19 Foods That Are a Complete Waste of Money at Costco

Costco seems like a bargain hunter’s dream. For all the awesome deals the big-box store offers, however, you shouldn’t buy certain items. You can easily waste money in the food section — but we won’t let you. These are the foods you shouldn’t buy from Costco, including one popular item to avoid at all costs (on page 9).

1. Fresh meats

Meet, fish, eggs

Costco doesn’t offer good deals on fresh meats. | iStock.com/grinvalds

Why: Fresh meats, like chicken, ground beef, and steaks, often cost more at Costco than they do at the grocery store. And a good supermarket sale will beat Costco’s prices by a large margin. Plus, a large package of raw meat won’t last long in the fridge.

The exception: If you properly portion the meat and freeze it for later, you might get your money’s worth.

Next: Not even vegetarians can keep up with these items.

2. Bulk packages of produce

Fresh carrots arranged on a wooden background.

Bulk packages of produce seem cheap at Costco. But they’re only a good buy if you use all the veggies or fruits you buy. | iStock.com/Nataliia_Pyzhova

Why: You likely won’t be able to eat all of the bulk fruit and veggies before they go bad. Half of all U.S. produce gets thrown away. Think carefully about whether you can use it all.

Next: You don’t want this on your burger.

3. Jumbo-sized condiments

Container of fresh fried french fries with ketchup and white sauce on wooden table.

Even the biggest fans of fries and ketchup probably shouldn’t buy a huge bottle of the condiment at Costco. | iStock.com/Miroha141

Why: Most people struggle to use up a giant bottle of ketchup before it starts looking or smelling strange. Some condiments are safe to eat after they expire, but that doesn’t mean they’ll still taste good.

The real expiration dates: Ketchup can last six months. Mustard can last for a year. And mayo only lasts two to three months after the use-by date. An open container of BBQ sauce only lasts four months.

Next: Don’t go nuts over this bulk snack.

4. Large packages of nuts

cans of different kinds of nuts

Nuts bought in bulk often go bad before you can use them. | iStock.com

Why: Always buy nuts in smaller packages. Bulk nuts contain larger amounts of oil (from healthy unsaturated fats), so they tend to go rancid faster than you think.

Storage tip: Even if you bought bagged nuts, always store them in an airtight container.

Next: Buying this item is all about strategy.

5. Soda

Glass of cola drink with ice, shot close up with selective focus.

You can get better deals on soda at the grocery store than at Costco. | iStock.com/rez-art

Why: It’s tempting to buy soda at Costco. But you can find it for a better price at your grocery store. It’s one of the items supermarkets mark down around holidays, big sporting events, and any time people throw parties and hold cookouts.

Instead: Stock up during those grocery store sales, and save the extra bottles and cans for later.

Next: Buy your milk at Costco but not its counterpart.

6. Cereal

cereal

You should buy cereal at the grocery store, not at your local Costco. | iStock.com

Why: Breakfast cereal costs more at Costco than grocery stores. Plus, you should be wary of buying a huge box of cereal, particularly if everyone in your household doesn’t eat the same cereal each morning. A jumbo box of cereal can go stale before you have the chance to eat it all.

Instead: Always compare per-unit prices and look for coupons on cereal at grocery stores.

Next: A baking essential, but not in bulk

7. Bulk bags of flour

Flour

A big bag of flour can go bad before you have the chance to use it. | iStock.com

Why: You can stock up on flour at Costco if you’re a professional (or prolific) baker. But everyone else should steer clear. Flour doesn’t last nearly as long as you think, because it absorbs moisture from the air.

Next: Don’t fill your pantry with this Costco basic.

8. Canned goods and other pantry essentials

white bean spinach soup in a wooden plate with wooden spoon

You can get canned soup and other pantry essentials cheaper at the grocery store. | iStock.com/nata_vkusidey

Why: Packaged foods, like canned foods, mixes, dressings, and other items you’d store in your pantry, are often cheaper on sale at the grocery store.

Instead: When you see a sale or coupon on canned goods, take advantage of it. It could reduce the price to half the cost, per unit, of what you’d find at Costco.

Next: Your health isn’t the only reason to avoid this popular Costco item.

9. Oversized bags of chips

Bowl filled with potato chips sitting on wooden table.

Giant bags of chips can go stale before you can finish them. | iStock.com/Magone

Why: Large bags of potato chips or cheese puffs are tempting. But another concern? They’ll likely go stale before you can eat them all.

The exception: If you’re throwing a big party, it may make sense to buy a couple Costco-sized bags.

Next: America runs on caffeine, but not at Costco

10. Large bags of coffee

Croissant and coffee on wooden background

The packages of coffee you see at Costco rarely make a good buy. | iStock.com

Why: Ground or whole, coffee won’t taste fresh once you’re halfway through a giant bag from a big-box store. The beans aren’t meant to last that long, so shoppers should sip cautiously at Costco.

Instead: Buy a smaller container of better coffee on sale or with a coupon at a grocery store.

Next: Buying this cooking essential is a numbers game.

11. Giant bottles of vegetable or olive oil

olive oil

Large bottles of oil can go rancid before you use them. | iStock.com

Why: Unless you constantly fry food for large gatherings, you don’t need Costco’s giant bottles of cooking oil. The USDA says not to keep olive and vegetable oil in your pantry for more than six to 12 months. And most people won’t use the whole bottle during that timeframe.

Next: Get a reusable version of this instead.

12. Bottled water

Row of water bottles

You shouldn’t buy bottled water at Costco (or elsewhere, for that matter). | iStock.com/tezzstock

Why: Costco offers great deals on bottled water. But spending money on bottled water will hurt your bank account and the environment. You don’t need bottled water unless your water has been contaminated.

Instead: Get a filtering pitcher to keep at home, and use a water bottle on-the-go.

Next: Another reason to get excited about sample day

13. Large packages of food you haven’t tried

snack mix

Giant packs of foods you haven’t tried yet can waste your money. | iStock.com

Why: It may seem like common sense, but it’s important to sample new foods before buying a huge quantity. A craving or flashy packaging may make you rethink this tip, but we suggest going with a smaller box of a new food before investing in it.

Next: Leave it at the warehouse unless it’s Halloween

14. Huge bags of candy or caloric snacks

candy

Large bags of candy and cookies can tempt you to stray from your healthy eating habits. | iStock.com

Why: When you’re pushing a heavy cart around Costco, those giant packages of cookies or candy look tempting. But having them around basically guarantees you’ll reach for them instead of a healthy alternative. Indulge in the occasional cookie or bag of chips, of course — just don’t buy a giant package.

Next: Spices

15. Spices you don’t use frequently

Mixed spices

Large bottles of spices you use only infrequently aren’t a good use of money. | iStock.com

Why: Costco famously offers great deals on spices. You can buy a large bottle of cinnamon, for instance, for a lot less than a tiny bottle from a grocery store. If you season many meals with a specific set of spices, large bottles can save you cash. But spices you use occasionally? Stick to smaller bottles.

Next: Foods you could make yourself

16. Foods you can make yourself

mango guacamole with corn chips

Can you make guacamole or cookies at home? Then, don’t buy them at Costco. | iStock.com/nata_vkusidey

Why: Costco offers plenty of salad dressings, guacamole, salsa, cookies, and pre-made pasta dishes. And they can save you time in a pinch. But you’ll waste a lot of money by regularly buying foods you can make at home.

 

Next: Items that aren’t on your list

17. Things that aren’t on your shopping list

Homemade gingersnap cookies in a white plate

Don’t spend money on items that aren’t on your shopping list. | iStock.com

Why: Another secret to avoid wasting money at Costco? Stick to a strict shopping list. Shoppers know Costco as a big-box store with tons of samples to try. It’s tempting, but if you don’t need these random goodies, don’t get them.

Next: Supermarket prices can’t be beat in this department.

18. Produce that’s on sale at the supermarket

mixed peppers

Don’t go to Costco for produce you can get on sale at the grocery store. | iStock.com

Why: Costco offers good deals on some fruits and vegetables. But when produce is on sale at the supermarket, it’s almost always a better deal there than it is at Costco.

Tip: Look up seasonal sales, or bring the grocery store’s sales flyer, to compare prices at Costco.