Costco is known as a low-price leader, but as the big-box and warehouse store landscape becomes more and more competitive, it’s getting harder to find unbeatable deals. Despite this, Costco still has some major purchasing power, which helps it keep costs way low. These 25 things on the list are items that you should always buy at Costco if you’re looking to save.
Organic Peanut Butter
- Costco price: 22 cents an ounce
- Target price: 25 cents an ounce
Costco is one of the top organic grocers in the country, and members flock to the warehouse store to save money on quality organic groceries.
“Oftentimes, people think that organic eating is well out of their budget,” said Kathlena Rails, founder of the website The Allergy Chef. “However, what many people may not know is that Costco, through their Kirkland Signature brand, has made organic eating very affordable.”
She is a fan of many Kirkland-brand organic products, including the peanut butter. Kirkland brand organic peanut butter is just $11.99 for two 28-ounce jars, which comes out to about 22 cents an ounce. Compare that price to about 25 cents an ounce for Target’s Simply Balanced brand. Amazon sells a few brands of organic peanut butter that are less expensive, but most of them contain sugar. The Kirkland brand contains just peanuts and sea salt.
Organic Maple Syrup
- Costco price: 39 cents an ounce
- Walmart price: 69 cents an ounce
It takes a mature tree an entire season to produce just a gallon of maple syrup, which is why it’s one of the more expensive grocery items. But that doesn’t stop people from eating it. There are cheaper alternatives, but they contain artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup. And when it comes to the rich, sweet maple flavor, there’s nothing like the real thing.
Many brands sell maple syrup at a premium, but a higher price doesn’t always mean better quality. Rails likes Costco’s organic maple syrup — a 1-liter jug of organic maple syrup that costs $13.29, or 39 cents an ounce. Both Walmart and Amazon sell NOW Foods organic maple syrup for 69 cents an ounce.
- Costco price: $4.99 per whole chicken
- Boston Market price: $9.99 per half chicken, plus two sides
Cooked rotisserie chicken makes for a quick and easy hot dinner in a pinch, but there’s a price to pay for the convenience — unless you’re shopping at Costco. Members can pick up a fully cooked, hot and ready-to-serve chicken for just $4.99. Compare that price to Boston Market, where you can get just half a chicken with two sides for twice the price.
Costco sells about 60 million of the delicious, ready-to-eat birds a year — as many as 75 million some years — at the same price as when the warehouse chain emerged in the mid-1980s, according to Fortune. It’s all part of a strategy to incentivize hungry shoppers to keep them coming back, and Costco is now building its own massive chicken production plant, including a hatchery and feed mill in Nebraska, to keep up with demand while keeping that famous $5 price tag unchanged.
- Costco price: 21 cents an ounce
- Amazon price: 31 cents an ounce
This Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread was born out of a chocolate scarcity during World War II and is now available for consumption in 160 countries.
Thank goodness Costco started carrying this sweet treat at a great price. The retailer sells two giant 33.5-ounce jars of Nutella for just $13.99 — about 21 cents an ounce. Compare that price to Walmart, where Nutella is about 26 cents an ounce, and Amazon, which sells a three-pack for 31 cents an ounce.
Macaroni and Cheese
- Costco price: 89 cents per box
- Walmart price: $1.54 per box
Mac and cheese has been a go-to, no-fuss, on-the-fly dinner for decades in America — and another bonus is that it’s cheap. “Cheap,” however, is a relative term. At Costco, an 18-pack of 7.25-ounce boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will run you $15.99, or 89 cents per box. At Walmart, the same 18-pack is $27.71. That’s $1.54 per box.
- Costco price: 25 cents an ounce for steak seasoning
- Walmart price: 54 cents an ounce for steak seasoning
Costco sells a wide range of cooking spices at really low prices — sometimes at even half the cost of competitors. For example, at Costco, McCormick Grill Mates Montreal steak seasoning is just 25 cents an ounce, compared to 54 cents an ounce at Walmart and 49 cents an ounce on Amazon. At Target, you’d pay as much as about 63 cents an ounce.
Hot Dog Meal
- Costco price: $1.50, including a 20-ounce drink
You don’t need a Costco membership to cash in on this incredible deal at the food court. For just $1.50, you can fill up on a quarter-pound, all-beef hot dog and a 20-ounce drink (with unlimited refills). Just as with its vaunted rotisserie chicken, Costco could rake in untold millions if it would just raise the price of its famous hot dog deal by only a little bit, but it chooses not to — for a reason.
A filling, tasty, low-budget food court incentivizes otherwise reluctant shoppers to hit the store for marathon shopping trips. In fact, the price of Costco’s famous hot dog deal hasn’t changed since Hebrew National — then Costco’s hot dog supplier — set up its first cart outside a San Diego Costco in 1984. Costco switched to its own Kirkland brand in 2009, but the deal remains the same.
- Costco price: 57 cents an ounce
- Amazon price: 72 cents an ounce
Bacon bits are good for so many things: topping salads, spicing up omelets or just scooping right into your mouth (don’t judge). This is another convenient food that Costco sells for unbeatable prices. The retailer’s giant 20-ounce bag of crumbled bacon bits costs 57 cents an ounce, compared to six 6-ounce bags of Hormel bacon bits from Amazon for 72 cents an ounce.
- Costco price: 17 cents an ounce
- Target price: 23 cents an ounce
The go-to breakfast for generations of American kids, cereal is an American staple. The staples can be expensive — but they don’t have to be if you shop at Costco. A two-pack of classic Cheerios, for example, will run you 17 cents an ounce at Costco, but those same Cheerios cost 20 cents an ounce at both Walmart and Amazon. Even those options, however, are a steal compared to Target, where you’ll pay 23 cents an ounce.
Luxury Bath Towels
- Costco price: $19.99 per two-pack
- Amazon price: $21.99 per two-pack
A nice bath towel can make or break your post-bathing experience, but luxury bath towels can cost a small fortune. Once again, Costco uses its buying power to drive down the price on this typically expensive item. The retailer carries Charisma Bumpy Rib bath towels, made of 100% Hygro Cotton, for just $19.99 for two. Amazon sells the same pack for $21.99.
- Costco price: 20% to 30% off face value
Most major retailers and grocery stores sell gift cards, but they aren’t always sold at a discount.
The deals on gift cards at Costco can be significant. You can buy two $50 gift cards to Romano’s Macaroni Grill for $74.99, four $25 gift cards to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for $79.99 and two $50 McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant gifts cards for $79.99. Costco also sells discounted gift cards for movie tickets, rounds of golf, iTunes, gym memberships and amusement parks. Whether you keep them for yourself or give them out as gifts, this is a great way to cut back on your budget without sacrificing the fun.
Over-the-Counter Allergy Medicine
- Costco price: 19 cents per pill
- Amazon price: 38 cents per pill
Costco has a huge selection of over-the-counter medicine, including Kirkland-brand allergy pills that are a fraction of the cost of competitors’ prices. Kirkland Signature Aller-Fex costs $33.49 for 180 tablets or about 19 cents per pill. Aller-Fex ingredients are comparable to Allegra, which Amazon sells for 38 cents a pill, Walmart sells for 48 cents a pill and Target sells for 34 cents a pill.
- Costco price: 6 cents per ounce
- Walmart price: 11 cents per ounce
It’s been well-established that you can save money on the humans in your family by taking advantage of Costco’s low prices, but you shouldn’t stop there. Costco has a huge inventory of pet supplies, and classic dog bone treats offer some of the best deals around. If you opt for Costco’s Kirkland brand dog biscuits, you’ll pay just 6 cents per ounce. Walmart and Target don’t offer their own versions of the same thing, but they both sell comparable Milk-Bone biscuits for 11 cents an ounce — nearly double what you’d pay at Costco.
- Costco price: 30 cents per cup
- Walmart price: 62 cents per cup
Just as macaroni and cheese has done for dinner, instant noodles have served as the default option for quick, cheap lunches on the fly for generations of families and college students. And as a plus, they’re microwaveable when purchased in cup form for added convenience. At Costco, a 24-pack of Nissin Cup Noodles are $7.29, or 30 cents per cup. At Walmart, a 30-pack — that’s greater bulk — is more than double the per-unit price at 62 cents per cup.
- Costco price: $1.03 an ounce
- Amazon price: $1.10 an ounce
Parents and caregivers have an abundance of choices when deciding where to buy infant formula, but this item is always cheaper at Costco. A can of Similac Pro-Sensitive formula is $1.10 an ounce at Amazon, but just $1.03 an ounce at Costco. That might not seem like a big difference, but 7 cents an ounce adds up quickly when you’re buying in bulk — and Amazon’s deal is more bulk for a higher cost per ounce when it should be the other way around.
- Costco price: 5 cents per tablet
- Amazon price: 6 cents per tablet
A pack of 425 Centrum multivitamins sells for about 5 cents per pill at Costco. At Amazon, it’s about 6 cents per pill for the same quantity of the same brand. No big deal, right? Well actually, when you consider the cost to buy the big bottles, it is. Would you rather spend $20.49 at Costco or $24.11 at Amazon?
- Costco price: 33 cents per pod
- Walmart price: 58 cents per pod
One huge benefit Costco has over the competition is that its Kirkland brand features its own line of coffee pods. You can take home 120 of them for just $39.99 — that’s only 33 cents per pod. A 120-pack of Folgers Gourmet pods at Walmart, on the other hand, will run you $70, or 58 cents per pod. If you want to upgrade to Starbucks pods co-branded with Keurig, it will run you $87.70, or 73 cents each.
- Costco price: $6 per pair
- Amazon price: $9.97 per pair
If books are a blur but you don’t need prescription lenses, a good pair of reading glasses can help bring everything into focus. At Costco, you can buy three pairs of Foster Grant Design Optics readers for $17.99, or about $6 each. A similar three-pack at Amazon, on the other hand, will run you $29.90, or just shy of $10 each. Walmart only sells the version designed for women, and that three-pack costs $35.49, or about $12 each.
- Costco price: $1.11 per blade
- Walmart price: $2.08 per blade
As with film cameras of old, the razor industry’s business model is to get you to buy the main item — in this case, the razor — once, so you’ll have to buy the refill blades for the rest of your hair-growing life. It’s not a cheap endeavor. In fact, 20 refills for the popular Gillette Mach 3 cost $41.50 at Walmart, or about $2.08 every time your razor starts to tug. At $32.98, or about $1.65 per blade, Amazon is definitely better, but still significantly more than at Costco. Its Kirkland Signature brand launched its own answer to the Mach 3 with its Triple Blade razor. Its refills cost $19.99 for 18, which works out to just $1.11 per blade.
- Costco price: $1 per ball
- Amazon price: $2.50 per ball
Kirkland Signature even has its own line of golf balls — and these are no raggedy shag balls, either. The three-piece, urethane-covered balls have earned a 4 1/2 out of five-star rating from nearly 16,000 satisfied Costco golfers — and they cost just $23.99 for 24, which comes out to about a buck per ball. A single 12-pack of the popular Titleist balls, on the other hand — that’s half as many balls — will run you $29.98 on Amazon, which vouches for the deal with its “Amazon’s Choice” label. That’s about $2.50 per ball.
- Costco price: 25 cents per ounce
- Target price: 61 cents per ounce
Delicious, versatile and pricey, olive oil is the first ingredient in everything from sauteed dishes to salads, but unless you settle for the cheapest stuff on the shelf, all that flavor will cost you a pretty penny — a few pretty pennies less, however, at Costco. Kirkland Signature organic extra virgin olive oil breaks down to about a quarter per ounce in a 1-liter bottle. Amazon has a few organic extra virgin olive oil offerings. One, under the Bragg label, is 61 cents per ounce.
- Costco price: 99 cents per 100 sheets
- Target price: $1.35 per 100 sheets
You can save big bucks on paper towels at Costco, thanks once again to the Kirkland Signature brand, which offers a 12-pack of 160-sheet rolls for $18.99. That’s about 99 cents per 100 sheets. Target’s Up & Up brand, too, offers its own line of paper towels. They, however, cost $14.89 for an eight-pack of 138-sheet rolls, which comes out to about $1.35 per 100 sheets. Thinking you can do better at Amazon? Amazon’s Choice is the Presto! brand, which costs $25.17 for a 12-pack of 158-sheet rolls, which is $1.33 per 100 sheets.
- Costco price: 5 cents per tablet
- Target price: 7 cents per tablet
Advil ibuprofen tablets have been soothing everything from backaches and burn pain to headaches and hangovers for decades. If you’re in pain, you’ll save a lot on the relief you need by shopping at Costco, which sells 360 Advil tablets for $18.99, or about 5 cents per tablet. At Amazon, the same 360 pills cost you $22.34, or about 6 cents each. Target sells Advil in bottles of 200 for $13.99, or about 7 cents per tablet.
- Costco price: 74 cents each
- Amazon price: 79 cents each
Costco makes kitchen cleanup quick and easy — and cheap. A 21-pack of popular Scotch-Brite nonscratch sponges costs $16.60 — or 79 cents each — at Amazon. At Costco, however, that same 21-pack will only set you back $15.49, or 74 cents each. At Target, the same style and brand of sponge is sold in packs of nine for $8.39. That comes out to 93 cents per sponge.
- Costco price: $4 per ream
- Amazon price: $4.50 per ream
Costco can save you a pretty penny on your printing and copying needs, as well — 50 pennies per ream, actually. A 20-pound, 10-ream carton of Universal 92 bright copy/printer paper will cost you $39.99 at Costco, which comes out to about $4 per ream. Amazon’s Choice is, not surprisingly, the AmazonBasics brand. The exact same carton of the exact same type of paper is $44.99, or $4.50 per ream.
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About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.