With 533 warehouse clubs around the United States, Costco seems to have the country pretty well covered. As it turns out, there’s one state that contains the most Costcos by far—24 percent of them, in fact.
If you guessed California, you’re correct. The Golden State is home to 128 Costcos, according to the $138 billion retailer’s most recent annual report. That makes sense in a lot of ways. For example, California is the most populated state in the United States, with nearly 40 million residents. If you’re a member, here are some things you should buy and skip at Costco.
Foods nutritionists always buy at Costco
Foods nutritionists always buy at Costco
Organic nut packets
For Sharon Zarabi, RD, program director of bariatric surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, one of the best Costco finds is organic mixed nuts. "Nuts are packed with nutrients ranging from heart-healthy fats to fiber, which aids in digestion, and even more so proteins, which help you keep your hunger at bay," she says. She also loves portion controlled nuts from Costco because with nuts, "once you pop, you can't stop."
Kirkland Signature shelled pistachios
Another nutty favorite with dietitians is pistachios. Lauren Manaker, RD, and her family go through Costco's Kirkland brand like they're going out of style. Manaker says pistachios are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients like manganese and vitamin B6—but they are typically tedious to de-shell. That's what makes this Costco option so great. "These pistachios come pre-shelled, so adding it to anything is as simple as opening the bag," she says.
Wild Alaskan canned salmon
This canned fish is a favorite of Zarabi because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. But what's really special about this Costco option is that it's wild. "Most fish canned in the U.S. is farm raised," Zarabi says. "Wild salmon is higher in omega-3s than their counterparts and [they] also eat a more natural diet as they are free to roam the sea." Plus, fish is an excellent source of protein, which helps keep you full.
Single hummus packs
Costco sells single pack servings of non-GMO, organic hummus. Zarabi says that means they are made with the highest quality chickpeas. Really fresh hummus can go bad quickly once opened due to oxidation, so these single-servings are a money saver, too. Zarabi suggests swapping mayo for hummus or using it as a dip for fresh raw veggies. Here are 10 more things you never knew you could buy at Costco.
Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend
This frozen bag is a blend of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Zarabi loves this Costco item because it's convenient and full of vitamins, fibers, and antioxidants. "They are the perfect addition to smoothies, yogurts, or even my personal favorite, as a frozen treat for the summer," she says.
Smart for Life Cookies
For those who need something more starchy to satisfy their sweet-tooth, Zarabi recommends Smart for Life cookies from Costco. These are gluten-free, low in sugar, made with non-GMO ingredients, and clock in at only 100 calories. "The low sugar and high protein content will prevent spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, so you won't be craving a second cookie," Zarabi says. "You will satisfy that craving and be good to go."
The specific brand at your Costco location may vary, but any of the low-carb shakes could be a good addition to your haul. And no, they aren't just for people who want to build muscle. It's actually a perfect on-the-go snack or breakfast for anyone who has a busy schedule. "This is an easy way to add to your regimen, as protein keeps you full and the low sugar content prevents that sugar addiction first thing in the morning," Zarabi says. "[The] best part is they don't need to be refrigerated until they are opened." Plus, they have a relatively long shelf life.
Organic Wholly Guacamole minis
Portion-controlled guacamole packs are a popular pick for Costco grocery hauls, too. Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, a virtual dietitian based in NYC, says that Organic Wholly Guacamole minis are a good choice. "These individual packs of guacamole are a great on-the-go snack with whole grain crackers or sliced veggies," Amer says. "The slowly digested healthy fat from avocado will keep you full for hours." Check out all the things you can do (and buy) at Costco without a membership.
Comvita Manuka Honey 5+
Manuka honey is different from your average sweetener. Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, and author of Eating in Color says this Costco pick has the three key markers that signify manuka honey: leptosperin, DHA, and methylglyoxal. Not to mention, this honey is also proven to help improve sleep, fight acne, and aid digestion, among other cures. "I take a spoonful of manuka daily and add an extra dose when I'm sick or dealing with allergies," Largeman-Roth says.
KIND protein bars
These protein bars are a staple snack for Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. "I love that Costco sells them in a 16-pack of the Crunchy Peanut Butter bars and White Chocolate Cinnamon Almond bars," she says. As a vegetarian, Gorin is always looking for great sources of plant-based protein, and up to two thirds of each bar's 12 grams of protein come from nuts. These bars also get bonus points for coming in a variety of flavorsand not using artificial ingredients, sweeteners, or sugar alcohols.
Kirkland Organic extra virgin olive oil
Finding a high-quality olive oil for a decent price isn't as tough as you might think. Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, of Lively Table says the Kirkland brand tastes wonderful and, at $16.99 for a two-liter bottle, it's a really good deal. "It's my favorite cooking oil because it provides healthy monounsaturated fat," McMordie says. "I go through tons in my house!" Here are more shopping perks only Costco members know about.
McMordie also goes through garlic quickly. That's why she likes buying whole heads in bulk at Costco. "Fresh garlic is the ultimate flavor booster for cooking and contains the antioxidant allicin, which could help prevent damage from free radicals," McMordie says.
Shelley A. Rale, MS, RDN, and her family never tire of these tiny tomatoes. They are the one thing that is always on her Costco list. "They are part of my husband's lunch, a quick snack for any time of day, easily added to a salad when we have one, or added to a cooked dish for dinner," she says. Not only are they filling, but Rale says they are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and lycopene. Now that you've seen some of the best Costco purchases, make sure you know these things you should never buy from Costco.
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But it’s also likely due to the history behind Costco. In 1976, an entrepreneur named Sol Price opened a warehouse club called Price Club at a converted airport hanger in San Diego. Ten years later, James Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman opened another warehouse club they called Costco in Seattle, Washington. In 1993, Price Club and Costco merged, and in 1999, the official name of the company was changed to Costco. The company is now headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, and there are plenty of things Costco employees won’t tell you about the company.
Present-day Costco has deep roots in both California and Washington states, so it makes sense that they top the list of states with the most locations. The rest of the top five also includes states that are large in land mass and population. Here’s a breakdown as of December 31, 2018:
Illinois, New York, New Jersey: 19
While it may seem like Costcos are ubiquitous, it turns out there isn’t one in every state, however. Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming don’t have any Costcos, according to the report. That might be OK, though, since there are plenty of ways Costco tricks you into spending more money.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.