5 Tips To Get the Most Out of Your Costco Shopping Experience

Elisa Lewittes

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For Costco card-holders and their family members, we have some exciting news: treasure-trove’s best offering is back. Like most retailers, the wholesale club scaled back some of its regular activities as a safety precaution amid the Coronavirus pandemic. From the beginning of the outbreak, Costco had to close its food courts and stop offering free samples to maintain social distancing protocols. Now, with states starting to reopen their economies, the company’s food courts and free samples are slowly getting back to business — even if it’s not as usual. With the Costco becoming a place for an enjoyable yet productive outing once again, here are some ways you can maximize your shopping experience at the retailer.

Let the Food Court Lure You In

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Speaking of the famous food courts, make sure your time spent here is strategic and planned ahead of time. Of course, the Coronavirus pandemic will change how you spend your time inside establishments. However, even if your outing is short, don’t let spur-of-the-moment cheap meals lure you in. Instead, use the food court’s faired-priced fare as a way to fuel up before going for your regular stock-ups. We and our wallets have all have learned the hard way that we tend to buy more extra items when food shopping on an empty stomach.

For a little refresher on this establishment’s status:

Since April 30, Costco has been slowly making its food courts available again, with about 20% of these locations in operation. By mid-June, the wholesaler plans to have nearly all of these casual dining spots reopened to the public. The one catch here: The menus will still be limited for the time being until the rest of the Coronavirus-related restrictions.

Separate Samples From Your Shopping List 

When it comes to impulse purchases, the wholesaler’s beloved free samples are designed to help you discover products that you didn’t know you needed – and then put them in your cart. While many devoted Costco shoppers use this offering as a way to create a strategic free lunch, you might be doing yourself a disservice and, ultimately, spending more money overall.

To avoid overstocking your cart, make sure to have some food in your stomach before going around sampling, so you can enjoy the delicious offerings without feeling the urge to make as many emotionally-invested purchases. If you see how the item fits the bill on your pre-existing list or meal planning for the week, by all means, experiment. Otherwise, it likely will be more cost-effective to have lunch at home or stop by the food court first. However, if you finish your shopping and are still thinking about a specific sample, by all means, treat yourself and (strategically) enjoy.

As an update, samples, too, are making a comeback. The offering that everyone is waiting for — will start rolling out again in mid-June, as well. According to Costco’s CFO, Richard Galanti, though, the experience will look different than it used to given current health concerns. The translation: No more picking up samples with your fingers.

Buy Everything in Bulk 

This one makes sense once you think about it practically. Yes, buying in bulk almost always will make the cost per unit cheaper. If you shop with this mentality, though, you’re likely going to purchase too many perishable items that will go bad before you and your family get to it. No one wants to waste food or money if they don’t have to, so make sure to only stock up heavily on items that won’t go bad quickly and have a long shelf life.

Keep your produce and other fresh product purchases reasonable. When loading up on frozen items, ensure that you’ve checked your freezer ahead of time, so you have room for everything and can fill in any gaps in your regular rotation. Remember, too, that the quality of products like olive oil and frozen animal products still does dwindle over time.

Brand Names and Bargain Shopping Are Mutually Exclusive 

A common misconception is that generic products must be cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. And this is often true. While many Kirkland brand items are great deals and offer the best bargains, there are certain products at Costco, such as shampoo and coffee grounds, that are cheaper when you buy brand name options.

Additionally, finances aside, some products, such as their paper goods, might just not be worthwhile in the end, as they are not known to be of stellar quality. The spice selection, on the other hand, is a gem.

Take the Scenic Route

Sometimes it’s worth stating the obvious to remind ourselves not to do this. The more time that we spend in the store, the more likely that we are to put things in our carts that we don’t need. To make it easier to stick to your list, avoid browsing the aisles for the most part and just stick to searching for items that you came for. This new habit might take some time to get used to, though, as it’s easier said than done.

During these uncertain times, the retailer’s bulk-buying model is particularly valuable — both for our pockets and peace of mind. As we collectively figure out what the future holds, it seems that we can be optimistic that shopping with free samples will be a constant, even if we have to grab them while staying six feet apart. To make the full Costco experience more enjoyable and economically-friendly, these tips should help to maximize your trips from shop to fridge (or freezer).

Before your next trip, make sure to check out some items you need to try that have a cult following for a good reason. 

Launch Gallery: 50 Costco Products With a Cult Following for a Good Reason

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