Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pros and Cons of Buying Big

I never relish a trip to Costco because I just haven’t bought into the warehouse experience.  If there were 12 people in my family, it would be a no-brainer, but we are but two and a dog.

For me Costco represents conflicting goals.  I would like to save money, but not at the expense of giving up the space I have recently vacated.  Or of buying a lot more of something than I will ever in a lifetime need.

There is no more diverse population than those who frequent Costco, many of whom speak little if any English.  Today soon after I entered and flashed my Costco card, I was nearly run down by a young Chinese woman who plowed full force into me as I slowly pushed my big cart down the wide aisle.  She knew she had done something wrong, but instead of offering an apology she took off with me yelling at her to watch the speed limit.  I nursed my bruised ankle as I completed the 1/4 mile to get to the produce section in the back of the store.

Would I be able to use 6 multi-colored peppers before they spoiled?  I tossed them in the basket.

My husband asked me to buy disposable gloves for his use in applying a medication to his feet.  The only choice was 300 for $14.99.  I decided against such a large quantity, figuring I could save money in the long run by buying them at CVS. 

There is never anyone to help you find anything in this mega-store.  I went up and down the aisles looking for Balsamic vinegar.  The Kirkland brand always leaks (no matter what) on my shelf, but it is the best vinegar I have found for the money.  And a bottle lasts more than 6 months.  Finally I spotted a Costco employee who said “Aisle 25” and he was right.

Checking out requires patience.  Especially if those in front of you represent 12-person families or those who believe buying more is saving money.  Amazingly the woman in front of me spent $20; even the clerk said she had never seen such an insignificant sale.  My 9 items totaled $93.  I bought:  paper towels, garbage bags, quart-size Ziplock bags, Kleenex, avocados, cherries, blueberries, peppers, and Balsamic vinegar.  Did I save money over buying the same items in a conventional grocery store?  Definitely.  Will I use all the fruit before it rots?  Unlikely. 

As for those disposable gloves, a box of 50 at CVS cost $8.69.  That’s almost 3 times the price of the Costco gloves.  The only consolation is the box takes up a lot less space.  Oh well...

I always tell myself to take a list in when I shop and promise not to get sucked into buying the myriad of other things that seem like such bargains.  I did better than usual today, probably because I wasn’t hungry and they weren’t giving out many samples.

I can now breathe a sigh of relief and take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to go to Costco again for at least 6 weeks, or whenever we run out of paper towels, whichever comes first.

How do you feel about shopping at Costco?  Is it worth the $50 yearly membership to you to “save” money while spending it?


Blogger Kristin said...

I've never had a membership; I don't imagine I ever will. I don't have the space (or the patience) and I like buying things that I can get from smaller, locally-owned stores within walking distance.

However, I'm fully aware of the fact I'm not normal.

3:38 PM  
Blogger lacochran said...

For a two person household, as we have, it makes no sense. Plus, I find warehouse stores depressingly large.

You did ask.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never been in a Costco and hope to never be in one. Even my very occasional forays-of-necessity into a Trader Joe's store make me need to practice slow, deep breathing. I prefer to buy less quantity but get higher quality than I can find in a large chain store like TJ or Costco; I spend less in the long run that way, and enjoy and use my purchases more. If I lived in a less food-conscious and blessed area, though, I'd probably be lining up with everybody else! :-)


5:14 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Ok, you know me, I LOVE COSTCO!! ::smile:: even when there was only two of us. I buy the BIG bag of broccoli and then everyday I reach in, micro, and voila... green broccoli goodness!

I often go to Costco on Tuesday, "Visiting my parents day", because the $5.00 rottisserie chicken is a great value. It serves the three of us, with a whole cooked breast left over for sandwiches the next day and the skeleton that drops into the crock with some carrots, onions and celery for soup that evening.

Costco is also a great place to get cleaned spinach and chevre. Their big clamshells of mixed greens are a great bargain, now that I am feeding four on the budget I used to feed four!

7:39 PM  
Blogger Rayna said...

Me too, I LOVE Costco. There are only 2 of us and we don't go often, but they have some things that are the best: their frozen shrimp actually tastes like shrimp and is worth the trip,as are the brie, the aged cheddar, their nuts, and a few other things.
Of course, you can't get out of there for less than $100 -but I spent more than that at Trader Joe's last week and Whole Foods is another story.
OTOH - at least Whole Foods' meat is organic.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- My Costco is in walking distance for you; it's only 8 miles from where you live! :)

LA -- I have convinced myself that Costco is worth it for things like paper towels and toilet paper. They don't get stale or rotten with age. (OTOH, some older people do...) Any size household will eventually use up all the rolls.

Anon -- Somehow a Costco would seem out of place where you live. It is so NOT YOU!

Kellyann -- I used to love those Costco chickens too. I'm now thinking they were probably raised in very small cages.

Rayna -- I agree that Costco cheese cannot be beat. I'm no longer buying meat there, as good as it may taste. I do like the fact that Costco treats its workers well, much better than Walmart does according to "The World Is Flat" by Thomas Friedman.

12:08 AM  
Blogger media concepts said...

I find it worth it for supplies when I have people over. I'm going there tomorrow (Thurs.) because I'm having company over for NYE. Plus, it gives me something to laugh about. Everything seems to cost $8.99. No express line, WTF? The characters who work the registers. The cheesy demonstrations for smoothies and such. The whole rhythm of the place. A gallon of guacamole.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MC -- Yes, yes, and yes. I can actually make a meal (lunch) of their plus-size samples when they are pushing certain products. Today the only thing I got was brownie pie, something I would never spend money on, but was only to happy to lick the big spoon they handed me. I think observing and listening to the other customers is quite entertaining. And the fact that there are no changing rooms for trying on the clothing. A friend once advised me to wear tight work-out pants and try things on in the middle of the store. It works and avoids the arduous return process, involving yet another line. And what's with the alliance of Costco and AmEx, to the exclusion of all other charge cards? I obviously find many aspects of this place rather amusing.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I've never been there but my sister-in-law shops there all the time. The shrimp she gets there is excellent.

3:18 AM  
Blogger Aileen said...

I shop there when I entertain...Their desserts are surprisingly awesome! But it's not worth a membership for me, so I usually "borrow" a friends' membership when I have a party coming up...

9:40 AM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

I like Costco a lot. We shop there often, but not so much for food.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

I love Costco. Lots of things are not too large for 2 people to make their way through in reasonable time. I did cringe a little last week when I had to throw away at least half of a container of peeled garlic cloves from Costco. Couldn't use them fast enough and they got moldy.

You have to be smart about what you buy there. It is easy to be seduced by the produce, especially. Their pies, however, are the next best thing to homemade and I don't think I could make a pecan pie for what they charge.

3:06 AM  
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4:09 AM  

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