The One-Stop Thanksgiving Shopping Guide: Costco

updated Oct 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Costco shoppers adore this bulk grocer for stocking up on everything from toilet paper to breakfast sandwich supplies, but if you haven’t stepped inside a Costco in a while, you might not know that this store is also the ideal one-stop shop for Thanksgiving.

Costco carries frozen and fully cooked turkeys and hams, 20-pound bags of potatoes, pumpkin pies, and cases of wine perfect for feeding a crowd at the holidays.

Here’s a guide for making Costco your one-stop holiday shop for Thanksgiving.

Why Costco Should Be Your One-Stop Shop for Thanksgiving

Costco, the holy grail of big-box grocery stores, isn’t just for stocking up on paper towels and getting hand soap in bulk — it is the perfect one-stop shop for serving a crowd this Thanksgiving. Beyond buying your turkey and ham from their meat department, you can get staples like butter in bulk for everything from pie-baking to sides. You’ll also find potatoes, rolls, and stuffing in bulk too.

Before picking up that turkey, though, you can also pick up an extra folding table (or two) and chairs, chafing dishes, and even wine glasses. You can literally get every ingredient for Thanksgiving dinner including the table to serve it on with one stop at Costco.

The Thanksgiving Menu We’re Shopping For

This is meant to be a one-stop shop, so we’re tackling the whole meal — drinks and dessert included. We’re shopping for all the ingredients, including some shortcuts, that will get your Thanksgiving dinner on the table. Here’s how we’re breaking it down.

  • Entertaining Basics and Pantry Staples
  • Appetizers
  • The Turkey
  • Side Dishes
  • Drinks
  • Desserts

The Costco Thanksgiving Advantage

The Basics

These are the “behind the scenes” ingredients. Beyond the basics like butter and eggs, you can also pick up napkins, disposable plates, and glassware too. Here’s what you’ll want to grab.

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Whipped cream
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Bread
  • Citrus
  • Spices
  • Maple syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Coffee beans
  • Paper towels
  • Paper plates
  • Disposable silverware and glasses
  • Extra folding chairs or tables for serving
(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

Our Favorite Costco Appetizers for Thanksgiving

Costco has a unique advantage over other one-stop shops in that it has a massive freezer section, generous cheese cases, and some prepared foods in the deli section. You can easy pull together an impressive cheese plate to keep guests occupied while they wait for dinner or toast a freezer appetizer or two for a more filling first course.

  • Butternut Squash Bisque: This prepared soup can be heated in the microwave just before serving or warmed in a slow cooker. Let guests serve themselves a small bowl as they come in from the cold to warm themselves up while the turkey rests.
  • Stonemilk Kitchen Apple Cranberry Baked Brie: This baked brie is already assembled and ready to bake. It makes a beautiful addition to a cheese plate or a standalone appetizer with crackers and apple slices for dipping.
  • Vegetable and Dip Tray: Costco sells large trays of pre-cut fruits and vegetables that only need to be opened to serve. This is a great option if you have a lot of kids coming to Thanksgiving and want to have some fresh options available for them.

The Costco Turkey

My brother worked at Costco for almost five years, and every year they give their employees a Turkey for Thanksgiving, so for several years we had a Costco turkey take center stage on our holiday table. Assuming you’re feeding a crowd (you are shopping at Costco, after all) consider picking up not only a frozen turkey, but also a frozen turkey breast as well. Short on time and oven space? Pick up a fully cooked ham or fully cooked turkey breasts.

  • Butterball Frozen Turkeys or Turkey Breasts: Having the option to buy just turkey breast to roast alongside the main event is incredibly helpful in ensuring leftovers even when feeding a crowd.
  • Kirkland Signature Oven-Browned Turkey Breasts: These fully cooked breasts are seriously delicious just reheated or as a reserve for turkey sandwiches the next day.
  • Not into turkey? Costco carries fully cooked honey hams and beautiful beef and pork tenderloins that are ideal for feeding a crowd.

A Mini Guide to Your Thanksgiving Turkey

(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

Budget Side Dishes

A side dish-heavy Thanksgiving menu is ideal for feeding a crowd on a budget. Costco makes buying side dish ingredients (and shortcuts) in bulk a breeze.

  • Stouffer’s Herb Seasoned Stuffing: Buy the classic Thanksgiving side in bulk, because let’s be honest — crowd or not, you need a ton of stuffing to make for Thanksgiving.
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Costco’s deli sells precooked, pre-mashed sweet potatoes that you can dress up with maple syrup, candied nuts, or marshmallows and warm up in your favorite casserole dish.
  • Green Bean Casserole: In the produce department you’ll find two-pound bags of fresh green beans, stemmed and ready for casseroling. They also sell bulk bags of Fresh Gourmet’s Crispy onions, because that five-ounce can of French Fried Onions isn’t going to be enough for your crowd.
  • Maple Roasted Butternut Squash: Look for containers of peeled and chopped butternut squash between the produce and deli department. Toss these beauties with butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon and roast for a simple alternative to sweet potato casserole.

Bulk Beverages

Praise Costco for selling wine and beer in bulk. My family fills up on the latter, but I also pick up a case of sparkling apple cider and sparkling wine while I’m there too.

  • Sparkling Soda: Among the cans and bottles of coke products sold in flats, you’ll also find fruit-flavored sodas like Izze, which work well for both teetotalers and cocktail-drinkers alike.
  • Sparkling Apple Cider: My mom always bought Martinelli’s apple cider for holidays, so I still pick up the four-pack from Costco every year. This everyday cider feels festive and can be enjoyed by adults and kids in a celebratory toast.

Pie and Other Desserts from Costco

Have you ever noticed the weight of Costco’s pies? Most average three pounds and they are baked from scratch in the store bakery. They average less than $10 a pie and easily serve 15.

  • Fresh Baked Pumpkin Pies: You can grab one of these in advance and freeze it for Thanksgiving.
  • Lattice Apple Pie: Another huge pie to feed a crowd, and it tastes just like you’d expect this classic to.
  • Pumpkin Rolls: These cake rolls come three to a package and are also freshly baked and assembled in the bakery of your local Costco. They’re an easy alternative to pumpkin pie and don’t require reheating, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Special Touches from Costco for Thanksgiving

This time of year, Costco is well-stocked with Christmas supplies along with their usual staples. Having a few boxes of Christmas cookies to serve post-dessert with coffee is a nice touch. We also buy a few of their gingerbread house kits for the kids to assemble after dinner is cleared and the adults are enjoying coffee or after-dinner drinks.

  • Extra chairs or tables if you need them
  • Coffee for after dinner
  • Flowers for the table

And that is all you need for Thanksgiving — thanks to one big Costco run! Is this how you shop for Thanksgiving too? If you have more tips and tricks from Costco Thanksgiving, tell us!