33 items you should buy at Costco - and 14 more you should skip every time

Costco shop shoppers members employee workerTim Boyle/Getty Images

  • Costco customers swear by certain products the retailer sells, such as olive oil, rotisserie chicken, and even golf balls.
  • But other products, like the store's light beer or bulk-sized produce, might not be worth your money.
  • Here are 33 Costco products you should buy and 14 others you should skip every time.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Costco is one of the most beloved retailers in the country, blowing away members of the store with its great value on bulk items.

Customers swear by the olive oil, rotisserie chicken, and even the golf balls made by Costco's house brand Kirkland.

But not everything at the retail giant is a good deal. To some reviewers, for example, Kirkland's light beer tastes as cheap as it costs, while perishable food products like milk or fresh produce might spoil before you have a chance to use all of it.

We consulted personal finance experts and accounts from Costco shoppers to compile 33 items that are definitely worth it at Costco, and 14 others that you should find at another store.

Here are the Costco products that are worth your money and the ones you should avoid at all costs.

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Buy: Rotisserie chicken

Buy: Rotisserie chicken

Ivo Parashkevov, creator of the personal finance AI bot Charlie, said that at $4.99, Costco's pre-cooked rotisserie chicken is a loss leader. It's also a bargain he doesn't want to pass up whenever he goes to the store. Add a premade salad, he said, and "that's a dinner for a family of four right there" for under $10.

Buy: Kirkland bacon

Buy: Kirkland bacon

Costco's Kirkland-brand sliced bacon has received a 3.3 out of 5 rating from Consumer Reports, with negatives that have more to do with the amount you need to buy at once than the flavor (the bacon packs come in bundles of four).

Skip: Fresh fruit and vegetables

Skip: Fresh fruit and vegetables

For many shoppers, when you buy fresh fruits and veggies in Costco quantities, you might as well be shopping for the compost bin.

Costco has an abundant produce section, with lots of fresh and healthy choices. But the quantities of perishables are too much for most households. You're probably better off buying fresh fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities at the supermarket.

Buy: Fresh eggs

Buy: Fresh eggs

Parashkevov sees two benefits to buying eggs at Costco: great prices and a variety of choices.

"They have a surprising level of choice when it comes to eggs," he said. You can get everything from conventional to free-range eggs, all at a lower cost than at most other grocery stores.

Prices vary depending on your area, but Reddit users reported prices under $5 for five dozen eggs and under $3 for three dozen eggs at their local stores.

Buy: Hot dogs and soda at the food court

Buy: Hot dogs and soda at the food court

Thrillist rated pizza the best item in Costco's food court, but plenty of regulars think the hot dog-and-soda deal is No. 1. In fact, this humble snack has its own fan website, and Business Insider went so far as to name it "the best hot dog in America."

Amazingly, the price of a hot dog and soda has not risen from its $1.50 price tag since 1985.

Skip: Milk, unless you have a large family

Skip: Milk, unless you have a large family

"You can't buy milk at Costco" because of the quantities it comes in, Parashkevov said.

There's nothing wrong with the milk Costco sells, but you have to buy two gallons at a time. Unless you have lots of kids to feed, it's impossible to drink that much milk before it goes bad.

Buy: Kirkland organic almond milk

Buy: Kirkland organic almond milk

One solution to the milk problem is to substitute Kirkland's almond milk. The Dashing Dish blog celebrated the great price on this clean food that can go into everything from smoothies to lattes.

Buy: The acai bowl at the food court

Buy: The acai bowl at the food court

Costco's filling and inexpensive food court is so beloved that it made national headlines when the warehouse store changed the menu this past summer. And vegans were thrilled. Instead of passing by the pizza and hot dogs with an empty stomach and a heavy heart, non-meat eaters can now choose an entirely plant-based acai bowl for $5.

Buy: Olive oil

Buy: Olive oil

If you love olive oil, then the money you save on Kirkland organic olive oil will quickly pay for the cost of your Costco membership. Author Samin Nosrat recommended this brand of olive oil in her bestselling book "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking."

Buy: Organic almond butter

Buy: Organic almond butter

Organic nut butters are a healthy protein source, but they can be pricey.

Grace Guffin on the Cooking Light blog raved about Costco's house brand organic almond butter, in a post titled "The One Item That Makes a Trip to Costco So Worth It." She noted, "This glorious 27 oz. jar of almond is only $8.00," making it much cheaper than you can find elsewhere.

Skip: Condiments

Skip: Condiments

Unless you're buying for a family reunion, condiments are probably not a good buy at Costco. Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise have a longish shelf life, but not long enough (unless you're the kind of person who puts ketchup on everything — then go for it).

Cheat Sheet notes that mayonnaise is only good for three months and even mustard will turn on you after a year.

Buy: Cheese

Buy: Cheese

Parashkevov has a weakness for fancy cheeses, and Costco's cheese aisle is a slice of heaven for him. His favorite variety is Humboldt Fog.

"I think you can typically get a pretty large chunk for well under $20. That will easy feed guests at three to four dinner parties over a couple of weeks," he said.

Parashkevov also recommends buying parmesan at Costco.

"Per unit, it's very, very cheap," he said, and it has a longer shelf life than most cheeses.

Buy: Breakfast cereal

Buy: Breakfast cereal

"Cereal doesn't go bad," Parashkevov said. "It takes a little extra shelf space" to buy from Costco, he said, but you beat prices at other grocery stores. Whether you love Cheerios or Kirkland Ancient Grains granola, you can get a hefty supply for a low price.

Buy: Frozen fruit

Buy: Frozen fruit

While you're thinking about smoothies, consider adding some fruit from Costco's freezer section. There are many organic choices at prices much lower than the grocery store's. Reader's Digest put this item on a list of things you should buy at Costco and we agree.

Skip: Signateur gas grill

Skip: Signateur gas grill

While Costco offers the Signateur Gas Grill for about half what you would pay for a Weber grill, commenters in a Reddit thread pointed out that the construction was not as durable as Weber's and worried that it would be hard to find replacement parts.

One Reddit buyer summed up his regret at buying this grill: "Do NOT buy this grill if you like to get a sear/char on your meats. I've had this grill for a little less than a month and I'm terribly disappointed by the lack of heat it applies to the food. With all the burners on max, it does not get hot enough to sear a steak or even put some color on a burger patty without cooking the meat all the way through."

Some reviews of the grill on Costco's site echo the opinion that it simply doesn't offer enough heat.

Buy: Organic berries

Buy: Organic berries

One exception to the fresh produce warning is organic berries.

"That might go into your category of, am I going to eat this? Parashkevov said. "But especially for things that are in season," he added, they can be a great deal.

Berries also come with big health benefits, but they can be pricey. Costco's deals on fresh berries allow you to add this terrific anti-oxidant food to your daily diet.

Costco's quantities for berries also might be a little more manageable for the average shopper — a pack of blueberries comes in an 18-ounce option, for example.

Skip: Certain prepared foods

Skip: Certain prepared foods

Costco offers lots of options for healthy eating on a budget, but you might be better off with raw ingredients such as nuts, meats, and cheeses rather than certain premade food products like tikka masala or enchiladas.

Costco fans on Reddit noted that the store's prepared foods are delicious but pricey, so buyer beware.

Buy: Vanilla extract

Buy: Vanilla extract

A 16-ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract can cost upwards of $30 at Costco. That's still about 30% less per ounce than you'll find in other stores. And the Costco version is pure vanilla, not vanilla favoring, so it's the real deal.

The "Today" show recommends this great buy for anyone who likes to bake, since it will last a long time.

Skip: Flour, baking powder, and dried yeast

Skip: Flour, baking powder, and dried yeast

Flour has a limited shelf life, as do other baking ingredients like baking powder and dried yeast. Eat This Not That cautions against buying any of these items in bulk at Costco. If you don't run a professional bakery, it's unlikely that you will be able to use these items before they go bad.

Buy: Kirkland organic coconut water

Buy: Kirkland organic coconut water

If hydration with coconut water is part of your healthy lifestyle, you'll want to pick up a 12-pack of Kirkland organic coconut water. The many five-star reviews on Influenster include this rave: "Words cannot described how good this coconut water is." Another says it's "not too sweet and easy to drink."

Buy: Verka organic yogurt

Buy: Verka organic yogurt

For not much more than you would spend on a 16-ounce yogurt in the grocery store, you can get 64-ounce tub of organic Verka organic yogurt at Costco. This cultured milk product has a surprisingly long shelf life and the taste and texture are comparable to other whole milk yogurts.

This yogurt deal made Emergeia Fitness Boot Camps' list of 52 "real food" items you can get at Costco and it gets a five-spoon rating from The Cornucopia Institute, which promotes family farming. You have other yogurt choices at Costco, but this one is the best.

Skip: Las Fortunitas Tortilla chips

Skip: Las Fortunitas Tortilla chips

If your local Costco sells Las Fortunitas chips — the ones that come in a bag the size of a garbage bag — definitely don't buy them. It's not the price; at under $6, they are an incredible deal. It's not the taste; these chips are crunchy and tasty. It's just that you will likely never finish them.

Even if you buy them for a party, you are guaranteed to have at least half of the five-pound bag left over after. No one can eat that much guacamole.

Meanwhile, Fooducate gives these chips a B-minus rating because they contain hydrogenated oils. Simply put, you don't want to spend the next four months eating your way through this bag.

Buy: Kerrygold butter

Buy: Kerrygold butter

Costco sells several brands of butter, including organic Kirkland-brand butter sticks. But if you want high-quality butter, foodies prefer Kerrygold, made with milk from grass-fed cows. The Kitchen Stewardship found Kerrygold at Costco to be a good option, though it wasn't always available.

Buy: Kirkland maple syrup

Buy: Kirkland maple syrup

Maple syrup is a favorite at Costco. The Kirkland syrup is not only organic and pure maple; it's also an amazing deal. The Krazy Coupon Lady says she only buys her pure maple syrup at Costco, and reports that no one comes anywhere near the price that Costco offers — a nearly 34-ounce container costs just $13.29.

Skip: Paper towels and toilet paper

Skip: Paper towels and toilet paper

Big bundles of Kirkland toilet paper or paper towels may be a bargain, but not if you live in a studio apartment where you'll have to use the package as an end table.

Buy: Kirkland vodka

Buy: Kirkland vodka

Alcohol of all kinds is a good buy at Costco, but the vodka is a standout.

Costco's house brand vodka is so good, some people think it might be Grey Goose undercover, for a fraction of the price, according to The Kitchn. The site did a taste test of Costco vodkas against some name brands and Kirkland's French Vodka came out on top.

Skip: Kirkland Signature Light Beer

Skip: Kirkland Signature Light Beer

When Costco introduced a light beer, fans were excited. Then they drank it. It was not good. One reviewer on Beer Advocate opined that it "tastes like battery acid."

With a review like that, it's tempting to taste it yourself just to see if you agree. But you'll have to buy 48 cans, so just forget it. Unfortunately, this product seems just as cheap as its price tag.

Buy: Generic drugs

Buy: Generic drugs

If you take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen, Tagamet, or an allergy pill on a regular basis, you probably will use up a Costco warehouse quantity before it expires. You'll pay a fraction of what these medications would cost you in a drugstore and you won't run out of an essential medicine as often.

Buy: Prescription drugs

Buy: Prescription drugs

Prescription drugs can be pricey, even if you have insurance. Costco's pharmacy offers cut-rate prices that are so low, according to Consumer Reports, you might be able to afford them without insurance.

So it's worth it to drop off a prescription and have it filled while you shop.

Skip: Hearing aids

Skip: Hearing aids

Hearing aids are a big expense that are rarely covered by insurance. Costco sells hearing aids cheaply because they take such a small markup.

But despite the good price, you might want to think twice before buying a hearing aid at Costco, however. Some consumers have reported poor service at some Costco stores. And some locations may not have the right equipment to properly adjust your hearing aid.

A reviewer on the Consumer Affairs thread urged: "Don't, don't, don't get hearing aids at Costco. I purchased a pair of Kirkland aids 2 years ago and to this day, they are still not adjusted properly."

A cheap hearing aid that doesn't work for you is no deal at all. Check the reviews for your location before you buy.

Buy: Prescription glasses

Buy: Prescription glasses

Prescription eyewear can be pricey, especially if you need progressives or other special lenses. One solution is to buy glasses online, but getting the fit and the focal point of the lens right can be a problem with remote eyeglass purchases.

Costco's optometry department to the rescue! You can get your eyes tested at the store or bring in your prescription from elsewhere — and if you don't have insurance, Costco Optical may be your best out-of-pocket bet.

Costco members also receive special online discounts for glasses and contact lenses, making them an unexpectedly good deal for customers.

Read more: I've been a Costco member for 8 years, and one little-known perk makes it more than worth it

Buy: Wedding floral arrangements

Buy: Wedding floral arrangements

Lifehacker recommends Costco for the adventurous and penny-wise bride-and-groom-to-be. You could get flowers to make your day memorable for prices ranging from $199 to $449. You can celebrate your big day for while saving money by buying bridal bouquets and full wedding arrangements from Costco.

Buy: Luggage

Buy: Luggage

Costco won't have a big selection of suitcases on any given day, but what they do have will be good quality at a great price. Clark Deals includes Costco on its list of places to shop for luggage bargains and suggests that you look for monthly coupons.

Skip: Name-brand clothing

Skip: Name-brand clothing

When a piece of clothing comes to Costco with a designer label, beware. It's likely to be of lower quality than clothing sold by the same label in regular stores. Chances are, the manufacturer cut corners for their Costco offering.

If you like what you see, go ahead and buy it, but don't expect brand-name quality or you'll probably be disappointed. The Daily Meal blog suggests you can get better name-brand bargains at a store like Marshalls.

Buy: Shirts and pants for work

Buy: Shirts and pants for work

Designer brands may not be a good buy at Costco, but regular work shirts and pants are a favorite, according to the Red Flag Deals forum. One commenter said, "All my work shirts are Kirkland shirts. High-end tailored shirts aside, I think the Kirkland stuff is the best value on the market, just as good quality (sometimes better) as what you get at The Bay or mid-range stores."

Skip: Kirkland Ultra Clean laundry detergent

Skip: Kirkland Ultra Clean laundry detergent

Even though some Kirkland Ultra laundry detergent is labeled free and clear, some consumers have reported getting contact dermatitis after wearing clothes washed in the Costco brand product.

The detergent holds a rating of just 2.8 stars out of 5 on Consumer Reports' website.

Buy: Athleisure clothes

Buy: Athleisure clothes

If you need clothes to wear to yoga or spin class, or if you just like to spend your athleisurely days in fitness clothes, check out the bargains at Costco. Tough Nickel says Costco's offerings are an unbeatable bargain. Move over, Lululemon.

Buy: Underwear

Buy: Underwear

While some reviewers complained about problems with the elastic on Costco's men's briefs, most were ecstatic about the comfort and prices of Costco's underwear. The online reviews on Costco's website are mostly five-star, including this satisfied shopper: "I'm a big, tall, built guy and most other brands don't stretch well at seams/waist and they chafe and irritate. Kirkland boxer briefs are extremely comfortable and last me 2-3 times longer than Hanes and other brands."

Costco's selection of undershirts and women's underwear is full of great discounts and excellent quality as well.

Skip: Diapers

Skip: Diapers

A giant box of Kirkland Supreme diapers may seem like a great idea when your little one is going through a gajillion diaper changes every day. But babies grow fast, and you can quickly find yourself stuck with a bunch of diapers that are too small for your child.

Plus, as the Daily Meal notes, you can get better prices at Target, Walmart, or Amazon.

Buy: Flu shots

Buy: Flu shots

Consumer Reports found that Costco offered the lowest price for flu shots. If you're paying out of pocket for your flu shot, Costco is a great place to get it. You can get other shots, including pneumonia, HPV, and travel immunizations, at Costco, too.

Buy: TVs

Buy: TVs

If you have your heart set on a particular TV, you might not find it at Costco. But if you're flexible, you can probably find a set that works for you in Costco's electronics department.

When you buy a television at Costco, you not only get a great price; your purchase also comes with an extended two-year warranty. Credit Donkey rated Costco tops on price and warranty over Best Buy and Amazon.

Buy: Golf balls

Buy: Golf balls

When you think golf you probably don't think Costco. But, since the warehouse store came out with a Kirkland-branded golf ball, golfers have been putting happy. After testing the Kirkland balls on the green, Golfalot found that they compare well with premium golf balls, but without the premium price.

Buy: Gift cards

Buy: Gift cards

Costco sells a dazzling array of gift cards at a discount on the face value. This is a great way to give a gift or treat yourself. Gift cards show up on many lists of recommended Costco products, including this one from Reader's Digest.

Buy: Tires

Buy: Tires

"You don't get a wide selection," Ivo Parashkevov said, but "if you just need good tires, it's a no brainer" to get them at Costco. The Tough Nickel blog put tires on its list of things to buy from Costco because the value price also includes services like balancing.

Buy: Gas

Buy: Gas

Parashkevov also recommends filing up your gas tank when you visit Costco. He noted that prices at their pumps are usually about 20% lower than at other gas stations and you can save even more if you use a Costco credit card.

"The downside is you might have to wait," he said, because members line up to save on gas.

Buy: Caskets

Buy: Caskets

Although it's a grim subject to think about, caskets and coffins are a surprisingly good deal at Costco.

Funerals are expensive and can cause financial strain at a time that is already challenging enough. Blogger John D. Moore reported that he saved more than 50% when he bought a coffin through Costco for the funeral of a deceased relative.

Moore reported that he spent $949 for the one he chose, and said a similar product through other companies cost around $2,000. The coffin looked good and the funeral and subsequent cremation went off without a hitch, he said.

"Because I wanted to give her something nice while also reducing my financial pain, the decision (at least for me) wasn't hard to make," he wrote.

One caveat: Costco isn't allowed to sell coffins in every state, so check with your local store.

Skip: Giant plush bear

Skip: Giant plush bear

You may have seen it, poking its ungainly head over the top of an aisle.

Avert your eyes and walk the other way. Costco's 93-inch stuffed bear gets mostly five-star reviews on the company's site, but even the positive ones generally include some variation on, "Wife wasn't happy."

And consider this excerpt from a five-star review: "We live in an apartment and he is the dumbest thing we ever bought. He makes our lives miserable — having to step over him, walk around him, and find a place for him to rest."

That family still admitted it loves this monstrous bear. Don't let yourself get caught in the giant bear trap.

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