We love shopping for Costco bargains, but it turns out some of the warehouse store’s Kirkland Signature house brand offerings are not the sweet deals they seem to be.
Often it’s just too much of a good thing. You won’t use up the item before it goes bad. Or you might eat nearly 4 pounds of peanut-butter filled pretzel nuggets for under $10 before they go stale, but should you?
Costco says it launched Kirkland Signature products in 1995 to meet or beat “national brands by controlling every element of the item’s creation, including packaging and transportation.”
We scoured the shelves at a Costco warehouse, checked online offerings at Costco.com and pored over product reviews from The New York Times’ Wirecutter, Consumer Reports and others. We found plenty of great savings on quality Kirkland Signature items.
One of my staples remains nitrate-free sliced oven-roasted turkey breast cold cuts sold in three 14-ounce packs, which were recently priced at under $10, or $3.77 a pound. That beats prices on nationally advertised brands at my local supermarkets but is on a par with Walmart’s Great Value house brand.
Here are some other Kirkland Signature items, however, that likely are not worth your dollars.
That 3-pound can of Kirkland Signature 100% Colombian Coffee, recently selling for $10.99, might appear as a bargain until thoughts of freshness and per-unit pricing percolate through your mind.
Coffee connoisseurs might argue that ground coffee is already past its peak when you buy it, regardless of expiration dates. But think about how quickly you will use it up once opened.
We found smaller containers of Folgers and supermarket house brands at the same price per ounce, especially when using coupons.
2. Albacore Tuna
Kirkland Signature Albacore Tuna may be a great deal for your wallet but not so much for the planet, says environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
The tuna “is caught by destructive longlines that lead to bycatch of threatened species like sharks,” says Greenpeace.
Costco’s label states it uses monofilament leader lines and circle hooks.
Greenpeace recommends instead buying Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna, which Costco also carries.
You may raise a glass of Kirkland Signature whisky, but, experts advise, pass on the Kirkland Signature tequila.
The tequila has “an unnatural sweetness like it does not come straight from an agave field or distillation,” one reviewer told the Seattle Times.
“It’s like wearing clown shoes or something. It’s out of place,” said another of the tequila’s taste.
One reviewer branded the anejo, which is aged in oak one to three years, as tasting like a cheap brandy.
The website Eater slammed the anejo as “essentially tequila-flavored vodka with a dose of artificial coloring to mimic the barrel-aged color.”
Finding room in your fridge for two awkwardly square-shaped gallon jugs of Kirkland Signature milk and pouring it without spilling may be enough to sour you on its bargain price, recently seen at $5.59, or $2.79 a gallon.
But like other bulk items, will you really use up both jugs before the milk spoils? Most of us toss dairy products when the date on the label has passed even if it has a few more days of shelf life.
Depending on your family size and milk consumption rate, you might get more out of smaller containers at just a few pennies more per ounce.
Like other fresh foods, buying eggs in bulk can be tricky. You might go through a five-dozen pack during their shelf life. But are Kirkland Signature eggs really cheaper by the dozen if you end up tossing some?
A 60-pack of Kirkland Signature large eggs was recently selling for $8.99, or $1.80 a dozen. The same day a regional grocery chain was selling one dozen Nulaid jumbo eggs for just $2.28 and Walmart offered a dozen of its Great Value house brand eggs for $1.98.
Freshness costs just a few cents a dozen extra.
6. Dishwasher detergent pacs
The dirt on Kirkland Signature dishwashing detergents is skip the pacs. Of the 14 single-dose detergents for which Consumer Reports had reviews as of the time this article was written, the Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Detergent Pacs ranked No. 10. The publication gave the product an overall score of 76 out of 100.
What’s more, the No. 1 detergent pac on Consumer Reports right now is from the house brand of another warehouse club, the Member’s Mark brand at Sam’s Club. Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs earned an overall score of 92 out of 100 — by far the highest of any detergent pac or gel dishwasher detergent in Consumer Reports’ ranking.
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7. Facial tissues
Kirkland Signature brand tissues are something you shouldn’t sneeze at. Literally.
When Consumer Reports rated facial tissues based on softness and strength in 2014, the Costco brand came up just so-so because it wasn’t as strong as other brands. Higher-rated Puffs can be found for about the same price, just over a penny per tissue.
Six years later, Wirecutter deemed them unworthy of rating, along with several other store brands:
“Most received middling or poor reviews from Consumer Reports and showed up on no other outside publications’ recommendations.”
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