Posts Tagged ‘Costco Australia’

costcoSo, you are ready to take the plunge, pay your $60 membership and change the way you shop forever.  Well, you’d at least like to give it a go. Shopping at Costco is fun and has the potential to save you a lot of time and money whilst ensuring that you and your family eat smarter and better.  Before you sign up I have a few steps to ensure that this is a worthwhile experience and not one which ends up costing you a whole bundle of cash that you don’t have.

Step One: Look Before You Take the Plunge

Your first Costco shop has the potential to be a little overwhelming.  I recommend that you leave your purse at home (especially if you are likely to lack control with these things), and visit the store first.

Although you need a membership card to purchase anything at Costco, there are a couple of ways to have a look at the store before you take the leap.  Firstly, you are welcome to accompany a friend or relative who is a member already (they can bring up to 2 guests per visit).  Although you can’t buy anything, unless you sort it out with your friend cash-wise after, you can have a look around.  Alternatively, you can ask the store greeter if you might have a look.  Explain that you are hoping to get a membership, but before you do, you want to have a look around so you can better plan your first shop on another day.  They are usually happy to accommodate such a request.

Bring your smartphone with you and compare prices using the shopping app for some of the major supermarket retailers.  Be prepare to convert prices so as to take into account the larger sizes of the products at Costco.  You may like to take photographs of products, with the ticket alongside, so you can make closer comparisons at home.

Step Two: Sort Out and Write a List

Before your first shop you want to give your cupboards and pantry a good clean out.  Take time to consider where you will store some of the larger boxes.  You might be able to set aside a storage space in the shed or garage (for items that won’t perish or suffer with heat).  Don’t wait until you get home with all your plunder before you do this as it will become a nightmare.  Clean out your fridge and freezer.  We purchased a chest freezer prior to our first shop which was well worthwhile and Costco also sell these (in every size to suit every family).

Step Three:  Write a List

Once you have sorted out your storage, write out a list of everything that you normally buy.  You can do this on a Word or Excel document (which is great because you can add or delete things on whim).  I organise items in a logical order (the order I put them in the trolley), starting with personal care items, cleaning products, non-perishable food items, baked goods, followed by dairy, meat, fruit veg and frozen goods.  I also include a section for me to write any ‘out of the ordinary’ sundry items like cards, gift wrap or household goods.

Once you have your master list you can highlight anything on your list which you have ‘run-out’ of or will in the next week.   I also use a different colour highlighter to identify anything which I am not in critical need of but which I would purchase if a special price was on offer.

Costco publish coupons on their website every fortnight.   The term ‘coupons’ can be a little misleading.  It may help to think of them as simply special items on sale. You don’t need to have the coupons with you (they are automatically deducted at the checkout) but it is helpful to know ahead of time what is available at a special price on the day you visit.  When these coupons appear it is a great time to stockpile some of the everyday essentials that won’t perish.

Step Four: Gather Your Tools

Take your shopping list, pen, smartphone (to check prices or make calculations) along with a couple of bags.  You won’t need many bags when shopping at Costco.  Most things are in large boxes but it is helpful to have a bag to put smaller (or delicate) items in.  I also like to have a couple of cooler bags to put my cold items into.  You may need 3 to separate meat, dairy and frozen items from the fruit and vegetables, although it does depend on your preference for such things.

At home make sure you have cling film and snap lock bags ready (or on your shopping list).  You will need these when you get home.

Wear comfortable clothing and footwear.

Step Five:  Timing and Composing Yourself

Ideally plan your shop on a weekday.  Monday and Tuesday are quiet days and your first shop is bound to take longer.  I like to shop in the early morning as it allows me ample time to get items home and not need to rush to unpack before the kids come home from school.

When you arrive at the store, head straight for the Customer Service Desk (via the exit).  Here you can organise your membership card (you can do this online but you still need to come here to get your card so I don’t see the point really).  You might even like to compose yourself with a coffee or a cheap hotdog (I like to bribe errant children with these).

I like to work my way through the store in the order I have on my list.  Although I allow for a few impulse buys, it is important to be aware that the larger sizes of products mean that every ‘extra’ item you add from your list might be adding an addition $10-20 more on your total.  Be prepared that your first shop will be huge.  Some people like to put aside extra funds in anticipation of this.  I found that my first shop was 25% more than the total of my regular shop.  It might be more.  The good news is that your shopping total will slowly start to decline as the quantity of items you buy decreases (although my sceptical side suggests that some of this is replaced with items you wouldn’t have previously purchased).

Pay special attention to use by dates, especially for fresh items.  Although they can be quite long occasionally you can get tripped up.  A few weeks ago I nearly got caught out buying 2 kilograms of yoghurt that I didn’t have a hope of consuming in one week.  With this in mind consider what fresh items can be broken up and frozen for later use.  There are tonnes of blogs about with suggestions for what freezes well.  I often like to pick up a cheap BBQ chook on my way out of the store for the evening dinner.

After your shop most people find that there are still a few items they need to buy from the local supermarket or greengrocer. I like to buy most of my fruit locally.  For example, I can’t seem to get the little apples my kids like at Costco.  Some items (although not many), are simply not available so I get them at the supermarket, along with anything I only ever buy in small amounts.

When you get your bounty home, unpack as you normally would.  This is where you will appreciate all your earlier efforts getting organised.  I use this time to break up larger items into smaller lots to be frozen or stored at the back of my refrigerator for later.

What are your personal suggestions for making the most of your first Costco shop?  I’d love to hear from you.