Costco trips made palatable
I just hit the Costco on Damen this morning. And despite being a bit of a madhouse [on a Monday?!] I was happy to find a variety of items that make the membership worthwhile for me:
- Get a free one-day pass to check it out in exchange for some info. I’m not sure how often you can do this before they call you on it, but it is nice to check it out, especially if you are interested in the $50 membership. This is also where your friends/family can come in. Go in together on a membership and split the cost, and the loot! Often you can get better pricing this way and not live with gallons of Mrs. Butterworth’s.
- The tour begins in the electronics area. I’ve found some printer cartridges for decent prices. Same with removable drives.
- There are plants at Costco! They look healthy and often sport some impressive prices: $20 for a 12′ palm tree?? If only it fit in my car.
- Generally I check out the office supply aisle for bulk paper and envelopes, and I’m not restocking every 20 envelopes or so.
- Amazingly, they also have king size pillows for $12/2. They feel quality and perhaps they’ll last longer than my last foray into Macy’s [who knew a pillow would cost so much? Does it make me breakfast too?].
- I tend to skip over the home supply aisles as I find better deals at Menard’s or Target, but 3 Scotchbrite HEPA filters for $30 isn’t a bad price. Be sure you have the right size for your condo!
- Books: this is my not-so-dirty-little-secret. Hardcovers and softcovers, usually the latest, can be found for around $5-18. Brand new, usually at least 40% off bookstore retail. They tend to lean heavily toward fiction aimed at women, but you can find plenty of cookbooks, fiction, non-fiction and even massive Rand McNally map guides, for a fraction of what you might elsewhere. Ditto on DVDs, though I’ve found prices aren’t always as good.
- And of course, the alcohol aisles. Costco has been written up numerous times for having an outstanding wine selection, not to mention liquor and beer options that could astound your local liquor store, mostly for sheer volume. Stock up for parties, or for those housewarming gifts [I won’t tell if it’s your house and you’ve lived there 5 years]: You’ll have a fabulous new wine for cheap, comparable to Trader Joe’s.
- The bakery aisle is not to be missed, either. I picked up 24 of “mini” rolls for $2.59, half of which I’ll freeze. The other half will go for BBQ season. This is also accomplishable with their massive variety of muffins, which for around $6 for 12 can be frozen individually and defrosted as you like.
- Also amazing about the bakery is their cakes. Scoff if you wish, but their cakes are well-priced and outside of a small boutique bakery, everyone will be going back for seconds. Probably thirds, too. Their pies are also excellent for parties or just plain old dessert. Yes, you can hate me for this later!
- On to the meats. I generally do not buy much in this area as it’s far too much for me, even if I freeze [if you’re getting any idea at this point, my freezer is often overflowing with goodies]. However, your friends might come in handy here. Mike Ditka’s pork burgers keep calling my name!
- Nearby to this is the prepared foods section. I just picked up 3 mini [9″] fresh-made pizzas for $5, and plenty else like stuffed tilapia and various salads await.
- Beyond this is fruits – again, a hard sell if you don’t eat all of your berries before they ferment. However, $1.89 for 3 lbs. of bananas [wrapped, even!] isn’t anything to sneeze at. Keep the ones that turn brown for a delicious banana frittata or banana bread you can make later. Also great for smoothies!
- The next few aisles hold any manner of home cleaning supplies, and even a few industrial ones. I’ve found their dishwashing detergent to be just as good as name brands, and I do rather like buying a 6-month supply of laundry detergent. Caveat: be sure you can lift whatever it is you buy or think of this as an alternative to the gym.
- Frozen foods. Here is where my resolve often fails and I find that I do want 5 lbs. of cooked shrimp, despite prices being a bit outrageous. Granted, they’re cheaper than the local grocers, but be sure you’re willing to eat 5 lbs. of tortellini before it gets freezer burn. Also great, great deals on desserts, especially cheesecakes, mango Naked drinks, butter, eggs and milk [$1.95/gallon]. Just don’t get starstruck by prices!
- Clothing. Generally I am loathe to even look at Gloria Vanderbilt’s wares [despite her Anderson Cooper offspring] but the better deals are there. Lucky jeans are about $90 (more recently, I’ve seen them around $40). Not my cup of tea, but far better than going into a regular store. And keep going to the underwear aisles: Calvin Klein underwear for him and her, along with packs of camisoles and inexpensive, but quality Maidenform bras and socks. I’ve also seen a few Adidas running shoes here for under $40, but as I’m the last person who should comment on running apparel, I’ll leave those for another better equipped.
- Of course, the double sets of big cereal: Jewel has been consistently cheaper on these overall, but if you like to grind your coffee selection there, or perhaps pick up a gallon of Sweet Baby Ray’s, I’m not one to judge.
- Nearby to this is a newer favorite, the gift certificates. Simply put, these are wonderful. You also can pick up Fleming’s gift certificates, $75 for $100 worth, as well as others like movie theatre GCs. This is the same type of deal a lot of restaurants offer around the holidays, but these tend to change often and give you some nice options.
Consider the holiday packs for unique work gifts. There are a lot of gourmet, name-brand chocolate and liqueur options that make nicer-than-the-usual gifts.
- I seem to always make it down to the chip and gum aisles, but I’ve yet to buy those huge bags, or even the “healthy” alternative ones [veggie chips are just that good]. Perhaps it’s my unwillingness to get through an entire bag, or the fear that I will in just one sitting [hasn’t happened yet, but why tempt fate?]. Overall, granola bars are cheaper at Jewel, and the variety is much better. I’m willing to break the price per ounce rule here and simply buy smaller bags elsewhere, and not just waste them!
- The makeup/vitamin aisles are an evil, evil place. Now that Elizabeth Arden is there, as is Borghese, in incredibly inconvenient, huge plastic packaging, you don’t necessarily need to hit the dept. store counter. However, I’m more of the purist Cetaphil type, and the price and quantity is good for me. Outside of this, deodorant is well-priced for so many, though I’d likely skip the razors as they’re not a deal.
- Now the reason that I actually came to Costco, the vitamins. I used to purchase mine directly from my doctor, but I’ve found that similar quality and quantity ones are available in larger packaging, with a much better price. There also are a couple brands to choose from. I went with a printout of my vitamin dosages, all done for one pill [often times they would like you to take 2-3 per day, but I wanted to make sure they were comparable on the same terms]. I probably saved about $60 here alone.
- My best advice is to avoid this place on Saturdays, as there are just too many people and it’s not worth the hassle. It’s closed Sundays, so try to make it weekdays or weeknights. And note that you can only use cash, check, AmEx or your debit card. No other credit cards accepted!
Some things to keep in mind before you hit Costco:
- They only take cash, Visa, your debit card or a check, so be ready with at least one of the above before hitting the checkout stand. Know that if you do indeed get through checkout but need more money and need to go to an ATM, they’re more than willing to put your items aside and wait for you to come back to check out.
- Keep your receipt out as you leave, as they check it against your items. Or that is the idea, at least. Just don’t run out the door and try not to swear around the little kids of the woman who bought 3 pallets of dog food and can’t find her receipt.