10 Tips All Costco Shoppers Need to Hear This Time of Year

published Dec 13, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Last month, I threw a big engagement party for my brother in my backyard. This, of course, meant two things: lots of planning and many, many trips to my local Costco. With a guest list of about 50 and a promise to feed them and supply bubbles, beer, and sparkling water, I had some work to do — and the mega-retailer was my go-to for all my party needs. 

While planning this party, I learned a lot about what Costco offers for parties, how to order, and what to stock up on for my next party. If you’re throwing a shindig of your own, this is what you need to know to optimize your Costco run and delight your guests. Of course, there’s still a pandemic going on, so prioritize the health and safety of yourself and your guests by making sure your gatherings follow CDC guidance.

1. Try to shop when it’s not so busy.

Costco is never exactly quiet, but I found that the superstore is much easier to navigate when you go early in the morning or, in my case, during a Sunday afternoon football game. Those shopping carts are enormous and anything you can do to mitigate aisle congestion is appreciated when you’re party planning.

2. Take advantage of their pre-made platters.

Don’t stress yourself out making sandwiches or appetizer platters — order them! Costco offers several party-ready platters for your perusal and asks that you give them 24 hours notice to prepare your requests. I requested mine a week in advance and the associate who brought them out to me thanked me for my pre-planning. If you can, order your platters more than a day in advance to give the team extra time.

One important thing to note is that Costco doesn’t talk its offerings up enough. The platter order form (usually found by the bakery or deli section) had me wondering exactly what I’d receive at pickup; the form only mentioned croissants and meat, no dressings or cheese. However, the croissant sandwich platters are absolutely delicious, and the order form does them no justice. They come fully dressed with cheese and lettuce, as well as two hefty bowls of mayonnaise and mustard for your guests to do their own spreading. 

If croissants aren’t your thing or you’d like to offer a few options to your guests, you can also order a meat and cheese tray, a shrimp platter, and chicken and Swiss roll-ups. If the croissant tray is any indication, they’ll be fabulous.

3. Peruse the frozen food section.

If you’re open to using your stove or oven to prep snacks, the Costco frozen food section is a treasure trove of goodies. They’ve got everything you could imagine, from pizzas to breaded shrimp to cauliflower rice. The possibilities are truly endless and can suit any type of party, from snacks-only to more gourmet-style appetizers.

4. Take a trip to dip city.

Costco knows how to party! Check out their dip selection for your festivities; they’ve got everything from classic guacamole to spinach artichoke to queso. Serve your dips of choice in cute ramekins or bowls instead of the bulk containers for a more upscale experience.

5. When all else fails, get a cake.

The best white sheet cake in the world comes from Costco — and I should know, because I got my wedding cake there. Costco offers a plethora of desserts, and many are available without having to order ahead. On the day before my party, I simply grabbed two tiramisu cakes from that day’s options. You can also order ahead if you need a certain dessert or want a custom message, but it’s not required for basic sweet treats.

6. And a cheese tray.

Costco’s cheese tray is absolutely excellent — a 10/10. Enjoy a variety of cheeses, all cut into adorable little slices for your guests’ sampling pleasure. Honestly, I would buy this just for myself. Find it in the cheese section alongside a true smorgasbord of delicious choices.

7. Make the party pretty with fresh flowers and plants.

Costco truly has everything, including affordable, beautiful, and seasonal bouquets and potted plants. Add a hint of fresh green glamour to your party with an artfully arranged bouquet (I like to buy two and mix them up myself) or some holiday-ready poinsettias.

8. Navigate the liquor store with confidence.

If you’re planning a party that requires alcohol, Costco’s monolithic liquor store can be a great place to stock up and save some money. You may not need a Costco card to access their liquor store; certain states don’t require membership, but check with your local store before heading out. 

Rumor has it that Costco’s Kirkland brand alcohol is produced by the big distillers, though that may not be entirely true. Regardless of its origins, Costco offers plenty of options to suit the theme of your event; I opted for two cases of their Kirkland Prosecco and a few multipacks of beer, as well as two cases of sparkling water. Offerings do change regularly, so it’s not a bad idea to check back if you’re looking for something in particular.  

9. Don’t forget toilet paper!

If you’re hosting an indoor party, you definitely don’t want to run out of TP. Costco is the perfect place to stock up; set a few rolls out in the bathroom just in case. 

10. In a pinch, order from home.

Did you forget a few essentials? You can order delivery via Costco itself, as well as via Instacart. You won’t be able to get everything Costco offers via delivery, but it’s great in a pinch. Just don’t forget to tip!

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Here’s How to Stock Up for Your Holiday Parties at Costco