After writing about Costco shopping for several years, and fielding comments and insights from readers, I’ve decided to compile a list of my very favorite pro tips for shopping Costco.
Tip #1: Don’t leave without a Rotisserie Chicken.
I recently saw an article circulating on Facebook about why you should just make your own roast chicken at home, but I absolutely beg to differ. The roast chicken at Costco is huge, perfectly cooked and only $4.99. That chicken is easily one of the best deals in the store! While you can certainly eat it as is, it’s also a great base for many recipes, such as this White Chicken Chili.
Tip #2: If you are on a mission to buy one or two items, skip the shopping cart.
Costco can be a great place to find all kinds of stuff you didn’t know you needed. If you are trying to stick to a shopping list and a budget, leave the cart at the front door! Make a beeline for the item you came for (wearing horse blinders through the electronics and housewares may be helpful), grab your item(s) and head for checkout.
Tip #3: If you see something you like, don’t wait.
On the flip side, if you see something that you really do like and can use, you might consider picking it up. A couple years ago, I bought a few photo albums I adored. They looked great and were perfect for getting my family’s photo collection organized. However, I deeply regret not buying more because I have not seen them make a return to my Costco in over two years.
Tip #4: Visit Costco stores in other cities for different selection.
It’s always fun to see what Costco stores have to offer in different cities! I really recommend this when traveling. You just might find discounted gift cards or tickets to the local attraction you’re hoping on visiting, or extra ski gear options in cities that have stronger winter systems.
Tip #5: Costco makes the best cheap lunch in town.
I mean, where else can you feed your family for about $10? Costco food is quick, cheap, and delicious. It’s an even cheaper option than fast food if you’re traveling. We recently purchased Costco pizzas for my son’s birthday party and that was also an inexpensive option.
Tip #6: Booking your rental car through Costco comes with some perks.
When you go to plan your next vacation, consider Costco. We have consistently started booking our vacation rental cars through Costco. Not only do you tend to get a better deal, you can usually get a free upgrade and a second driver at no additional cost. I spoke to friends over the weekend who have also raved about using Costco for their Hawaii booking. You pay half up front and half a month before your trip, making it a great way to plan and budget for a trip. It’s easy to think about Costco for what they just offer in stores, but do make sure to take a look at their travel offerings when planning your next trip.
Tip #7: Understand how Costco’s pricing works.
There are a number of bloggers that have uncovered how to decipher Costco’s pricing. Lifehacker shares these four specific things to watch for:
- Regular priced items end in $0.99, and items that have been marked down end in $0.97.
- Oddly-priced items usually mean Costco got a deal from the manufacturer (e.g., prices ending in $0.49, $0.79, or $0.89).
- If you see an asterisk (*) on the upper right side of the sign? It won’t be reordered.
- Manager markdowns typically have prices that end in $0.88 or $0.00. They may be trying to move these items fast!
Knowing these kind of pricing secrets may help your purchasing decisions.
Tip #8: Poke around the perimeter for markdowns.
In my experience, Costco likes to reserve the main, center portions of the store for seasonal items. For instance, at my store right now you’ll find gardening tools, sheds, boats, camping chairs, and tents. In later months, expect to find Halloween costumes, back to school items, and holiday décor. As these items need to be moved to make way for the next season’s offerings, they will sometimes be discounted and sold in the perimeter of the store. Late last winter, I found many gloves, hats, and scarves at deep discount tucked way in the back of the tire section. It’s easy to focus on what Costco is prompting you to focus on, but going towards the back of the store may be a rewarding treasure hunt.
Tip #9: Shop early during the weekdays to avoid the crowds; shop during the busiest part of the weekends for the best samples.
I love going to Costco mid-week during the day, when the crowds are low. However, I’ve noticed that the samples offered during these low store traffic times tend to be… how shall I say it? Kind of sad. For instance, on one weekday visit, I remember the samples were plain almond milk and dried seaweed. On the weekends? Oh boy, bring your appetite! That’s when you’ll be more likely to find hot dogs, chicken chimichangas, pizza, and brownies. In the end you have to decide what matters more, low crowds or good food!
What else would you add to my list? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Sound off in the comments below!