Monday, August 30, 2010

Suckered or smart?

We finally did it. We bit the bullet. We bought a Costco membership.

For years I have been shocked at people who actually pay for the "privilege" of shopping at a retail store. Shocked, and secretly envious of the cool things they bought there. Like giant tubs of cashews, milk for 20 cents cheaper than our No Frills grocery store, lovely treats in gift packages, soft hoodies.

When my brother- and sister-in-law showed us the great big dog bed they bought at Costco for their puppy, for only $22... That was it. The bed that ended our stand not to pay to shop.

A little background - our chocolate lab, Cadbury, has been sleeping on two beds I made for him out of an old sleeping bag and some upholstery fabric (one bed in the kitchen, one in our bedroom). The sleeping bag must have been 20 years old. So it was pretty flat to begin with. And after three years on those, they were thin and lumpy. Poor guy! So we have been looking for a decent dog bed, but not prepared to pay the $80+ for beds we saw at the pet stores. And along comes this steal of a dog bed at Costco.

We hit Costco on Friday and left with a $55 membership and two fabulous new beds for the dog - one 'orthopedic' one that was a whopping $27, and one soft, cushiony one (that has cedar chips in it to keep it fresh!) that set us back $22. Both decent looking. Both big enough for our 85 lb dog. He is thrilled. And we were pretty happy with the price!

On Saturday, we were back at Costco, wandering the aisles, snacking on the promo items and gaping at the giant tubs of tuna, peanut butter and corned beef. We ate some delicious Brie (don't worry - cheese in Canada is made with pasteurized milk!), tortellini, herb crackers and ranch dip, Banana-Nut Cheerios, potstickers, grapefruit slices, fruit juice and cranberry almond cookies. We turned down Cadbury Twist samples, applesauce and more fruit juice. We could have skipped lunch, if only we'd known.

We left with strange and wonderful family-sized purchases. A big bag of Dentabones for Cadbury (best weekend ever, for him). An enormous bag of Italian cheese tortellini and a huge jar of Marinara sauce. A three-pack of my husband's favourite chai concentrate. A bakery box of 12 croissants. Two of the biggest potted chrysanthemums I've seen for the urns on our front porch.

The scale of the store and the products is so outrageous that I'm not sure we really knew how big these things were until we got home. We are a family of just two (for now) - and my husband is living in Calgary until Christmas with only alternate weekend visits. It is a bit overboard to be buying vats of pasta sauce and a dozen croissants. But, we have a big freezer and love to get a deal.

The croissants are now frozen - I can pull out one or two at a time and pop them in the oven for a quick breakfast. The tortellini is dried, so it will keep well - the marinara sauce is delicious (we had it for dinner tonight), and will freeze just fine in two-serving containers.

I'm hoping that this membership will not be a waste of $55 (we've already saved more than that on the dog beds, if you compare to pet store prices) but an incentive to try new things and make the most of our freezer.

I can't shake the feeling, though, that I've gone to the dark side. I am open to advice on making the most of this. We're going to revisit the membership cost after the year is up and decide whether it's worthwhile or not.

How about you? Does your family have a club store membership? Do you think it's worth the price? What have your best purchases been?


  1. The closest place like that is Sam's Club and it is 1 hr away. So paying for the gas and the membership doesn't seem worth it to me. If I lived closer, maybe though.

    One thing you CAN do to make it worth while - get cash from friends who want to save money on groceries and buy things together that you can split up later. Dog food comes to mind, canned foods, frozen foods. Then your membership really will come in handy!

  2. My parents have a Costco membership. They are a retired couple. They buy their meat in bulk, as well as toiletries. They like to divide the meat and freeze it in two-portion Ziploc bags.

    They also occasionally pick stuff up for me and my sister. $9.99 for 40 pounds o' cat litter? 20 rolls of toilet paper? Can't beat that!

  3. We used to have a Costco membership as my husband's work paid for it, but then I realized that I can get most household products (toilet paper, Ziploc bags, toothbrushes, cat food, diapers) a lot cheaper or even free when combining sales with coupons at regular retail stores. For instance, I got 21 packages of Ziploc completely free (i.e. didn't even have to pay the tax) at SuperStore last week. :) The main thing that bothers me about Costco is they don't accept manufacturer coupons.

    So we've given up our Costco membership. That being said, we have always enjoyed the free food sampling and the occasional awesome deal there. For instance, they often have promotions where you can get a certain number of digital photos developed for free. Also, around Christmas last year they had this really good quality package of 6 kitchen towels on sale for $6. :)

  4. we have one - my partner is a private chef, and when buying things in the amounts he does, it is so easy and cost-effective there. Also, I have a weakness for San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water, and it is just cheaper by the case! Even though we are just two people, we feel that it's worth it. It's also fun just to go and gawk at the size of everything in there :)


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