June 3, 2010

Costco vs. coupons, what’s the better deal? Check out my groovy Costco price list!

Is shopping at Costco and other bulk retailers cheaper than clipping coupons and shopping sales? I get this question a lot and there isn’t really one right answer – but I think in general it’s a better deal to clip coupons and shop sales. You’d be surprised after figuring out the per unit price how much you’re actually paying vs. if you had bought it at the store on sale with a coupon.

This post explains my thinking on Costco vs. coupons and includes a price list for common items at Costco and I’ve figured out the per unit price for you! This way you can easily compare prices when you’re out shopping. Wahoo! I’m super excited about this price list.

$50 membership fee – First, I have to say that we DO have a Costco Membership. Owning business(es) it makes sense for us to have a Costco Membership for things like electronics and office supplies – which Costco definitely has competitive prices on and a return policy that you just can’t be beat. But with a $50 annual membership fee, you have to decide if you’re really going to use it enough to justify the price.

A good deal, but is it too much? If you are a family of two or three, buying items in bulk might save you money up front, but if you find yourself throwing out spoiled items because you couldn’t go through it in time, you probably would have been better off buying it at the grocery store with a coupon.

In general, good stock-up store sales will beat Costco prices – If you watch for a really good sale on something at a grocery store (that’s why you follow Queen Bee right?) – chances are it’s a better deal than Costco.

On the other hand, time is money – If you don’t have time to clip coupons one week, or you don’t even have time to look at the sale ads, maybe Costco is the way to go. You can count on a decent price and you don’t have to think about it. I think this is when we use Costco the most (and why most people do) – when I haven’t planned well enough for a party or I need a bunch of something and can’t wait for a good stock-up sale – then we head to Costco.

No coupons, no rebates – Costco doesn’t take manufacturer coupons on their products. You can use Costco coupons that they generally mail out every month or so. Also, a lot of times Costco purchases don’t qualify for rebates – such as on beer, meat, and toiletries. By buying it in the grocery store you can take advantage of both coupons and rebates.

Figure out the per unit price – The package looks huge, the price looks decent – much be a good deal right? Not necessarily. It can be so confusing looking at the per ounce, per pound, per unit prices – it’s hard to figure out how much it would be if you were to buy it in a regular package at the grocery store. This is where I hope to help you!

I went to my local Costco (Hawks Prairie, Lacey, Washington store) and wrote down the prices for common items that you’d buy at Costco that often have coupons and stock-up sales at local grocery stores. You can print out the list and keep it with you and the next time you think you see a good deal on diapers, you can compare it to the Costco price. Please note – the prices I have for items could be VERY different at your Costco and/or if they change the prices locally. I don’t know how the prices compare regionally, if you know a price is different for your area – please leave a comment.

Check out my online Costco price list database! I hope you’re as excited about it as I am. I no longer have to wonder when I’m pricing out toilet paper at Safeway or Target if it would be cheaper to run to Costco! I printed out a copy and put it in my purse.

  • This prices are based on the Costco Warehouse in Lacey, Washington as of June 3, 2010.
  • Products and prices vary regionally – so please keep this in mind when making comparisons
  • If you find a price that should be updated – please let me know
  • If you find my math is off – please let me know
  • To search use CTRL+F and search by keyword
  • I’ll add more prices as I have time. This is all I could write down in an hour with a toddler in the cart. 🙂
  • I plan to also add another column of my stock-up prices, or the price that something needs to be for me to stock up.
  • If you want to include this on your blog or share this with your friends – that’s great! Just please give credit to www.QueenBeeCoupons.com, linking to the site when applicable.

Let me know if this is helpful for you!


    Leave your comments here...


  1. I’m not sure I’m completely convinced that couponing pays off. I live in Vancouver, BC, where a gallon of milk is $4.56, eggs $3.11, 16 oz of ricotta cheese is $5.60, laundry detergent is $15.00 and a double box of cheerios is $6.59 at my local Safeway. I’ve looked at couponing sites and most of them have deals like, “buy two, get $1 off.” Considering the high cost of groceries, doesn’t seem worth it to only save on $1 for buying two.

    I haven’t actually compared any prices but I feel like having to buy twice as much of a certain product and only get $1 off through couponing at a regular grocery store, and then go to Costco and get the same amount for $2+ savings? Was just looking at the Costco v. Safeway prices at “Mr. MoneyMoustache’s” website.

  2. Thank you so much, I have jotted down a lot of the things I buy weekly so that I could compare, but it is always on a scratch paper and I loose it. Kind of tough with one year old twin boys, to keep anything in one peace. So thank you so much. I started couponing a few months ago so I still need a lot of help!

  3. Debi Speck says:

    I do actually shop at Costco. But we have a business and use the ‘executive membership’ which does cost more, but with the additional office supplies that I buy, any computers, furniture that sort of thing, I always get my membership reimbursed.
    For me it mostly does come down to convience, I know that there are items that I purchase there that cost more, but it means that I am not running to the store and again, my yearly rebate check more than makes up for the difference.
    You had lots of good information though and there are some things that I see I will no longer buy there.

  4. Stephanie says:

    This is ridiculously awesome! Especially considering this is the same Costco that I go to! I just started couponing about 2 weeks ago. I admit that at the beginning i was quite overwhelmed. So I’m only doing 1 storen now. Eventually I’ll move to more, but with 3 kids 4 and under, I can only handle 1 🙂 Thanks so much! I was wondering what the price per unit on a lot of these things was!

  5. This is great! I did a similar thing when I first started couponing because we shopped Costco pretty exclusively. Everyone should be aware, however that Costco’s prices change much more frequently than other grocery stores. I think last summer the price of milk changed for us about 3 times in 3 months.

  6. Wow – thanks for all the work put into this. We are a large family that depend almost soley on Costco. If Costco doesn’t carry it, we don’t eat it or use it. But recently I was comparing two Costco receipts and realized that the prices had gone up quite a bit on things I buy every two weeks to a month. I started thinking maybe I’m not getting the best deal. Can’t wait to really compare with your list. Thanks so much!

  7. Wow! Thanks, I found this from a link on Thrifty NW Mom and forwarded it on to several friends!

  8. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing, this is a real blessing to me. I was planning on doing the same thing. I ususally shop the Puyallup Costco, and I’m sure their prices are the same as Lacey.

  9. Hi, this is great!!! Thank you!! (found this via a posting on a friend’s FB page)

    I live in the Los Angeles area, and from what I do buy regularly at Costco, your prices are pretty close to ours (some are a little higher, some less).

    For us (and we pay $45 for membership, we’re on a business’s plan), we have saved our membership cost just on gas alone. The price per gallon of Costco gas is at least 5 cents/gallon less than other stations, and usually 10 cents/gallon. And that’s our local stations here in Burbank, in Los Angeles city itself, gas is much more expensive.

  10. We buy a lot of fruit at costco. The prices are generally a lot cheaper than in the stores and better quality. Costco alsmot always has better quality items than other local grocery stores. We save a lot of money buying fruit there but I only buy what is cheaper than in the store. If someone is having a big sale on grapes of blueberries, etc I buy it at the other store. Otherwise, costco has better prices. We also buy clothes, kids kids, books, dvds, garden stuff, paint, etc. We have the executive membership and get more than our $100 back each year so it does not end up costing us any money.

  11. Brandie says:

    We always buy our ground beef in the frozen tubes in Costco freezer section – they are already preportioned (one tube is perfect for spaghetti sauce for a family of 4-6 people), and it is cheaper than the raw stuff.
    We find the following tend to be cheaper at Costco:
    Cream Cheese
    shredded Cheese and regular cheese (chedder, Mozza, Parmesan) – sometimes we separate and freeze some, but for the most part it is well worth the money – I am amazed at how much cheese costs at regular stores, and how little you get
    most produce (huge bags of brocolli or lettuce for the same or less than a quarter of that size in the regular stores)
    spices (again, some stores charge $5 for a tiny bottle and costco has huge containers for $3)
    Birthday cakes – a huge slab costs $16! hard to beat that..and $5.99 for a HUGE pumpkin pie, again, at over double the size of a grocery store one and usually cheaper too (I’ve seen pumpkin pie sold at $8.99 at a store, and it was tiny!)

    we try to stay away from prepackaged frozen items and fresh meat at Costco. Some produce is too much for what we would eat, but bananas, at only $1.19 for a huge bunch, it is hard to go wrong!! I love the list tho! check out my recommendations ;D

  12. Thank you for this! awesome, Dena

  13. This is a wonderful resource. Thank you for sharing!! I did see that the price per ounce of Kirkland Organic Salsa should be .09/oz instead of .91/oz.
    I shop at Costco a lot and this will really help me to see if I’m getting the best deal!
    Thanks again!

  14. THANK YOU! I have always wanted a list like this. I kept telling myself to look up a few of the basics like paper towels and such that are always on coupon at Costco. I will for sure give you all the credit for this! Thanks again, such a huge help!

  15. Great list! I also have a Costco membership and have found that for organic and ‘natural’ products (Trio bars for example), items that go on sale rarely at great prices, costco is the BEST to buy. I actually priced around at Target, Fred Meyer and Costco for Organic jam and peanut butter and found that the price at Costco litterly could not be beat. Also there are A LOT of meds that you can’t be beat. For example we priced zyrtec and the costco brand is almost a full year supply for around $16. I think just buying that one product made up the $50 membership differnence. And many of those items you listed are great deals compared to regular store prices and many of them do go on Costco coupon making it a waaaay better deal. Like the Nuetragena body wash (my fave!) goes on coupon regularly. It is around $17 normally for a bottle, but in store for a tiny bottle you pay around $10 I believe, so just that price is ridiculously great. So when you can get it for $14 it is a steal!

  16. Thank you so much for posting this! I often wonder if I’m really getting a great deal at Costco and now I can use this as a baseline.

  17. this is so awesome. thank you so much

  18. MerGal*.xls says:

    Very nicely done! I can appreciate all of the time and effort this list took to compile. I having thinking of creating a master list of items with a ‘buy now’ price. This is a good starting point. Thanks!

  19. Christina Anderson says:

    Very nicely done! I spent 3 hours in Costco doing the same thing, but I didn’t capture as much info. I just broke it down to the unit price and generic product like “spaghetti” or “flour”. I really like your list–to creat this with a toddler in the cart makes it all the more impressive. Thank you!

  20. This is great! As someone who is just getting in to couponing I was wondering how good a deal I was getting with our Costco membership. I will definitely put this list in my purse and do some comparison next time I’m there. Thank you!

  21. I do buy my yeast at Costco/Cash & Carry because it is WAY cheaper!

    • That’s where I buy my yeast too! It’s soooo much cheaper than the stores. Fred Meyer/Safeway/QFC all want $7-8 for a small jar of yeast and for only $3.89 you get a huge bag (32 oz)!

  22. Nicely done! 🙂

  23. holy cow — that is a lot to take in — I know that for me, after couponing, I did not go to Costco for a period of time and then when I did go back (to grab a few things that i can beat the price anywhere else even with coupons)…I was overwhelmed…all the prices, products, sizes and trying to figure out how much I was paying for it all compared to other prices…wow! So much to take in. I have found that with couponing (thank you Heather and Sara) I do not frequently find myself at Costco – about once a month I would say. I have found that I can not beat the price of Rice Crackers – they are about $8 for a 6 pack…and one pack costs about $3.50 in the grocery stores…
    I do find that I miss my clothes that I purchased on impulse as well as the huge toy that we just had to have or that other at the moment must have purchase…
    On another note, one way around paying the $50 membership fee is to use a Costco Cash Card…I have not looked into this…although it is something worth looking into for someone who only shops there for small items…


  1. […] are deals or not. Well, Queen Bee Coupons from my little hometown of Lacey, Washington has compiled an extensive list of Costco items, detailing price per unit, to make it easy to compare as we go about couponing. Enjoy! Like this article? Share and […]

  2. […] What timing! Just as Emily gets our mind working about what deals are really deals at Costco, Heather from Queen Bee Coupons out of Olympia goes and creates an extensive price list database for Costco. […]

  3. […] QueenBee Coupons has put together a price list database for Costco to help you weigh the pros and cons of buying certain items in bulk.  Its recent, too (as of June 3, 2010).  Check out her post here! […]

  4. […]  We definitely got a wide variety of responses, so I thought you guys would be interested in the Costco price list database that Heather from Queen Bee Coupons created.  She lists out a large variety of the most commonly […]

  5. […] Queen Bee Coupons has done a LOT of legwork for you. Please take the time to check out her amazing Costco unit price compilation spreadsheet! This is the sort of resource I’d personally print out and add to my coupon binder for quick […]

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