I’ll admit it: I used to be afraid of stores like Costco. The towering aisles, crowded walkways, and sample-pushers left me anxious and confused. But now I see Costco as “my happy place.” I’ve learned that warehouse shopping is more than enormous jars of three-bean salad and suitcase-sized boxes of chicken nuggets. It’s all about getting great deals on staples that your family needs. You just need to follow a few guidelines to maximize your shopping experience.
Know Your Prices
It was when I really started paying attention to grocery store prices that I realized that warehouse stores are often (but not always) a better deal. Get to know the regular and sale prices in the grocery stores, and compare them to the prices you see at the warehouse stores. My rule of thumb is to stock up on non-perishables in the grocery store whenever they go on sale. Otherwise, I usually find that warehouse prices are better for things such as produce, meat, and cleaning supplies.
Familiarize Yourself with the Store Set-Up
It takes some time to know where everything is at a store like Costco, but once you familiarize yourself with the different aisles, it makes shopping a lot less stressful and a lot more productive. Warehouse stores are big, so you want to make sure you don’t waste time bouncing around from one side of the store to the other. I like to move in a counterclockwise motion, ending up at the “finish line”: the checkout area. Also, when you have the time spare, take a tour of all the products being sold, even down aisles you don’t normally travel. You might find a great deal on something you didn’t know was there.
Know Your Needs
Because warehouse stores offer such great deals on bulk quantities, it’s very, very easy to buy more than your household needs. Sure, the enormous bag of dried fruit looks yummy and affordable, but only if that’s something your family is going to eat. If it doesn’t fit in your lifestyle, pass on it, even if it’s a good buy. For example, I don’t buy yogurt at Costco because everyone in my household likes a different kind, and it would be wasteful to buy a large quantity of a specific brand.
Bring a List but Allow an Occasional Splurge
I always bring a list with me to Costco. I generally buy the same things, though not always on the same trip. Some things, such as Kleenex or bulk meats, will last me a long time. Sticking to a list keeps me organized and on track. I do find it helpful to be open-minded, however, to new things and seasonal deals that won’t last. I love to garden, and in the spring Costco had some amazingly beautiful and affordable succulent plants in stock. I splurged on a container of variegated plants because I knew they’d be something I’d enjoy at a reasonable price.
If you’re an organized and informed consumer, warehouse stores can be a great place to shop for your family on a regular basis. Just bring your list, some discipline, and an open mind!