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Dear Emily,

I’m writing you this urgent letter to spread the news, before you and your family fall victim to the hidden dangers behind one of America’s favorite stores.

Good Not Perfect's guide to surviving Costco

You may have been considering a membership.  While this store can be a true delight for bargain shoppers and growing families alike, it is very easy to drop $400 without even trying.  There are a few important commandments one must obey before agreeing to join the elite membership club that everyone is part of.  You must obey my instructions to avoid the lingering, wandering aimlessly kind of Costco trip that can wreak havoc on a budget.

  1. Always make a list.
  2. Strategize carefully the plan of attack, considering rules such as:
    1. Go over lunch hour when possible (limits time and cold storage).
    2. Never. Go. Together. to Costco (“groupthink” is scientifically proven to result in new patio furniture, a generator, or even worse, 10 lbs of cookies).
    3. Send husband alone.  Give him strict instructions not to buy anything NOT on the list.

Before proceeding, there is one additional danger (besides impulse buys) I must warn you about.  As a physician I feel this is something you must be prepared for and perhaps should warn your patients (and their families) about as well.  Consider adding this sheet to the waiting room file folders along with proper hand washing and burn avoidance pamphlets.

Yes, lunchtime Costco trips are potentially physically dangerous given the high proportion of:

  • Senior citizens driving oversized Buicks in the dangerously packed parking lot and
  • Free sample seeking, motorized cart driving patrons with voracious appetites who appear to be partaking in a version of bumper-cars-meets-go-cart-racing within the store.  For this reason, among others, I urge you to NOT attempt to approach a free sample cart, no matter how hungry you may be.

In order to make any Costco trip successful, you have to have a specific plan of attack.  Most importantly, a list.

Never go to Costco without one.  I repeat.  NEVER.  Taking a list to Costco is the equivalent of locking your doors at night and wearing a seat belt in the car.

Because if you don’t, things like this happen:

What happens if you shop at Costco with no list | Good Not Perfect

My Costco goal is to buy things that fit these criteria:

  1. Used within a few months (e.g. not giant thousand-packs of things we infrequently use)
  2. Won’t go bad too quickly (think strawberries)
  3. Things that don’t take up too much fridge space (I have a separate freezer so I’m OK with bulky frozen things)
  4. Meets my grocery rules (I don’t need to bulk buy any special treats)

All very good in theory.

But it’s hard to implement.

But here’s what I’m trying.  I have made a Costco shopping list, and I will circle things that we need as we are getting low.  My husband will take the list and buy what is on the list, and only what is on the list.

Here is a copy of my list.  Click on it to open the PDF that is yours to keep.

Screenshot 2014-02-02 10.39.06

If you’d like to take my list and modify it, the excel version is also yours to play around with (click Costco List).

By the way – if you DO make a list, and stick to it, it is quite possible to save a lot of money by shopping at Costco for the basics (thanks to Real Food Real Deals for crunching the numbers).

Let me know your thoughts and if I can answer any additional questions before you make this important membership decision.

Safe shopping, my friend.

Laura Sig





10 Comments on The Dangers of Shopping at Costco

  1. Ohhh if only its possible to stick to my list!! I need those blinders that horses wear, and don’t go down the kitchen gadget aisle, or the hardware aisle, and certainly NOT the bakery aisle. I’ve also learned the hard way to save frozen fruit for last … make the long journey back to the freezer and make a bee-line to the register. Thanks for all the helpful tips!


  2. I Love Costco! Although I do have to admit, I don’t do the regular monthly trek as it gets way out of control! I do send a list with the S.O. and He NEVER sticks to it! I’m sending him this piece to laugh with me with. He knows the hazards but he is So Brave!!!! LOL, Thanks for this Laura!

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