September 21, 2021

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The 40 Best Costco Shopping Hacks

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Listen for the bell.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of sweet, sweet chicken. Each time you hear a bell go off inside a Costco store, it means that a fresh batch of rotisserie chicken was just stocked.

There’s a secret price code.

Did you know there is a secret pricing language in Costco? According to Tough Nickel, different prices reflect different types of markdowns. An item priced at $0.99 is regularly priced with no deal, anything that is priced at $0.97 has been marked down and has good value and an item priced at $0.88 or an even dollar has been majorly reduced, which means the manager is eager to move the product. The more you know!

Also: Look for the asterisk symbol on price tags.

Keep an eye out for an asterisk or star symbol on the price tag. The symbol means the product isn’t going to be restocked, which means that you should probably stock up if it’s a favorite.

Buy in bulk (even if you don’t need it).

We’re not advocating for stockpiling toilet paper, but buying in bulk simply is the cheapest way to shop at a store like Costco. If you don’t have a place to store mountains of paper goods (and really, who does?), split the cost with a friend and share the supplies.

There’s no limit to your free sample consumption.

While other stores might be peeved at you hanging around the mini-hotdog samples, Costco welcomes it. The free sample culture is all part of Costco’s customer experience, so don’t be shy about trying (over and over again).

…But try not to be swayed by them.

You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t intrigued by the free samples Costco is always giving out. But while they’re fine to enjoy as you shop, don’t underestimate the impact they can have on your budget. The free samples are used by the store to expose you to products you wouldn’t normally try, after all. If you aren’t careful, you could end up with a lot of unanticipated items in your cart.

Don’t forget about the prepared foods section.

Any regular Costco shopper knows that there are a ton of pre-cooked or pre-assembled foods at the discount store. From ready-to-bake at home sourdough bread to quinoa salads, the offerings are a great way to cut your dinner prep time significantly (and affordably).

Make sure to bring your own bags.

If you’ve ever shopped at Costco, you’ll know that the brand doesn’t offer bags. To avoid having to pick through a bin of Costco cardboard boxes, make sure to pack plenty of reusable bags for your shopping expedition.

Kirkland products are secretly great.

Consumer Reports show that Kirkland products—everything from bacon to laundry detergent—ranked as some of the highest-quality products that are sold exclusively at Costco.

The meat department has some of the best prices.

While not everyone can bulk up on meat, consider stocking up if you have room in your freezer. If you follow Costco news, you’ll know that even celebrity chefs have praised the quality of the brand’s cuts, especially for that low Costco price.

Look out for deals on big brand names.

There’s more to our love of Costco than just buying in bulk. The warehouse store also provides premium prices on otherwise expensive brand names. It’s always smart to keep an eye out for sales that mark down prices on luxury items, like a Cuisinart ice cream maker, for example.

Beat the weekend shopping rush.

Just like avoiding rush hour on the highway, try to steer clear of Costco on weekends (the store’s busiest days). Instead, try shopping at midday during the week if you can.

But you might not even have to visit the store.

If lines and crowds aren’t your thing, you can snag your favorite Costco prices online instead. Most major cities have Costco items available for online delivery.

It’s worth digging through the wine section.

If you know your wine, Costco is a great place to scour the bins for a deal. While the store is often known for its Kirkland brand, people have found high-value bottles as well. Since the store tends to display wines of different years together, if you pay close attention to the vintages, you could wind up with an impressive bottle.

And you don’t always have to be a member to buy wine.

While you must flash that shiny membership card for mostly all other Costco purposes, the wine section is one exception (in some locations). Certain states sell alcohol to non-members, while others do not.

You can take the empty wine crates home.

While Costco doesn’t have any use for the crates the bottles come in, the display-worthy wooden boxes are great for your own wine storage or any other DIY projects you might have at home.

You must try the Truffle Parmesan seasoning.

The Truffle Parmesan seasoning is to Costco fans as Everything But the Bagel seasoning is to Trader Joe’s shoppers. The cult product is sold both in-store and online, and is not to be missed. Not into truffle? We’ve rounded up all other Costco cult-faves here.

As well as Famous Dave’s Spicy Pickles.

Al Amin Foods
amazon.com

$35.03

While there are quite a few cult products at Costco, Famous Dave’s Spicy Pickles have started making the rounds as an internet favorite. The 64-ounce speciality pickle jar is stocked and ready for you to taste. 

There’s a Grey Goose “dupe.”

For years, people have been comparing the vodka from Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland, with Grey Goose—the former has even surpassed the latter in blind taste tests. All in all, the warehouse store’s vodka label is a well-kept secret to its members and worth stocking up on.

Yes, the giant teddy bears are worth it.

If you happen to spot Costco’s famous 93-inch teddy bear and think, “Is this a reasonable purchase?” the answer is “yes.” The plush toy has become a longtime love of Costco fans.

Some seasons have better sales than others.

Summer is the best month to snag big savings at Costco. While end-of-season sales occur regularly at the discount store, you’ll find markdowns on big-ticket items like patio furniture or pool gear.

The pharmacy has some of the lowest prices around.

Prescription prices can be out of control at times, but thankfully Costco comes to the rescue with some of the lowest pharmacy prices. The best part? You don’t even need to be a Costco member to use the pharmacy—just let the greeter know when you arrive.

Snag big savings on gift cards.

Costco gift cards are a great way to score a value for less, since the bundle price is typically lower than the value of the cards. You can score gift cards to local and national chain restaurants, movie theaters and stores and use them all at a later date.

Skip the gas station and fill up at Costco.

There’s one price that will never change.

While prices on your favorite Costco snacks and products may vary, there’s one price that won’t ever change: The Costco signature hot dog and soda combo. The discount store has repeatedly stated it will never raise the $1.50 price, making customers everywhere happy.

You can get a good deal on vacations.

If you haven’t taken advantage of Costco’s travel services department, you haven’t made the most of your membership card yet. The service can help book bargain prices for hotels, car rentals and resort packages.

Avoid the middle aisles if you’re looking for bargains.

Product placement is everything and once you’re a seasoned Costco shopper, you’ll get the lay of the land. According to Lifehacker, the products in the middle aisles of the store have the highest prices because it is a high-traffic area. If you’re hunting for a bargain, look around the edges of the stores.

You can pre-order Costco’s famous pizza.

The next time you’re planning a pizza party, keep Costco in mind. The food court isn’t just for spur-of-the-moment meals after you shop. Members are able to call ahead to place an order for the store’s larger-than-life pizzas.

There are always new additions to the food court.

The food court goes beyond pizza and hot dogs, too. Costco introduced a plant-based acai bowl for $5 at their food courts nationwide in 2018.

The bakery makes the best sheet cake.

If you’re throwing a party, going to Costco beforehand is a must. The sheet cake is the most famous item in the bakery (if not one of the top items in-store). The generous-sized cake makes for an easy and affordable way to feed a large number of guests—and it’s also absolutely delicious. That said, some stores may not be selling them right now. Be sure to call ahead to your local Costco and see what’s up before you head out to grab one.

Organic food can also be affordable.

Eating healthy and organic foods can often be difficult and expensive. Luckily, the warehouse store carries a ton of organic products at reasonable prices. According to Happy Healthy Mama, Costco’s prices beat out its competitors for items like organic beef and produce.

Consult the coupon book before you shop.

Even if you don’t cut coupons at other stores, we recommend taking a look through Costco’s coupon and deal booklet before hitting the store. Costco offers extra bargains (as high as 50 percent off certain products) through its in-mail pamphlets.

Shop out-of-season for the best prices.

While you may not be in the Christmas spirit in September, Costco will often start displaying last year’s holiday items early to free up storage space. Clear a spot in your closet and bring on the baubles.

Spruce up your spice rack.

Costco carries a wide, and we mean wide, selection of spices, from turmeric to chopped onion. The discount warehouse is a great place to restock your spice pantry for an affordable price.

Find savings in the flower department.

Whether the bouquet is for you or to perk up a party, take a swing by the floral department to see what’s in store. The warehouse store delivers big bargains on bulk flowers, arrangements and centerpieces.

Don’t wait to buy seasonal favorites.

There are some seasonal items at Costco that have a cult following, which means that die-hards tend to stock up on these special buys. Costco’s pumpkin pie is a great example of this; the flavor flies off shelves when it’s in-store.

Catch up on your reading.

For those who love to read, Costco offers up some amazing book deals. Whether you’re into cookbooks or the latest fiction blockbuster, take a glance at the book section to find a great deal. In the past, some celeb authors have even dropped by for in-store book signings!

Try the Costco app.

Forget your shopping list? No problem. If you download the Costco app, you have everything you need right on your smartphone. From new deals to a digital membership card, this app helps make your experience all that much better.

Order your office supplies here.

Costco’s Business Centers provide companies, executives and employees alike the chance to stock up on all office essentials. With even earlier hours than a traditional warehouse store, you can beat the long lines by going to one of these special locations.

Return almost anything with ease.

Costco’s return policy is one of the best in the business. You can even cancel and refund your membership at any time. Outside a few exceptions—like cigarettes and alcohol—mostly everything is returnable.

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