The One Thing You Should Do Before Shopping at Costco

updated Feb 25, 2021
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Credit: a katz

If you’re a frequent Costco shopper, you know full well that it’s practically impossible to know what’s in stock before you go. This is because Costco doesn’t publicize current in-stock info on their website for each warehouse, making each visit feel like a treasure hunt. According to Costco’s website, they recommend calling customer service ahead of your trip to ensure availability. Which seems like a bit of a hassle, no?

But what if I told you there’s a super-easy (and free!) workaround? A few months ago I realized that, if you register with Instacart and simply create an account, you can browse any store’s item availability in real time — including Costco.

From the main Instacart page, just navigate to the Costco interface, which pulls up the warehouse closest to your zip code. This is how I make sure that my local Costco has my favorite cereal, cheese dip, or frozen fruit in stock before I make the trek over there. I will never shop at Costco without checking Instacart first ever again.

Not only does this make me feel like a more efficient grocery shopper, but it also helps me stick to my budget. Before making a trip, I add all of the items I need to my Instacart cart and stop before checking out. I then use the Instacart mobile app as a makeshift grocery list as I’m shopping the Costco aisles. This helps me to avoid impulse buys (just stick to the list) and get everything I need in one trip.

The best part of this method is that your final cart total will almost always be less than what appears on Instacart, because you’ll avoid up-charges and fees per item. Take this scenario, for example: A $10 bag of frozen strawberries at Costco can cost as much as $12.50 on Instacart (there’s usually anywhere from a $2 to $5 up-charge per item). If you get it from Costco directly, you’ll save $2.50. Your IRL total will be almost always be way less, which doesn’t exactly save you money, but it definitely has some sort psychological benefit. I love it when my actual total is, say, $50 less than the app suggests! But no matter what, this method means I’ll at least be able to get everything I need.

Have you tried this method before?