Monday, October 05, 2009

Costco--to go or not to go, that is the question...

When Sis asked if I wanted to go with her to Costco (so she could pick up a decoration she saw there previously), I said yes, because I had my short list of stuff I was interested in, to do my buying in volume. So, on to Brandywine we go.

Yes, Costco has its Christmas decorations up (although to be fair, there were more at the nearby Target and Jo Ann's Arts & Crafts). Mom, though she says she doesn't like the place, asked me to pick up raisins. OK, fine. But then I also had to get her her honey, because it has the big jug that's cheaper (at $9.59) than the health food store price.

As Sis cruised by the jewelry (and we oohed and aahed over the cheaper and more expensive pieces--it was all I could to do tear myself away from the $59 onyx-pearl necklace), we finally parted ways to do serious shopping. There were way more clothes than last time (not interested), although last time (a few weeks ago), it had lots of regulation Redskins jerseys for $59, which, unfortunately, is fairly cheap for real NFL merchandise.

While it did have the Aveeno, there was no coupon book; currently, it's the going price per bottle (wait, it's a better price, since the twin-pack is for 2 18-ounce bottles, and the stores generally carry the 12-ounce ones--oops), I scooted past this aisle to go to the packaged foods aisle. This was where I saved money, as it had the giant size (9 ounces) of ground nutmeg for $7.39, just in time for holiday baking season. (In a previous visit, I bagged the 16-ounce bottle of vanilla for $5.39--woo hoo--as well as a 4 lb. bag of Wyman's frozen Maine blueberries, for $9.99. Those blueberries seem to be a staple of Costco, but I'm not complaining.)

vanilla from Costco 16 ounces However, two other bargains (they were truly lower in price than at grocery stores), were for items that I might not normally buy, at least not in those quantities, so I ended up spending more this visit than I planned to, though not a ridiculous amount.

large jar of artichokes from Costco No, you're not going to find 65 ounces of artichoke hearts in oil for $7.85 at any grocery, as they run for $4 for a tiny jar; it was a great deal, since I heart artichokes. However, since I was not expecting to find it, buying it made a slight dent in my budget. This is probably how Costco gets shoppers to spend more than intended--in addition to items it keeps in stock, it also sells a number of "surprise" items that you don't know how long will be there. Fortunately, I was somewhat able to keep this kind of spending under something resembling control, as I had been in local Costcos a couple of times, and have an idea of the kinds of things they keep stocked, although different stores may carry different items. (For instance, the one near the Pentagon stocks Bocaburgers, but Brandywine does not; Brandywine has the three-pack of Silk [at the lower Target-style price], but I didn't notice it at Pentagon. Also, the Pentagon store has beer and wine.)

The big score among these good scores (one of which was Charmin--how cliche, I know), was this find, which I had to brew as soon as I got home...

Ito En brand matcha tea Matcha green tea, 100 bags, for $12.99, packaged by the Ito En company (a brand recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil), is an absolute steal. (Anytime you see matcha for under $30 is time for celebration.) While it seemed odd that the matcha was bagged (in sturdy polyester bags), the tea is certainly high quality, with a rich taste and deep green color. What more could you ask?

By splitting the membership (the second cardholder doesn't even have to list the address) the damage is only $25 each, you can easily score savings of more than this amount, and find more than Nine things that are worth buying at Costco, even us single folk. However, you want to make sure that, perishable or not, the things that you buy you have the space for, as some things are easier to store than others. However, although I don't have, say, a huge home or stand-alone freezer, the savings has already been worth it, and I don't leave with a huge haul.

However, if you tend to be an impulse shopper, or a clutterbug, it might be a good idea to stay away from these big box stores, as they can be too much temptation for some. As they say, different strokes for different folks.

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