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20 March 2014

Have you shopped at Costco?


Hello everyone! A late post today because we just got Kerry on the plane to Korea, and Tricia is here. It might be a bit hit and miss with the posts over the coming week. But I wanted to do this post because we've been talking about products and shopping all week and I want you to share your experience of shopping at Costco.  

We are fairly new to Costco in Australia. I think there are five Costcos here, one currently being built fairly close to where we live and another in Adelaide.  So if you've been a shopper at Costco, what I'd like to know:

  • What products are they selling?
  • Where are they sourcing their products from?
  • What are the prices like?
  • What is the service like?
  • And any general comment you'd like to make.
I know there are websites to go to to read about these things but I prefer hearing from real customers who share my values. Thanks for taking the time to do it. 

64 comments:

  1. I am interested in the responses to this, I haven't been to a costco yet. I understand there is a joining fee, I think I was told $60. I would love to look when one is built near you Rhonda but I understand you have to go with someone who is already a member..... It makes checking it out rather difficult. I guess that would have to be relaxed when a new one is built though.... I remember going through a walmart with the quilting tour.....we all wanted a look so the bus driver detoured for us. It was like a big w or kmart but with a chemist and supermarket as well. It was very interesting....I remember seeing the biggest pair of bib and brace overalls I have ever seen, I think they were only $19...

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    1. Nope you don't have to go with someone who is a member just to look

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  2. Morning Rhonda...it's all happening at your place today and how lovely having your sister visiting, is this to get ready to head off on your trip together? I haven't shopped at Costco, but Celia at http://figjamandlimecordial.com/ does, she's in Sydney. She often does a shopping post and will talk about what she's bought at Costco, often some interesting and unusual bargains. Since you're busy I could look for a couple of her posts on this and send links to you if you like. I'm off to a talk and workshop on herbs, growing and uses at Chillingham Community garden so I'll look later for you. Enjoy your day.

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    1. yes Nanette, I'd like that. thank you.

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    2. Hello again.....here's the link to Celia's post...I had to laugh because she resisted going for ages, then heard she could get vintage Portugese Port there at a really good price! Her post is great, has photos, a good critique and the comments are worth reading too if you have time for 110 of them! I have Celia's permission to link to your blog, Rhonda. http://figjamandlimecordial.com/?s=costco

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  3. So I like costco- kind of. I live in Seattle, they typically pay their employees pretty well, offer good benefits and a living wage. The sponsor scholarships at area universities for minority students etc. This is good. There are some things at costco. that are great to buy and are ethical- organic free range eggs, hormone free milk and organic milk, shade grown coffee---all of these things are a reasonable price...there are also many things that we purchase their that are not great for the environment but are a good deal and we would buy anyway- laundry detergent, diapers etc.

    However, my real issue with costco is the way that it feeds into a consumerist mentality-- it is the anti-thesis of living simply. There is simply so much stuff and so many people buying so much stuff. It feels really disorienting and frankly it makes me feel "gross." My partner and I like it because we think it saves us some money- but in general we try to go in and out as quickly as possible, only stick to our list, and not get suckered into the random stuff that is a good "deal" but that we don't need. . . that's my 2 cents.

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    1. I agree with you about it increasing desire to shop. I doubt we'll end up there but I want to know what's there before I give up on it completely.

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    2. We had a Costco membership for 2-3 years and enjoyed buying meat in bulk. However, it seems we always came out with all these new and exciting products that we really didn't need and spent way more than if I had just purchased my meat at the local grocery store. (little penpen here...not sure why I am coming up as anonymous)

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    3. Ok I,ll admit it, I have had since sometime in 2012. A on off on relationship with Costco and I reason why I joined again was that I was able to buy a certain well known and held in well regard kitchen appliance which was the best price that i could get anywhere including certain kitchen supply stores, granted it isn't the store for everyone but if you want to purchase certain things in bulk then it is. For eg the canned toms are way cheaper when you buy a tray in bulk it works out to around 41.odd cents per can and like other prudent shoppers I am not tempted I go and get what I need and want I know my prices for eg I can get reasonable thickened cream for 3.29 a litre as opposed to no name brand thickened for 2.58 so for me there are things I will buy and well things that I won't . I basically shop where I can get the best deal for my family and I am still ahead with the price I pay for things incl my $60 fee ps if you have a abn you can get it for$55 a year you can return your goods incl warranty items if your not entirely satisfied and also consumables that your not satisfied with either. What I will say its you need to go for yourself and see and you will see that there maybe things you want and need and seem to be a good deal or you won,t

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  4. We love Costco! I live in the US, though, so I'm not sure product recommendations will be helpful. The things we especially like to buy there (because they are so much cheaper in bulk) include: dried fruit, cereals, oatmeal, flour, sugar (brown and white), cooking spray, spices, cheese and popcorn.

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    1. Jennifer, when you say "bulk" how much is that? We are only two, I doubt it will work in our situation.

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    2. I wouldn't recommend bulk purchases at Costco (or any other bulk retailer) for anyone with a family size of less than 5. We had a membership with a family of six. The sizes that are sold are usually double, triple or quadruple what is sold in a regular grocery store. A couple of examples: 12 pound crates of oranges, 3 pounds bacon, 20-50 pound sacks of rice, etc. Processed foods are usually double what would be sold as "family size" in a regular grocer.

      Our membership was a waste. It was a headache to shop because they were always so busy, the product sizes require a LOT of space for storage and frankly, we didn't go through the product fast enough to warrant buying it in bulk. The few items we did use quite a lot of did not save us enough money to warrant paying for membership.

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    3. I completely agree with Angie. When Costco first opened up near us (CA) my mom and I were so excited to save money. In time we called it the $300 club, as we could not walk out with anything less. Even trying to just stick with the food did not help. While my son and I lived with my folks, we were a family of 5....way too much food, even with my mom or I cooking daily. Lots of leftovers or food expiring. I guess if you have a business it would be great, but honestly for the average family, more money is spent then saved. After 20+ years of shopping at Costco my step-dad has thankfully cut my mom off from Costco. I did an inventory for them several months back and they can live off their freezer and pantry food for at least a year....if it does not spoil (that is all packaged/canned food, not staples like sugar/flour). My mom is 77 and does not like to cook anymore so they eat out alot. It had simply become a habit to shop there on Sunday afternoon and buy the same old, same old out of habit. On a funny note, I did ask her while doing the inventory why she had 36 cans of creme of mushroom soup. So much was stuffed in the back pantry she simply thought she needed more.

      My husband, son and I are currently eating through our 3 month emergency supply of food before it goes bad. After that, no more bulk buying except for staples. We will keep a weeks worth of emergency food for 4 and that is it. It is just as easy to make homemade tomato sauce as it is to buy 20 cans of it. We have plenty of local farm stands we can support, a .99 cent store that sells fresh produce at very cheap prices, and a Smart and Final I can shop at for any bulk items...no membership needed.

      I may be a voice of one, but I believe Costco is one of the big reasons for the huge increase of consumerism here in America. I have seen folks grab stuff off the shelves just because it was 'Costco' so it must be cheaper then anywhere else. Unless you have three or more teenagers at home, who ready needs their giant size boxes of cereal and such.

      Just my two cents worth.
      blessings, jill

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    4. I so agree with this. And where does all of those staples and meat come from?

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  5. Also interested to know - haven't been inside one before but I'm in Adelaide and waiting for the one here to open up. It is about a kilometre from my in-laws who are 45 minutes away so I wouldn't use it all the time and makes me wonder if the $60 is worth it.

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  6. I agree with the commenter above. You habe to know your prices and not be tempted by the junk food!
    We went twice with a friend before signing up. We signed up because we worked out that we would make back our membership fee in savings on three months of fresh dates alone, not counting other savings.
    I like their baguettes. And I also buy my yoghurt from there as they sell my favourite brand at half the price of the supermarket. I bought cans of beans and corn in our last visit. They were tasty for dinner last night.
    It is an interesting experience. 1kg bags of chips/crisps. Slabs of energy drinks. There is a lot for sale there that is unhealthy. And massive trolleys to push it all around in. Our trolley looked empty and sad compared with the others being pushed around!

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  7. Well, here's what I know about Costco. First of all, I'm in Denver - not sure if their policies, prices or inventory are the same in Australia as here in the US.

    1) Membership. There is an annual membership fee - and there are different levels of memberships at different prices. When you're a member you get a dividend check at the end of the year equaling a certain percentage of your total purchases - I think it's like 2% or something. Now... I'm a tad bit fuzzy on how exactly the memberships work, because I'm not exactly a member. When you join, you have the option of including another person on your membership, and they don't even have to be in the same state as you are! (Don't know if they have to be in the same country or not!) Anyhow, purchases made by your add-on member don't count towards your dividend, but the add-on person gets their own membership card and gets to shop there. So, I'm an add-on member with my parents' membership (which is why I'm fuzzy on some of the membership details.)

    2) What they sell. About half of what they sell is grocery/foodstuff, and the other half is a grab bag including electronics, clothing, books, household items... even furniture! The groceries generally come in HUGE quantities, which makes it a bit difficult for me to find things that I can use up before they go bad. They have a "house brand" called "Kirkland" and they do have some good deals on their house brand. Other than that, most of what they carry is name brand stuff, which I generally avoid. Usually on the name brand stuff I can get a better price at the regular store with a generic or house brand. They do have good prices on organic meats, and on dairy products - but once again, I have a hard time using such big quantities, so I stick to things that can be frozen. And if you like chocolate covered snack foods, you're in luck because they have an entire aisle (which I avoid like the plague.)

    3) Is it worth it? Well.. I think it depends. I haven't found their produce prices to be particularly good, and the other things I buy probably wouldn't justify the cost of a membership if I had to pay it myself. I think if you buy a lot of things like packaged foods, name brand stuff, paper supplies, cleaning supplies, catering stuff, etc, it could be worth it - otherwise... not so much.

    That's my take!

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  8. Son joined when one opened in Sydney. He has not been there much since he moved in with me but did buy quite a bit of good cheese at Christmas. Predominantly Australian products as far as the cheese went. Then again, that may be just what he bought. It was good stuff. Before he split with his wife, he bought toilet paper in bulk there. What he says are a good buy are specials on car tyres. Periodically there will be a special at a lower price than normal and that really is a good deal. That said, he was having car serviced by a local mechanic and patronised the small tyre shop. They gave him a good deal, not as low as Costco but he liked supporting a local business and he was on the spot without making a trip. Previously he had lived quite close to Costco. More of a trip from my place and that all needs to be factored in.

    Ethical shopping is quite a difficult process. The more one gets into it it, the more there is to find out.

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  9. We live in Canada and have had a Costco membership for the past few years. Where we live now it is quite far away, but in our last town it was very close and we went regularly. There is also just two of us, and certain things are just far too big for us to use, but other things are very well priced and a good size. We buy quinoa, spices, butter, organic spinach and other greens, etc. My only problem is that other than the greens they carry almost no organic produce. Lately I have found that certain healthy dry goods are being offered more. Also, sometimes they only carry something once and then you never see it again. Over Christmas they have some great gift products, and they even have an optometrist that charges much less than others in town- you can even buy glasses from them for a great price. Service is always wonderful- best return policy of any company I have ever used. Overall, we find that the yearly fee is worthwhile, even if we don't shop too often.

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  10. Our closest one is Sydney ( we are in the Hunter Valley) so I've never been, but had a friend who used to go regularly, my impression was that most of the stuff is imported from o/s - it never appealed to me, and without wanting to appear presumptious, when I read your interest, I didn't imagine it would appeal to you :)

    Anyway, I did find these reviews that you may find of interest.


    http://www.productreview.com.au/p/costco-1.html

    Mel

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  11. We had split a membership with a friend. I don't think you can normally do that FYI. Anyway, we did it and got a great deal on four tires for my husband's car. They maintenance them for life and you get free rotations. Once my friend lost her job, we all chose not to renew the membership.
    Costco is known to be very good to their employees. Their Kirkland brand is excellent and they do carry major brands as well. Their sheet cakes are actually cheap and pretty good and they always have sample stations set up everywhere so you can pretty much munch your way through the store if you choose. They also have eye glasses, photo printing and a pharmacy. Some locations even have gas/petrol stations.
    I think if you have a large family bulk shopping can be a sound financial choice, but since there is only three of us, and I am not a "major brand" purchaser. While I do buy certain things in bulk like flour and oats, most of what Costco has is not something I would want in bulk. Do not get me wrong, they have some great prices on certain items and you can fine blogs extolling their awesome prices and deals. Costco is just not the right choice for us.
    One thing I noticed when I went to a Costco in an urban location is that corner store owners will buy products in bulk there and stock their shelves with it. We once saw an Indian gentleman walking out with about 30 one gallon jugs of milk. Pretty interesting.
    Bulk in some cases means two 5 gallon tubs of mayonnaise or shampoo. 3 cartons of milk at 9.99 and so on. If you want to have fun, you can check out he US website http://www.costco.com/ And yes, they really do sell coffins.

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  12. We have lived near a Costco for nearly six years, and it was only a year ago that we started shopping there (note to self: renew membership this month). We would go in with friends and see what they have, but since it is only the two of us, we never saw enough that we would use. We actually got our membership when we learned about the store brand of cat litter. That has paid for our membership, and anything else is just bonus.

    We are in Houston, TX, so I don't know how this will compare, but here they sell books, clothes, furniture, office supplies and other non-perishables, in addition to dog and cat foods, frozen and refrigerated foods, and produce. We buy batteries and discounted movie tickets in addition to the cat litter, and sometimes food. We don't buy personal care items, though, because I can still get that cheaper at the grocery or drug stores if I wait for a sale - and they don't carry the variety of detergent that I like.

    Again, I don't know if this will be true for you there, but the Costcos here only accept American Express credit cards, or debit cards, checks, or cash. I can't use my Visa cards, and that's another reason it took so long for us to get a membership. They do offer a discounted/free American Express offer with your membership, but we didn't want another card.

    The best thing I can suggest is to visit once or twice, and really take your time looking around. Do they even carry your favorite brand of whatever. Would you buy that other thing in bulk. Do they sell tires that you would put on your vehicles, or furniture that you are interested in. The quality is good, but the selection just might not fit you.

    Oh, and I've never had a complaint about the service, though ours does get very busy and the checkout lines can be long. Ours also has a pharmacy, which we have used, and sells gas at a pretty good price.

    Oh, and to respond to EcoCatLady, I think the dividend thing is something extra that you sign up for - maybe when you have their American Express card, or a higher membership level, or maybe if you spend enough in one year. I do know that the add-on member must live in your household. One of our friends split a membership with another friend, and they had to have one of his regular bills sent to her house so they could "prove" that they lived together. I'm sure that's easy to do when you're splitting with your parents. ;-) I'd consider that but mine are nowhere near a Costco. However, your membership is good at any Costco nationwide.

    I hope some of this is helpful. :-)

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  13. Rhonda, we don't generally buy our meat or veg there - although they do organic mince, and their free range chicken is not too bad a price. What I stock up there for is our bulk goods - the prices are from my latest receipt.
    12.5kg bags of bread ($9.79) and plain flour
    25kg bag of sugar
    Bulk bags of rice
    A2 milk - at $3.62 for 2L best price I have found - and my kids can't drink regular milk.
    Their southern cross dairies 2kg pail of australian fetta $15.69
    Yoghurt (which I then divy up to be starters for the yoghurt I make)
    Cranberries - $9.99 for 1.36kg (though last time they had a $2 off coupon) - which we churn through as we have them with our breakfast year round.
    Their bulk buys on passata and canned tomato
    Parmesan cheese - we buy this in the block and it lasts and lasts.
    Their giant bags of Birds Eye frozen Australian corn and peas (peas are $5.79 for 2kg)
    I'm sure there are other things...but it has been a few months since I last went...my husband generally picks up what I want on his way home from work. It is a 2 hour round trip for me to go, but my husband works in Canberra each day.

    Let me know if you want to know any other prices, and I can have a dig through my receipts.

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  14. Hi Rhonda, I have been to Costco in Melbourne as my daughter joined, but I didn't purchase anything. It is very commercially driven and encourages people to buy in bulk which would normally be a great idea, but a lot of the stuff is from overseas. Ethically I am against big stores like Costco, I think people should take the step to shop locally. I purchase as much as I can locally from the butcher, organic store etc. I support the local industry with other purchases. I think people should use their buying power as their voice and send the message that big business destroys the small local traders. Food for thought.

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    1. What if said small local trader gets there goods from costo , also I live melbourne and the small,local trader eg chefs hat could not give a a good price on the kitchen aid like costo could its great to support local but not when my bank balance goes into, negative, but seriously,I applaud your food for though and noble efforts is just not everyone can shop locally for whatever reason .. I don't discourage local shopping or shopping at Costco. For many, Costco is the best option for those on a tight or limited budget. I would never want someone to feel bad for shopping at Costco, especially when it's their only choice. Also Costco does actually partner with a lot of local farmers and producers. Also ironically, Costco is sometimes the only local choice if you live in the suburbs.

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    2. Hear hear Suzie....For a start I cannot understand why anyone would even think of paying a membership fee to shop at one store, no matter how many lines they carry! What are shopping centres and strips for, if not to browse and compare prices - with no membership fee!

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  15. A relative joined and added my name to her household so I became a member without paying! There are many things that annoy me about Costco ..
    1. having to have my photo taken an a card before I can enter the premises
    2. just too much there from diamonds, furniture to floor cleaner. Perhaps if there was a party coming up, it would be good for the bulk delis but I found the bulk products too big to fit in my storage area.
    3. the security checking on people's trolleys with their docket - making them surely feel like a criminal!
    4. when it's all said and done, it's just a big supermarket/store - I had all the fuss to get in and out
    5. I saw a special on TV showing that they were no cheaper than the other big three

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    1. Think I saw the same tv. show....and vaguely remember Choice magazine doing a review and finding them wanting.

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  16. We're a family of 4 (two adults, two children) in Canberra and we're regular Costco shoppers. The annual membership fee ($60) was made back on our first visit as we purchased a mattress, which would have cost us an extra $130 for the exact same mattress at another chain shop.

    We buy their A2 milk, at least $1 cheaper per litre than at the supermarkets, free range eggs, and they have a decent range of Australian, organic products. We buy rolled oats in bulk, passata and tomato paste and bread when I've been too busy to bake it myself. I never bother with fruit or veg, it's too expensive and the quality not there. Sometimes there's a decent deal on chicken or meat, but usually the same price as anywhere else. Fish is usually a great buy for Australian, wild caught sustainable salmon or flathead.

    The downside is the size of the bulk items. I imagine you wouldn't be interested in having 72 rolls of toilet paper, or 3 litres of Jalna Greek yoghurt. For us, it's great but we often play 3D Tetris in our fridge trying to get it all to fit!

    Must also say that I find it a depressing place to shop. It gives me a full perspective of local consumerism...everything being super-sized and as cheap as possible. I know that's hipocritical, given I shop there myself! I know which aisles I need, keep my head down and trying not to get distracted by anything else! It has been great for us and has definitely eased the pressure of me being able to be home while the kids are young.

    Sara

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  17. Hi Rhonda,
    I used to live in Florida USA and loved Cosco. Everything was in quite large quantities, but I had specific items that I always purchased there. I found their quality quite good and would often go halves with larger quantities, with a friend who introduced me to Cosco. I shopped there less once I was on my own simply because the quantities were too big. I always had my tires changed there, and purchased petrol there - best price in town. The best thing was the hot dog with a russian sausage and saurkraut that I had afterwards in their little restuarant. I am not sure how big the ones in Australia are, but they are best for bulk shopping. I would try it out with a friend before committing to membership.

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  18. I used to shop at Costco in Texas but I haven't been to one in Australia. At the time, I had two teen sons that ate a LOT, so buying in bulk made sense. I used to love the quality of what they sold too. They sold books and clothes and all kinds of other items at a discount. I live near the new one opening soon near you, but I probably won't join because I spend very little these days. I like growing and making as much as I can to enjoy a simpler life. xx debbie

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  19. I live in Japan and therefore enjoy a very occasional trip to Costco here to stock up on some things that I just can't get in the regular supermarkets. Cheese, lamb, cereal, rolled oats etc. I always check the website first and print out a copy of the pictures of the products I want to buy as I tend to fill the trolley with things that I want, but don't need...
    Because most people don't have a lot of freezer space here in Japan, many people here get together in groups and split the items they purchase - making things a lot cheaper.

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  20. Hi Rhonda,
    We have had a Costco here for over 10 years. They seem to treat their employees well and the pay is better than most retail stores.
    The first 5 years we still had teenagers at home and the bulk foods were worthwhile to purchase. Now there is just the two of us at home and I am much more careful to only buy what I think we can use up before it goes bad. I always go with a list and stick to it, otherwise it is very easy to get side tracked and over purchase. They seem to stock as many products as they can source from the country that they are operating in, as far as I can tell from the comments. The trick is not to be seduced into buying more that you need. I usually buy cheese, dairy products, yeast and baking items, some meats (they can be frozen), printer cartridges, rechargeable batteries and some clothing.
    Costco has an amazing return policy. I have an executive membership and for that I get 2% back each year and benefits for my small business.
    It is probably worth checking out to see if you can use what they have.
    Barb

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  21. Love all of those comments. I'm curious toi, I've never been in a Cosco. I think I might find it too overwhelming. I feel overwhelmed in a normal Supermarket and always but the same things anyway...
    For the people in Australia, does Cosco sell the same brands like Supermarkets? If they don't it's sort of hard to know the quality and if you're stuck with 20 kg of rice you don't like...
    I think I might join and use it as a place to do my bulk shopping. I did my last bulk shopping at Aldi's which is 400 km from where I live but as products are so much cheaper there than in a Supermarket, I stocked up on everything and I don't need to go shopping for the rest of this year. But all the products at Aldi were in small packages (e.g. flour, sugar ect 1-2 kg max), so if I can get things like flour, rice, vinegar, sugar ect in bulk that would be fantastic. The new Cosco is nearly 700 km away from us but I'm in Brisbane quite often (OHs kids and grandkids live there), that it might be worth while depending on their prices.

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    1. Hi Frances,

      Costco stocks a lot of brands that supermarkets do. They have their own label, Kirkland, and I've always found it to be good quality. We buy A2 milk, Always Fresh white vinegar (distilled in Queensland, 5L for less than $3), Jalna yoghurt, Natural Delights medjool dates etc. They have many, many other brand names. Hope that helps :-)

      Sara

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  22. Hi Rhonda

    We joined Costco which is about a 1/2 hour drive from us simply to buy a2 milk. In the local Woolies it was $4.99 for 2 litres (although it is now price matching with Aldi for $4.49) but at Costco we can get it for $3.69 for two litres. We'd make back our $60 membership on the milk savings alone as we buy a heap at a time and freeze it. We also make our own a2 yoghurt so this works for us. I buy organic free range eggs when I'm there and sometimes bulk spinach which is about $9.95 per kg and share it with a friend or family. I don't buy much fruit or veg there as it's more expensive or on a par with Woolworths and I can get it cheaper at Aldi or a local producers. I've had some reasonably priced Aussie flat head fillets from there which were great and have bought things like Lea and Perrins sauce a lot cheaper than the supermarket.

    All in all, there is a considerable mark up on the electrical goods when compared to the same items in the USA (a tv programme demonstrated this) and you really need to know your prices.

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  23. I don't shop at Costco but I know a couple of people who do. I am very skeptical about that type of shopping and prefer to shop locally. I do occasionally go to Aldi's for the cheaper organic butter etc. Although if I had to shop at Costco's Celia's post is helpful at Fig and Lime Corida blogl. It's been insightful reading these comments too.

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  24. Medjol dates are priced at < $10 kg, frozen berries are also cheap but can't recall the price. Good deals on clothing & books. Fruit & Vege are expensive when compared to my local market ( Preston VIC) love trying all the samples they hand out, best bet is to find a friend who has a membership & do a tour.

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  25. Hi Rhonda - I went to the Canberra Costco last year with a friend. The things I bought were well priced, and I have been happy with the quality - eg 12.5 kg bags of bread flour, 6 x 1 litre bottles of tomato passata, 12 cans of tomatoes, sugar and rice (can't remember the quantities), 4 litre bottles of vinegar, 2.5 litre bottle of dish washing liquid, cat litter (can't remember the quantity), 3 litre bottle of canola oil. I bought some chicken which was very good - 2 kg chicken thighs, I think. My friend bought fish and meat and says she is always happy with the quality, and also likes the cheese there, which I haven't tried. We don't have a lot of storage space at our place, but I might join this year after we have our kitchen renovations done - there are 3 adults here and I think we would get our money's worth. I am pretty good at sticking to a list/only buying what I know we will use.

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  26. I have a Costco membership tied to my (no fee) American Express card. We save our $ .. and then when we need to travel, I charge the costs .. and earn a yearly cash rebate that I apply to my yearly Costco membership. Since we save before we charge, we have the money to pay off the card each month. The only things we routinely buy are imported Kerrygold cheese from Ireland, dish soap, organic maple syrup, organic rice. All of our other food items are sourced from local farms (milk, eggs, meat).

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  27. We're in the US in central Ohio, used to shop at Sam's Club, but they're part of WalMart and notoriously don't treat they're employees well. Depending on the stage your family is at, there can be some things there that make amazing sense. We ditched Sam's for Costco, but so far they have not had the very large cans of tomatoes that my husband likes for making tomato sauce - which he makes an awful lot of. Necessary paper products (TP) are a deal, and save you from having to haul home multiple packages of them from the local store. One trip to Costco can last for months. Try the Kirkland products - some we like, and some we don't. They were passing out TP sample rolls when we were there once - we decided to pass on those. Coffee, depending on what roast you want, may also be a good buy.

    You do have to not be seduced by all the products you don't see elsewhere, or that look amazing but you don't need a ton of them. One product we liked at Sam's (though they sometimes didn't have it) was a rice blend that was packaged in a large container. Very good, very good price, couldn't always get it, and we don't see it anywhere else.

    Another option to these places may be something like Gordon Food Service (GFS) in the US. They're really targeting restaurants, but some of the products they carry are hard to find elsewhere, and are often in smaller quantities than Sam's or Costco. When buying packaged spices - the larger containers may be the same price as the small ones at the corner store, and may last nearly forever. Yes, they age, but you can always just use a little more, and for things you use a lot of, can be a good choice. We seem to go through a lot of chili powder, Italian seasoning, dried bay leaves and paprika, and for those, the large packages are a good choice. If you think the large packages have gotten too old - well, depending on the price, you've likely beaten the little ones already, so you can discard and start fresh.

    We have friends who say they buy most of their clothes at Costco. And for other household items, you still need to check prices before assuming they're a deal.

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  28. I love our suburban Chicago Costco. My husband and I are in our sixties and I eat gluten free. We get shelled almonds, organic salad, cheddar and Swiss cheese free of hormones, GF bread, fair trade chocolate chips, granola bars, some clothing, organic eggs--we shop frugally and I always compare prices with other stores. Our membership pays for itself by using the store's Amex credit card there and for gasoline.

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  29. Rhonda, Our experience with Costco has been a positive one. But we are very careful what we buy there. We limit ourselves to the basics. The money we save on milk and toilet paper each month pays for our annual fee, then any other savings are a bonus. On any given month we will usually buy Milk, Eggs, cheese, flour, whole wheat (buckets of un-ground wheat), salt, raw nuts, honey, bar soap, baking soda (for cleaning), vinegar (for cleaning), toilet paper, Butter, eye care products (for my contacts). Then we add when needed other canned goods, etc. At least here in the US Costco offers a pretty good selection of organic items and we will buy canned beans, tomatoes, apple sauce and few other items depending on what we have left from the garden stores. We do buy fresh produce there every once in a while but only organic items that have a longer shelf life (like carrots & potatoes). And we will buy meat there but very rarely as we are not really big meat eaters so it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to buy bulk meat. Over all though we really like Costco and have had a membership there for 15 years. You have to be really careful though, I know folks that just can't say no to a good deal and leave Costco every month with over $1000.00 worth of stuff! We usually budget about $175 for Costco items every month.

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  30. We used to have a Costco membership but not anymore. For two of us the numbers just did not work. I prefer to buy my produce fresh, I'm not a big fan of buying enough of anything to last me for 6 months in one hit. I think the consumerism can be witnessed when you get to the checkout and you see most trolleys are full of frozen crap. It was enough to put me off ever stepping foot in the store again. I had a friend who shopped there, said it was cheaper to just buy the fresh produce there and throw out the leftovers rather than shop at a regular grocery store. Once again not a practice that I enjoy.

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  31. I like Cosco. There is only my husband and myself, but I do shop there once in a while. However, it takes a bit of willpower. I always have a list, I buy only the things I know I will use, and I comparison shop with the circulars prior to going. Sometimes, it's cheaper to buy things on sale at your local store than it is to buy them in bulk at Cosco. As our children have grown and gone, it is not the savings that it once was.

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  32. I joined Costco purely for the zombie apocalypse aisle. Tins and jars of things.
    I knew I could save money here.

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  33. No costco near us Rhonda! But reading all these comments with much interest!

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  34. Thanks to everyone for all the comments and the links, it is so helpful. Ethical shopping takes time and energy and in this we all differ and therefore make different choices. I spend a lot of time and energy balancing local versus organic, local store over local IGA and then Coles or Woollies, all in an effort to balance ethics, values and $$$. I can see that I am not alone. I don't think Costco is for me. I live in the northern burbs of Melbourne and we have a lot of options for bulk buying within a short car, train or tram trip. But I will check it out next time my friend goes just to make sure. ;-)
    kate

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  35. I don't and won't shop at costco as it is foreign owned and profits go straight back overseas, but have a dgtr who loved it, From what i could see she bought a whole lot of junk and impulse purchases which were a waste of money. Large bags of crappy quality chocolates and other things of dubious value. How bout we all buy LESS, not huge amounts of MORE. You can tell I'm not impressed. If we wnat that type of shoppping, we are going the right way about it.I say Boycott costco!

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  36. Like Ock Du Spock we don't have one near us, in fact I don't think they exist in the UK, but interesting to read the comments!

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    1. Sustainable mum yes just to answer there are Costco stores in the uk

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  37. We go halves in membership with a friend. We are a household of three and don't shop there often and only for specific products, so if we has to pay the full membership I don't think we would do it. We enjoy the adventure every three months or so thou.

    Aldi is usually cheaper and offers better quality meat & veg (and most groceries but here are the things that we buy there:

    Baking soda: huge bag (5.5kg) that last forever (great for cleaning) ad so much cheaper than buying from woollies/coles.
    Bacon: the have a smoked bacon from south australia with a German sounding name that is amazing.
    Nuts: bulk packs of walnuts, pine nuts, slithered almonds and I store them in the freezer to keep them fresh.
    Quinoa
    Panko breadcrumbs (for the best schnitzels!)
    Havarti cheese: presliced, delicious and $11 a kilo. Guilt factor is high though as it is made in the US. They need an Aussie brand for this.
    Kirkland Garbage bags: thickest and best I have ever found.
    Commercial sized glad wrap, aluminium foil and baking paper: I try and buy these when costco has them on a coupon special. Even at regular prices they are really good value.
    Hershey's cocoa (650g).

    Occasionally they have really good deals on wine but I usually take pic of the price on my iPhone and go to dan Murphy's for a price beat. It is never by much but I like to spread my grocery love around a bit.

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  38. While Costco is a big box store, they treat their employees very well. In the US, they get paid a living wage with twice annual bonuses after five years, decent health benefits, and a good retirement package.

    As for their items, you have to be choosy. If you can't deal with temptation, then you probably shouldn't get a membership. If you are a shop-from-the-list kind of person like I am, it's no problem. We eat local and organic when we can. Today, my family went to Costco and we bought cat litter at a greatly reduced price, organic semi-local cheese, sustainably raised fish, sustainably sourced chocolate chips, dates (my 2 year old is obsessed), and unsalted nuts. We buy their toilet paper in large quantities once or twice a year. We're only a family of three (soon to be four), but we buy in bulk, repackage into mason jars, and fill our pantry by traveling there probably no more than 8 times a year.

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  39. One thing i haven't seen mentioned is that Costco has a very generous return policy -- you can return anything for one full year. I'm in the US, but I would expect that it would be the same everywhere.

    The items I find to be a good deal include: nuts (the package size is large, but we make our own granola, baked goods, trail mix, etc so that's not a problem); olive oil, which has been independently tested and found to be very good; goat cheese (packaged in 2 logs); wine, household & seasonal items. For example a friend joined just to get the surf boards -- apparently a VERY good deal.

    It is true that those of us striving to live simply will find fewer things there, but between the things that I buy regularly and seasonal deals on things like garden hose, deck furniture, good quality snow shovels, etc -- I've found it to be worthwhile for my household of 3.

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  40. Hi Rhonda I have a Costco membership and find their products to be of excellent quality (not so much fruit and veg though).You do have to know your prices some things are cheaper elsewhere. I don't think it would be worth it for two though, the quantities are too large. I like to buy their maple syrup, condiments and sauces, cheeses and also their clothing range is usually great quality.They are a bit like Aldi in that they stock their staple products but also have a range of limited goods that are available until they sell out. I have got some excellent deals on stuff like boogie boards, skateboards, clothing, camping goods etc. They have a great return policy for goods as well. I go once every three months or so to stock up on bulk products. They are starting to get a bigger range of organic/whole food products which is good to see. For a larger family some of their prices can be very good. Sure we would all like to support locally grown products but sometimes this is not possible on a budget. I enjoy shopping there.
    Cheers Karan

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  41. Costco is the same as any other large supermarket type store. The good bits: There are bargains to be had. I love the toilet paper and the meat section. Costco provides opportunities for jobs in the community. Costco provides more competition. Bad bits: It is an O/S company but so is Aldi. The big supermarkets strip our farmers and small private shop owners of profits to drive profits up and costs down. Do you know that over 90% of Australian milk production is owned by 2 companies, one Japanese and one French. My opinion find a balance, shop local when you can and buy at a farmers market if possible. Then enjoy some of the things the big supermarkets provide.

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  42. Hello Rhonda
    I am a Costco shopper and there is only my husband, myself, 2 cats and 7 chooks, we don't buy a lot of food there but I do like to buy my toilet paper, tissues, washing liquid etc in bulk which works really well for us. If we do buy bulk food it is non perishable like quinoa, rice, flour coffee etc. I do try and buy Australian and the longer Costco is here the more Australian products they get. Everytime we visit we find something else Aussie...

    Also the new Costco that opened near us at Casula has petrol at a reasonable price, we saved the membership price on a tank of fuel for our Toyota Landcruiser which takes 150 litres to fill.

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    1. Wow I wish we had a fuel station at the melbourne docklands one sounds good though

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  43. Like many here, we do buy some of our bulk basics from Costco -- it is only 13km away from where we now live in Melbourne. We try hard not to get tempted by the other items, though at times it can be quite a challenge especially with their books.

    I do keep a price list of the items we typically buy (and how much we use up in a month or two), so I could easily see if the Costco price is worth stocking up on. I also tend to make everything from scratch, so although we are a family of only three, we usually get back the membership fee on bulk flour alone. I like that I don't have to waste so much packaging on smaller sized retail products, although I realise bulk shopping is not for everyone.

    From my price list, I normally buy the following: 12.5kg of Manildra Baker's Flour (Australian-made) for $9.79, 3kg of Australian-made white sugar for $2.09, 1kg of dried pitted dates for $5.89, 1.5kg of baking chocolate chips for $9.29, 600g of Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder for $8.69, 1.5kg of Sunbeam sultanas for 5.99, 1.3kg of raw almonds for 15.99, and 2L of Kikkoman soy sauce for $9.99.

    I also buy their Arm&Hammer bicarb at about $9 for 5.5kg.

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  44. Hello Rhonda~Being an Oregonian I consider Costco a local company, Seattle's just a jaunt up the pike. I caught myself smiling when I read one of your commenters say it was a "foreign company". :-) I always think of you in Australia as being just a few miles away.♥
    We have been Costco members for 15 years. It all began for us, as just a better laundry detergent and paper goods store, but we have found several great buys we use regularly. Besides the GAS....always at least 10cents cheaper a gallon than anywhere else in town~!!!
    We do not shop for ALL our produce at Costco, I am much too particular about pesticides etc. The fact that we choose to eat seasonally, gives us opportunity to support local valley farmers markets and makes us immune to the temptation to buy Chili and Peruvian berries, grapes and melons (sold 12 months of the year). **However, during the winter months the wonderful Power Greens from the Washington State hoop house hydroponic farms is a mainstay for us.

    I am confident of any product with a Kirkland brand. Kirkland brand coffee is roasted by Starbuck's, another Seattle-grown world dominating business, which I like!
    One thing I've noticed about Costco's around the country; they source produce from the neighboring local areas when possible. Other products sold are the Best Possible in their category.
    Just a couple for example: the vanilla extract is The Best, and Johnny's Garlic Spread seasoning is handy and a good value (even if one could make it yourself). The Northwest-grown berry jam has been known to come home with me too~! Mmmmm.
    I hardly ever even look in the cooler or freezer sections, (since I 'cook from scratch' regularly) and these are full of more packaging than product. My berries are frozen in my freezer during the season and fresh veg is used at my table. I am NOT fond of 'farmed fish' or 'feed-lot produced' meat sections, because I buy very local here in my valley.

    Yes, I am picky-picky when it comes to what I buy @Costco. Rarely do I go over $100, plus gas fill-up.
    I would categorize Costco as a "convenience store" for those fortunate to have unlimited freezer and pantry space. Otherwise, for me it has come in very handy when I've needed large supply of "satisfactory" (not necessarily Gourmet or Home-Made) food for guests when entertaining or a trip to the coast with the 'grands'.

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  45. I also am from Oregon and live about 2 miles from costco. I only shop for basic items that I know to be a good price. White vinegar, baking soda (aka bi-carb) Coffee, sugar, oats, batteries. I will not buy produce from them. Ours does not buy local and almost all of it goes bad within days. I know that the prices of meat are the same as my butchers, however the meat is not from this area, not organic, and often has recalls. The long lines in check out are such a headache that I only visit 3 times a year just to stock up. I share a membership fee $55(yearly) with 3 friends. We go shopping together and all leave with a need to never go back again. Their return policy is fabulous though, it doesn't matter if you bought it a year ago and you ran it over with the car. They will take it back and return your money.

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  46. Yaha , you are right about the returns I have returned a dyson fan that was very expensive I wasn't satisfied with the item and I got my money refunded, I also had a vacuum cleaner that had a issue and I wanted another but what they do is refund you the money and the you go and buy it again

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  47. I live in the USA (Florida) and my family loves Costco. I used to have a big organic garden but due to health issues I can no longer do that. I have found large bags of frozen vegetables, milk, eggs, chicken and ground beef (all these are organic!) that I can stock up on. We also get their dog food, and paper goods. Yes, you have to be careful of the temptations, there are lots of gadgets and things that are enticing, but as a family we have found Costco to be mostly good for saving money. They also have a department where you can get eye exams and eyeglasses. Every family has different needs, but for us we go about once a month and are very satisfied with their products.

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  48. Hi Rhonda. I am very late to this post and pretty late to your blog, which I am enjoying immensely I must say!
    I am a member of Costco here in Melbourne and have been for about 2 years. We are a family of of 2 adults, 2 dogs and 3 chooks and I have bought items in bulk - dog food, makeup wipes (for a friend) t-shirts, (same friend), washing powder, food items, razor blades etc
    I understand the opinion of some who question the need to pay a membership fee to be able to shop there, but I don't buy into that argument. I saved the amount of the membership fee on my first trip there, plus some. And if you shop at one of the large supermarkets then you're probably paying a kind of membership fee without really knowing it by way of higher prices.

    Costco check your docket as you leave the store because, I was told, people were leaving with a trolley load full of items, then heading back in and filling up the trolley again and leaving without going through the checkout.

    The items on offer are sourced from Australia and overseas-Kirkland is the their "home" brand and I've found the items I've bought to be excellent.

    ....yes you need storage room at home to stock some of the items, but to be honest, not everything comes in massive amounts. The trick I think is to start your own little neighbourhood co-op and shop divvy the bulk items up between neighbours. Everyone can be a winner.
    Hope that is a help...even if I'm pretty late to the party
    Cheers

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