An Ode to Costco

If you’ve read this blog before, you may have gotten the impression that I’m a wee bit obsessed with a little store called Costco, and if so, well you were absolutely correct. I do a lot of my shopping there, and since moving to the suburbs I have an even greater appreciation for it. If you don’t have a car, Costco can seem pretty darn worthless, trying to fit a 2 pound box of cereal in your purse and then carry it home on the train, it’s not easy and not elegant. You also have to be a member to shop at Costco, or have a friend who will take you (I’m always willing to bring someone along with me into this wonderful world). Regular membership is $50 for a year, and for $100 you get an impressive “executive” membership which means you get money back on what you spend. If you’re like me and do a majority of your shopping at Costco, the $100 is totally worth it—for sure.

In order to give you a little insight into Costco, what it’s all about, and why I have a (maybe unhealthy) love of it, I attempted to document a typical trip to the magical superstore. It was kinda hard since I’m scared of people, and hate getting yelled at for taking photos in stores. We tried to be real covert—so please excuse me if the pictures are kinda lame. Like this one for example, I almost dropped the camera in the fish freezer when someone walked by, which would have been all kinds of gross.

Costco has come under fire about selling over-fished fishes, especially cod, so I’ve stopped buying it there. I’ve been sticking to salmon and flounder, and I’m hoping that they get themselves together and stop selling those poor cods. Bad form Costco.

Costco is a big ol’ warehouse where you can get most anything. Eyeglasses, tires, office supplies, underwear, shampoo, prescription drugs, meat, a huge tub of cheese-puffs—and so, so, much more. There is an optometrist, pharmacist, baker, photo lab, and butcher all on the premises. I think when most people think about discount clubs they think of items like this one gallon jar of mayonnaise. It kind of makes me sick just looking at it.

And while, yes you can purchase most condiments in gallon sizes at Costco, I assume (and hope) most of the people who buy them own restaurants, or have a lot of extra space in their fridge. The majority of people who shop at Costco are buying more practical items in bulk, like granola bars or paper towels. There is also some great produce; five huge avocados for $6, six heads of Romain lettuce for under $4, two pounds of blueberries for under $6 and dozens of other fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, meats, and cheeses, all at unbelievable prices. Alright, I know I sound like an advertisement, but I am continually blown away by the price difference between Costco and the supermarket.

Costco also treats their employees pretty well, at least compared to other superstores like Walmart and even Target. 85% of Costco employees have health insurance (compared with less than 50% at its competitors), and they renegotiate employee contracts every three years which provide things like paid vacation, bonuses and benefits. They also have an insane return policy, I mean they will take anything back, even years later. I’ve seen people bring in moldy fruit, used clothing, and broken electronics only to receive a cash refund without any hassle—truly astonishing. I can’t get into the impact that Costco has on small businesses but I’m sure it can’t be good, I try to buy stuff at the farmer’s market, but when you’re broke, Costco gives you the ability to eat healthy foods on a budget.

As much as I love Costco I can’t deny that it can be incredibly wasteful. Chips go stale, cheese becomes unrecognizable, you get so sick of cheerios that you never want to look at that stupid yellow box again, and don’t even get me started on some of the packaging. I mean does spinach that’s already in a sealed bag really need a huge plastic case clamped over it? No, it really doesn’t.

There’s also a stigma (and joke) about buying crap in large quantities, but sometimes it’s not crap it’s healthy stuff, and when you buy in bulk you’re forced to eat more of it. Of course that’s not always a good thing, and a certain percentage of the time you end up with a rotting pile of something in your crisper that you feel guilty about. I used to never buy fruit, it was so expensive at the grocery store, and then I felt precious about eating it, and then it rotted in my fridge. Buying large quantities of fruits and vegetables can be wasteful if you don’t eat them regularly, but at the same time, when they’re in your fridge you’ll find a way to consume more of them, and they don’t feel like a luxury.

Speaking of luxury, Costco has some fabulous luxury brands, perfumes, cosmetics, and of course, my beloved Fekkai shampoo. I’m so glad they re-stocked it.

One more problem with buying in bulk is storage. I’ve been routinely hit on the head with falling boxes of cereal, nearly cried when everything in my freezer shoots out and attacks me (nothing hurts more than a pound of frozen chicken cutlets), and I’ve found myself thinking “maybe the 10 pounds of oatmeal wasn’t such a great idea” when I can’t fit anything else in the cabinets. If you have space, it’s wonderful, if you don’t, it seems totally ridiculous. What I’ve learned is that you choose wisely. Stick to buying things that can sit around for a long time, don’t have to be refrigerated, and are used on a regular basis, like laundry detergent or of course cheese-balls.

Look at me with my loot, see how happy Costco makes me? Actually I used to have panic attacks when I went there due to the crowds, but I’ve learned not to go before big holidays, or on weekends or Thursdays (the orthodox community does a lot of shopping here, especially for shabbat).

I’m sure you’re just dying to know what I bought on my trip, so I’ll end with a little graphic for you to enjoy. Click to make larger.


Filed under shopping

13 responses to “An Ode to Costco

  1. I like your Costco buys! A relatively new one opened up kind of by me in Queens. I might want to get in on that.

    • Thanks Amanda! You should totally check out the Costco by you, I heard one just opened in Douglaston and I know there is one around Rego Park too. I haven’t been to them, but I’m sure they’re good. They have some pretty awesome beauty buys, definitely worth looking in to!

  2. mkz201

    I’ve tried to break the Costco habit as I kept ending up with ludicrous amounts of granola bars that I would never eat. However, there are certain things it would just be dumb to buy elsewhere, like toilet paper and tissues and paper towels. Generally, I find the fruit is imported from South America and not that tasty but you cannot beat them for lemon, limes and avocados.

    Looks like you have a pretty restrained, sensible haul there.

    • That restrained sensible haul was still $100, but all stuff that was needed. They sell the same fruit that they have at the supermarket, it’s all imported from elsewhere, the fruit at the farmer’s market is insanely priced, it’s like a 50 cents a blueberry, for that price a whole pie would cost $50!

  3. haren

    You could freeze the Granola bars Megan, take them to your office and distribute them to people who come in for York Peppermint Patties which we know you buy at Costco. And Justine didn’t even talk about DVDs CDs, holiday gifts and wrapping paper–school supplies too!

  4. Jennifer

    Tilapia is also a farm-raised fish so you can eat that too. I love your picture with the cart. I saw your ginormous box of Scoop Away.

  5. Kathy

    They finally opened a Costco in Manhattan! It was controversial, but Costco has promised to give back to the community and not to have delivery trucks idling for long periods of time (asthma is a concern). I went a few weeks ago. It felt just like the stores on Long Island. Two things that I think are important when shopping at Costco: Stick to what you need and know prices. Sometimes a local supermarket sale will be a better price. I’m glad to have the option of going there from home and not having to schlep stuff from L.I. all the time!

  6. I LOVE Costco! This is incredibly dorky, but my fiance and I once went just to walk around and imagine our lives at a time when we no longer lived in Manhattan and could at last buy huge amounts of food

    • That is in no way dorky Kate, I just wrote a whole post devoted to my Costco worship! I miss SO many things about living in the city, but Costco is one of the things I love about living in the suburbs!

  7. lizzy

    i went to costco for the first time a couple months ago when my boss bought a beautiful hydrangea plant from there and i had to copy him and get it for my apt. i almost bought a multipack of calvin klein bras too, but then i calmed down and put it back. i like the giant pepper grinder you can get and the giant thing of olive oil. that just makes sense. i’m told by my bosses’ wife(they’re costco freaks too) that you can get a set of 18 wine glasses for $14. DEAL WITH IT!

    • The big thing of olive oil is ESSENTIAL for anyone who cooks regularly (you just put some in a smaller container and keep it by the stove) you should totally get a Costco membership you save so much on stuff like kitty litter and toilet paper, do it!!

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