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.

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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.

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Foods nutritionists always buy at Costco
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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

Protein shakes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Garlic

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.

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Grape tomatoes

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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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. According to frequent shoppers, there are even more Costco tips that can save you money.

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. And before your next Costco run, make sure you also know these secrets Costco employees aren’t telling you.

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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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