When my husband and I upgraded from a one-bedroom rental to a three-bedroom condo in 2021, the only thing that made me more excited than being a homeowner was the prospect of having enough space to store bulk buys from Costco. Several of my friends had already been members for years, and they sold me on the warehouse club with tales of discounted eye exams and bulk buys. I had always thought Costco was just another grocery store, but once I realized they sold so much more than just paper towels and eggs, I wanted in.
Before buying my condo, I’d always lived in apartments and never owned a car. In Manhattan, the nearest Costco was always a train ride plus a bus ride away. (No one is doing a Costco haul with a 40-minute transit journey ahead of them.) My new place came with a deeded parking space, and the nearest Costco — get this — 10 minutes away. This was my chance.
The next thing I needed to figure out was whether a Costco membership made sense for just two people. For those unfamiliar with the wholesale retailer, there are three types of memberships available, and you need to have one to enter the store. One of the memberships is for businesses, so that left us with two options: the Gold Star Membership, which costs $60 a year, and the Executive Membership, which costs $120 a year and offers an annual 2% reward on qualified purchases. Both give access to any Costco store worldwide.
The Executive Membership is only a good deal if you spend more than $3,000 a year at Costco, and after a series of very serious conversations — we briefly considered having 10 kids to make a go at it — it seemed unlikely we would spend that much on groceries. We ultimately went with the Gold Star Membership.
In order to justify the $60 annual fee — we already pay $139 a year for Amazon Prime, after all — my husband and I figured that we’d need to go to Costco at least once every other month. While that might not seem frequent, you’d reconsider if you saw the inside of our trunk after our last shopping trip. (We buy a lot at once — especially for two people.)
In the year or so that we’ve been making our trips, we’ve learned some ways to make our hauls last since we don’t want anything to go bad before we can get to it. Here are some tips to make the most out of your next trip to Costco:
- Poultry and fish are two of our favorite things to buy at Costco. As soon as we get home, we take whatever chicken or salmon we won’t be eating immediately and place it in freezer bags, making sure to remove as much air as we can. I do the same with bananas — I love to use little frozen pieces to make protein smoothies after my workouts. It’s easy to throw loaves of bread in the fridge, too — my Udi’s gluten-free bread lasts me a month when it’s kept frozen.
- We have to be more strategic with fresh produce. When I know we’re going to Costco, I try to plan my meals around the same ingredients so I don’t end up throwing out containers of cucumbers and bags of broccoli. I find that going to the store with a list helps me stay on track (though I always end up checking out with a few things I didn’t intend to purchase).
- Non-perishables are easily the best part of any Costco trip. I don’t have to think about expiration dates when I’m browsing the snack and sauce aisles, and stocking up on essentials like Rao’s Marinara Sauce and Bibigo Ready Rice and means I just need to grab some vegetables at the local store in between Costco trips to make a meal. The store has a surprisingly diverse range of snack offerings, too: I’m gluten-free, and I never leave the store without my Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers and Nature Valley Protein Bars.
Can I admit something? My husband and I literally installed more cabinet space in our apartment to house our snacks and paper goods from Costco. We even found the closet company through Costco and received a gift card worth 10% of our total purchase once they were complete.
As you can see, Costco’s perks extend well beyond paper towels and eggs. In the past year, we’ve used our membership to get new tires for our car and buy our dog’s flea and tick medicine. My husband is also a big fan of Costco’s Kirkland-brand alcohol — a 1.75-liter bottle costs under $20, and it tastes just like some of our favorite name brands. The store offers discounts spanning travel, contact lenses, insurance and more, and if you use your membership right, you can most certainly make it work for two people.
Other wholesale retailer memberships to consider
Costco isn’t the only wholesale retailer with savings to offer. Below, we rounded up a few other options to consider while you’re deciding whether a membership is worth it.
At $55 a year, a BJ’s Inner Circle Membership is similar in price to a Costco Gold Star Membership. It comes with similar perks as well, including discounts on gas, groceries, tires and more. Unlike Costco, BJ’s accepts manufacturer’s coupons and you can stack them on top of the store’s. The store’s more expensive membership — the Perks Rewards Membership — costs $110 a year and offers 2% cash back on most purchases, similar again to Costco’s Executive membership.
A basic Sam’s Club membership costs $45 a year. Unlike the basic membership plans from BJ’s and Costco, the Club Membership does not include pharmacy savings, optical savings or free shipping online. However, Sam’s Club’s more premier membership, the Plus membership, is the cheapest of the three store’s more expensive offerings at $100 annually — it includes the pharmacy and optical savings and also offers 2% cash back up to $500 a year.