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11 Things You Might Not Want to Buy at Costco

Do you really need a barrel-sized drum of mustard or enough meat to fill a restaurant’s walk-in freezer? Probably not. But if you’re ‘in the moment’ at Costco chances are you could leave with just about anything.

When it comes to discount shopping the excitement can sometimes cannibalize our common sense. Arriving at Costco you have good intentions. You’ll get just what you need, secure huge savings for the family and get out of there pronto. Six hours later you’re in a cold adrenalin sweat have three trolleys, a box of panty liners taller than your middle child and a family coffin. We’ve all been there. Or close to it.

Retail environments like Costco somehow see us lose our rational minds and forget to crunch the practical numbers. Don’t worry, the Mum Central girls have been there, done that (heck, I’m still eating my way through 400 protein bars to prove it!) so today we are here to help!

Ask yourself the following as you plan your next Costco expedition. Is it wise to buy this item just because the price per unit is so much cheaper? Sure, in plenty of cases you can save some serious money. That said, not every item ends up being cheaper in such large proportions. If you can’t eat it all before it goes off, use it before it doesn’t fit or actually store it easily in your home some bulk items may not actually be smart choices for you!

Heed our advice and think twice! Consider these handy pointers before you fill your trolley with too-good-to-be-true bulk items (that may actually be destined to sit in the back of your pantry until 2024!) Our top 10 products to re-consider at Costco are: 

Nappies: Buying that super-sized box of nappies may seem like a no-brainer. Your baby goes through them faster than you can buy them, so why not stock up? Those big box bargains may leave you with loads of extras that you just can’t use up. Large quantities of nappies mean that your baby has to stay one size for long enough to use the entire bulk of the box. If you’ve just entered a size bracket now is a good time to buy bulk. If you’re unsure you can get through 400 crawlers you may do better to watch for specials in your regular supermarket. This way you won’t be trapped with nappies long after your kid has graduated high school. Left over nappies can always be donated to The Nappy Collective.

Baked Goods: How many cookies / giant muffins / croissants / banana bread loaves can your family actually eat? If you’ve got a party to stock up for, aren’t into baking or the school cake sale is coming up then an over-sized portion definitely works for you. If you’re really only a small family, don’t plan on freezing batches and don’t have neighbours you’d like to share with perhaps take the 64 inch slab cake out of the trolley!

Fruits and veggies: Again, are you preparing for a party? Maybe you are small scale rabbit farmers or own a juice bar? If you just answered no, then you don’t need to buy produce in bulk. Yes, the price per apple, orange, carrot or radish might be cheaper, but if you end up throwing half of what you buy away, you aren’t exactly saving money.

Laundry Supplies: Products like detergent and bleaches typically lose their effectiveness after about 6 months. Ask yourself can I use all this in half a year? Buying in bulk might not be such a great idea unless you are nesting, OCD or Dexter.

Shampoo: Where in the shower exactly will you fit 5 litres of shampoo? Certainly not in that flimsy little caddy that hangs above your head. Okay, so buying hair care products in bulk is cheaper, there’s no doubt about that. Even though you’ll save on your beauty budget, are you sure you don’t sometimes like a little change? Switching up your shampoo can stop dulling residue from building up on your hair and gives you more options (such as different scents or styling formulas). Buying in bulk gives you only one choice – for a very, very long time. That said if you love your brand and can decant it in a way that’s user friendly, shampoo is a money-saving, good buy!

Medications: That giant bottle of pain relievers has an expiration – and likely will be before you’re done using it. Most meds have a shelf life. Check the expiration before you buy and calculate versus a rough family usage. There’s definitely good savings in the medicine aisle but be sure to only buy what you can use.

Sunscreen: Like medications, sunscreen expires. Even though they don’t exactly go bad (like milk would sour), the active ingredient loses effectiveness as time goes on. This means that the sunscreen you bought in swimming-pool-filling-quantity three years ago might not actually protect you (and your kids) right now. Less of a money saving issue and more a safety one, make sure you don’t find yourself exposed both financially and in sun-safe terms with an over supply of sunscreen.

Pet food: So, you have three horse-sized dogs that basically eat like baby elephants? Then Costco’s crazy-big pet food bag is totally for you. If you’ve got a single Pomeranian, it might take years to go through that much food. Keeping the same open bag of food hanging around for that long isn’t going to win any canine taste contests and has diminished nutritional value for your pet. Unless you have a small zoo at home (or massive dogs), stick to smaller products when it comes to pet food.

Coffee: Lots and lots of individual packs of coffee? Yes, please! One giant canister? Probably not. You’re a mum, we get it. You need #coffee to get through the day. That half tonne of ground Italian roast looks pretty desirable right now. Truth be told
if you don’t perfectly seal it up every time, your massive container of coffee will quickly lose freshness and the all important zing! Coffee can however be kept in the fridge and freezer so if bulk might be for you definitely explore these options!

Lollies: Your eyes practically fell out of your head when you saw the low, low price for the pillow-sized bag of Gummy Bears. Before you go ahead and buy it, imagine that same bag taped to your hips. Or being ingested by your kids about 90 minutes before bedtime. No one needs that many lollies.  And, if you’re convincing yourself that you can stash it away (not eating it all at once) ask yourself how has that worked for you in the past? (It’s NEVER worked for me!) Knowing that you have that many sweets just sitting in your pantry makes it much easier to become a lolly-binge-eater whilst watching Netflix.

Anything you’ve never tried before: Costco has paper towels for the lowest price you’ve ever seen. You might have to buy a 24-pack (and build a small shed to store them) so how could that be bad, right? You’ve never used the brand and assume that these paper towels must work as well as your usual buy. The risk is they may not. Now your toddler’s Ribena sippy cup spills are seeping into the carpet and you still have 23 rolls to go. If you don’t already know (and enjoy) the brand consider buying it in bulk for the first time.

Don’t get us wrong, at Mum Central we love Costco. This little list is compiled from our own trial and error. There is definitely great savings to be had and for big-consumers, co-op clubs or sharing neighbours Costco is a fabulous way to shop! If you’re a 3-person family who just bought 250 rolls of toilet paper, we wish you luck! Either way, the Mum Central community is a no-judgement zone. If you need 20 kilos of gnocchi, 600 metres of tin foil, 88 biros and a Christmas wreath, good for you.


Mum Central’s Five Golden Rules for Shopping at Costco

  1. Is it cheaper than at my local grocery store?
  2. Can we store this product?
  3. Can I use this product before it expires / goes off / doesn’t fit?
  4. Do I love this product so much I want to use it without break for the next 12 months?
  5. Do I have a friend or family member I can share this bulk item with?

If you’ve said yes, yes, yes it’s time to buy, buy, buy! Happy shopping!

Avatar of Belinda Jennings

Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar of Maria Wilkins
    Maria Wilkins Reply

    Anything you’ve never tried before…and don’t like, or it doesn’t perform to your satisfaction, you can return for a no questions asked refund. So yes, I’ll be buying that item to try it out

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