No question, I’m a Costco fan. I’ve written about the things I always buy at the massive warehouse store, and I’m a fan of their food court’s $1.50 hot dog and drink combo too. But just as with my beloved Target, I admit that not every store should sell everything.
I’ve been a Costco shopper for decades now, and I’ve learned through my mistakes that some items are better bought elsewhere. It can be hard to look at those cheap Costco prices and giant sizes and walk on by, but a deal’s not a deal if it’s a massive daycare-size jar of jelly and you have a family of three.
Here’s a look at some foods I never buy at Costco.
Our family is slowly shifting to dairy alternatives, like oat milk, but even before that, I was no fan of buying regular milk at Costco. The price is acceptable — my store sells 2 gallons for less than $5. But the 2 gallons are yoked together, making it a lumpy, uncomfortable item to heave into my cart and trunk.
And have you ever tried to pour milk out of a Costco gallon? The plastic container is shaped oddly — probably for better stacking in the store — but I spill it every time I pour. Not to cry over spilled milk, but the awkward container makes any savings not worth it.
2. Extra virgin olive oil
To ensure you consume this healthy fat at its freshest, the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, advises consumers to not buy a container of olive oil they can’t use up in about six weeks. But unless you’re feeding a big family and using olive oil at every single meal, you’re unlikely to go through a Costco-size bottle that quickly.
I’m a fan of Costco birthday cakes, and there’s usually some container of other baked sweets at the warehouse club that I can buy for my book club. But I’ll always pass on the store’s croissants.
The price is right: My local store sells a dozen for less than $5. But the croissants are huge — like New York-style pizza-slice huge — so I find about half of each croissant ends up uneaten. And while they’re acceptable for a mass-produced baked good, I’ve been spoiled by my local French bakeries, which turn out flaky, fresh croissants that remind me of Paris. Costco’s croissants just aren’t for me.
Costco sells whopping jugs of salsa in many varieties, and who doesn’t love the accent that salsa gives to a good Mexican meal? But I’ve tried multiple flavors there and miss the freshness of salsas from delis or specialty brands. One of our local grocery stores churns out its own small-batch salsa and its own tortillas, and I just can’t go back to the ho-hum salsa Costco sells. Plus, I’ll never get through a giant jar before it starts to grow mold.
Even though I live in coffee-centric Seattle, I’m not a java snob — I can drink almost anything. But I don’t even slow down in the Costco coffee aisle. Those 3-pound cans and bags of whole beans or ground coffee are probably perfect for when Pam on “The Office” has to stock the Dunder Mifflin break room, but for our small family, they’re too much and not worth the storage space.
I adore avocados — whether sliced on a sandwich or smashed into guacamole. But Costco sells them by the bagful, and they’re all usually hard as rocks when sold. That makes sense — shoppers don’t have to eat them up the very next day. But avocados have such a brief window of perfect softness, going from boulder-hard to brown and squishy in a blink, that I waste more than I use. It’s a pain to stand at my local grocery store and hand-select an individual avocado or two based on softness, but it saves on food waste.
Applesauce from Costco seems like a fine purchase for daycare centers. But four giant jars shrink-wrapped together, as is sold at my store, would be a lifetime supply for my family’s home. I was actually happy to discover that regular grocery stores now sell four-packs of individual cups of applesauce since one small cup makes a good lunchbox addition or a decent serving to accompany pork chops. (My Costco sells the individual cups too, but the smallest container I saw has 36 cups.)
Costco’s spice section is a restaurant owner’s dream. Turmeric, chopped dried onion, crushed red pepper, chili powder, cumin, taco seasoning — the solid staples of a spice rack are all there. But spices lose their potency if you keep them for a long time, and it would take me years to use up 12 ounces of ground turmeric. Plus, my kitchen has a nifty pull-out spice rack that is made for individual 2-ounce jars, and I don’t need six times as much.
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