If you ever want to know how popular you are post a message on Instagram saying you have just renewed your membership and have a couple of cards that you can share with people to join your Costco account. Within seconds (literally seconds) you will be inundated with hundreds of “oh my god, yes please” messages from friends desperate to get their hands on a slightly-too-high-to-be-comfortable Costco Trolley.
Or maybe your overflowing inbox is just a sign of Costco’s popularity.
For anyone unfamiliar with Costco, it’s a “cash and carry” type wholesale warehouse that allows you to buy everything from a 57″ TV to an £18,000 diamond necklace whilst also filling your trolley with a carrot cake to feed 16; 48 eggs; a signed Manchester United kit, framed; 3kgs of pecan nuts; a large Father Christmas figure that stands at your front door greeting guests, and enough loo rolls to ensure in the next pandemic you can set up a side hustle selling them on eBay for a tenner a packet of four.
Membership of Costco is done in one of two ways: you either have to be an “individual member” and work in one of a few qualifying professions (solicitor, teacher, local government, emergency services or forces to name a few) or have a company that allows you to join with a trade membership. Joining with the latter allows you to have up to six cards on the one account and is how I found myself with a couple of spare cards to share last week.
We have been members for years and whilst it isn’t necessarily cheaper to shop at Costco (there are no Buy One Get One Free offers for instance) it is possible to buy in bulk so sometimes it can work out cheaper. For instance you can buy their own label washing powder in a huge tub (it will say for commercial use only, ignore that) for about £9 which is clearly far cheaper than a named brand. Buy the named brand though and it will more expensive than you can buy it for in a supermarket, and certainly more than the supermarket’s own label. Also, if you are buying for a business and are VAT registered it easy to account for the VAT.
Things you should bear in mind when shopping at Costco though.
- There is obviously an annual fee for each card, and you need to make sure you shop there in order to make the card pay for itself.
- You don’t get a huge amount of choice. Want baked beans? Great you can buy a tray of 12 standard sized cans, or you can buy six cans that are 2kg each. All of them, one brand and no, you cant buy a single tin.
- You can buy a plastic bag full of 36 bread rolls but it is unlikely you can buy a loaf of bread.
- Just because you bought something once doesnt mean it will be there next time.
- You dont pack stuff into carrier bags at the check out. You put it back in the trolley, into a low card board box picked up at the check out if you are feeling fancy but half the fun is that you have to just fling all your stuff into the car boot.
- Remember the large price you see on the shelf isn’t necessarily the price you pay, you have to add VAT (if applicable) which will be shown but is often in a smaller font.
- Dont shove the receipt into your bag, you need to show it at the exit to prove you havent tried to get out without paying for that box of 48 packets of crisps.
- It is all very well buying 24 of the most delicious fresh cookies you have ever eaten, but the best before date will be in two days and if you dont have a family of six at home that is quite the commitment. Even if it is only £8.
- If you are going with a Trade Card you can get in an hour earlier than individual members, so the queues at the till be shorter.
That said I love my monthly trip to Costco and it struck me as I was reading this article earlier in the week “I’m a chef who shops at Costco, here are my 12 favourite things to buy” that I should probably do something similar. So here we go
- Boxes of breakfast pastries. They do either boxes of full size croissants, or a selection of smaller pastries including pain au chocolat and raisin whirls
- Brownies. Again in boxes and whilst they have a best before of about a week there is never any danger of them getting anywhere close to surviving that long
- In fact just go in and buy the entire bakery department. You wont be disappointed.
- Fresh ready to bake pizzas. They are huge and about £8. In fact they are so huge they dont fit in our oven and have to be cut in half.
- Fajita kits. In the fresh fridges, it comes with the tortilla wraps, the coleslaw, the shredded chicken and pots of salsa and sour cream. Feeds four. £15. Damn they are so good
- Their meat. (sorry vegetarians). Their meat is superb. You really wouldnt think it but the quality is superb and better than any local supermarket. if you cant use or freeze a big tray of mince then maybe ask if you have friends who want to split it with you? It is well worth it.
- Loo rolls. I know that sounds boring but their own brand loo rolls are excellent and nobody really needs to be paying for a picture of a cute Labrador puppy.
- Teabags. We get through ALOT of teabags in this house and so buy them in huge sacks of 1500. A word of advice though, don’t be an idiot and slice the bag open with a steak knife like I did once. Not unless you want to be Hoovering tea for ten minutes.
- Spices. As long as you have the space to store them, the spices are great value and when you do as much cooking from scratch with spices as we do it really does work out more economically. I decant them into smaller more easily handled tubs for day to day use.
- Pretzels. Remember those little packs of Pretzels you get on a plane with a drink? You can buy those in huge kilo bags.
- Fajita kits? Did I mention the fajita kits? Honestly, buy the fajita kits.
- Trays of fizzy drinks. They dont go off and we like to have a bit of a selection so tend to buy one or two each time.
- Frozen cheese filled jalapeño peppers from the freezers. Seriously good and worth having in the freezer at home.
- Large tubs of Haribo and other sweets. Especially in the build up to Halloween
- Books, though this is more pertinent at Christmas. They have a large selection all year round and many of them you might not have seen before, especially the children’s books. Well worth keeping an eye on these if you have a few children to buy for and keeping them for December.
I am sure I will keep adding to this list, but if you have something in the meantime do let me know!
Image of Costco courtesy of Shutterstock