My Favorite Things to Buy at Costco

by Melody on February 16, 2012

When I first started seriously using coupons after our first son was born, we actually canceled our Costco membership.  We were getting so much for our pantry for so little out of pocket that it seemed a waste to spend the $50 for the annual membership if we were only buying a few things.

Along came Little Man #2.  With him came a lot less time for coupon shopping and a lot less energy from me to actually make the trips to the store required to maintain our current grocery budget.

My parents bought us a Costco membership for our birthday.  Scratch that, they bought it for my husband.  He made the comment once that he missed going to Costco to just “walk around and look” and they felt bad for him.  With this came an unintentional renewed love for Costco from me.

There are definitely things you can get for much cheaper with coupons than you can get at Costco.  There are also TONS of items that are a better deal at Costco or that you can get in much larger quantities for a decent price, instead of a smaller quantity for super cheap at the grocery store.  Quite honestly, most times it is worth it to me to pay a few pennies more and not have to drag my kids to 7 different stores with 32 different coupons.

Since I started doing the Costco home coupon mailer match ups a year or so ago, your response has been off the charts.  It seems that there are many of you out there like me, who want to save money and lower your grocery budget, but struggle finding a good balance of time and energy spent versus pennies saved.

We thought it would be helpful for me to share my favorite items to purchase at Costco.  These are things I buy on a very consistent basis and will rarely buy anywhere else.  Since everyone shops Costco so differently, we’ve also included lists from our contributors.  Emilie does a little bit of everything around TBFL and is a far fancier chef than me, check out her list of must-have items here.  Jessie is our resident recipe guru and is an amazing cook, her list is here.

  • Lettuce – The romaine lettuce comes in a pack of 6 for about $3.50, which is about $.58 per head.  This is a crazy low price and having this much lettuce in our fridge forces us to eat more salad.  I’m sure you can grow it for cheaper, but it’s not cheaper if you kill your lettuce plants year after year.  (Hint: It’s me.  I kill them.)
  • Organic Carrots – These come in a 10 pound bag for just $5.99 or $.60/pound.  The bag is so big I can barely fit it in the produce drawer of my fridge.  Carrots last FOREVER, so we use them as our last chance vegetable.  We throw them in salads, keep carrot sticks cut up for snacks, steam or roast them for my kids dinner, shred them into pasta sauce.  You name it.  These carrots can do it.
  • Organic Frozen Veggies – Now that we have made the choice to do away with canned vegetables, these are a fabulous option.  At our store, they come in 5 pound bags of peas, sweet corn and green beans and are grown locally here in the Columbia Basin.  My kids love to eat the peas as a crunchy snack, the corn is a fabulous addition to salads or most recipes and the green beans are super easy to steam and keep in the fridge as an easy snack.  At just over $5 per bag, they are a steal.
  • Raw Almonds – Both my husband and I (and sometimes our kids), eat these for snacks every day.  We don’t keep crackers or chips in the house, so these satisfy our need for crunch.  They are a good healthy fat and I can rarely find them cheaper than Costco.
  • Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese – These come in 3 pound tubs from Darigold and are priced at $3.89 and $4.99 respectively.  Quite a few of my freezer meals call for sour cream and we just love cottage cheese, so go through it like crazy.  Great sales on these items are pretty few and far between, so for our family, it’s just much less of a headache to pick  it up at Costco and call it good.
  • Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil – This is a new addition.  Costco just started carrying it at right around $.28/ounce, which is seriously unheard of for this brand (or any brand for that matter).  We use it in just about everything, swapping out most oils in baking with it, roasting veggies, greasing baking sheets and muffin tins.  For ideas, you can follow my Coconut Oil Recipes + Uses Pinterest board.
  • Pecorino Romano – At $5.49/pound, it’s almost half the price of Parmesan and it lasts forever.  This was one of the things I rarely bought when I was a “serious couponer” because it never went on sale.  However, for about $9-$10 at Costco, I can snag a good size wedge that will last us at least a month or two.  It doesn’t take much to add a huge punch of flavor, I just shave off a little bit here and there and it makes all the difference in some of our recipes.  Sometimes I just eat it plain, because it’s good.
  • Half and Half – We don’t buy traditional coffee creamer anymore, I make my own.  The Darigold 1/2 and 1/2 comes in a 1/2 gallon for just $2.75 and I make my own Homemade Chocolate Almond Creamer (along with other flavors and varieties).  So much cheaper than coffee creamer and beats chasing the “deals” any day.  The taste is definitely different, as it doesn’t have any fake sweeteners, but I’m come to love it even more.
  • Organic Strawberry Spread – Deals on jelly and jam are very few and far between and I got tired of chasing them.  At just $.16 per ounce at Costco for a product that only contains 4 ingredients, I’m in.  I sometimes eat it straight out of the jar because it has so much flavor.
  • Spices – Truthfully, almost every spice at Costco is an amazing price.  My 2 favorite items from the spice aisle are the taco seasoning and the cinnamon.  The cinnamon is just $2.65 for a 10.7 ounce bottle, which will last me for approximately forever.  The taco seasoning is just $3.99 for a 24 ounce bottle, which is like paying just $.16 for one of those 1 ounce packets you can get at the grocery store.  I know you can often get these for free, but it generally requires having 17 computers to print your coupons from.  I buy it at Costco and forget about it.
  • Tortillas – Another item I got tired of chasing deals on, mainly because we go through them like crazy people.  At just $.14 per flour tortilla or just $.31 per whole wheat tortilla, you really can’t beat the price or convenience.
  • Kirkland Signature Tortilla Chips by Mission – If you haven’t tried these chips, you probably should. We don’t keep traditional potato chips, Doritos, Fritos, nothing, in the house.  Before they even cross the door frame,  I have them eaten.  These tortilla chips are a little heavier, not as outrageously salty so it’s hard to sit and eat the entire bag.  Not to mention the fact that the bag is bigger than my 3-year old.  They are delicious, are perfect for salsa dipping and nachos and are CRAZY cheap.  For just $3.59 for a 3 pound bag, the price can’t be beat.
  • GoGo Squeez Applesauce Pouches – These are all-natural, made with very few ingredients (like basically apples and water) and are perfect for on-the-go snacks.  I don’t buy them all the time, but they are perfect for road trips, long mornings in the car with lots of errands or just a special treat.  At $.48/pouch, the price absolutely can’t be beat!

There are a zillion other things we pick up, but these are consistent favorites.  I’ve spent quite a few hours compiling a list of my stock-up prices including Costco comparison prices, so if there is something you are looking for, definitely check it out.  Please let us know about your favorites, I’d love to hear what you all have found to be the best deals for your family!

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

cynthia February 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Thank you! I like to see that the items I usually get there are also yours- feels like I’m doing something right 🙂


Jennie February 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I would agree on your top picks! Especially the tortilla chips, can’t beat em! I would add bananas. They’re SO cheap and easy to eat on the go. When the right produce is in season, strawberries, etc are priced great and the quality is amazing.

Oh. And gas. We always buy gas there 🙂


Julie H. February 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Love this post, thanks!


mona February 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I too thought about canceling my membership cause I hated the amt of money I could spend at Costco and by golly I was going to get everything so much cheaper with coupons….. yeah now almost 2 years later, 2 kids in preschool and half day kindergarten, special diet required for health reasons and I just am trying to find better ways to stretch a buck now besides chasing after deals. I now think buying a huge bag of flour and sugar at costco makes sense so I can make my own pancake mixes, biscuits, bread, etc. And the business costco near us has huge cans of tomatoes so I can make my own sauce. Coffee syrups for $3.89 (the large ones that cost $8 at grocery stores). Make my own lattes at home with my Tassimo (love it). Anyway, love your matchups and your costco stock up prices – Thank You!


Melody February 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

That’s exactly where we’re at too, trying to find different ways to stretch our dollar. Buying in larger quantities at Costco has helped us to eat healthier by making a lot of our own stuff. While it may be a little more labor intensive, it’s less time dragging the kids from store to store.


michelle February 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Thank you for help with costco!!

So need it


Miss Jay February 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I second the coffee syrup! We are also pretty dedicated fans of the craisins. They are about 1/billionth the price of the grocery store, and I use them to fancy up salads, I bake with them, and of course they are great by the handful!


Sara February 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Yes on the Craisins!!! I use them all the time in my kids homemade oatmeal.
We also always buy trail mix there. It’s in the big bags like the craisins are. We give it to our kids as a snack (after I pick out most of the M&Ms for myself) and it fits perfectly in their snack dispensers.


Annie February 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Thanks Melody!
I so love how your blog doesn’t always just focus on getting the absolute greatest deal but instead addresses a lifestyle that is manageable. I have 2 kids, 1 and 3 and am about to pop with our third. It’s really not easy most weeks to even get coupon match ups for one store. I love your Costco list, and knowing that a “decent” price will bring a more feasible life at this stage of the game. You rock!


Trina February 16, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Hear, hear to Annie’s comment:

“I so love how your blog doesn’t always just focus on getting the absolute greatest deal but instead addresses a lifestyle that is manageable.”


Cheree February 17, 2012 at 8:20 am

Another thought is this…if you get the executive membership ($110) you get 2% back in the form of a Costco rewards certificate each year. Even when I was single, I always got more than enough back to pay for my membership. If you don’t get enough to pay for the membership, they will refund you the difference. (You have to ask) You don’t have to spend the entire reward there either. I haven’t asked them to cash it, but I have gotten the cheapest thing I could find (milk) and gotten the rest back in cash! I actually save enough, just on milk, to pay for my membership! That’s just the price difference and doesn’t include the 2% earnings. Food for thought. 🙂


Lee September 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

The “they will refund you the difference…” means you are also cancelling your membership, not just getting your money back.
You need to spend $5500 a year at Costco to get a $110 reward check. This excludes the savings compared to non-Costco shopping. Gas at Costco may be less expensive but does not count toward the 2% reward (directly).


Joyell May 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm

The hubby and I just got our own membership after unceremoniously being dumped from a family business membership. We were told about the refund just about a month ago. They told us that the reward was 2% or $55, whichever was more. If the 2% reward doesn’t get up to $55, we were told to go to CS and ask them to adjust it. For us, at least, the refund amount did not require cancellation. After the first year, I’m not sure how it works.


susan h February 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm

My mother and I share an executive membership. With the 2% back at the end of the year, it pays for the membership fee, plus a little bonus. Just buying our gas alone, it would give us enough back to pay for the membership.
I learn so much from your blog, and the comments! I need to check the coffee aisle next time for the coffee syrups. 🙂


Adriana October 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm

And also if you pay with your Costco American Express, you receive cash back too, so you will receive two checks that you can cash at Costco!


Lora February 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Yes – everyone should have the executive membership!! (Maybe not, but everyone should look into it!) It doesn’t cost any extra (if you don’t spend enough to get a refund they will give you back the difference like Cheree said). We always get more back than our membership renewal costs, so we are members for FREE, plus we make a little cash on our purchases. *happy dance* Also FYI, Costco has the cheapest checks I have ever seen. Ever. We always order new boxes of checks through them.
I agree totally with your matchups, Melody. A little fact about the milk… sister-in-law is a “milk person”. She loves it. She always noticed Costco’s milk was SO good and fresh. Once she found an employee and asked about it. He said that they put them in gallons in that weird tall, squarish shape because for some reason they ship faster that way. So….their milk is getting to their stores much faster than others. It’s the freshest milk around. I’ll only buy milk at Costco unless I’m completely desperate.

I always get their organic salad mix and organic spinach. Good prices for organic. I have to say, though that I’m not a huge fan of some of their produce. Maybe I have bad luck, but every time I get bananas there they are all bruised on the bottom. Also, unless the fruit is in season I don’t like it much. I personally think Fred Meyers has better produce, but the summers are my favorite. Farmer’s markets all the way! But I do buy anything organic there – it’s always been great quality produce, and I’ll get others there in a pinch. Sorry – I have a picky pallet.

Thanks for the matchups Melody!! My FAVORITE thing about Costco matchups is that they are good for an entire MONTH. And you don’t even have to bring your coupons. And they never run out!!! No rushing to the store to get the great deals. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!


Melody February 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

That is outrageously interesting about the milk, I always wondered about the weird shape. Thanks for sharing that random piece of knowledge. 🙂

I do agree about the produce, we don’t buy most of it at Costco. Just a few things, otherwise we buy most of ours at Fred Meyer. With the bananas, I’ve noticed if I take them completely out of the bag, they ripen too fast and we can’t use them. If I pull one out of the bag at a time, they stay much fresher. I have no idea why, but they are a fabulous price so I don’t question. 🙂


Mindy January 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Another weird tidbit regarding the bananas. If you fully separate all the bananas from the bunch so they are all individual, they ripen at a slower pace. I have no idea why, but know that’s why Starbucks keeps them that way by the registers and I’ve had produce people confirm it as well.


Erin March 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I started cutting bananas up and freezing them on cookie sheets then transferring them to a freezer bag. My son loves to pull them out of the freezer and eat them that way for a snack and I use bananas we won’t get to before they go bad. Love Costco too.


Mary Banducci February 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

My favorite products at costco are organic kale (or spinach because the kale comes and goes quite quickly, frozen berries, frozen organic green beans and peas, organic carrots, olive oil (what happened to grapeseed oil that they carried?), and the seaweed my costco just started to carry. My toddler loves her seaweed! I agree with you about the cinnamon and the vanilla extract is a great deal as well! MY husband loves the kirkland potato chips.


Amy February 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I always buy my rolled oats at Costco for breakfast oatmeal, oatmeal pancakes, granola bars, and cookies. Our Costco recently started carrying organic steel cut oats as well. Their vanilla extract is really delicious, and the organic extra-virgin olive oil is my favorite – plus it’s in a small enough bottle that I can use it all before it goes rancid. I often buy my maple syrup there. It’s so much cheaper than the grocery store! I also like to get their organic spinach for green smoothies. Oh, and they have some bacon that’s awesome – I think it’s Fletcher’s? dry-cured bacon. 4 pounds is way too much, of course, but it freezes well.


Jenny G February 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I just need to say thank you. This confirmed all of my feelings this year. I went back to work and couponing has gotten so frustrating. Costco has helped with the stuff we eat/use ALL THE TIME. It just saves me stress and I although I could eventually get some of the stuff I buy a little less with coupons…feeling at peace is more important to me than .25.


Melody February 25, 2012 at 5:34 am

It was hard for me at first to accept. I was so used to getting things for so cheap with coupons, but the more we have been trying to eat healthier (and the less time I have), the more and more I fall back in love with Costco. I try to supplement with coupon deals, but cutting my shopping trips in half and knowing they won’t be out of stock after I’ve drug my kids in definitely gives me peace.


Rachel O. February 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Melody- You and I have almost identical Costco must-have lists, with the exception of the half and half…and one of my FAVORITE things to get there is Hummus! I love it, and it is SO cheap there, and I also prefer the Kirkland brand salsa to most store jar salsa’s I have tried. Thanks for the post! I was considering not keeping my membership, and you have helped me realize that it is actually worth the membership fees. 🙂


Melody February 25, 2012 at 5:36 am

Hooray for keeping your membership! I’m so grateful that my parents felt sorry for us and got us another membership, it kick-started my new Costco journey. Loving the convenience, plus when I really break down the costs of quite a few of their items, it’s totally worth it.


laurie February 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Definitely the Prego double containers is the best deal around! Had to add.


Karen February 25, 2012 at 9:43 am

Have you checked out the price on the Yoshida’s sauce and the Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce? Both are very good. Also, the good cat litter is much cheaper there.


Janie June 14, 2012 at 6:43 am

You also can’t beat their yeast price $3.65 for a package that will last me FOREVER. Also, the best white vinegar price 2 gall. for $3.85. Don’t quote me on prices, going from memory. Making a lot more cleaners. So many uses…. ( :

You forgot the FODD COURT! ( : Best family value for “I just want to get out of the house and not cook tonight” family date, LOL!


Ashley August 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm

omgosh I have the executive membership and my reward check was only half of the membership cost, I totally didnt know they would refund the difference this is such great news , I havent renewed my membership yet cuz I was dreading the $100 cost thank you, thank you, gonna go ask asap!


Helen in Meridian September 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Have you noticed they have fancy salt, Kirkland Himalayan Pink Salt in a larger grinder for $4 something. Thanks to you I now use their Kirkland flushable wipes, and think I save so much toilet paper that way. Also I am in love with their Kirkland and their Charisma etc. sheet sets. I was hesitant at the price, but watch for them at Goodwill and Savers/Value Village, and have now pair Costco prices. They are Supima Cotton, only 6% of all cotton is long staple Supima, and even their Kirkland labels say King or Queen so you can identify which bed they go to. Their Charisma or other sheet sets that are Egyptian cotton come out so soft. Sometimes these take 6 washings before the softness starts. I wasted money on 1,000 thread count sheets 3 times. They feel like sleeping under the worlds most expensive paint drop cloths, they are so hard after 30 washings. I really read their Costco magazine…in the bathroom, and now believe what they say about their products. Oh, and they have started carrying plus sizes in their Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda jeans, and colors, so those of us size 20 and up, who haven’t done insanity yet, can get the great price. Thanks for all you do. I also buy their cookbooks…and bought my 50 Shades of Grey, the day it arrived…blush.


Helen in Meridian November 8, 2012 at 11:55 am

Another love is their Kirkland Merino Wool trail socks 4 pr/$12 I think. These have great elastic arch area, and wash and dry in dryer fine. They are sooo much like Smartwool socks at $20 a pr. Buy a pkg and give each of your men folk (or women, I wear them around the house like slippers) a pr in their Christmas sock.


Marj January 2, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thank you! I do all my grocery shopping at Costco except when I get WIC. Love Costco and always stock item when I see them on sale which is cheaper. Gas, 2 kids and an impatient hubby, better go to Costco 😉 Checking your stock up price list. 🙂


Christine January 2, 2013 at 11:04 am

LOVE your list! I work full-time and have a 3yo son. I look to my coupons for our must haves and what I can cook around, but in the end… we have our staples. I’m TRYING to cook more from scratch… so I appreciate your list, things that I hadn’t really thought of will now go on my list and the note about the bananas – I always buy them but pull them out of the bag – not now! I am a Costco lover and we have some SERIOUS staples:
Toilet Paper… I hate chasing deals
Mango Salsa…. in Seattle it is here YEAR ROUND! woohoo!
The Tortilla Chips… nothing else like them 🙂
Fiber One Bars… never chasing a coupon is good
Meatballs… a go to meal LOVE it
Frozen Chicken Breasts… I have tried to compare and for the convenience, this is worth it
Berries… fresh, raspberries are the favorite and last!
Soda… unless there is a screaming deal elsewhere
Detergent… love the kirkland no-scent and worth it to us
… Thank you again! And yes, we have the Executive Membership 🙂


Mindy January 2, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Stretch Island fruit leathers are right around $10 for a box of 48. This works out to be a much better deal than the grocery store as they are about $4 for a box of 6.

Bananas are a must at Costco too! We love to chunk them up and freeze them for smoothies.

Their fresh spinach is a great deal at just over $3 for the HUGE container.

The pre-sliced organic apples are a steal compared to the grocery store. I’ve not broken out the per ounce price, but know that my family will eat more apples if they are grab and go so the convenience is worth it to us.

Thank you for this post! I’m excited to read the rest of your blog!


Emmett s January 3, 2013 at 10:29 am

Not to mention that they pay you back 2% back if your an executive member.


Maria @ SurvivalFoodList February 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Um that is too funny — every single item on your list except the half and half and the last two are my Costco regulars, too!

We don’t get half and half there because ours has a different brand (land of lakes) that is ultra-pasteurized.

We also get vanilla extract, maple syrup, frozen fruit and dish detergent/ dishwasher dtg. there regularly.


Lance April 9, 2013 at 10:57 am

The mens blue jeans at $14.00 are unbeatable. Also, the Hadley’s pitted dates, the artichoke hearts, and the sundries tomatoes in olive oil- super deals.


Lisa May 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

We always get coffee, Cheerios , mixed nuts, bags of JollyRanchers, if we can find them,Milton’s Bread, Thomas’s English muffins, syrup, tortilla chips, paper goods, organic apples or pears and seedless grapes, and roasted chicken, curly’s ribs….the meat has to be gluten and soy free or we’d get other things I used to love,like Milton’s chicken and rice. We also like the kids gummy calcium and vitamins.


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