Costco is known as a low-price leader, but as the big-box 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 ultra-low. These 15 things on the list are items that you should always buy at Costco if you’re looking to save.
Click through to read about how Costco’s affordable prices are so good they might just pay for the price of your membership.
Organic Peanut Butter
Costco price: 21 cents an ounce
Amazon price: 53 cents an ounce
Costco is one of the top organic grocers in the country and members flock to the big-box store to save money on quality organic groceries.
“Oftentimes, people think that organic eating is well out of their budget,” said Kathlena, aka The Allergy Chef. “However, what many people may not know is that Costco, through their Kirkland Signature brand, has made organic eating very affordable.”
Kathlena 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 21 cents an ounce. Compare that price to Amazon’s organic peanut butter from Santa Cruz that’s 53 cents an ounce and Smucker’s for 61 cents an ounce. Amazon does sell a few brands of less expensive organic peanut butter, but most of them contain sugar. The Kirkland brand has just peanuts and 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 — in 2015, 3.4 million gallons of maple syrup were produced in the U.S. alone. 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. Kathlena likes Costco’s organic maple syrup — a 1-liter jug of organic maple syrup for $13.29, or 39 cents an ounce. Walmart has organic maple syrup for 69 cents an ounce and Amazon has the same exact brand as Walmart just more expensive at 80 cents an ounce. Costco even beats Trader Joe’s in this department; the Trader Joe’s-branded organic maple syrup costs about 67 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 80 million rotisserie chickens each year, which is how the company can afford to “take a hit” on its bottom line, Fortune reported. In 2013, Costco’s chief operating officer Richard Galanti told The Seattle Times that while competitors raised their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99, Costco chose to lose $30 to $40 million a year in gross margin to keep their store price $4.99, sticking with the Costco mission to keep prices low.
Costco price: 21 cents an ounce
Walmart price: 22 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. In fact, Nutella has become so popular, the company uses about one-quarter of the world’s hazelnut production each year just to meet demand. The Nutella craze has hit the U.S. so hard that Columbia University even came under fire in 2013 for spending over $5,000 a week for students who were eating 100 pounds of it a day.
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 22 cents an ounce, and Amazon, which sells a comparable bundle for 33 cents an ounce. If you have a serious Nutella habit, there are many tactics to help you save even more money when you shop at Costco.
Costco price: $2.23 an ounce
Walmart price: $3.46 an ounce
Pure vanilla extract has always been an expensive ingredient, but a recent vanilla bean shortage in Madagascar drove up prices in the U.S. from $11 per pound in 2011 to $193 by the end of 2016, CBS News reported. This price surge made its way down to consumers, who are paying nearly triple what they did even a year ago.
Vanilla extract costs a whopping $3.46 an ounce for Walmart’s generic pure vanilla extract and $3.36 an ounce for McCormick’s pure vanilla extract on Amazon. Compare those prices to Costco, where members can get a 16-ounce bottle of the real stuff for just $2.23 an ounce. It’s still not cheap, but it’s the best price in town.
Costco price: 21 cents an ounce for taco seasoning
Walmart price: 34 cents an ounce for taco seasoning
Costco sells a wide range of McCormick cooking spices at really low prices — sometimes even half the cost of competitors. For example, at Costco, McCormick taco seasoning is just 21 cents an ounce, compared to 34 cents an ounce at Walmart and 31 cents an ounce on Amazon. The brand’s lemon pepper is 32 cents an ounce at Costco, compared to 82 cents an ounce at Walmart and 69 cents an ounce on Amazon.
However, shoppers might find comparable prices on Lawry’s garlic salt. It costs about 24 cents an ounce at Costco and only one cent more at Walmart, but it costs much more on Amazon at 57 cents an ounce.
Hot Dog Meal
Costco price: $1.50 apiece plus 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). This ultra-cheap meal is so popular, it’s reported the company sells roughly 100 million of them each year, which is four times more than what all Major League ballparks combined sell each season. The massive sales are precisely how the retail chain is able to keep prices on this meal so low — the cost hasn’t changed since the mid-1980s.
Costco price: 57 cents an ounce
Amazon price: 68 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: 19 cents apiece
Ralphs price: 46 cents apiece
String cheese is a healthy snack you can eat on-the-go, at school and at work, but it’s not always cheap. Luckily, Costco has a 60-count bag of Frigo string cheese for just $11.19, about 19 cents apiece. That is a screaming deal compared to the prices at traditional grocery stores, like Vons and Ralphs. Vons has the same brand, albeit a smaller pack, for about 29 cents apiece and Ralphs sells it for 46 cents apiece.
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Luxury Bath Towels
Costco price: $7.99 each
Amazon price: $18.99 each
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 bath towels, which are known for their soft, absorbent material and durability, for just $7.99 each when you purchase a 2-pack. Amazon sells the same exact bath towel for $18.99 each — over twice the price of Costco, and Sears sells them for over $28 each when on sale.
Costco price: 20 to 30 percent off face value
Most major retailers and grocery stores sell gift cards, but they aren’t always sold at a discount.
Costco members can get deals like two $50 gift cards to P.F. Chang’s for $79.99, four $25 gift cards to Smashburger for $74.99 and two $50 Buca di Beppo gifts cards for $69.99. 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: 15 cents per pill
Amazon price: 60 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 $27.49 for 180 tablets or about 19 cents apiece. Aller-Fex ingredients are comparable to Allegra, which Amazon sells for 60 cents a pill, Walmart sells for 48 cents a pill and Target sells for 86 cents a pill.
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Costco price: 31 cents per egg
Walmart: 38 cents per egg
Walmart offers organic eggs from their own Marketside brand that are cage-free. An 18-count pack of these eggs costs about $6.69 at those stores or about 38 cents for each egg. Compare that price to Kirkland Certified Humane eggs, where members can get two dozen eggs for just a dollar more — about 31 cents an egg.
Contact Lens Solution
Costco price: 20 cents an ounce for generic; 75 cents an ounce for Opti-Free
Target price: 29 cents an ounce for generic; 85 cents an ounce for Opti-Free
Whether you decide to go name brand or generic for your contact lens solution, Costco has the lowest prices on this popular pharmacy item. At the warehouse store, a supersize of Kirkland Signature Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution is 20 cents an ounce and Opti-Free name-brand contact lens solution is 75 cents an ounce when you purchase a twin pack of 14-ounce bottles.
Walmart, Target and Amazon all sell both Opti-Free and generic brands of contact lens solution: Target’s Opti-Free is 85 cents an ounce when you purchase a two-pack of 10-ounce bottles, and the generic is 29 cents an ounce, which is comparable to the Kirkland brand contact lens solution. Amazon has Opti-Free for 71 cents an ounce. Finally, Walmart’s Opti-Free is 75 cents an ounce, but Walmart’s Equate generic brand almost matches the same price as Costco’s Kirkland at 25 cents an ounce.
Costco price: 49 cents an ounce
Target price: 66 cents 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 Walmart’s Parent’s Choice formula is 57 cents an ounce and Target’s generic brand is 66 cents an ounce when purchased in bulk. Compare those prices to Costco’s Kirkland Signature baby formula, which is 49 cents an ounce. Even “premium” infant formula brands are a fraction of the price at Costco.
Click through to read more about how to get a Costco membership.
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Priscilla Aguilera contributed to the reporting for this article.