Should GreenSmoothieGirls Like You Buy A Costco Membership?

My brother Spencer emailed our whole extended family about his scientific cost comparisons at Costco. Since I shop there and often recommend Costco membership to my readers, I thought I’d share with you what he learned, and my own thoughts on whether Costco membership is worth the price.

Spencer and Heidi compared prices on 20 items to the other grocery stores they frequent. They found Costco’s price to be better on 19 out of 20 items.

If you are a produce hound, which you clearly are, if you’re doing 12 Steps to Whole foods and trying to eat a plant-based diet, Costco membership makes sense even if for just THREE ITEMS. Those are bananas (at $0.39/lb., easily 1/3 off what other grocery stores sell for), giant 40 oz. bags of spinach (1/2 to 2/3 less than other stores), and frozen mixed berries (4 lb. $11 bags, ½ less than other stores). My fourth favorite thing is pears that are generally $0.79/lb., which is Walmart’s best price only when they’re on sale. Those are all ingredients you’ll be buying very regularly if you’ve made a commitment to a green smoothie habit. I’m doing some YouTube videos tomorrow that include one showing a lot of what I buy at Costco, what I explain here and more.

And, the produce at Costco is famously high quality. I also buy the plastic tubs of spring greens year-round and the inexpensive packages of romaine hearts, and six-packs of bell peppers. The five-pound bag of baby carrots is also cheap, and you can use those or the 10-pound bag of regular carrots (more expensively) if you’re addicted to Hot-Pink Breakfast Smoothie like I am (see Ch. 10 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods). Using the big carrots is cheaper.

Costco is adding more and more high-nutrition items. Their dairy milk is hormone free. Right now you can get almond butter, and I love their organic, natural peanut butter. You can buy Rice Dream by the case for at least 25% less expensively than the health food stores I shop at. I buy big boxes of Shredded Wheat and Grape Nuts for those busy weeks that I don’t get around to making my granola.

Last year I got a $95 refund of my $100 membership fee based on my purchasing. Don’t forget that gas is cheaper at Costco than anywhere–we have a radio station here in Utah that announces the cheapest gas prices, and Costco is always #1.

One caveat about Costco shopping: be careful not to buy a giant quantity of something you don’t already know you like and will use up. Try new things in a smaller quantity somewhere else!

Here’s a photo of the conveyor belt with my purchases one day last year when I happened to be in possession of my camera.

Photo of the conveyor belt with my purchases

25 thoughts on “Should GreenSmoothieGirls Like You Buy A Costco Membership?

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  1. I’d love some more cost comparison. How much are those 40 oz bags of spinach? I pay $1.50 for a 10 oz bag here. Also, frozen berries are cheap at Trader Joe’s. I had a BJ’s membership, but I let it expire. We’re considering getting a freezer because we have 2 roommates and just a standard fridge/freezer combo. The Costco here does not carry rice milk or gas or almond butter, but I do like that marion berry blend they carry quite a bit 🙂

  2. A 40-oz. bag of spinach is $4. That beats the $6 you are paying, but that price you’re paying is better than anything I’ve ever seen here. (Only on sale, 10 oz. bags are $2 here.)

    The 4-lb. bag of mixed berries is $11, and the big bag of frozen strawberries is, I think, $8.

    In Utah we don’t have Trader Joe’s. Lucky you! Maybe you could blog about prices there for whole-food items?

  3. Some are, like the spring greens and almond and peanut butters, but most aren’t.

    My price point is 25-50 percent. In other words, I will pay that much MORE for organic. I won’t pay 100 percent more.

    I just did a new YouTube video at my favorite grocery store today, all about choosing greens, and I talked about price points for organic. You can sign up as a subscriber of my YouTube vids. I have 8 new ones coming out over the next couple of months.

  4. I have a Costco membership and those three things are pretty much the reason why. Although I heard that Sam’s Club is a few dollars cheaper and was wondering if it is just as good, better, or if Costco is actually better. Anyone? Anyone?

  5. oh boy I’m glad you blogged about this today–we just went to costco last night–my family of 4 (2 little kids–1 doesn’t eat yet)–easily uses the large quanities of things we buy these are teh things I would routinely buy:

    romaine hearts–a 6 pack is 2.99, brocolli florets 3.99 for a big bag (not paying for the stem I do not use), red peppers are about $1 but last forever, pears and organic apples are a good deal there too!, i also got a bag of 4 celery stalks (organic) for 2.99. and of course the large tubs of oreganic spring greens and spinach for (3.45?) and a HUGE 4lb bag of spinach for $4 you can’t beat that!

    in frozen we get the .big bags of blueberries, strawberries, and marion berry mix. I also like their big bags of organic frozen green bean and corn (not sure on the price—and of course the frozen sweet potatoes.

    I LOVE LOVE their organic natural peanut butter.

    just buying produce there is VERY worth it- I also think that their produce lasts a LOT LOT longer than produce I get other places.

    pineapples are $2.99…okay I’m done–I just LOVE costco!

  6. The baby spinach (in the tub, not the bag) is organic. I don’t know the cost, though. I buy it because my kids and I like it better than the full-grown stuff.

    In my opinion, Sam’s Club is not as good as Costco. We’ve been members of both, and I find that Sam’s generally has cheaper prices (by a little bit) but the stuff is lower quality, especially the produce. We found that Costco will usually have the lowest price on name-brand products, but Sam’s will usually have the lowest price, period, but it will often be on generic (Sam’s Club Brand) products. Now, I’m emphatically NOT a brand-loyal shopper for most things, but I have found that for certain items there is a definite quality difference.

    All that’s rendered useless to me by the fact that Sam’s is way far away from where we live, and Costco is close!

  7. Robin,

    I’m curious of your opinion on costco spinach …organic vs regular. I used to buy the big bag but then the last few times I started buying the smaller organic tub because I figured If I’m going to be drinking green smoothies for better health then I might as well put in organic spinach. Do you think it makes much of a difference because I would like to just keep buying the big bag as I get twice as much spinach for $0.50 more. The non organic spinach seems to last longer but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing.

  8. I guess it just depends where your budget takes you, but I admit that I buy the big (nonorganic) bags in this case. We use at least 2 bags (5 lbs.) of spinach a week.

  9. No retailer–and I mean NO retailer–carries any raw almond anything now, thanks to mandatory pasteurization law in California.

  10. Hik

    I just went to Sam’s Club yesterday. I live in southeastern OK and there is no Costco anywhere near us. Sam’s is an hour and a half drive, therefore our only reasonable regular option. I only bought a few things, but thought I’d share with their prices for comparison’s sake:

    5# bag whole carrots $2.46

    1# tub organic spinach $3.27 (I did not see the 40-oz. bags…)

    big bunch of bananas (9; don’t remember the weight, sorry) $1.44

    pkg of 3 hothouse cucumbers, seedless ( I HATE the seeds in cukes) $3.88

    5#bag apples $5.88

    3# bag triple berry $8.48

    I didn’t see any almond butter nor did I find any Rice Dream. However, they did have a 3-pk. Horizon brand, Organic, no-hormones, etc.. milk, but I forgot to write down the price.

    Hope that helps in your comparison-shopping =)

  11. Hik

    I just went to Sam’s Club yesterday. I live in southeastern OK and there is no Costco anywhere near us. Sam’s is an hour and a half drive, therefore our only reasonable regular option. I only bought a few things, but thought I’d share with their prices for comparison’s sake:

    5# bag whole carrots $2.46

    1# tub organic spinach $3.27 (I did not see the 40-oz. bags…)

    big bunch of bananas (9; don’t remember the weight, sorry) $1.44

    pkg of 3 hothouse cucumbers, seedless ( I HATE the seeds in cukes) $3.88

    5#bag apples $5.88

    3# bag triple berry $8.48

    I didn’t see any almond butter nor did I find any Rice Dream. However, they did have a 3-pk. Horizon brand, Organic, no-hormones, etc.. milk, but I forgot to write down the price.

    Hope that helps in your comparison-shopping =)

  12. P.S. I forgot to say the milk was in half-gallon sizes. I just wanted to differentiate from the little 3-pks that can be found in more places.

  13. okay i know this is off topic Robyn–but I have been searching to find young thai coconuts to no avail (here in ID)–so I want to atleast buy some coconut water online –or sometime when I find an asian market when in UT– is this a good deal and is this the good stuff I could use for hot pink smoothie? if I was getting this for $1 for 15oz?!

    http://www.amazon.com/O-N-E-Coconut-11-Ounce-Aseptic-Containers/dp/B000UUWECC/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    it’s the ONE coconut water.

    or should I wait to find the young thai because this is seriously mediocre stuff? THANKS

  14. I have bought “Coconut Juice” from Amy & Brian (brand name) that is 17.5 oz. in a can for a little over $1/can. That’s what I use in Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie on the occasion I don’t have the fresh, raw stuff.

    I don’t know what the “aseptic” is about here, and I hope it doesn’t mean it’s cooked in some way. But what I pay in health food stores or Azure Standard should give you an idea of what you can expect if you can’t get actual young Thai coconuts. Don’t forget to ask the Asian market(s) in your area if they can order them for you.

  15. Hello Robyn. I hope you are doing well today. I am on towards the end of the first whole week of green smoothies. I love them. I am just really really happy that I started all of the research that I did, years ago, and eventually stumbled across your site last year. I, more than ever, need to be healthy. For all the reasons I needed to before plus a new one. My husband informed me yesterday that he is divorcing me. So, now I need to be especially healthy for myself and my children, for whatever the unknown future may hold. I don’t know what God has in store for my life, but I am really glad that I will be healthier, whatever lies ahead.

    I hope that your weekend is going well! Hugs from a friend in KY, Robin

  16. Robin, I am so sorry and will pray for you. Good nutrition and yoga and prayer and my friends are what got me through . . .

    Robyn

  17. Well, that “numb” is protecting you from worse emotions . . . and yes, I do know. Yes, take one day at a time. This will likely be the worst year of your life, but a friend told me you get to a “new normal” faster than you think you will, and it’s true. Life does go on, and good things will happen for you and your family in the future, which you have to remind yourself in the darkest hours.

  18. What I would give for a Costco, eatting raw while living in Vernal is a JOKE! the produce sucks, it’s half rotten half the time at the store. I heard they are getting a Sam’s club here, I’ll believe it when I see it, but I am dissapointed, I wanted a Costco, judging from those prices up there for a Sam’s club, it doesn’t look much different than walmart, and I hate shopping there.

  19. Robyn – I buy the MaraNatha brand Creamy and Raw Almond Butter. It has one ingredient listed: raw almonds. I get it at Harmonds.

  20. Robin – many blessings! A friend told me ‘you will never regret this!’ (I was the one who left a so-so marriage) & she was so right!

    On the OG ? I just picked up a really good book at the Library – “Diet for a Poisoned Planet” by David Steinman, (2007 ed) which offers info on what chemicals are used on what crops, & gives ‘green, yellow & red light’ ratings on them! & info on what some of the chemicals are doing to the farm workers & their children. David also lists the OG certification groups for each state, from whom you can get info about growers in your area. I just joined a CSA for $60/month, & will plant some of my own greens 🙂

    I got more commited to buying organic (& voting with my $$) when a friend whose family were farmers told me some stories. She (now 60ish) never had healthy pregnancies, (one living child, now in her 30s, who weighed < 2# at birth!) her dad died of a ‘rare’ brain tumor – that also killed several of his farmer buddies, etc. Her husband almost died eating part of a HANDFUL of sunflower seeds from her bro’s field – he didn’t realize they had been recently sprayed!

    David points out that any veggies, organic or ‘conventional,’ contain fewer chemicals than non-organic animal products – but suggests buying OG when possible if it’s a red (or yellow) light food! (for example: conventionally grown apples have 3x the chemicals than oranges, for one – so he suggests ALWAYS buying OG apples, if available)

  21. Warning, always check your receipts very well. The common joke is you never can leave costco for under $100, well saturday I went to costco and just wanted to grab a “few” things. Two of those things were strawberries and grapes. I left pay $140 and couldn’t figure out why it added up so quickly. Found out I ended up paying $16.49 for 4lb of fresh strawberries and $16.49 for 4lb seedless green grapes!! RIP OFF! I could have bought each of them at Albertson’s for $7.99. I’m planning to call customer service to get a refund.

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