Earlier this year we did an in-depth price comparison between Costco and Trader Joe's. (While the two seem wildly different, they actually have a lot in common!) Since then, we've compared Costco's flower prices to other supermarkets, looked at Costco's produce prices, and even researched Costco's prices against those at Sam's Club.
We have a few more comparisons in the works, too, but we wanted to give a quick spoiler alert, because there's one major takeaway we've learned so far.
Turns out, Costco is almost always less expensive than mainstream supermarkets. Even when you factor in the basic $60 membership fee, frequent shoppers make up that money in savings in a matter of a few trips. This is something we always kind of thought we knew, but now we know for sure. A Costco membership is 100 percent worth it! (And no, we get nothing for saying as much.)
Read more: Should You Get a Costco Membership?
How Can Costco's Prices Be So Good?
There are a few answers to this question. For one, membership fees add up. Let's pretend that every member pays $60 a year for the Regular Gold Star Membership (and that's already low because we know some people pay double that for the Executive Membership). And some estimates put Costco memberships at 90.3 million people. That's a lot of money — a lot of money the company doesn't have to worry about making on sales.
Also, because of all those millions of members, Costco has tremendous buying power in the marketplace. That's to say that if Costco wants something, a vendor is going to make it happen — at a good price. There's also what Costco describes as its "never-ending quest for efficiency," which helps keeps prices down.
3 Ways to Make a Costco Membership Work for You
The biggest misconception about Costco is that it only makes sense for large families. But what we hear from our readers time and time again is that there are ways to make it work for couples, smaller families, and even single people. Here are some smart strategies.
1. Get a FoodSaver.
A FoodSaver is crucial if yours is a household filled with meat- or fish-eaters. While you may only need two fillets for a Tuesday night dinner, you can absolutely keep the rest of the package in the freezer until you need it. When you get home from the store, take the time to portion out larger packages into serving sizes that make sense for your family. Freeze the packs and just pull them out as needed.
2. Get a buddy.
You are technically not supposed to share your membership with people who do not live in your household. But if you and your neighbor both have a membership, why not start a CSA of sorts together? You can go halfsies on produce, meat, snacks, and whatever else you can't eat on your own. If you guys consistently get the same groceries, you could even work out an alternate shopping schedule to save yourself some trips to the store.
3. Stick to the basics.
If you're worried about stuff going bad before you can eat it, you can use your membership to shop only for shelf-stable stuff and paper goods. Even without buying produce and perishables, you'll still end up saving money with a Costco membership.
What do you think? Do you have any special tricks or tips for making Costco work for a small family?