costo. + thoughts on bulk shopping

Breaking news: I joined Costco. Yep, bulk city. The Kirkland Empire.

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One of my dearest friends is a huge (HUGE) fan of Costco. Ever since I met her, she’s told me about all the amazing things to be found at Costco. From jeans to snowmobiles! (Ok, I might be making up that snowmobiles part, but you get the point.) Anyway, I’m pretty weirded out by giant box stores, but I’m also a huge fan of a good deal. So today, we made a trip west (to the ‘burbs, obvi) and entered the store along with 500 of our closest friends. (Honestly, wouldn’t you think 2pm on a Thursday would be an off time? Apparently not.)

Here are my initial thoughts, to be amended and contradicted in the future. I probably once claimed I’d never even join Costco, so clearly I’m a complicated lady.

Pros:

  • Organic items. Organic blueberries are a staple for us, and they’re SO EXPENSIVE everywhere else. We’d been hoping they’d be cheaper at Costco, and indeed they are. $8.99 for a 3lb bag, which is phenomenal. I also snagged a good deal on organic soymilk and organic tofu. Word on the street is you should keep your blueberries and soy products organic, so I try to do just that.
  • Free samples. Why yes, I have indeed been wondering what raw hemp seed taste like. As well as whole grain pancakes. So I’ll take one of each and dip my pancake into the hemp seeds (that was Willa’s approach).
  • Double child seats in the cart. Uh, genius. I always wondered where the second kid was supposed to go. And, for a change, Willa actually sat in the seat. It could have been the free samples, but perhaps it was also the ample room?
  • No bags. I like what they’re doing with the no bags at check out thing. But they certainly make their environmental footprint elsewhere…

Cons:

  • Bulk. Obviously this is what Costco is all about, but come on, who can drink 2 gallons of milk before it goes bad!? I guess if you have a large family, but couldn’t they sell an individual gallon somewhere in the store for those of us with just one milk-obsessed toddler? You need an extra fridge and freezer not to mention pantry to shop there. Some of the products just seem to be too bulk-y for anyone’s good. Which leads me to point number two…
  • Waste. As someone who’s borderline obsessed with thinking about where waste goes, the amount of packaging found in Costco made me incredibly anxious. I wanted to buy some dried seaweed, but why do they have to individually package every 10 slices? And the bananas need to be in a plastic bag? And those two bottles of oil need to be attached by a plastic ring AND coated in plastic wrap? I could go on an on. Costco’s target market is individual consumers (right?) so why so much packaging? Moreover, there were no recycling bins to be found and all the free sample PAPER cups were going into trash bins. Come on, Costco, don’t you know that Denver is only capturing a fraction of recyclable materials? And as a Seattle company, I expect more. And this doesn’t even consider the amount of items consumers are probably wasting once they leave the store. No one needs everything in bulk.
  • Payment options. You can apparently only pay with a debit card, or one of the credit cards that partners with Costco. So no Chase points for me. Boo.

I will definitely be back to Costco occasionally. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make up the $55 annual membership fee. Perhaps on blueberries alone. But I’d love to hear from others – what do you think about Costco or bulk shopping in general? Do we actually save, or do we just buy more?

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