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Shopping at Costco.

 
 
Reply Sat 17 Sep, 2011 05:59 pm
I've had a Costco card for years but I haven't used it in a very, very long time. Since I keep hearing that food prices are going to go through the roof in the next few months (due to the awful weather this summer) I've decided to make a foray into enemy territory.

The reason I don't shop there is because I don't have much storage space and I typically shop according to what sounds good to eat over the next few days and because I don't buy much frozen food, especially frozen vegetables. I do remember that I loved their very skinny, frozen green beans.

I figure I'll stock up on a few non-perishables and non food items while I'm there.

What's a good deal at Costco and what should I avoid? Are their meats any good? Can you buy fresh frozen fish, especially salmon? What are the best buys?

Refresh my memory on the Costco experience.
 
MMarciano
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Sep, 2011 07:02 pm
@boomerang,
I will probably never get Morgan in a Costco.

Household items such as laundry detergent bleach etc. They do have some great deals on pasta. I found they have a nice meat section, however the price wasn’t much different then the grocery stores, at least not around here.
parados
 
  3  
Reply Sat 17 Sep, 2011 07:34 pm
@boomerang,
A lot of the regular grocery items tend to be not much different from the local grocery stores. You often have to look for the bulk items that aren't available in large quantities at your local grocery store.

Import cheeses tend to be less per pound at Costco. You just have to want that 2 pound block of Dubliner Cheese for $15 compared to a 4 oz block for $5 at the local supermarket. We often buy the 2 pack of mozzarella

Milk tends to be comparable in price.

Cereal can be a bargain in the large size but you can often find it on sale for less per oz in supermarkets.

Fruits are often better quality than supermarkets but can be more expensive.
Last time I went, peaches at Costco were $1.99 per pound but supermarket had them at $1.29. Plus you had to get 5 lbs at Costco.

We buy the packs of Romaine lettuce. It keeps fairly well and is cheaper than supermarkets.


It looks like Costco lists a lot of their food items on their website. I have no idea how the website compares to in store pricing when it comes to grocery items.
Costco Grocery Items
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Sep, 2011 07:40 pm
@MMarciano,
Ouch. That's a bummer to hear that about their meat prices. My son is a total carnivore. It gets really expensive. I was hoping that Costco had better prices.

I totally get him not wanting to go to Costco. My favorite place to grocery shop is a tiny market -- probably under 2000 square feet. Pricy as hell but you can get in and get out!
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Sep, 2011 07:45 pm
@parados,
Thanks parados! I'll check their prices against the grocery circulars that come out tomorrow. The meat sold at my usual supermarket isn't very good. Is it good at Costco?

Interesting about the cheese. We do go through a bit of cheese around here. I'm not sure about how well it freezes. I want to try to make a stop that gets most of the things I'll need over the next few months.

I had forgotten that they had those absolutely gigantic boxes of cereal! I'm definitely hitting that aisle.

I doubt I'll go in for the fresh vegetables. Our farmer's markets are really good and I grow quite a bit of my own. I've been learning how to store some of it over the last few days.
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 11:12 am
@boomerang,
My physician told me Costco has the lowest prices for most medical prescriptions.

BBB


0 Replies
 
Green Witch
 
  3  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 11:40 am
Three years ago I was part of study to see if a family saved more money by going to small chain/local grocery stores or if they shopped at Big Box discount stores. Part of what was included in this study was waste. By far, the families who shopped in smaller stores spent less money overall and had a lot less waste (thrown out food) to show for it. They also purchased fewer junk calories overall (as in chips, soda, candy). The only time this didn't work out was when the family had more than five or more members in it. Larger families could benefit by going to a Walmart or Costco on basic items, but only if they restrained themselves from buying impulse items. There was very little waste in larger families. One of the biggest problems was people tended to buy things they normally would not be tempted to buy in smaller stores, such as five pounds of Malted Milk Balls in a container shaped like a football. Sometimes people bought more fresh items than they could consume because they seemed cheap compared to buying smaller quantities, but the extra mostly ended up in the garbage. Another factor was people saw shopping in larger stores as entertainment and tended to bring other family members along and thus it resulted in more purchasing. Men actually claimed to like going on Big Box grocery trips because there are departments at these stores that interest them outside of the usual grocery store offerings (music, electronics, auto etc). I tried to find the specific results of this stufy on-line, but they don't seem to be available. If I can track it down I will post it.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 12:37 pm
@Green Witch,
That's very interesting, Green Witch. I was just reading an article today showing very similar findings between people who shop with credit cards v. people who shop with cash. (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/going-on-a-diet-start-paying-in-cash/)

I never shop without a list -- not having a list can completely damage my budget. That's why I'm planning ahead. I really just want to get the basics but I don't know if the basics are good deals at Costco. I'm also interested in frozen vegetables -- something I typically don't buy at all.

Mr. B can go to the store and spend more on one meal than I will on a week's worth of groceries. I don't know how he manages this.
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 12:47 pm
@boomerang,
Gasoline at Costco and SamsClub here is consistently cheaper than other places.
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Green Witch
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 12:48 pm
I think whether it's Costco or any other grocery store, it's good to know how pricing works and how your family eats. If Mo likes meat that's fine, just buy cheaper cuts and learn how to cook them so they taste good. A slow cooker might be in your future. When I was looking around the web for my study I found this article that examines the highest price items and various margins for different types of food:
http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/02/18/biggest-grocery-store-markups/
One thing about places like Costco is they work very hard to get people to buyer higher margin items while enticing them in with low priced bulk. I think you should do what people in the study did, but as an individual. Have a Costco plan and for 6 months use that as your primary grocery store, then switch to a smaller store for 6 months. Add up the totals and analyze your purchases at the end of the year. I think the numbers will be very clear one way or the other.
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 02:55 pm
@Green Witch,
I'm a really good cook so that isn't a problem. I just usually don't stock up on stuff. Now that I've decided that I'm going to stock up I'm trying to figure out the best way to do it. I'd like to save a little money but I don't want to end up with a bunch of inferior crap.

I already know what I spend at the grocery store -- about $200 a week -- and I cook for three (or more) about 17 times during the average week.
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boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 02:57 pm
As to prescriptions and gasoline -- those are two things I spend so little money on that they don't really ever make a dent in my budget.

I'd spend more driving to Costco to put gas in my car than would ever be worth it.

But if I start shopping there I might need a prescription for valium or something!
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Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 04:02 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
I do remember that I loved their very skinny, frozen green beans.
OMG those are the BEST!!!

0 Replies
 
MMarciano
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 05:00 pm
As far are their meat section goes, you can get some great deals on boneless skinless chick breasts. They now come pre-wrapped so you don’t have to place them all in individual sealed bags when you get home. Usually 1.99 a lb.
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 05:37 pm
@parados,
Parados has definitely got it right. You really have to compare the unit costs to determine if you're getting a deal at Costco. I can usually get a better price on paper products (paper towels/tp/tissue etc) at regular grocery stores, most staples like bread and cereal are cheaper at the grocery store, but smoked fish and imported cheeses are a bit cheaper at Costco. Coffee is cheaper on a unit basis at the grocery store, but some premium salad dressings are cheaper at Costco. You really need to have a master list of per unit costs and check check check it.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 06:32 pm
@ehBeth,
I was hoping to get a chance to compare prices today but haven't had the time. I saved the grocery circulars from today's paper and should get a chance to look tomorrow.

But price isn't the only consideration, maybe not even the biggest consideration. Can anyone vouch for the quality of their meats and fish? It really doesn't matter if it's cheap if it tastes terrible.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 06:41 pm
@MMarciano,
I can't remember the last time I bought boneless, skinless chicken anything. I can get two or three meals and a pot of soup off of one chicken.

At $1.99 per pound it's something I might consider though. How does one cook them in such a way that they have any flavor? Do you have any good recipes?
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 08:46 pm
@boomerang,
I use them a lot for various things...chicken salad, diced and tossed on a salad, sliced thin after cooking on a sandwich, quesedillas, etc.

I usually just oven roast them with olive oil and a little S&P...30 minutes or so at 350.
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hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Sep, 2011 09:33 pm
Since you spend so little and have been willing to eat inferior meat for years Costco probably is not your cup of tea. At Costco you will get fair pricing for above average quality products bought in bulk, but you will not get cheap.

That said I split my shopping between Costco and Winco which is a small regional low price chain which I am betting that you know about. I abandoned the Commissary years ago when I stopped working on base as it is a 20 mile round trip for me and I rarely have need to be there, and I stopped going to Safeway when Winco opened.

Costco for me:

Beer & Wine, some produce, all meats (very good quality), TP, cleaning supplies, pet food and supplies, cheese, pre-prepared foods, some frozen food, eggs, crackers, some baking supplies, health supplements, and snack foods. Back when we were 5 I did 80% of my food shopping at Costco, but now that we are 3 I do 30% and would not do that much if the kid were not a huge eating football player. When I do catering I tend to go to Costco first for supplies, so I still spend a lot with them however.

Based upon what you have said so far I would say that Winco is a much better fit for you than is Costco.
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Mon 19 Sep, 2011 07:23 am
@hawkeye10,
Ugh. Winco. We've found their meats to be inedible. It doesn't matter how you cook them.

But their produce, frozen foods, and bulk food departments are great.

Is $200 a week a little to spend? I guess it's a good thing I can cook because I'd really hate to spend more than that.
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