Anyone with a Costco membership knows that the warehouse store is a great place to score some bargains. But, unfortunately, even Costco shoppers can’t win ’em all, and there are some things—though not too many—that you’re probably better off buying somewhere else. Savings experts and savvy Costco shoppers alike agree that Costco isn’t the best place to stock up on cereal. Find out more Costco items that you think will save you money, but won’t.
RELATED: What chefs always buy from Costco:
18 things chefs buy from Costco
18 things chefs buy from Costco
USDA Prime meat is a big deal at the Prime + Proper Steakhouse in Detroit. That’s why executive butcher Walter Apfelbaum supplies the chefs there with Waygu beef he buys at Costco, according to Food & Wine. “Costco sells some of the most beautiful prime beef I’ve seen out of the restaurant industry,” he says. Here’s more about why chefs love Costco’s beef.
Chef Julie Yoon, who runs an online cooking show called Bits & Pieces, buys a big pack of bone-in pork chops at Costco. She’ll wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place them in a Ziplock bag to freeze for future use.
Cardoz likes the heft of Applewood-Smoked Thick Cut Bacon. Yoon, meanwhile, opts for Farmer John Classic Bacon. She gets a four-pack, then freezes three packages and uses it in spaghetti carbonara and grilled cheese. Here are more things at Costco you shouldn’t be without.
Costco is known for its selection of fruits and vegetables. Yoon’s haul at Costco typically includes baby carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, grapes, avocados, and lemons. And don’t forget Mexican limes. They’re not always available at Cardoz’s Costco, but when they are, he likes to pick some up for margaritas.
There’s nothing wrong with Costco’s cereal options; in fact, they’re pretty much the same as what you can get at any other grocery store. The catch, though, is that you’ll probably save more money in the long run if you get your Honey Nut Cheerios fix from those other grocery stores instead. As The Krazy Coupon Lady founder, Joanie Demer, told CNBC, you’re better off keeping an eye on the sales at your local grocery store. She claims that different cereal brands tend to go on sale at different times, often on weekends. “One week it’s going to be General Mills, another week it will be Kellogg,” she said. Snatching up your favorite cereals when they go on sale will save you lots of cash. Funnily enough, you might want to skip buying cereal’s common counterpart, milk, at Costco, too—here’s why.
RELATED: Costco items you should always avoid
Items to never get at Costco
Items to never get at Costco
Protein powder, bars, or supplements
ACostco 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."
A Costco worker who just said they'd been working for the chain "too long"
Packages of meat
A Costco employee from California, who added, "It's too much for my household."
Mac and cheese
A Costco employee from Florida, who added, "They go bad very quickly."
A Costco worker from Iowa, who added that the "packaging is just too big."
Kirkland brand clothing
The gallon-sized mayonnaise jars
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."
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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Still not convinced, Costco fanatics? Money-saving expert Melea Johnson broke down the numbers for Money magazine. Costco’s cereal prices shake out to around 17 cents per ounce, but you can easily get cereal on sale at the supermarket for 13 cents an ounce. Johnson says that $1.50 is a reasonable grocery store sale price for an 11-ounce cereal box. Meanwhile, a two-pack of 20-ounce Cheerios boxes will set you back $7 at Costco. Never fear, though, Costco enthusiasts: There’s still a whole plethora of items that make that membership worth it. Learn the 12 Costco items you definitely shouldn’t be without.
Our stores constantly move their stock around, so you won’t necessarily find the peanut butter in the same spot it was last time. The company touts it as a “treasure hunt,” but it also knows the more time you spend scanning the shelves, the more likely you are to notice (and buy) other items. Check out these tips for saving money at Costco.
We'll keep in item in one spot if it's selling
As we move items around, we pay attention to how they’re selling. If they do particularly well in one spot, we’ll keep them there.
Pretty much everything goes on sale
Wondering if you should stock up or wait? Most items will go on special eventually, so it’s worth holding off if you can be patient. Check out these things you should never buy at Costco.
You can hunt us down
Got a meat question but don’t see a deli employee on the floor? Just knock on the door to the department, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
Don't sweat on missing a sale
While Costco doesn’t price match with other retailers, it will honor its own sale prices on earlier returns. If you notice a costco.com item you bought had a price cut within 30 days of purchase, put in a request online to get the difference refunded. Some warehouses offer the same perk for in-store purchases, so stop by the membership counter to see if we can help.
Our rotisserie chickens are as good a deal as you hoped
We aren’t downsizing our birds or adding weird fillers to keep our famous $4.99 rotisserie chickens at their low price. In fact, our chickens can weigh twice as much as our competitors’. We do add seasonings like sugar, salt, and modified corn starch (like many other store-bought rotisserie chickens), but there are no preservatives, MSG, or artificial colors and flavors. Learn more secrets behind Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken.
Our price tags warn you if we aren't restocking
An asterisk in the upper right corner of a price tag signals our location isn’t reordering the item. It might come back at a later time, like if it’s seasonal, but stock up now if it’s one of your favorites. Learn more about what asterisks on Costco price tags mean.
What you see is what we've got
Costco is a “warehouse” store in a literal sense—we don’t have any additional storage from what you see on the shelves. If it’s not there, don’t ask us to check the “back.” The “back” doesn’t exist. Every now and then, the items will be out of reach on the high pallets, but most stores won’t bring the forklift out for just for one item. Come back tomorrow; it will probably be restocked.
You can't use manufacturer coupons
We know you’d love to get an even better deal on the items in your cart, but we don’t accept manufacturers’ coupons, and we won’t negotiate for a lower price. If you want to save extra money, check our warehouse savings books.
On a busy Friday, you might have to wait 20 to 25 minutes for a fresh pizza. Make the most of your time by giving us your order before you start shopping so it’s finished cooking by the time you want to leave.
Our price tags have a special code
Most prices end with .09 (.89, .99, etc.), but a couple price tags signal you’re getting a particularly good deal. A price ending in .97 means the item is on clearance, so you’re getting an even better deal than usual. Meanwhile, a .00 or .88 price tag signals the manager decided to cut the price, sometimes because it’s the last one in stock, doesn’t have a box, or has pieces missing. Learn more about the secret codes behind Costco’s prices.
You can get your non-member friends in
It’s no big secret that you can bring two guests with you to shop, but you can set up your friends who refuse to buy a membership with their own access cards. Only members can buy and refill a Costco Cash Card, but whoever you give it to has access to the store to spend the store credit whether they have an annual membership or not. Check out these other things you can do at Costco without a membership.
You don't pay much more than the store does
To make a profit, stores mark up their prices from what they pay the supplier. For instance, most grocery stores jack up meat prices by at least 30 percent. But at Costco, you won’t pay more than 15 percent more than the store does, and the prices average just a 10.6 percent markup.
We appreciate when you order ahead
We normally have enough party platters in stock, but we appreciate the heads-up the day before if you know you’ll be loading up so we can prepare. We don’t mind making extra, but we hate telling customers we’re sold out because one person wiped out our stock.