Is Costco seen as a cheap option in the US?

What about Aldi?, you can buy grog there. I buy the $2 a bottle clean skin wine, which is reasonably drinkable.

Grain free dog food. I make up my membership every year in grain free dog food, huge containers of organic half and half, and the aforementioned lamb and organic hamburger. And I got in on that Gatoraide deal for my baseball playing, drinks two gatoraides a game son. Toilet paper, paper towels, disposable coffee cups (my daughter) and cleaning supplies.

The take and bake pizzas and deli chickens are good deals as well - huge. I’ve done the take and bake pizzas when my kids have a party.

I don’t buy much produce there - too much of it at once. But if I’m going to can green beans, its a great deal.

I’m not a big couponer and I don’t live in a coupon region (few stores will double around here ever and its very limited when they do so).

Pretty much. I like it for a few things: the reasonably priced booze, the selection and quality of meat, especially their beef (you can find prime beef there, for instance.) and then a few bang-for-buck speciality items, like their awesome Kirkland brand organic extra virgin olive oil.

I can get a lot of stuff cheaper elsewhere if I wait, but I prefer their beef to anything I get at any of my local supermarkets, although it is not cheaper. It is reasonably priced, though. And if I’m craving a prime steak, I can find it as Costco, and that usually is at a better price than any of the other places I would normally find prime steaks (Whole Foods, for example.)

So, for what I use it for, it’s probably not quite worth the $50. But I like having it as an option for those times when I need to do a big meat-and-booze run.

I’ve noticed at the BJ’s near us, their gas is maybe a penny or two cheaper than the nearby convenience store - sometimes it’s the same or a penny more. On a fill-up of my car at a 2¢ difference, it would save me about a quarter. At $35/year (Is that still the fee?) I’d have to fill up every 2.6 days to break even, plus I’d burn a gallon to get there and back. I didn’t fill that often when I was commuting every day, and now that I’m retired, I might fill up every other week.

Is the price difference significant in other places?

The best deals at Costco are frozen foods and items that are packaged together (that would be sold individually in a “normal” supermarket), e.g. 8-packs of cans of diced tomatoes, canned soups, giant jars of olives shrink-wrapped together, etc.

Never buy produce or meat. You can almost always get a better deal elsewhere.

They also have electronics at decent prices with two-year warranties, pretty good deals on tires, eyeglasses, and other benefits like car rentals (not the best, but pretty good deals) and vacation packages (I’ve never used, but I’ve heard good things).

I agree on the produce, but quality-for-price, the meat really is a better deal than any of the major supermarkets here, in my opinion. Especially the beef. I can buy cheaper meat at other groceries, but they’re not as good, or not butchered the way I like them (steaks too thinly cut, for instance.) Pork I don’t usually buy from them, because I can usually find decent pork, although a couple days ago I went there to buy loin back ribs, because the loin backs at the groceries around here are cut way too close to the bone and hardly have any meat on them. And Costco’s was the same price – $3.29/lb – for nice, meaty loin back ribs.

I think its very regional - the produce here is cheaper - probably 10-20% - than anywhere but Aldi’s (and Aldi’s produce is questionable) or the Farmers Market. The problem is that it comes in such quantities that you throw out 30% :). I don’t normally need six ripe avocados at a time. Or five pounds of grapes. Or six heads of romaine.

We’re really selective about what we buy there but we save a ton on those products-eggs, cheese, butter, cereal, soda, bread. We save about 30-35 on each trip on those items.

Toilet paper and paper towels are about the same per unit as the store brand but far better quality. same with meat.
The drawback is the quantity you have to buy at one time. We’re on a limited income so there’s some juggling that has to be done.
Aluminum foil, plastic wrap and yeast are screaming deals.

The notion behind Costco is bulk buying. It’s not really for couples or small families. It’s where you go if you have 8 or more kids, or, as noted, you run a restaurant or if you’re a small business you can buy certain bulk supplies there. I don’t think it was ever intended as some sort of deep discount warehouse although I can understand how folks might have arrived at that notion.

Unfortunately, I recently moved and my closest BJ’s doesn’t have a gas station. Back when we were in Connecticut, the BJ’s was literally a quarter mile from our apartment, and it was 6-8 cents cheaper than the other local stations on average. My wife and I were each filling up every couple of weeks (small cars with reasonable commutes), but ten gallons a week between the two cars x 52 weeks x .07 = … 36.40 a year in gas savings. Which lines up nicely with that membership fee, which I think is still what it costs.

Nowadays, we go in every month or two, and we tend to get very specific things: paper towels are cheaper than the grocery store when there’s a coupon, generic drugs are usually good savings, lamb for some reason is always much cheaper (as many have mentioned about Costco as well, oddly enough), and the propane fillups save $10 or so a year vs the other local options. Our nearest BJ’s is within two miles, so it’s not out of the way at all.

Sicks Ate has it right, really, in that it’s part of a balanced bargain-hunting diet.

One thing I also just thought of… Boston and the inner suburbs are a complete Wal-Mart dead zone, so a lot of stuff where the grocery store is normally expensive and W-M might be the cheapest option, the “lowest price” you’re comparing to makes BJ’s look better than it would if W-M was local.

US shopper here (California). Costco has many cheap deals, but not everything is a good deal. For example, they tend to carry a lot of higher-end, brand-name products, so you may be getting a good deal on the higher-end product, but if a lower-end product would work just as well, you are still paying more. There are some things that are generally not great deals at costco if you compare them to supermarket sales: diapers, canned beans, and cereal come to mind. Drugstore items also tend to not be great deals.

There are still a ton of things at Costco that are a great deal. But I have learned to not assume that everything there is cheaper than elsewhere. I have certain items that I buy at Costco and I pretty much stick to the list. Except for clothing, which changes frequently and often has great deals so I always check that area out.

Wednesday, who lives 3 miles from Costco and shops there at least once a week

Echoing what others have said. Costco is the cheap option for many things, especially if the local supermarket is not particularly running a sale, but not for everything. You need to know your prices and know what you’ll save on there and what you won’t.

But that’s good general advice for shopping anywhere.

Pretty much what everyone else is saying. We go there for staples - paper towels, toilet paper, cat litter, laundry & dish detergent, etc. It’s cheaper than the grocery store.

One thing I’d like to add is soda. At the grocery stores around here, they charge ridiculously inflated prices for Coca-Cola products - like $7 for a 12-pack, which is twice as much as it should be. And then they always have something for the suckers - “buy two get one free!” Except that you’re still paying more than you should by taking advantage of this “deal.” Anyway, Costco doesn’t screw around like that. Last time I checked, a 36-pack was $9 and change, as it should be.

I do a lot of my shopping at Costco.

Overall, their everyday prices are cheaper than the everyday prices at most other stores for comparable items, but it varies a lot by item. Their price for portobello mushrooms was half the normal grocery store, last I looked, but their price for cans of soda was actually 5% higher. Most meats are virtually identical to local grocery store prices, but my favorite brand of bread is half at Costco.

Looking at it from business items: When my business opened a new office, I spent about $6000 on furniture at Costco, and I know I spent about a third of what this would ordinarily have cost. (Hell, even the Costco price for my desks went from $499 ea to $799 ea just two months later, and comparable desks elsewhere were at $1,000 ea.) The Costco price for my scanners is $420, compared to Amazon with $410. (Meanwhile, Staples has them at $450). Costco paper usually runs $37 a case, while Staples tends to be more in the $45/case range… but Staples runs buy-one-get-one-free specials on case paper. So I time my purchases there and save a bundle over Costco’s price, which doesn’t have any sales.

So, there’s no clean and easy comparison. If you shop around, sometimes Costco is the clear leader and sometimes not.

You have to be aware of what grocery store sale prices are. I’ve never bought canned soda at Costco since if I wait for a good sale at Safeway I will always do better. Tissues however are a good deal (we use a lot.) As for produce, just about the only thing we buy is portobello mushrooms, but we have good Farmers Markets year round.
There are a couple of things, like crusty breads, which are better there than anywhere else. Their meat is okay, but not necessarily the same quality as a grocery store. And their gas prices is no better than the Qwik-Stop near us.
We go there more for the things we like than for price, but take advantage of discounts when possible.

Like others have said, it’s not drastically cheaper than anywhere else. You do save buying in bulk, but it’s not insane savings.

That said, we’re pretty careful about what we buy. Non-perishable things like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, bulk OTC drugs/personal care items and dishwasher soap are prime items for Sam’s or Costco.

As far as food is concerned, it tends to be staple items that we eat a lot of. My son totally loves peanut butter, so it’s worthwhile to get the big jars, rather than buying another normal jar every week and a half. Same goes for yogurt that all 3 of us (of food-eating age) eat, and a few other things like flour and sugar.

Other things are definitely false economy. We can’t go through one of their bags of chips fast enough before they go stale, and while I may save on a gallon of soy sauce, I don’t want to store a big jug for the entire time I use it.

I find that surprising. Their meat is really quite good, and they sell Prime grade beef, which you can’t find at most regular groceries. I’ve never been disappointed by the quality of Costco’s meat. It’s pretty much better than any grocery store around here, minus Whole Foods and other such upscale/specialty markets. And if you look through the meat case, you can often find choice beef that almost indistinguishable from prime.

The first two years I shopped at Costco I asked myself the same question. I took every receipt from Costco and compared unit cost to the comparable items at my usual grocery store, and calculated the difference. I don’t do my regular shopping there, just go every few weeks to pick up less-perishable goods. I don’t get my weekly milk, eggs, juice, produce there because everything is offered in quantities that I just can’t store. I found that I saved much more than what the membership fee cost me. However, beware of impulse buying where you get great deals on stuff you don’t need.

However, things have changed a bit since then. The supermarkets have begun to compete against the warehouse club stores by offering certain bulk items at lower prices, such as bulk packaged chicken.

The cuts of beef are much better than what is available at either of the grocery stores I shop at, and priced better. Not all beef is prime, just a few cuts, but prime beef is completely unavailable in my grocery store.

Some items are comparable in price, like laundry detergent, and not worth the trip for that alone (I am over 20 miles from the nearest Costco).

Cakes are an unbelievable value. Last month I bought two half-sheet cakes for a party. The quality is miles ahead of any grocery store cake and it was $18 for each half-sheet, compared to 2-3 times that much at some stores.

Costco makes nearly all its profit from membership fees, so on average their prices should be significantly lower than conventional grocery stores.

Is the gas good though?, I have a bj’s near where I live and I worry that the gas might be watered down or something

I’ve found that Costco’s meat is superior to other meat I can get at a grocery store. The one place whose meat is as good, is the little market (the only one) where I live. They get their meat from Costco.

I always get my Christmas prime rib from Costco.