Let me just lay this out on the table. I. Love. Costco.
What do I buy there?
Anything I can.
- I have found that things are generally least expensive at Costco, even compared to Amazon. I shop for everything I can at Costco, then whatever isn’t available there I buy on Thrive Market, Amazon, or at a local store.
- Not everything at Costco is in ‘bulk’. I love that their items are in realistic package sizes and you don’t have to buy 20 lbs of apples just to save a buck. Most things in a multi-pack–such as frozen fish– are individually packaged and can be used as needed.
- Costco is very conscious of food quality and has tons of healthy foods, including popular health-food brands. They are the largest buyer of organic goods in the world (even more than Whole Foods). Many things on the Dirty Dozen list they have in organic.
Here are some tips & tricks on the smartest ways to Costco (even WITHOUT a membership)!
1.) Use your Costco digital membership card
To avoid digging through your bag to find your Costco membership card, download the Costco app on your phone to use both at the door and register.
Other things you can do on the app:
- place an online order for groceries, household items, etc.
- view your annual 2% reward amount (for executive members)
- order photo prints or canvas’ and have them sent to you (GREAT prices!)
- view special events at your local warehouse (this is where we bought our Vitamix blender– our model was only available at the Vitamix demo event)
2.) Gather & Contain
Shopping in the store with kids can be an interesting experience. That’s why I like to ‘use my resources’, if you know what I mean.
As soon as we enter the store, we turn down the giant TV aisle. While the kids are distracted by 10 giant TV’s, it allows me a few minutes to gather my list and thoughts. It is also the place where we do the free samples ‘pep-talk’ (our rule: if they are good listeners & patient, then they can try things!)
Then, we go straight to the book aisle to pick out something to look at while we’re shopping (usually a board book so it doesn’t get ripped). If we decide not to buy it, we just hand it to the cashier at checkout.
3.) What to Buy at a Costco store
Anything not available on Costco.com, grab directly in the store or order directly from the Instacart website for delivery.
Order online (non-perishable). No Costco in your area? You can still take advantage of online Costco items and have them shipped to your doorstep. You can order these directly through Costco.com here (delivered via Instacart) or through the Instacart website.
Use Instacart for other items (if they don’t deliver to you, go to friends house, your office (or your hubby’s), or a business parking lot that they do)
Click here a list on what I buy from Costco and how I use Costco items.
4.) Save money using product labels in Costco
I call this the ‘bang for your buck’ tool. The price/unit feature can really help make the best choice when choosing between similar items to buy.
With the example below, I would likely opt for the mangos over the blueberries for my smoothie ingredient of choice.
The price per pound feature easily shows the organic mangos are less than half the price for a larger quantity compared to the organic blueberries. This feature is on every product label in Costco stores.
5.) Create a Costco Favorites List
For super efficient online shopping through both Costco.com and Instacart, put your go-to items on a favorites list. You can create multiple lists for different categories, but I prefer 1 giant list.
To quickly place an online order, I go directly to my favorites list and click what I need (rather than manually searching for everything). This feature also ensures I don’t forget certain items.
There are several ways you can shop at Costco.
- free delivery on select items (diapers, baby wipes, etc.)
- 2-day delivery for certain non-perishable foods and household supplies (free shipping when you spend $75+). Order placed before noon arrive in 2 business days.
- Same-day delivery for items found in your local warehouse. Non-members can order Costco items through Instacart but may pay a higher price than ordering same-day delivery directly through Costco.com (prices may be slightly higher compared to your local warehouse, and may have delivery + service fees + optional driver tip attached)
- Express membership to Instacart has free delivery and service fees on orders $35+ (but again, item prices may be higher compared to going through Costco.com delivered by Instacart).
How to shop at Costco without a membership
It is possible to still shop at Costco while saving $60/year on a Costco membership. You can shop at Costco without a membership if…
- you’re OK with not going inside the store yourself
- you live in an area that offers same-day delivery through Instacart (check if you do here!)
By shopping at Costco through Instacart, you will pay slightly higher prices on individual Costco items compared to shopping through Costco.com as a member—even though BOTH methods are delivered by Instacart.
But, keeping in mind that you instantly save $60 each year by not having a Costco membership, this option may still pay off for your family!
Which Costco Membership should you choose?
Costco Membership options for households include:
- Gold Star: $60/year
- Gold Star Executive: $120/year + 2% cash back on eligible purchases
To account for the $60 Executive upgrade, you have to spend at least $3000/year at Costco to break even (includes travel purchases).
Shopping on Costco.com can help make this happen, as you may be able to get many things from the website that aren’t at your local warehouse.
If you spend less than $3000/year at Costco, go for the Gold Star!
All online orders through Costco.com (including same-day deliveries) are eligible for 2% cash back! In order to get the 2% cash back, you MUST place your order directly through Costco.com (rather than Instacart or Shipt).
Why to have a Costco Membership Even If You Don’t Live Near One
No Costco in your area? You can still take advantage of non-perishable Costco items and have them shipped to your doorstep. This includes things like:
- Household items: toilet paper, paper towels, diapers & wipes, dish soap, laundry detergent, paper plates, Ziploc bags, etc.
- Pantry staples: peanut butter, applesauce pouches, raw nuts/seeds, honey, maple syrup, etc.
Takeaway: If you are a Costco member, order as much as possible through Costco.com first (either 2-day delivery or same-day delivery).
Id love to hear…
What do you buy at Costco? What are your favorite Costco hacks?