(Updated 4/24/19) While it’s always fun to talk about the best buys at Costco, it can often be more helpful to breakdown the items that provide the least value. The stuff you’ll simply want to buy elsewhere and save money in the process. Here are the 12 items that are a bad buy at Costco, many of which will probably surprise the heck out of you.
Big Vats of Almost Anything
Due to the expiration dates on things like mayo, mustard, yogurt, eggnog, and ketchup, it’s often a bad buy to purchase these in large quantities at Costco.
After all, saving a few bucks upfront is not worth it if you end up throwing it away before consuming it all. This advice extends mainly to those without a household full of hungry kids.
Here are the average expiration dates on some of these popular items to help you determine if you should be buying them at Costco or not:
- Mayonnaise: Once opened, it will store safely in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- Yogurt: Will typically keep for 7-10 days after the sell by date.
- Ketchup: Will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
- Peanut Butter: Opened PB will last up to 3 months in the cupboard.
- Pickles: Surprisingly, these will last for an entire year in the fridge.
- Sour Cream: You only have 2 weeks to consume a tub of sour cream.
- Mustard: 1-2 years past its expiration date when left unopened in the pantry.
- Butter: It will last 2 weeks past the expiration date.
Any other items I should add to this list?
While it can be enticing to stock-up on diapers at Costco, you should look at Amazon Family, a subscribe and save program, and get them for 20% less on average. Throw in the fact that you’ll get them delivered for free to your front door, and it makes Amazon a really good deal.
For example, at Costco you can get Huggies (size 2) for $0.18/diaper, compare that with an Amazon Mom subscription and you’ll only pay $0.14/diaper. May not seem like much savings, but for a box of 246 diapers, you’ll save a significant $9.84 by staying away from Costco.
Similar savings exists for other popular brands like Pampers and Luvs.
When it comes to feminine hygiene products, Costco is usually not your best option. For example, Costco currently has Always Pantiliner Xtra Protection Long Dailies (160ct) for $9.99 and Amazon has the same exact product for $7.55.
I always see shoppers walking around the Costco warehouse with shopping carts full of “snacky” food like granola bars, chips, crackers, jerky, and the like. I often wonder what the heck they’re doing as the per-unit price of most of that stuff at Costco is more expensive than at your discount grocery stores, especially when you can combine sales with a coupon.
Also, you risk buying more than you’ll actually eat, and end up having to throw some of it away, or end up feeding it to your chickens.
With 3 kids in the house, we buy a lot of cereal. Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Corn Flakes, the occasional Fruity Pebbles…you get the idea.
We always find it cheaper at our local Winco Foods discount grocery store, ALWAYS. The savings with a coupon is even greater. Don’t let the bigger boxes at Costco fool you, they’re almost always more expensive per serving then what you can find at the cheapest grocery store in your town.
Be sure to do the math on your next shopping trip and you’ll see the difference too.
Are you aware that sunscreen can actually expire and lose its effectiveness? I sure wasn’t. Some dermatologists actually suggest “using up” a bottle within two months as the active agents can decompose over time.
For this reason, it’s risky buying sunscreen in-bulk from Costco unless you’re lathering up several kids every morning. Instead, look for deals at Walmart or Target on more reasonably sized sunscreen bottles.
Media: Books, CDs, and DVDs
Also, let’s not forget about your local thrift store as it’s a great place to pick up “new to you” books for pennies on the dollar.
Instead of buying in bulk from Costco, use a printable coupon, along with a sale, and stock-up for less at the grocery store. Besides the grocery store, look for deals at Walmart, Target, and even drugstores.
We’re talking significant savings too. Up to $0.20 a laundry load less when compared to a Costco Wholesale club.
Paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware, you’ll almost always find them cheaper when they go in sale at grocery stores.
This is especially true when you can combine store and manufacturer coupons on your paper goods.
These paper products are pretty easy to store in bulk, so be sure to stock up when the price is right and you’ll get them cheaper then if you made a trek to Costco.
Name-Brand Clothing and Shoes
Beware that whenever you see name-brand clothing or shoes at Costco, they are often made specifically for the warehouse club and are of lesser quality.
Brands where I personally have noticed lesser quality include Levi, Reebok, Hanes, Champion, and Adidas. Instead, buy higher quality name-brand clothing, at a major discount, from stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.
Tasty fruit like peaches, tangerines, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are typically darn expensive at Costco. Be sure to check the price per pound as most grocery stores will beat their price by 15-20%.
Towels and Sheet Sets
Due to limited colors, thread counts, sizes, and a higher price point, Costco is not the best place to shop for bed sheets, comforters, and towels. Compared to Costco, you can typically save 30-40% more by shopping for these items at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.
Ask the Reader: What items on my list do you agree with? Also, let me know if you disagree on any of these and I’d be happy to investigate further. My goal is to keep this information up-to-date and accurate. Thanks.
By Kyle James
Photo by J Brew.