Frugal Strategy Friday: Costco

I haven’t been blogging much about my frugal strategies and habits lately. Partly because many of the habits I experimented with have become second nature over time. This is great news–we have been able to change our habits and become much more frugal!

So I thought I would share with you some of the things we’ve learned, and some of the things I think we can still work on, in a new series, “Frugal Strategy Friday”.

Shopping at Costco

For today’s strategy, I’ll look at our decision to get a Costco membership, and how that has been working for us.

I used to go to Costco with my brother, and saw what kinds of things were good deals. In the fall, I finally got my own card and have made a few trips with friends. It’s great to go with someone who has a membership, but it is more flexible to be able to go on my own. I think the card may have paid for itself on my first visit.

Here, in no particular order, are some things that I buy at Costco that are good deals for our family: cheese, cream, eggs, bread, vinegar, raisins, granola bars, sugar, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, laundry and dish detergents (eco-friendly), shampoo, vitamins, canned salmon . . .

We’ve also bought a couple of non-grocery things that have worked out very well for us, including gift wrap, and a wireless router. Oh, and they have these amazing olives stuffed with garlic, but I’ve only seen them in Sudbury so far.

Costco Caveats

One warning I’d give to new Costco shoppers is smell before you buy. I’ve made some mistakes purchasing products that turned out to be so revoltingly scented that I had to return them. And there isn’t much I’d less like to do than stand in the Costco return line.

One other technique I use here as well as any big box store is the binge and purge. If I think I *might* want an item, I stick it in the cart, but I make sure to go through everything before I get in line to check my budget and make sure I really want all the stuff I got.

Because here’s the ultimate Costco kicker: If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay for it for a looooong time. If the toilet paper turns out to be scratchy but not return-worthy, you’re in for a year of scratchy paper. I think this is why they give all those samples–people really do want to make sure that gallon-sized jar of antipasto tastes good before they put it in the cart (it doesn’t).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is I love/hate Costco and everything it stands for. It is an amazing cultural phenomenon that we can buy industrial air compressors at the same place that sells frozen tortellini. Almost like a bizarre global general store.

During farmer’s market season, I do buy a lot of things directly from the source, like eggs, meat and other things. But for things like shampoo and detergents that I don’t source from local artisans (I know I probably Should, but hey, I’m a busy, budget-constrained human!), I don’t feel too bad getting the best deal I can.

What about you? How does Costco work for your family?

One Ton of Mayo

According to a friend, we’ve made what constitutes “a typical Costco miscalculation”. The exact size of the miscalculation: 1.8 L. Of Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

This means:

100 toasted tomato sandwiches, or . . .

7.5 chocolate cakes, or . . .

30 hair treatments, or . . .

15 each tuna, salmon and egg salads, or . . .

. . .  what else?

I’ll admit it: I have been making a lot of “Emergency Chocolate Cake” (my own cupcake version with chocolate chips), but this stuff expires in April of this year, and I don’t know if I can make enough cakes by then!

So, the question: what would you do with one ton of mayo? Or 1.8 L of the stuff, to be exact. Any ideas I’m missing for fabulous uses for mayo?