Experience has shown me that there is one word that is perhaps more divisive than almost any other.
If like me, you’re already high on Costco, you know why: amazing prices, great products and a return policy better than anybody else out there. But I don’t need to tell you that — I suspect you’ve already drank the Kool-Aid.
If, however, you’re either Costco Adverse or Costco Neutral, let me tell you why you need to be heading there in advance of the busy month ahead.
My hope is that you’ll either dust off that card you use bi-monthly or you’ll ask around to your pro-Costco friends and ask if you can tag along on their next trip (maybe they’ll even pick something up for you).
Trust me… there’s a lot here that’s especially useful to have on hard for the slew of holiday gift-giving, party-hopping and festive meals ahead.
A word first to the skeptics. At least once a week I hear someone gripe about the place or share some quibble with how they sell stuff.
“It’s so overwhelming.”
“I couldn’t possibly eat in such big quantities.”
“It’s not that good of a deal, right?”
(To which I say “it doesn’t have to be”, “yes — you can” and “but it is!”).
Sure, everyone knows that more people buy toilet paper, paper towels and roast chickens here than any other retailer in the world, but there are plenty of other reasons to go there.
At least twice a week I’m asked about what I like about it (and no, I’m not compensated for my Costco love).
So here are my picks for why you need to beg, borrow or steal and get yourself over there now — before it gets really crazy.
SEVEN REASONS TO SHOP COSTCO, ESPECIALLY NOW.
ONE. Holiday Baking.
At this time of the year, it’s pretty ridiculous how much I go through in baking supplies right now.
Sure, they’ve got terrific deals on unsalted butter day in, day out (price varies but I’ve paid as low at $1.75 a pound lately), all kinds of sugar (including coconut) and the best prices on Madagascar vanilla I’ve ever found, but few people know how many other baking items they carry, too.
Look for gluten-free flours, almond flour, unusual extracts and more (especially at this time of the year).
Are cookies or granola something you make in volume and dispense to all those in your orbit?
Then head here first.
Make that list.
Butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, chocolate chips, vanilla, non-stick spray, parchment, jams, peanut butter, nuts, eggs, sugars, various flours, select spices, even Nutella.
Stop here first and you won’t be sorry later to skip the high prices of the supermarket later.
TWO. Luxury Food Items.
Are you a caviar lover? Truffle oil aficionado? Are you dreaming of Yuletide bagels and smoked lox?
Costco has you covered.
At this time of the year, Costco is brimming with things you’ll pay top dollar for elsewhere (think prime rib, steaks, crab, jumbo prawns) and because they sell so much of these foods, you know it’s super fresh.
And if you’re lucky enough to hit the store when a Seafood Road Show is going on, you’ll see bags of mussels, clams, lobster tails, whole crabs and more at bargain prices.
I know some Costco’s carry booze but not in Oregon — but their wine selection is pretty terrific, too.
Did you know that Costco sells more wine than anyone else, too? I watched a documentary about Costco and it included a couple segments on their influential buying and successful efforts to private label tasty, affordable wine.
At this time of year I also pick up a couple special bottles to have on hand for cocktail or dinner parties, and I never worry about getting a corked bottle or overcharged.
I think Costco just tacks a flat percentage on everything they sell (something like 9%?) so I know that I’m getting a great deal on a bottle of wine that’s solid.
FOUR. Stocking Stuffers.
At our house, Santa gives everyone a magazine or two of particular interest, and one of my favorite things to do Christmas afternoon is to curl up by the fire with a fresh latte, something sweet from my stocking and a fresh read.
Not a lot of people know that at any one time Costco carries about thirty or more magazine titles; they vary wildly and include some of the pricier issues (some like the techie tip journals or book like cooking magazines which run about $15 retail). As you can see above, they’re all about a third off the sticker price, so if I get just four to eight fancy magazines I may save about twenty bucks right there.
Add some great truffles in there, maybe a calendar or puzzle book and Santa is almost done with stockings.
FIVE. Nuts and Dried Fruit.
We eat a lot of both of these categories around here. I use dried fruits and nuts for all kinds of baking, salads, and bowls. The kids get dried fruit in their lunch boxes and one of my husband’s few indulgences are Salt and Pepper Pistachios (which are also yummy on salads, by the way).
I also like having small bags of almonds, apricots and cherries in the back of the car; when I’m running errands for hours on end and feeling hangry, I like reaching for something somewhat healthy before I lose my cool.
I’ve never had a less-than-fantastic nut or dried piece of fruit from here. They are always crunchy/fresh or supple/moist and the packages aren’t huge (sometimes as small as a pound for latter, which isn’t too much).
The nut selection is fairly vast: cashews, whole and blistered peanuts, walnuts, pecans, shelled and whole pistachios, pine nuts, various kinds of almonds, and assorted mixed. The fruit selection is no less varied: fig, satsuma, dates, mango, coconut, apricots, cherries, blueberry — and probably more.
It’s kind of ridiculous the extent of their stash — and sometimes when I go there I just find staring at the array as I daydream all the possibilities.
I buy so many kinds here: Manchego, various cheddars (including aged Beecher’s from Seattle), Feta, Brie… and at this time of the year, there are loads more that I’m picking up.
I love using this for warm goat cheese salads, or nestled inside baguette and prosciutto sandwiches. I add it to to pizzas and at least once a year I make twice baked potatoes with goat cheese and smoked mozzarella (and yes, they’re that good).
And how about a round of pesto, smoked turkey and mozarella panini?
Costco for this?
Think about how many smaller presents you’d like to give out to those around you. Acquaintances. Mailperson. Teachers. Hairdresser. Hostess gifts.
There are so many gifts $20 and under here.
The book selection is small but curated intelligently, and all the titles are at least thirty percent off.
Naomi Pomeroy’s book was $25 instead of $40 (it’s a beauty, by the way).
Okay, here’s a Costco gift I’ve given to friends.
A chunk of Reggiano will only set you back about fifteen dollars for a pound and a half piece and it will reside happily in the fridge for months, and your recipient will be oh-so-grateful every time they pull it out and give it a good grate.
Here are some other ideas.
How about a really nice bottle of oil and a related food item (like a vinegar and something fresh?)
I’ve given avocado oil and a giant glass jar of quinoa.
(just look at that price!).
Another idea is a liter of exceptional olive oil
and four pounds of Meyer Lemons.
The price for those two is $15.
I’ve also given out this Irish butter
with loaves of my favorite bread to hostesses to enjoy the morning after the party.
(Wouldn’t YOU love that?)
Okay, hopefully you’ve now seen the Costco Light.
Off for now; school’s been cancelled as we wait for our first snowfall.
Let the cocoa, baking and fireside noshing (Costco-fueled) commence!