Contrary to popular belief, buying in bulk isn’t always the best way to save cash.
Wholesale retailer Costco appeals to shoppers across the country with its relatively low prices for large quantities. Though many money-saving experts shop at the retailer to save on groceries in the long run, there are some products you should avoid — and head to the free samples instead.
From produce to personal care products, here are 6 products that money-saving bloggers and experts recommend you never buy at Costco.
If you’re cooking Asian food that is best paired with rice, you may want to skip the wholesale store and go to an ethnic market instead, suggests YouTuber Flo Lum. Lum, an avid Costco shopper and chef, used to buy her rice at Costco while shopping for produce and other ingredients. Though she found Costco’s meat and eggs were a good deal, she noticed Jasmine rice at her local Costco in Canada was about 30% more expensive than a similar product sold at an Asian market.
“There’s a huge price discrepancy when you don’t know your prices outside of Costco,” Lum says.
A 25-pound bag of Jasmine rice costs about $40 from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand. Asian market prices vary depending on the store, but one blogger was able to find a 25-pound rice bag for just $14 at a neighborhood Asian market — saving 35% off the Costco price.
Though Costco’s price for milk may not be the worst deal, there’s a good reason people hate it.
“Those square milk jugs are horrible,” says Seattle-based blogger Rachel Teodoro. “I’m a grown woman who has a college degree and I cannot pour the milk without spilling it.”
Teodoro isn’t the only one. All across the Internet, videos, Reddit queries, and blog posts warn against buying Costco’s square-shaped milk jugs because of the difficulty of pouring the milk without spilling. Since costs don’t vary much between Costco milk and milk found at national grocery stores, Teodoro suggests buying a container that keeps your milk from dribbling all over the counter.
If you’re hosting a football tailgate and need to stock up on soda (or pop if you’re from the Midwest), don’t be fooled by Costco’s wholesale price.
A 24-count box of 12-ounce Coke cans retails for about $10 at Costco. This may seem like a steal, but Melea Johnson, a money-saving expert and YouTuber, only buys soda if a 12-count box costs $2.75 or less, a price which can easily be found at grocery stores or drugstores with coupons. If you do the math, a single Costco can costs about 42 cents, while the discounted drugstore can costs 23 cents — nearly half the price.
“It’s funny because people will buy soda at Costco thinking they are getting a great deal with their 26 packs or whatever, but they’re not,” says Johnson.
Like soda, cereal often goes on sale at nationwide grocery stores or can be bought on discount using coupons. Johnson suggests spending no more than $1.50 for an 11-ounce box of cereal, or about 13 cents per ounce, using grocery store discounts. At Costco, two 20-ounce boxes of Cheerios cost around $7, or about 17 cents per ounce.
The Frugal Convert blogger Gina Zakaria also avoids buying cereal at Costco. Instead, she finds that national grocery stores have sales on cereal every three weeks, or will offer biweekly coupons. “There are a lot of coupons out there on cereal,” she says. “Buying your cereal elsewhere is going to save you a ton of money.”
Shampoo and Conditioner
Money-saving experts agree: For all your personal care needs, skip Costco and head to the drugstore.
Coupons for shampoo and conditioner at drugstores like CVS, Walgreens, and Publix are seemingly endless. Zakaria says every week a different brand is on sale, and you can also take advantage of manufacturer coupons online and in-store. She says she can buy Pantene shampoo for as little as $20 for 10 bottles using coupons and deals, whereas at Costco, a single large bottle will cost $11.
Kirkland Signature muffins may taste delicious — and they’re relatively cheap, running around $10 for six. But there’s one downside: If you aren’t cutting them into quarters, Zakaria says they are too caloric to be worth the cost. The chocolate muffins are the biggest diet-crashers, weighing in at 690 calories apiece, while the blueberry muffins are 600 calories each — 174 more calories than the average muffin.
“I love their muffins, but if you’re watching your weight, I would stay away,” Zakaria says. Everyone else, though? Go for it.