The one thing you’re not buying at Costco–but should

Thanks to Costco's auto program, the car buying process can actually be a pleasant experience.

It’s always exciting to buy a new car, but the actual buying process can be quite the project. Before even test-driving cars you have to research cars, look at different dealerships, compare prices and potentially negotiate for a cheaper sum. But thanks to the Costco auto program, these are things you’ll no longer have to worry about.

If you love to DIY, you should be buying these 15 things at Costco.

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Healthiest and unhealthiest foods at Costco
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Healthiest and unhealthiest foods at Costco

Healthy: Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies

Whether fresh or frozen, Costco’s fruit and veggie selection hosts plenty of fiber and vitamins, and are convenient for the price. Meg O’Rourke, RD-LDN, specifically likes Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend. It is a great source of vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants. “They are the perfect addition to smoothies, yogurts, or even my personal favorite, as a frozen treat for the summer,” she says. Find out more Kirkland items you should definitely buy at Costco.

Unhealthy: Bread 

Dr. John La Puma, nutritionist and author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine, likes to avoid this aisle altogether. Everything looks so delicious, but most of the bread products Costco sells are low in fiber with only a few exceptions. Most of the bread is incredibly processed and has high calories, with little to no dietary benefit.

Healthy: Whole grain bread

The exception? Whole grain bread! Rachel Fine, registered dietician and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, loves Dave’s Killer Bread, an organic, whole grain option that is both delicious and healthy. Where you can find some nutritious finds like this one may be one of the 15 secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

Unhealthy: Processed snack foods

Top on licensed dietician and nutritionist Amanda Kostro Miller‘s list of unhealthy foods to limit or control from Costco? Any of their processed snack foods. Most contain lots of fat, sodium, and sugar and not a lot of nutrition. Some of her picks for the worst offenders: cheesy puffs, peanut butter cheese crackers, cheesy or caramel popcorn, and chips.

Healthy: Nuts and seeds

A great substitution for those unhealthy snacks is one of Costco’s massive-sized bags of nuts! One of the most affordable ways to buy some of the pricier nuts is in bulk, which is why almost all the nutritionists we spoke to mentioned them. Nuts are full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, all of which will work together to keep your hunger at bay. Fine added that she likes to stock up on pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds from Costco as well. There is a reason nuts made the list of 15 foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

Unhealthy: Bakery items

Unfortunately, the pre-made bakery items are also on top of the unhealthy list. O’Rourke specifically points out Kirkland’s Signature Butter Croissants, which are 45 percent fat and tout only a single gram of fiber.

Healthy: Fresh whole cuts of meat 

The good news? That entire section of fresh, whole cuts of meat is fair game! A huge source of protein, iron, and vitamins, just about anything from Costco’s huge selection of fresh meat at bargain prices is a great choice! While it’s usually cheaper to buy in bulk, sometimes a little extra saving can go a long way. Be sure to use these 13 tips frequent Costco shoppers keep to themselves the next time you shop to save as much money as possible.

Unhealthy: Processed meats 

You know the drill. The more processed a food selection is, the more additives it has. And while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it generally means more fat, more sodium, more nitrates, and more preservatives. A few to steer clear of: bologna, salami, and cured deli meat.

Healthy: Canned tuna, chicken, and salmon

While more processed than the fresh whole cuts, canned tuna, chicken, and salmon still host enough benefits to outweigh anything negative that is being added in the processing process. The protein and convenience offered with these options made Kostro Miller give them a thumbs up.

Unhealthy: Pre-made pantry goods 

Pre-made/processed pantry goods like canned ravioli, Hamburger Helper, or box goods that have pre-made, powdered sauces tend to have a lot of fat, sodium, and preservatives. Besides, with all the fresh food Costco offers at affordable prices, it can be easy and inexpensive to make your own! Not everything at Costco will save you money, however. Be sure to keep these 11 Costco items that are actually costing you more out of your cart.

Healthy: Pre-made quinoa and brown rice 

The trend has been pretty obvious thus far. If it is pre-made or too processed, you’re probably going to want your cart to steer clear of that item—but Costco’s quinoa and brown rice are an exception! Carla Schuit, MPH, RD, LDN, a licensed dietitian at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, always stocks up on these staples when she goes to Costco. “So easy to use as a base and toss some convenient protein in, such as grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp,” Schuit says. “Add a scoop of already made quinoa or brown rice and you have an easy complete meal. I always have two bags on hand.”

Unhealthy: Giant cookies

If you’ve ever seen one of these monstrosities in person, you probably saw this coming. However, Dr. La Puma notes that the reason these delicious desserts are so bad for you isn’t necessarily what’s inside them; it’s their size. You can still enjoy the chocolate chip goodness by cutting the cookie into quarters and savoring the flavor over the course of several days, he says.

Healthy: Greek yogurt

Healthy and delicious! Greek yogurt makes a great snack, the base of a delicious smoothie, and it provides these 9 benefits for your gut health. Combine with fruit, raw honey, or just eat plain, and you’ve got a nutritious and delicious snack.

Unhealthy: Pizza 

And no, we’re not just talking about the food court by the checkout. Kirkland’s Signature Cheese Pizza is high in fat and very high in sodium. While most foods can be fit into any diet in moderation, in this case you’d be much better off picking up one of Costco’s new cauliflower crust pizzas that we are absolutely obsessed with.

Healthy: Olive oil 

According to Fine, Costco’s olive oil, in particular, received a thumbs up from Consumer Lab‘s independent testing. While we all know that olive oil is rich in healthier fats and a great way to cook food nutritionally, many brands of olive oil come tainted with additional oils mixed in. Kirkland’s, however, completely passed testing.

Unhealthy: Pre-made desserts 

They are delicious, but Costco’s pre-made desserts are primarily pure white flour, sugar, butter, and stabilizers. Not exactly what you could call nutritious. One of our favorites, the Kirkland Signature 12″ Cheesecake, unfortunately has 11 grams of fat in a single slice and very little nutritional value to offset the caloric intake. That cheesecake may be one of the things you shouldn’t be buying at Costco, but you definitely should be getting these 15 things you aren’t buying at Costco.

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If you have a membership, you are also a member of the Costco auto program, which helps you purchase a wide variety of vehicles, either new or used. The Costco car buying program even offers recreational vehicles, mobility vehicles, motorcycles and even parts (or service) for anything you might need. Not only that, but you can experience some serious savings with Costco’s special offers.

Costco’s vehicle program database saves you time

Instead of looking at multiple websites or contacting different dealerships, the Costco car buying program puts all of that information in one place. Once you enter in your zip code, you can browse the type of car you want and choose the dealer from there. Once chosen, you can actually compare prices of the different models side-by-side. The Costco vehicle purchase program will save you a ton of time when comparing vehicles, letting you know which car is the best bang for your buck.

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18 things chefs buy from Costco
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18 things chefs buy from Costco

Waygu beef

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.

Pork chops

Chef Julie Yoon, who runs an online cooking show called Bits & Piecesbuys 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.

Bacon

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.

Produce

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. 

Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Samin Nosrat, the author of the bestselling Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, is a big fan of this affordable olive oil, according to Refinery 29. Cardoz likes it too, for marinades, salads, and cooking. Find out 15 foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

Burgers 

Cardoz has been a fan since he got some premade burgers for one of his son’s birthdays. He recommends the unfrozen kind in the meat section.

Spinalis Steak 

This juicy cut has lots of flavor. “You usually have to special-order this from other butchers,” Cardoz told Kitchn. Find out the bizarre things you didn’t know you could find at Costco

Kirkland Raw, Tail-On Shrimp

Yoon likes to keep a bag of these frozen shrimp in the freezer. Low in calories, they’re easy to defrost by placing them in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes, she says. 

Wine

You may find a wine you really like at Costco, then find that the warehouse doesn’t stock it anymore. Cardoz likes to get “Italian varietals, rosés, and gewürztraminers” there when he can.

Rotisserie chicken

A favorite of many Costco shoppers, the rotisserie chicken also makes Yoon’s list of Costco staples. Here are the secrets behind Costco’s rotisserie chicken.

Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup

This pantry staple is not only organic, but Cardoz says it tastes good and lasts a long time. These are 10 Kirkland items you should always buy at Costco.

Wheat bread

Yoon likes Whole Grains 100% Whole Wheat Bread. Since the loaves come two to a pack and the bread can get moldy quickly, she sticks one loaf in the fridge and the other in the freezer.

Kirkland Signature Super Extra Large Peanuts 

Not only are they extra large, but they also don’t get stale, which is why Cardoz is a fan. Here are 15 things you aren’t buying at Costco, but should.

Organic Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs 

It’s not easy to find chicken thighs that are organic, Cardoz says. He likes to get a big pack and use them in curries.

Tellicherry Peppercorns

Chefs use lots of pepper, and Cardoz says this brand remains “fresh and fragrant,” Kitchn reports.

Deli meat

Yoon packs her husband’s lunch every day. For deli meat, she goes for a pack of Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast and Honey Ham from Hillshire Farm. To accompany it, she buys Belgiorno Provolone cheese.

Agave syrup

Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave is reasonably priced, Yoon says. She likes to use it as a sweetener in her recipe for shrimp with lime. Here are 13 tips frequent Costco shoppers keep to themselves.

Frosted Mini-Wheats

The beauty of a warehouse store is that you can also find plenty of items that aren’t necessarily gourmet. Yoon picks up her cereal at Costco as well. Next, find out 15 secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

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Costco auto program only chooses dealerships it trusts

In an interview with Business Insider, Rick Borg (a senior executive for the Costco Auto Program) explained how the Costco auto program chooses dealerships based on “prices, customer satisfaction index scores, and reputations on social media.” Although Costco is limited to the geographic area, it does try to present customers with the best possible buying experience from trusted dealerships.

The prices have already been negotiated in the Costco auto program

If you’re not a fan of negotiating, Costco’s auto program is probably the right choice. Costco already negotiates prices for you! No need to worry about getting the lowest possible price.

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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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Unless you’re a fool like me who didn’t even think about negotiating a price, chances are you’ll want to get your car at a discounted rate through the Costco car buying program.

Costco auto program helps even after the purchase

Before and after that car purchase, Costco will be by your side. Costco ensures that customers are satisfied with the Costco auto program, and will always be a mediator between the dealership if need be. So if you’re nervous about making this huge purchase, The Costco auto program will help you with difficult parts of the car-buying process.

Don’t miss these 5 great shopping perks you can get from a Costco membership!

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Costco products you need to avoid
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Costco products you need to avoid

Facial tissues

A runny nose deserves some quality tissue, but you may not find that at Costco. Consumer Reports found that the Kirkland Signature facial tissue, at $1.23, has so-so strength, ranking in the middle of their pack of facial tissue ratings.

For the same price, you can get Puffs Basic, which has a dream combo of "superb softness with very good strength."

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Dog food

Dogs may be worth every penny you spend, but know there are a lot of pennies involved — theminimum annual cost of owning a dog is $1,001 and can be as high as $1,448. If you buy your pup's food at Costco, it may be even higher.

The Krazy Coupon Lady switched from Kirkland Signature Nature's Domain dry dog food to Diamond Naturals dry dog food when she realized that Costco sold the former at $0.97 per pound and Amazon sold the latter for $0.82 per pound. That saves you both 15% and the hassle of lugging a 40-pound bag of dog food on a flat bed Costco cart.

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Pasta 

No one does pasta like Italy, but sometimes purchasing it from the store will have to make do — just make sure it's not from Costco.

Blogger The Many Little Joys has had better experience stocking up on pasta when it's on sale at the normal grocery store than when buying it at Costco. "I usually only pay $0.50 to $1 per pound for pasta, which Costco can't beat," she writes.

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Toiletries

While you're tending to personal care, don't neglect caring for your wallet. Whether lotion, toothpaste, deodorant, conditioner, or the like is on your shopping list, Costco may not be your best bet to check those items off.

"If you are a coupon and deal shopper, supermarkets and drugstores feature these types of items with coupons frequently, so you can stock up on multiple quantities of smaller sizes for pennies," Stephanie Nelson, founder of The Coupon Mom, told Bankrate.

If you don't believe her, consider The Krazy Coupon Lady's incredible find: a deal where razors were $0.99 each at Target, compared to $1.43 at Costco.

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Towels

Sleep well at night knowing you didn't overspend on your sheets at Costco.

According to Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping, shoppers can typically save 30% to 40% more by purchasing bed sheets, comforters, and towels at off-price retail chains such as TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls. Sales and coupons for department stores, such as JCPenney and Macy's, can also be the ticket to a better deal.

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Canned goods

Canned goods have a long shelf life, but their price at Costco isn't as promising. Teri Gault, founder of TheGroceryGame.com, tells Kiplinger that you can score better deals on canned goods when they're on sale at the supermarket — expect them to be 20% to 40% less per unit.

The Many Little Joys points out that buying generic brand canned goods is your best bet when saving pennies — even better when they're on sale, too.

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Name brand cereal

Bargain hunters alike agree that America's favorite sugar morning fix is better bought on sale at the grocery store. A two-pack of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal can cost $7.99 at Costco, but with the right coupons, you can bring this price way down elsewhere.

"Don't let the bigger boxes at Costco fool you," writes James. "They're almost always more expensive per serving than what you can find at the cheapest grocery store in your town."

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Soda

Author and frugal living expert Jeff Yeager told Kiplinger that you can always find soda on sale for less than you'd spend at a place like Costco.

A $7 to $8 24-pack at the wholesaler can run a hole in your wallet twice as big as paying for two discounted 12-packs at the grocery store — Coke products go on sale every other week for $2 to $2.50 per 12-pack.

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Black printer ink

Don't let the large size of the packaging of printer ink at Costco trick you, warns The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Amazon actually sells the same ink, only cheaper — it's just $22.04 per cartridge compared to Costco's $29.50 per cartridge. Bonus: it comes without the giant packaging.

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Feminine hygiene products

Women's periods cost more than just painful cramps — they also cost a good chunk of their paycheck. The Huffington Post revealed that the average woman spends $1,773.33 on tampons throughout her lifetime. Ouch.

That number is high enough without overspending at Costco, where prices for feminine hygiene products are almost 50% more than the base sale price at other stores.

And that doesn't exclude online retailers — Amazon has a history of selling pantyliners for a couple dollars cheaper than those at Costco. You can also snag a lower price buying from drugstores with printable coupons.

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Household cleaners

Housekeeping demands can get expensive. Save the dollar signs for home maintenance instead by cutting costs on household cleaners.

Costco's household cleaner prices are almost 50% more than the bottom line deal at other stores, says The Krazy Coupon Lady. "The smaller the quantity of an item, the larger the savings when using store sales and coupons," she writes.

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Peanut butter

The blogger behind Root of Good compared the price of a 16-ounce jar of generic peanut butter among five grocery stores — Aldi ($1.08), Walmart ($1.16), Target ($1.20), Costco ($1.67), and Trader Joe's ($1.99).

Notably, Costco is the fourth most expensive on the list. You'd be nuts to pay for that price.

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