years of Executive memberships.

                                                                1. re: ferret
                                                                  monku RE: ferret Nov 30, 2010 12:36 PM

                                                                  Right a "local partner" and business you're supporting directly.

                                                              2. re: MikeB3542
                                                                Chowrin RE: MikeB3542 Dec 13, 2010 11:27 PM

                                                                people drive 80+ miles to go to my costco. from out of state, even.

                                                                1. re: Chowrin
                                                                  MikeB3542 RE: Chowrin May 9, 2011 05:56 PM

                                                                  At $4.00 a gallon for gas, that's a LOSER!

                                                                  Assuming you have a family sedan that gets you say 25 miles/gallon. Just the gas is going to run you $25. If you accept a 51 cent/mile rate (2011 IRS) that trip costs you over $80 once you factor in depreciation, insurance, maintenance etc. Plus that is 3-4 hours in the car that you could have spent do something, I don't know, FUN?

                                                                  Just because people do foolish things doesn't make less foolish.

                                                              3. re: ferret
                                                                Jay F RE: ferret May 5, 2011 03:33 PM

                                                                ferret: "Sounds like you haven't been in a Costco. Yes, they have some bulk items, but most of their items are not oversized. Instead of a huge tub of something they offer a multipack."

                                                                Not tomatoes. I would find it much nicer to buy a case of 14 or 28 oz. cans of tomatoes instead of #10 cans.

                                                                1. re: Jay F
                                                                  ferret RE: Jay F May 9, 2011 08:23 AM

                                                                  I do recall buying multi-packs of tomatoes (certainly true for sauce and paste). The #10 cans are handy for some recipes and are priced about the same as 2 of the larger cans in the grocery stores.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F
                                                                    chococat RE: Jay F May 9, 2011 08:26 AM

                                                                    I have a case of 14 oz organic diced tomatoes that I just got at Costco the other day. Around 60 cents/can.

                                                                2. re: MikeB3542
                                                                  monku RE: MikeB3542 Nov 30, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                                  Your response is typical of people that don't believe in a membership fee.
                                                                  There's no question anyone can make that up in a year in many ways.
                                                                  So then it turns out to be another shopping option where there's a good chance you'll save money and you don't have to buy bulk.
                                                                  Where else do you shop where the margins are as low as Costco?
                                                                  So you can keep the savings for yourself or give it to your retail merchants.

                                                                  As far as my tires I got about 4,000-5,000 miles of tread left, I can wait a couple months.

                                                                  1. re: monku
                                                                    ipsedixit RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 09:01 AM

                                                                    Plus, are we losing sight of the fact that the membership fee is only $50/year? Couldn't even buy a month's worth of Starbucks with that.

                                                                    Re: Tires.
                                                                    How do you know you've ogt 4000-5000 miles left of tread? Are you using the penny trick, or measuring millimeters of tread left before the wearbars start showing, or estimating based on manufacturer's claimed tread life? Wouldn't trust the last method unless I was outfitting a car for my sworn lifelong enemy.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      monku RE: ipsedixit Nov 30, 2010 09:27 AM

                                                                      My mechanic friend has a measuring gauge they use in the tire biz. Same one they use to tell you how much tread you have left when they pro-rate your tire for a new one.

                                                                  2. re: MikeB3542
                                                                    Cathy RE: MikeB3542 Nov 30, 2010 09:04 AM

                                                                    I thought the same way you did. In 1985, when it was Price Club and membership was $35. Then I did the math.

                                                                    Things don't rot or get freezer burned. We happen to eat daily.

                                                                    I buy what we want to eat, wear, read, use for cleaning, furnishing, repairing, maintaining and updating our home, feeding and taking care of our pets, gifting as general gifts and treats for us, family and friends.

                                                                    I price compare, note what is on sale elsewhere and do shop at local stores-for sale items only- as well as keep track of annual savings and when the cost of Membership has been recaptured. That point happens by May of every year, for the past eleven years, for us.

                                                                    [The regular price of tires still saves $30 on my car. $70 is even better.]

                                                                  3. justanotherpenguin RE: Riceball Nov 30, 2010 03:26 PM

                                                                    this appears that it is one of those situations where it would be very easy to get a membership, try it out, and cancel (with a full refund) if it did not work.

                                                                    it seems to me that there is a lot of: "i don't want to support a chain business" on this thread (and on chowhound in general). in the cases of restaurants, i am part of this thinking - i will avoid going to a chain at almost any cost. but, for some reason, i believe that costco (and sam's club, btw) are well worth it.

                                                                    so: if it's a mental issue, let it go. if you are willing to be open-minded, give it a try!

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: justanotherpenguin
                                                                      monku RE: justanotherpenguin Nov 30, 2010 03:39 PM

                                                                      It's a no risk proposition from every aspect.
                                                                      You buy something and you don't like it you get a full refund.
                                                                      You use your annual membership 346 days(they are closed several holidays) and go in for a full refiund.
                                                                      They have everything to gain.

                                                                      Again, most people use the bulk buying as an excuse not to join and that's not what Costco is really about.

                                                                      1. re: monku
                                                                        EWSflash RE: monku Nov 30, 2010 05:03 PM

                                                                        True that.
                                                                        On the other hand, early on in the day of Price club, I went in for a bottle of wine and spent about $150, having also bought an electric pasta maker and a bunch of other stuff.
                                                                        You need to learn to pace yourself at Costco.

                                                                        1. re: EWSflash
                                                                          cstr RE: EWSflash Nov 30, 2010 05:33 PM

                                                                          I always have a list and stick to it, no different than a regular super market where the consequences can be even worse if you don't stick to the sale items.

                                                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                                                            Cathy RE: EWSflash Nov 30, 2010 05:37 PM

                                                                            Back when they only took cash and checks...

                                                                            1. re: EWSflash
                                                                              justanotherpenguin RE: EWSflash Nov 30, 2010 07:42 PM

                                                                              i just figure $100/hour when i go to costco.

                                                                              1. re: justanotherpenguin
                                                                                treb RE: justanotherpenguin Dec 1, 2010 07:10 AM

                                                                                plus some serious value?

                                                                                1. re: justanotherpenguin
                                                                                  EWSflash RE: justanotherpenguin Dec 12, 2010 05:37 PM

                                                                                  That's probably a good estimate, although I can run up $200 in a half hour, but that's just from knowing what I need and knowing the layout of the place. Not looking for seasonal goods or seeing what's new. Then it gets a little spendy. :-)

                                                                          2. q
                                                                            Quimbombo RE: Riceball Dec 1, 2010 07:28 AM

                                                                            I'm organically oriented and buy at Costco. I like that they now carry Kosher items <I'm not Jewish> when I go there it's a done deal I purchase the Kosher chicken breasts. I also buy the wild caught salmon <frozen> it's expensive at about 30$ a bag but they don't always have it.

                                                                            I also like their Kirkland Organic first press Apple Juice and recently bought their organic 5 ancient grains cereal which I have yet to try.

                                                                            If you're strictly organic you might be dissapointed at the slim pickings, however, they have affordable good quality clothes, towels, bed sheets, pillows, blankets, eyeglasses, pharmacy, and if you request the diapers of your choice they'll most likely get it.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Quimbombo
                                                                              Ruth Lafler RE: Quimbombo Dec 1, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                                              Yes, you can also ask. Each store only carries a subset of what it available, and the product mix varies slightly from store to store. Stores in (or near) more affluent areas will carry more gourmet and organic items. The Costco nearest my house doesn't carry some of the items that the one that's farther away but in an area I'm in for other reasons carries, so I mostly shop there. But the gas is usually slightly cheaper at the nearer one.

                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                ipsedixit RE: Ruth Lafler Dec 1, 2010 09:08 AM

                                                                                The Costcos in SGV always seem to carry mooncakes (during the Autumn Festival, usu. around Sept/Oct on the Lunar Calendar).

                                                                            2. MandalayVA RE: Riceball Dec 1, 2010 09:22 AM

                                                                              It also depends on how old your Costco is. My Costco's so old it's still located on Price Club Boulevard and you can see the old PC logo through the paint. The main reason my two-person household joined is because we have nine cats and have to buy bulk food and litter. But I got my first iPod there, we've bought tires, it's great on generic OTC meds and olive oil and a host of other things. We'll occasionally buy meat--mostly stuff like sausage and hot dogs but once in a while we'll get beef. Other than that we don't have the bells and whistles like other stores seem to have but apparently a new one is being built in my area. Woo hoo!

                                                                              1. Ruth Lafler RE: Riceball Dec 4, 2010 01:49 PM

                                                                                I forgot a couple of organic products I tend to buy at Costco: flour and sugar. I just picked up 20 pounds of organic flour for $9.99 and 10 pounds of organic sugar (C&H brand) for $7.99. The flour is packaged in two ten-pound bags, so I usually split them with someone.

                                                                                1. Jetgirly RE: Riceball Dec 12, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                                                  I'm a single vegetarian girl and I'm sure I get my $50 back every year just on household items: toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap and laundry detergent (most of which I buy once annually... or even less frequently!). I am still using the original pack of garbage bags my parents bought me when I moved to this city in September 2008! When my food stocks start running low I'll often head to Costco and try to get inspired by the produce- they usually have good prices on everything I need for ratatouille, for example, or if cauliflower is insanely cheap (say, a quarter of the price that I'd pay at Safeway!) I'll do a roasted cauliflower soup.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Jetgirly
                                                                                    Jen76 RE: Jetgirly Dec 12, 2010 05:25 PM

                                                                                    Would you share your cauliflower soup recipe?

                                                                                    1. re: Jen76
                                                                                      Jetgirly RE: Jen76 Dec 12, 2010 09:53 PM

                                                                                      Recipe? Huh?

                                                                                      I really don't have a recipe. I just cut the cauliflower into florets, toss with EVOO, roast and then decide what to do. The soup could be chunky with curry, or it could be creamy with cheese... there definitely isn't any recipe.

                                                                                  2. r
                                                                                    Riceball RE: Riceball Apr 9, 2011 12:44 PM

                                                                                    Thanks for all your replies. I have now reactivated Costco membership for two months, and I think I can make back my $50 membership fee easy. I'd like to share some experience with other organic buyers.

                                                                                    The stores that I am going to (Redwood City and Mountain View) have quite a few organic choices. For animal protein, we usually get organic steaks ($3-5 per lb cheaper than Whole Foods), wild fresh seasfood such as halibut, dover sole, cod which are selling at ~$3-4 per lb cheaper than farmer's market or Whole Foods), and organic chicken breast ($1 per lb cheaper than Trader Joe's).

                                                                                    Costco organic olive oil is a great deal, so is its organic pasta and organic flour. It carries organic blueberries and raspberries, at about $0.5 per lb cheaper than the cheapest stores I can find. However, we are also buying more Towsend frozen organic berry mix for making smoothies or pastries, sometimes if fruit is not in season, we buy frozen instead. Costco also carries Earthbound organic salad mix, baby spinach, celery and baby carrots and these are the four items we get regularly.

                                                                                    For milk, I am a bit disappointed that they don't carry Strauss (perhaps because of the bottle hassle) since they carry Strauss yogurt. We don't eat that many eggs so we buy from Farmer's Market, but the Costco organic eggs seem to be pretty big. We also buy Costco organic chicken stock which comes out to be $1 cheaper than Trader Joe's for every 6 packs.

                                                                                    Overall, we probably save about $6-10 per week by going to Costco, which comes out to about $40 savings, so I'd say organic buyers can definitely benefit from Costco membership.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Riceball
                                                                                      mcf RE: Riceball Apr 9, 2011 03:00 PM

                                                                                      Yours has organic steaks? Are they grass fed? With beef, that matters much more to me.

                                                                                      Can you tell me the ranch/supplier name? My Costco has large bags of frozen organic veggies, not a lot of organic fresh except for a few Earthbound Farm items. I know they carry some organic milks, but they're very low fat so I don't buy them. They now have humane certified organic eggs. They also have Coleman organic whole chix along with packaged breast or thigh pieces.

                                                                                      But I really want a source for pastured beef there; is yours just organic or is it grass fed?

                                                                                      1. re: mcf
                                                                                        Riceball RE: mcf Apr 10, 2011 05:20 PM

                                                                                        I remember it being organic pastured beef (not sure if says grass fed, will check next time and write down the brand, since we don't eat steak very often). The organic raspberries and blueberries are from Driscoll's.

                                                                                        There's also organic frozen yogurt by Alden's and organic ice cream bars by Julie's, both major brands at Whole Foods. Our Costco also carries many cheese products that Trader Joe's does, some of them organic. I have been so far very satisfied with my membership fee since it saves me lots of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's trips.

                                                                                      2. re: Riceball
                                                                                        mrsjoujou RE: Riceball Apr 10, 2011 07:07 AM

                                                                                        Wow, you are very lucky to get all this organic stuff at your Costco. Strauss yogurt, never seen it in my area and the only organic beef is the ground beef.

                                                                                        1. re: Riceball
                                                                                          Caitlin McGrath RE: Riceball Apr 10, 2011 06:38 PM

                                                                                          FYI, the cream-top organic milks at Bay Area Trader Joe's are Straus. They're in plastic rather than glass, but the plant numbers match up.

                                                                                        2. f
                                                                                          fara RE: Riceball Apr 22, 2011 07:05 PM

                                                                                          ours does not have great produce. the only produce i bought there last time was a bag of avocados, and they appear to be in season. oh, and a bag of their garlic will last a long time even in our house.
                                                                                          but the best thing to do is split the membership with your in-laws, we had no problem doing that (maybe bc same last name?)
                                                                                          check out their frozen mixed berries if you go.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: fara
                                                                                            cstr RE: fara May 4, 2011 02:23 PM

                                                                                            My Costco blows away the local chain markets produce and fruit for both price and quality.

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