This is the best time to go to Costco

Costco is the home of deep discounts and mouth-watering free samples, but it can also be home to large crowds. You don’t have to endure long lines at the nationwide retailer if you plan your trip wisely. Here’s a look at some of the best times to shop at Costco.

Weekday mornings

If you visit Costco right after the store opens on a weekday morning, before 11 a.m., you’ll avoid the chaos that is often experienced on busy weekends. Many stores do see an uptick in visitors during the lunch hour, so it’s best to get in and get out before lunchtime. DIYers should always buy these 10 things at Costco.

RELATED: Always buy this at Costco 

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10 Kirkland items you should always buy at Costco
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10 Kirkland items you should always buy at Costco

Almonds

Health experts can’t stop raving about the benefits of nuts, but man, are they expensive—and Costco agrees. The warehouse store reportedly stopped selling other brands almost entirely when they couldn’t justify how high their prices had gotten. Now you can get a massive three-pound bag of Kirkland Signature almonds for just $13, which isn’t much more than you’d normally pay for a Blue Diamond bag almost half its size. Stock up on these other 15 foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

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Bacon

When Consumer Reports put different bacon brands to the test several years ago, Kirkland Signature soared above the rest, thanks to its crispy texture and smoky-sweet flavor—which is even more impressive considering its low price. Make room in the freezer, because this bulk buy is no joke: Four pounds for $13.69. Plus, learn the secrets behind Costco’s famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken.

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Liquor

Across the board, Costco’s value-sized bottles of booze get rave reviews. Its vodka in particular has garnered a cult following, with rumors swirling that it shares the same water source as Grey Goose. The luxury vodka brand denies those claims, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing—the cheap Kirkland version actually outshines Grey Goose in taste tests. Just $25 for 1.75 liters of high-quality liquor? Can’t beat that.

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Maple syrup

In a Consumer Reports test, Kirkland’s pure maple syrup was the cheapest option ($0.75 per serving) and still managed to score stellar reviews. Testers deemed its taste “very good,” while the priciest choice in its category, Camp Pure Maple Syrup—which costs almost three times more per ounce—was only rated “good.” Learn more Costco secrets revealed by a former employee.

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Pistachios

No matter how tasty they are, it can be hard to justify the price of pistachios—unless you’re at Costco. At face value, a $15 bag seems like a lot, but you’ll change your mind when you see the three-pound package you get. For comparison, a two-pound bag of Wonderful pistachios costs $13 on Amazon. Really, you can’t go wrong with any Kirkland nuts, so stock up on walnuts and mixed nuts too.

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Plastic wrap

Kirkland’s food wrap gets high marks for its durability, so the low price is just the icing on the cake. Paying less than $10 for two 750-square-foot rolls, you won’t need to stock up on plastic wrap again for a long time. You should also always stock up if you see this symbol on a Costco price tag.

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Quinoa

With more protein and fiber than white rice, quinoa has unsurprisingly gone from food fad to kitchen staple. Unfortunately, that hasn’t convinced most companies to lower their prices. At Target, you’ll get three pounds for $12 (not bad), but Costco offers 4.5 pounds for $9. It’s still not as cheap as rice, but it’s definitely a healthier option.

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A 2010 report found that most EVOO on U.S. store shelves wasn’t extra virgin like their labels claimed. One notable exception: Kirkland’s organic version. So not only are you paying less per serving than you would at the supermarket, but you can guarantee good quality. How’s that for a solid deal?

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Cheese

If you think everything tastes better when covered in cheese, Costco is the place to be. From goat cheese and Brie to Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, its cheeses are cheesemonger-quality with warehouse prices. The value-sized hunks of cheese might be excessive for a dinner for two, but Kirkland should be your go-to if you’re planning a party. Just steer clear of these things you should never buy at Costco.

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Baby formula

When you have an infant in tow, the last thing you want to worry about is overpriced baby formula. The FDA has strict nutrition requirements for baby formula, and Costco’s version is no exception. The non-GMO Kirkland baby formula’s ingredient list is nearly identical to Similac Advance’s, but it costs about half as much per ounce. Make sure you know these 15 secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

[Source for most prices: thriftynorthwestmom.com]

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Weekday afternoons

Another one of the best times to visit Costco is during the week between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This two-hour window is after the lunch rush, but just before people start showing up after their workday. Costco managers also say you’ll avoid crowds if you visit the store within an hour of closing on a weeknight. Next time you visit Costco, look for these 15 incredible gourmet foods.

Looking for deals?

Since Costco is always marking items down, there are always good deals to be had. If you want to stretch your dollar even further, look for Costco coupons. While the retailer doesn’t accept manufacturer coupons, it does distribute its own coupons via mail to members.

Also, if you’re a regular Costco customer, consider signing up for the store’s Visa card which gives you cash back rewards for purchases at the store. The no-fee card includes 2 percent cash back on all Costco purchases, along with deals on gas. Next, find out the 15 secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

RELATED: Avoid buying these items 

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Items to never get at Costco
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Items to never get at Costco

Protein powder, bars, or supplements

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Produce

A Costco worker from Idaho, an employee from Hawaii, and a worker from Minnesota, who added, "While our produce department is one of the best in the business, I personally don't eat veggies fast enough to buy in bulk."

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Tires

A Costco worker who just said they'd been working for the chain "too long"

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Packages of meat

A Costco employee from California, who added, "It's too much for my household."

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Mac and cheese

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Fruits

A Costco employee from Florida, who added, "They go bad very quickly."

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Baked goods

A Costco worker from Iowa, who added that the "packaging is just too big."

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Condoms

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Shoes

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Sushi

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Kirkland brand clothing

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The gallon-sized mayonnaise jars

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Salad

A Costco employee who's worked in 10 states, who added that, "I don't eat the huge quantity fast enough, then it rots. Waste of money."

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Any food you haven't tried before
 
A Costco employee from Illinois, who added, "Because then I'd have a six month supply."

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