How to split items at Costco with a friend to save money

by Emilie on February 24, 2014

Some time ago, my good friend Jessie and I started meeting at Costco to split some items each month.  You know Jessie as our recipe contributor from Bites.  I can’t even remember now whose idea it was but I’m going to give Jessie all the credit because she’s usually the brilliant one in our friendship. That girl comes up with the most amazing, creative and helpful ideas!

Basically, we split items that our entire family won’t use before they go bad or that are expensive and keep us from sticking to our grocery budget.  Have you ever seen a Costco bag of onions? Or their 2-pack of lemon juice? How about their block of yeast?  We both have a family of five (although Jessie’s is about to become a family of seven!) and even though we feel like all we do is feed people, we just can’t get through some of the items from Costco.  This is a a great way to eliminate waste and have more diversity in our menus.

Because we both use a Dave Ramsey style budget and love to cook, it’s super hard to get exciting ingredients like goat cheese, pine nuts or even just splurge on fancy bread and stay in the monthly grocery budget. The first of every month we meet at Costco armed with a crazy list, six kids between us and lots of snacks.  It takes about an hour to do the shopping, checkout, get the kids a smoothie  or piece of pizza and split everything up. It also takes about an hour to unload, put stuff away and recover.

We made a list of some of the items we have split at Costco in the past.  Feel free to use it as a guide if you try to plan a trip to split with a friend. As I think of more items we have split or we find new items to split, I’ll update the sheet.

This is a picture of Jessie with her full Costco cart.  Imagine two of these.  And six kids.  That’s us at Costco on the 1st of the month.  And it’s usually raining.

Costco Cart
A few tips:

  • Bring supplies: We bring grocery bags, Ziploc bags, a food scale, scissors, and sometimes a huge knife. I’m not even joking. People stare. We like it to go as quick as possible because we are splitting packages in the parking lot.  Having the right supplies makes it snappy.

  • Be patient: It adds some time to your shopping trip but it’s super fun to catch-up with your friend and find out what they are cooking. In theory it should go faster because you are splitting up to conquer the list, but physically splitting items does take a little time at the end of the trip. And six kids is a lot of kids. But not as many as eight, which we are about to tackle.
  • Make your list early: We tend to make our lists towards the middle of the month and go back and forth through email quite a few times as we discover things we need to add on as it gets closer to the end of the month.  I try to do my rough menu plan for a month so I can take full advantage of the trip and split things I might need in a couple of weeks.
  • Find somebody who eats like you do: Jessie and I like a lot of the same foods. It makes it easy to find helpful items to split. We’ll even email recipes with our split wish list to show what we are using the item for.
  • Leave the kids at home: Honestly, when we have all six kids, it’s rough.  It’s 100 million times nicer without them all, or with half of them. Or even 2/3.
  • Help each other out: In different seasons when one of us is particularly busy or just had a baby, one of us will do all the shopping and deliver the split items to the person who can’t get to the store.  It’s a blessing to me when I need the help and a blessing to get to help a friend who needs a delivery.
  • How to Pay: It seems to work best if one person pays and the other person just writes a check or gives cash for half.  Costco will subtotal with tax so we usually just put our split stuff on the belt first, they subtotal, then the person paying can still buy the rest of their stuff in the same transaction.  If some items don’t split evenly (a 3-pk for example), we just do the math to figure out the cost per unit and one person takes an extra item and also pays for it.

Ask us some questions about this process! We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now and I love how it helps me stay on budget and gives me a chance to be more creative in my menu planning.

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