Woman in Costco

10 Costco Shopping Mistakes that Waste Money for Couples and Small Families

Do you sometimes feel like you’re wasting money instead of saving money when you shop at Costco? It’s an all too familiar feeling, throwing away unopened spoiled food items because you couldn’t eat them fast enough. Shopping at Costco can save you money, but you need to be strategic about what you buy there. Not everything will save you money if you end up throwing it away. This is especially true if you are a couple or a small family. That’s exactly my problem at Costco. I end up throwing away a lot of food because my husband, my two kids, and I simply can’t eat it fast enough. Below, I’m sharing my Costco shopping mistakes that waste money if you have a small family. 

Costco Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

1. Buying Cases of Food with Mixed Flavors

One mistake to watch out for when shopping at Costco is buying food items with mixed flavors. Even if it’s a great deal, I avoid buying them because my family and I don’t like all the flavors. 

For example, Popcorners come in four flavors: kettle corn, white cheddar, spicy queso, and sea salt. We only like the kettle corn flavor, which is just 10 out of the 30 bags in a single case. We always end up not eating the other flavors and wasting them (or I end up forcing myself to eat the other flavors so that we don’t waste when I really don’t like it!) Unless I’m hosting a party, I no longer buy Popcorners since the other flavors go uneaten.

Costco Shopping Mistakes

2. Not Upgrading to the Costco Executive Membership

Upgrading to the Costco Executive membership is one of the smartest money saving strategies at Costco. Don’t think that you won’t get your money’s worth with an executive membership just because you’re a couple or a small family of four. 

In fact, the opposite is true. A regular Costco membership is $60 a year, and an Executive Membership is $120 a year. However, with a Costco Executive membership, you get 2% cash back. If you do that math, as long as you spend at least $3000 a year, you will get a cash back of $60. That $60 pays for the upgrade! 

With inflation these days, spending $3000 a year at Costco is easy. That is only $250 a month! I easily spend more than $250 each time I shop at Costco. Take a look at your past Costco receipts. If you spend more than $250 each time you shop at Costco and go at least once a month, then you should definitely upgrade to the Costco Executive membership.

3. Not Splitting Food with Friends and Neighbors

There are some things at Costco that are just unrealistic for a couple or a small family of four to eat. There is just too much to eat, and we end up never finishing it. One Costco shopping strategy that I have employed is to split Costco purchases with my neighbor.

For example, Costco croissants are one of the best deals at Costco, at $5.99 a tub. But the truth is, my family of four never finishes an entire tub of croissants. We struggle to finish them, and I always end up throwing away moldy croissants—it’s just too much to eat! 

Now, when I buy croissants at Costco, I always split them with my neighbor so we can comfortably finish our portion without wasting it. 

4. Buying the Big Tub of Salad

One shopping mistake that I used to make at Costco is buying the big tub of spring greens. My husband and I usually never finish the big tub and end up wasting it. Now, I only buy the bag salad at Costco since it is smaller and more manageable for two people. 

But you need to choose wisely when it comes to buying salad. I buy bag salads like the Caesar salad because the romaine lettuce lasts longer than the more delicate spring greens. 

5. Not Having an Extra Freezer

If you are a Costco member, you really need to have an extra freezer at home otherwise, you’re not taking full advantage of all the Costco savings. I know this is a bit of an extreme strategy, but when it comes to buying food at Costco, the lack of freezer space becomes an issue. If you only have one freezer, then you really can’t take full advantage of the savings from buying frozen foods at Costco. 

At Costco, frozen foods come in larger boxes and bags compared to Trader Joe’s, where things are in small bags. This means that they occupy a lot of freezer space. I think it’s worth buying an extra freezer since they are so inexpensive these days- you can buy a chest freezer for under $100 dollars

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6. Not Checking the Expiration Date

A mistake that some people make when shopping at Costco is they don’t check the expiration date. I always check the expiration date whenever I buy anything at Costco, especially if I’m buying perishable items like cheese and yogurt. It’s a real struggle for my family of four to finish a full case of yogurt before it goes bad, so I always make sure we have plenty of time to finish a case. 

7. Not Buying the Pantry Items

One of the best ways to save money at Costco is to buy pantry items like olive oil, rice, and pasta sauce in bulk. These are cheaper at Costco when you buy in bulk. Unlike perishable refrigerated items, pantry items have long shelf lives, so if you’re a couple or a small family, you’ll be able to use up the pantry item within the timeframe before it expires. 

For example, I always buy olive oil at Costco. It’s cheaper to buy the big jug there. It does take my family of four a year to go through a jug of olive oil, but it saves us money, and we don’t waste a drop of it. 

Costco Shopping Mistakes

8. Shopping Hungry at Costco

Never go to Costco hungry. Trust me, it’s a recipe for disaster. When you’re hungry, you end up making impulsive purchases and buying items that you don’t need. 

For example, that chocolate-covered snack that you normally wouldn’t buy or the giant tub of chocolate chip cookies that your family can’t possibly finish. The worst is being impulsive and buying everything that I sampled at Costco. I used to make this mistake all the time, buying food that I thought was good when I sampled it at Costco, only to regret the purchase later.

9. Not Buying the Rotisserie Chicken

I never leave Costco without a rotisserie chicken. The Rotisserie Chicken is hands down the best deal at Costco. At $4.99 a rotisserie chicken, I haven’t seen it cheaper anywhere else. It’s even cheaper than the Rotisserie Chicken sale at my local grocery store, which is $6.99 a bird.  

Aside from saving you money, you don’t have to cook dinner! And the good thing about buying the Costco rotisserie chicken is that you can easily repurpose leftover rotisserie chicken and make chicken salads or casseroles.

10. Not Buying Costco Prepared Meals

A mistake that some people make is they don’t buy the Costco prepared meals thinking it’s too much food for a small family or a couple. When in fact, the opposite is true. The serving size is perfect for my family of four. If you’re a couple, you can get two meals out of one Costco prepared meal kit. Plus, you can’t beat the price of the Costco prepared meals—at $15 for a pasta platter or $18 for a meatloaf meal, it’s cheap and easy. I never leave Costco without buying at least one Costco prepared meal. Check out: 9 Best Costco Prepared Meals my Family Can’t Live Without

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