Yes, you can shop at Costco without a membership -- here’s how

A Costco membership sure has its benefits (like these hidden Costco perks, just to name a few). But those of us who haven’t decided to commit to the $60-a-year membership yet can still take advantage of those unbeatable deals. And the store totally condones it.

Sure, you could stock up on items costco.com, but non-members pay an extra 5 percent and don’t have access to the members-only sales. You also probably already know Costco members can bring up to two guests into the store to take advantage of the big-box deal. Of course, that leaves the obvious problem of relying on that friend to get you in. If you do your shopping Monday mornings but your friend can only go on the weekends—when you’re totally booked—you’re out of luck. Thankfully, there’s another sneaky way to get into the store without a membership and without being a guest.

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Shocking Costco food court secrets
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Shocking Costco food court secrets

The most popular item on the menu? The legendary Costco hot dog.

"There's something about a buck fifty that people really love," said the employee. 

But at 552 calories and 32 g of fat, you may want save this food court staple for special occasions. 

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Another discontinued item that Costco often receives questions about? The chocolate-dipped ice cream bar with almonds. We hate to break it to you, but it's probably never coming back.

"I think it might have been too expensive for the amount we give. That's what happened with gelato anyway," the employee said.

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Everyone knows that the best churro is one that is hot and freshly made. If customers don't think they're getting the best churro their money can buy, don't be afraid to ask for a new one!

The employee said, "I learn to check when we're running low on churros and wait for a new pan to come out," adding, "I recommend checking on them right before you shop and seeing the changes when you come back. My favorite is when they run out of churros and you wait for five minutes or so, then when they pull them off the pan, it is a hundred percent brand new."

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The beloved berry smoothie was recently replaced by a different fruit smoothie -- and there's a perfectly logical (and healthy!) explanation for it. 

"Corporate thought the benefits outweighed the negatives in this situation. The new smoothie has a lot of better benefits in it -- less sugar, less calories, nothing but real fruit and fruit juice, and four servings of fruit in each smoothie." the employee said.

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Have you ever found yourself blotting away all the excess oil on your incredibly cheesy Costco pizza? There's a reason for that. 

The anonymous employee revealed that the amount of oil used in making the pizza is "too much." In fact, upper management monitors employees to make sure they're using enough oil. 

"When you don't use the corporate requested amount because you think it's too much and corporate notices? You use more oil to avoid being in trouble. Some managers overcompensate and use a quarter cup of oil+ when making them."

Yikes! Talk about a heart attack on a plate. 

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And of course we're dying to know what the pizza is made out of!

"It's made with love," the employee jokingly said.

Another Reddit user who claims to be a former employee also chimed in: "I don't know what's in the sauce, it came to us prepared, as did the cheese mix . . . I know it was like 85 percent mozzarella and 15 percent provolone when I worked there."

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There's no denying that Costco's chicken bake has a massive cult following. Surprisingly, the food court hit is pretty simple to make! After flattening out a lot of pizza dough, employees mix in chicken breast strips, mozzarella cheese, bacon and caesar dressing. All these ingredients are rolled up into the dough.

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And if you prefer no bacon in your chicken bake, you'll have to come in earlier in the day when employees are making it. 

"Sometimes the employees are running little bit late and they'll make them during the day, but you'd have to catch them before they mix the cheese and bacon. Which is hard to do," the employee said. "You could always call ahead a day and ask. I'm sure they'd oblige."

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Surprisingly, employees don't get a discount at the food court. However, they do receive a free executive membership ($120 a year), which is also a pretty impressive perk!

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Like most stores, Costco offers gift certificates in the form of its Costco Cash Cards. The thing is, it can’t control who those cards go to. The superstore touts the cards as a “convenient way for members to pay,” but the small print allows non-members to use them, too. Just ask a friend to pick up a card for you (using your money, of course) and you can get anywhere from $25 to $1,000 in store credit to spend at Costco. With your Costco Cash Card in hand, you can get into the store and do your shopping just like any other shopper, without tagging along with another member. (While you’re there, keep an eye out for this Costco price tag symbol that signals you to stock up.)

The tricky part is that Costco only allows members to buy and refill the cash cards, getting your hands on one gives you the flexibility to shop on your own time. If you plan on shopping there often, the cost of a membership is probably worth it. But if you just need to stock up for a one-time event, a cash card could save some major moolah—especially if you pair it with these tips for saving money at Costco.

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11 items to always buy at Costco
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11 items to always buy at Costco

1. Fresh produce

Photo via Getty

2. Gas 

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3. Wine

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4. Dairy products 

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5. Eyeglasses

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6. Giftcards

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7. Dog food

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8. Baking items 

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9. Bakery goods 

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10. Oils (coconut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil)

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11. Costco's snackbar (hotdogs, pizza, soda) 

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Keep in mind, too, that even without a cash card, non-members can fill prescriptions, get their hearing and vision checked, and eat at the food court. Score! Still, even members shouldn’t waste their money on these things you should never buy at Costco.

[Source: MentalFloss]

The post Yes, You Can Shop at Costco Without a Membership—Here’s How appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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