No question, I’m a Costco fan. I’ve written about the things I always buy at the massive warehouse store, and I love the 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 two gallons for less than $5. But the two 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 — and 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.
9. Giant jars of unwrapped candy
One year, a sibling gave my dad a Costco jar of chocolate raisins, his favorite snack. But this isn’t a movie-theater-size box of candy — there was more than 3 pounds of snackage in that enormous jar. The jar sat there for years turning into chocolate rocks, with only a little bit of the candy eaten, until we finally composted the contents.
I’m not even sure if a Costco candy jar is appropriate for office sharing since the candies aren’t wrapped, and since the pandemic, most people are twitchy about reaching into a communal candy jar with bare hands.
I’m a fan of breakfast cereal, but unless you are devoted to one specific variety and eat it every day, Costco’s probably not the place to buy it. Costco cereals are usually two boxes wrapped together, which is great for a daycare center but less so for your average eater.
Once we open a box of cereal, it goes stale faster than we like. One exception: I like Costco’s variety pack of mini boxes in different flavors for when my daughter has friends sleep over. But even so, 30 boxes is bigger than any slumber party she’s ever had.
When I’m having a big Easter party, then I do buy eggs at Costco where they’re wrapped together in multi-dozen packs. But ordinarily, I skip them for that very reason.
Even if our family is on an egg kick and I know we’ll use several dozen eggs in a short amount of time, I don’t like the packaging. My Costco sells two dozen eggs in clear plastic packaging which doesn’t seem as secure as a regular cardboard carton – plus, I don’t have room in my fridge. Fragile eggs, after all, can’t really be shoved around and stacked precariously like more forgiving foods.
12. Brussels sprouts
I don’t recommend buying Brussels sprouts at Costco, but it’s not that my family doesn’t enjoy the veggie. We’re actually big fans. But after years of cooking them, I’ve learned from experience that smaller Brussels sprouts are easier to work with and tend to be sweeter. At my grocery store, I choose the smaller sprouts out of a bulk bin and leave the light bulb-sized ones behind.
Costco’s Brussels sprouts are pre-bagged and from what I can see through the packaging, they’re enormous. They’re inexpensive, but I’ll keep on selecting my own and sticking with the smaller variety.
13. Salad greens
We all know the importance of eating salad. And maybe families the size of the Waltons adore stocking up on salad greens at Costco. I just can’t do it. There are only three of us, we don’t eat salad with every meal, and I can’t seem to preserve a multi-pound bag of fresh greens without it turning to an oozy mess in a hidden part of my fridge.