The 12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco (Find Better Deals Elsewhere)

Updated June 22, 2021 by Kyle

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.

12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco

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 the Amazon Subscribe & 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 $0.23/diaper, compare that with an Amazon 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.

Snack Foods

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.

Breakfast Cereal

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

While many shoppers think Costco is the best place to score a deal on books, music, and DVD/Bluray movies, the fact of the matter is you can typically find lower prices on Amazon or at Walmart.

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.

Laundry Detergent

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 Goods

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.

Non-Organic Produce

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.

Also, keep an eye out for sales and coupons at stores like JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Macy’s to score a deal better than what you’ll find at your local Costco.

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.


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Costco’s problem too is that they select with their brands. I needed smoke detectors for my new house and all they had were overpriced high end ones for 2 for $28. While I’m sure they’re great smoke detectors, you can get a fine one for $5 a piece at Home Depot and in all honesty, it’ll probably last just as long.

It’s the same with their appliance selection. Their price might be great for that style of fridge, but a fridge with just as many bells and whistles can be had for cheaper at Best Buy.

Meara lockwood

This is sort of true I find for appliances it’s usually worth it I got a great blender from Costco on sale that was 30 bucks and certainly would have been more someone where else. I also got an excellent vacuum for 80 bucks now I could probably get a cheaper vacuum but it wouldn’t be nearly as good

pisher confidential

I can speak for the cheap chinese doo doo, sold at home depot, just try and return it when it breaks after 6 months, or the cheap battery runs out…

Money Beagle

I agree with some of these but there’s some of these that I have a differing opinion about and they often come into play with coupons. See, Costco sends out monthly specials in lieu of coupons. You don’t have to clip them but if you can line them up, they can save money.

Diapers – When we were buying diapers, we found that when they had $5 or more off a box during certain months, the price was pretty good. We did stop buying there back when Amazon Mom was free, because when that first came out you couldn’t beat the deal, but later they made the discounts available to Prime members only, so Costco came back into play.

Snacks and Crackers – We buy a lot of graham crackers for camping (s’mores of course) and when you consider that you get four full size boxes for around $7, the per box price is pretty good. As long as you use it all, the prices are good, and they often have monthly coupons as well.

Detergent – We buy the Kirkland brand detergents and the per unit price is good. Again, broken record, but we also stock up every other or third month when they have discounts in their book.

Paper Goods – This is one where I know we probably overpay a bit, but honestly, the Kirkland brand of all their stuff (napkins, TP, paper towel) is very good and we have been disappointed when buying sale stuff with different brands and finding that it was hit or miss on quality.

pisher confidential

your common sense reflections are refreshing

Carol Y

I think Costco cultivates good vendors and selects their products well, so I feel comfortable buying a brand without doing much research if it is an item I need. Money Beagle brought up the coupons/sales book, so I’ll just reiterate that it makes for some very good deals.

Breakfast cereal – you must have better stores than we do here in Napa, because Cheerios, oatmeal and Kashi are usually less at Costco.

Laundry detergent – look for the specials at Costco

Paper goods – we used to avoid these too, but if on special, we stock up on paper plates, paper towels, TP and Kleenex.

Name-brand clothes – I’ve had no problems with socks, underwear/garments, slippers. I have noticed lesser quality in pants & shorts, but we don’t have a lot of options for affordable clothing (I’m not a fan of Walmart, Kohl’s or Ross).

Produce – I always find better prices at Costco. Guess you have better grocery options.


I agree with you Kyle ! and i think Costco good vendor for me. I also buy some brand name clothes for Costco like socks jeans and some t-shirts with affordable price and good quality.I also prefer Costco for foods. It’s also offer great price on grocery.

Larry Hines

I disagree with most of your comments regarding items that shouldn’t be purchased at Costco. I find the quality at Costco is as good as, or better, than quality anywhere else. Consumer reports tends to agree that Kirkland products are inexpensive and of high quality.
When you purchase an item, such as a camera, glasses, snacks, supplements, foods, etc. there usually is a greater quantity, or an extra feature that is unavailable elsewhere, such as extra memory, or cases, or higher quality nuts.
Another responder mentioned fire detectors but failed to note that the Costco fire alarms are also Carbon Monoxide detectors as are now required in most localities.
More research is required. And lastly, if your refrigerator is ser to 40 degrees or lower, the products remain good for 2 to 4 times as long as stated in your article.


you sound like the fake news I hear all the time!


Fox News! Trump idiot u are


Right around Thanksgiving Costco puts their big, nice towels on sale for a few days. These towels are heavier and more luxurious than any other towels I’ve seen, and they wash up and last beautifully. You can buy them for $7 each, which is the cost of a decent washcloth in a lot of department stores. I can’t image finding a better deal.

Meara lockwood

We buy the Kirkland formula from Costco and it’s sooooo much cheaper than any kind of formula. Amazon and costco are the only ones that sell Kirkland formula and costco is much cheaper. Also there Avcados while not necessarily cheaper are usually much better than the ones at the grocery store. I also feel like yougurt is worth it because you get a lot for ten bucks or less.

Kimberly Davis

Decent avocados? That’s worth the $60/year membership right there! I am so sad never being able to find the good avocados I grew up with in Texas…so I avoid paying $1.50 per, and the pitiful little hard stringy things are only good for one day, which I usually miss, so toss them out…


I disagree on a few points, but everyone has their own needs. For instance, I love buying sunscreen at Costco. But I live in Arizona and we buy season tickets for the local water park every summer. We also tend to go on summer vacation to places that sunscreen is a must. With 5 people in the family and often being out long enough to require reapplication, we easily use Costco amounts of sunscreen.


Two months in a refrigerator for mayo?? I couldn’t go through a regular jar of mayo in two months if I tried. It lasts much, much longer than that. Pickles last a year because they’re loaded with salt. Same for ketchup kept in a refrigerator. I don’t buy any of that stuff at Costco anyway, because I’m no longer feeding a family of five. I happily ditched my Costco membership two months ago in favor of a Sam’s membership. Better prices, less crowded, cheaper gas at the station, too!


I purchased towels recently and they are a much better quality than TK Max really thick and absorbent and a good price as well.


Agree on some, disagree on others.

The crackers we buy are definitely less costly at Costco. It depends what crackers one is buying.

I rarely find sheets less expensive elsewhere. I like the sheets at Costco – they last and wash very well. It can also depend on what kind of sheets are being bought.

We can get plastic and paper elsewhere, but they are not the same quality as Costco. If a little more, it is worth a fork not breaking in the food.

As a whole, I have to consider a few other issues when deciding if Costco is saving me money. How does one trip to Costco compare to numerous trips to different stores in different directions from my home? It is a 15 – 20 minute trip to Costco. The closest grocery store is five minutes, but very expensive. (The size of green beans I get at Costco are only a couple of dollars more than a much smaller amount at the grocery store. I never let food go to waste. There is always a soup to be made with vegetables.) While the face value may not be the lowest, my time, wear and tear on my car, gas, etc… are worth a lot.

One item that I will not buy at Costco, and that we use a lot, is the Spring Mix. Costco Spring Mix goes bad very quickly and is not worth the price. They changed suppliers, but to no avail. I’m stuck getting it at the expensive grocery store, but it is always fresh.

Love reading your articles and thank you for solid and helpful advice.


In Canada where most stores do not allow coupon stacking as we are per capita under-retailed in the grocery sector it is hard to beat a Costco price.


You forgot COFFEE! The coffee they carry is all DARK ROAST. Uh, ew, gross…. burnt coffee? It is all the expired coffee that went back to the company only to be re-roasted as dark roast.
I do not agree with the towels, paper goods, and detergent.
The towels i purchased from Costco are more absorbent than the ones I purchased from Macy’s, and for a fraction of the price.
Paper goods are a great buy if you have storage. Clipping coupons? Yeah, I tried that. It was an awful ordeal Ended paying the same amount for less, sometimes 1/2 the product. NEVER AGAIN!
Detergent the same as the paper goods.
You mentioned SNACKY STUFF? …. Granola bars are a great buy! 48 for $7 …. uh yeah! I’d much rather pay $.14 per bar than $.57 . Not even a 2 fer 1 coupon can beat that.

pisher confidential

absolutely, positively fake news and completely wrong about the different strength of the coffee available


Anyone can pick on a specific item and troll about what a ripoff it is. While true, there is no other brick & mortar store that consistently offers cheap prices and better quality than Costco. If you are single or an empty nester, use common sense about the sizes of the items available. Harping on this or that as inappropriate for everyone in every case is just ridiculous. I have never been able to beat the convenience and pricing for mens clothing, underwear, soxs, tires, wine, liquor,flooring etc. While it is possible to find a better deal somewhere, sure, spend 2 hours surfing, give up more personal data, try to return something, to save a buck or two is just dumb.

Costco shopper

Absolutely disagree! First of all if you throw away any food that means you don’t need Costco membership. I believe they carry the brands that are worth buying anyway, they don’t carry 20 worthless vacuum cleaners, they have maybe 2 or 3. I save money by not driving around the town looking for 50 cents off of ketchup bottle. We go to Costco twice a month and that’s it! No clipping coupons or waisting time and gas driving from store to store! Of course there is always exceptions, sometimes if I need something specific I would look for a cheaper price, but majority of time we stick to one shopping trip every two weeks.