5 Tips to Help You Shop Smart at Costco

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

Shopping at Costco: When & What to Buy

Who doesn’t love shopping at Costco?  Go ahead… raise your hand.  I don’t see any hands.  Why?  Because everyone loves hanging out at Costco!  That is, until you check out and pay.  🙂  I believe there have only been two occasions when I’ve actually gone inside Costco, stuck to my big list of 3 things (it’s rare that I only have 3 things on my list by the way), and got out of there without putting something else in my cart.  That of course is the most important tip of all… make a list and stick to it!  If that’s beyond your capability, here are some other tips to help you save money while shopping at Costco.

Contrary to popular belief, it is VERY possible to shop smart while perusing the aisles of Costco.  You’ve just got to keep some things in mind…  and yes, I realize that some of these things could be a better deal if you use coupons coupled with watching for sales at a grocery store.  But there comes a time when you’ll have to weigh that decision… for me personally, I had to simplify my life and I usually only shop the coupon deals at Fred Meyer when they are awesome.  So that’s why we wanted to share our favorite Costco tips… to help you maximize your savings and get the most for your money.

#1 – Shop According to What is on Sale

Every month or so Costco sends out a new coupon book to their members (you can view them online).  This is a fantastic way to save BIG! I always like to thumb through it and find the items I’m already purchasing that have a coupon.  I like to take note if there is a quantity limit, and I take note of the effective dates.  You DO NOT need to have the coupon book with you to get the savings!  I like to add the items that I want to my Costco shopping list (I use Google Keep for this).   I will purchase whatever snacks have a coupon that month as the snacks for their lunches or after school snacks.  They get what’s on sale, not necessarily their favorite snack/treat. Plus it’s a great way to add a little variety to my pantry.


#2 – Stock Up During Seasonal Sales

As soon as I see their seasonal items hit the warehouse flour, I will buy them if I need them. I’ve learned the hard way that if I wait too long, the seasonal items will be gone!  Here are some of my favorite seasonal items:

  • Summer:   I’ll grab goggles & swimsuits to last my kids throughout the whole year. The speedo goggles run about $5.00 each and it’s a great time to grab them for any winter (think: hotel/YMCA) swimming that you might do throughout the year.  The huge beach towels are great quality and are a great price as well!
  • Post Christmas:  I love to watch for sale prices on toys for my gift stockpile, and also wrapping paper & ribbons for the next Christmas.
  • If there is an * in the corner of the price label, you will know that this product is about to leave the warehouse and has been marked down to it’s lowest price… so watch the prices on clothing at the end of each season. I was able to get a pair of yoga pants for my daughter for $4 at the end of the summer last year.
  • Movies & books can also be found on sale when you look – so take a few extra minutes to browse!

#3 – Plan Meals Based on What Will Save You the Most

  • Menu planning is always going to save you money… and if you plan based on what the sales are, you’ll save even more!  This will also help you keep a variety of menu options (see more Menu Planning Tips)
  • Don’t forget about lunch and breakfast!  I love to purchase the pack of 5 dozen eggs and a 3 pound roll of sausage to make breakfast burritos.
  • We always buy the big packs of bread for lunch sandos too. You can put these in the freezer… I’ve been doing this for years with no issue!

#4 – Buy Kirkland Brand 

If you’re a brand name snob, it may be time to consider the Kirkland Signature brand.  In my opinion (and many others), it’s just as good as name brand items.  Test it out and save some money!  I even think the Kirkland brand of diapers is as good as Huggies diapers.  Some of my favorite items that I buy Kirkland Signature brand are:

  • Toilet Paper
  • Trash Bags
  • Granola Bars
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Cheese
  • Contact Solution
  • EVOO
  • Diapers
  • and more!  Tell me your favorite Kirkland Signature brand items in the comments below!

#5 – Consider: Is it Really a Good Deal?

Just because the product is in bulk it may not be a great deal. Make sure that you price compare before you grab the bigger pack of your favorite product  Check out the price per ounce or price per pound of some of your favorite Costco items next time you’re at the grocery store. Write it down (I love Google Keep for this) and then price compare next time you’re at Costco.

Speaking of deals… here are our favorite grocery deals at Costco:

The Best Grocery Deals at Costco

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

Dairy & Fresh Produce

Shopping the Dairy & Fresh Produce can save you a LOT of money if you know that you will eat it before it goes bad. I know that we go through a lot of berries, spinach, and baby carrots…  so getting this in bulk is smart for my family. Here are a few great tips to keep your fresh produce and strawberries last for longer.

My top picks for fresh produce and dairy to grab the next time you’re at Costco.


  • Bananas (I love to freeze them when they are super ripe and use them in smoothies!)
  • Organic Baby Spinach
  • Organic Spring Mix Lettuce
  • Organic 5lbs Baby Carrots
  • Strawberries/Organic Strawberries
  • Berries: Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries (I love to get the frozen berries for smoothies too!)
  • Baker Potatoes
  • Pears


  • Organic Eggs
  • Organic Butter (most often the price on regular butter can’t be beat either)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Brick Cheese
  • String Cheese
  • Yogurt

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco


  • Ground Turkey
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Pork Roast
  • (We get the best prices on chicken when we buy through Zaycon Fresh –  they also have deals on ground turkey!)

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco


  • Crackers
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Granola Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Raw Almonds
  • Protein Shake Mix

Staples and Baking

  • Rice
  • Canned Beans
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Spices
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Baking Soda
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Soy and Almond Milk

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

Personal Care

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Saline Solution (there are coupons for these at least quarterly… I buy enough to last me 3 months when there is a coupon for them)
  • Over the counter medication (I love to buy the Kirkland brand rather than name brand)

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

Household Supplies & Pet Care

  • Toilet Paper (although I’ve been getting my TP via Amazon Subscribe and Save!)
  • Trash Bags
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Laundry Detergent (although when I was talking to my friend about this during the week she mentioned that the laundry detergent’s potency will diminish as time goes on…so going big may not be as effective once it’s open… but with the size of my family, this is NOT an issue!)
  • Dog beds, food, and treats
  • Paper Plates – (because not every night calls for real dishes!  Plus I love having them on hand for when we have large family dinner nights).

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

And don’t forget to stop by the food court and grab lunch on your way out, unless you totally filled up on the free samples! 

5 tips to help you shop smart at Costco

What do you love to buy at Costco?

I asked my friends on facebook and here were some of their favorite items.  Share yours in the comments below!

  1. Fuel
  2. Produce (although I feel I can get apples and grapes cheaper at my local Kroger store)
  3. Hot Dog & Soda for $1.50
  4. Free Samples
  5. Rotisserie Chicken
  6. Frozen Organic Veggies
  7. Nutella (did you see there is now a Kirkland knockoff of Nutella?)
  8. Peanut Butter
  9. Diapers and Wipes
  10. Milk (I always buy8 gallons at a time when I shop at Costco!)
  11. Sports Socks (I like to stock up on socks on Black Friday at Fred Meyer)


  • Michele P

    For a while there, when I had young kidlets…Costco was the only place I got to buy myself clothes. haaa Taking young children to the mall was NOT happening.
    Now…they’re 6 and 9. Our Costco favorites are: Milk, blueberries, Kirkland TP and Paper Towels, Kirkland butter, vitamins, granola bars, and any big purchases we can get there. Last year we bought a couch there and some blinds for our house and our annual membership reward check was for almost $200.00. DOUBLE BONUS!!!!!!!

  • monie

    The Kirkland Baby Formula is great. Same nutrients as the name brands..double the amount for half the price!

  • Amy B

    Kirkland canned chicken. Love it for a quick meal.

  • Rita

    Kirkland popcorn. I can’t stand the smell of other brands.
    Dogfood and cat food
    Cetaphil cleanser and lotion
    Vitamins, gummies, vitamin D.
    Gluten free flour
    Organic Flour
    Udis bread
    Gluten free crackers
    Jelly Bellys
    Peeled garlic

    • Cathy

      What is Cooli Rita? I’ve never heard of this! I love buying undies there for my kiddos too! Thanks for sharing your favorites!

      • Rita

        Cooli/Kooli, I may have spelled it incorrectly. it is their version of Yakult. Probiotic drink.
        I left off seaweed! Cheaper and better than Amazon.
        Cheese sticks
        Mexican cheese mix
        Virgin Coconut oil
        balsamic vinegar
        Probably more stuff. If you know your cuts of meat, I got top loin labeled short loin or something odd for $3.99/lb. The labeled top loin was $7.99/lb. Super tender meat and delicious.
        Boxed organic chicken stock. Usually make my own, but this helps for times I am out.
        I am sure there is more. But I hate grocery shopping but I love going to Costco. My dh would rather I stay home so he can save money….LOL

  • Kristine

    other good buys :
    Gatorade mix
    fancy bread, like portland french bakery
    Annies mac and cheese when on sale
    boxed chicken broth, kirkland
    peanut butter
    sugar, organic sugar too
    electronics, they have a great warranty on tvs.
    there’s always something!

  • Nissel

    We have friends who purchased one of Costco’s huge wooden playsets for their boys. A microbrewery of wind came through, lifted the entire thing off the ground, flipped it on its side, and slammed it back into the ground. They were pretty upset! Understandably! They called the manufacturer who said too bad, so sad. They called Costco and Costco replaced it. Free. Their response when asked about allowing that type of return/replacement? They work with the member “until the member is happy.” That, in my book, is a great reason to shop at Costco even if they aren’t always “the very best deal” in town. Good customer service is worth its weight in gold!

  • Doreen

    The Costco app allows you to make a shopping list and “clip” the coupons, which are also attached to the list. It is great since I have my phone anyways. I go into the app, and look at my list to see what I need to purchase.

  • Shannon

    Your comment that you think Kirkland brand diapers are as good as the Huggies brand…..well you’re right! That’s because they are Huggies

  • Theresa

    I love the Optical Center. The price for glasses with or without insurance is still cheaper than what I pay at tradtional eye doctor. My daughter lost her glasses on vacation and I was able to buy her 2 stylish (picky teenager..lol) pairs for $190. Love..love..Costco.

    • Cathy

      Oh yes… look at all these things I’ve forgotten about! I’ve got 4 of us in contacts/glasses. For sure the way to go!

  • Hilary

    I buy ALL my diapers on Amazon, because you can’t beat the price. But wipes — I will ONLY use the Kirkland brand. They work better, are better quality, and have a better container than anything I buy on Amazon. When they go on coupon (which isn’t often) I will buy as many as I can!

    • Cathy

      You’re soooo right Hilary. I’m a Kirkland brand wipes girl all the way! I don’t care for the pampers/huggies packaging either!

  • Hilary

    And gluten free flours! I can buy Honeyville Almond flour for cheaper per ounce at Costco by me than I can in the 25lb. box straight from Honeyville, with their 10% off coupon. Gluten free stuff has been WAY cheaper for me at Costco than just about anywhere else. And with four kids with wheat allergies (two who also have Celiacs), having Costco increase their number of gluten free products has made it so I will NEVER cancel my membership!

    • Cathy

      I don’t need GF stuff, but I have been noticing a lot more products marked as GF too. That’s awesome news for all of you who have Celiacs!

  • Shelley

    Kirtland TUNA….terrific white albacore tuna, fully packed cans, the best!

  • Kay

    Do you know when we will see the Costco membership deal again? I missed the one on December last year.

  • Mameelynn

    My father in law works at corporate and told me that the reason the Kirkland brand is just as good or better then the name brand is because most of the Kirkland brand stuff is made by the name brand company

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