Leaving One Cult For Another

We’ve had a couple of big changes in our house lately, due to a recent reworking of our budget. First, we – I say we, but really it was all Sir Monkeypants’ doing – finally cut the television cord. We eliminated our satellite service from Bell and now that means we are free from both Rogers and Bell, and let me tell you, that feels sooooooo gooooood.

Side story: The other day a girl came to the door from Rogers, trying to sell some of their services, and she was kind of oddly aggressive. She asked if I was with Bell and I gleefully said NO, and then she asked if I was with Rogers, and I did a little happy dance and said NO, and then she very pushily and angrily demanded to know all the details of our internet service, and I was like, SEE YA WOULDN’T WANT TO BE YA, and shut the door. I probably could have been more polite but man, I was just so incredibly happy. Bye bye! Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

In case you worry that we’ve gone all 19th century around here, fear not, we still watch tons of TV. Our new system includes:

  • Netflix, heavens how I adore Netflix;
  • an antenna in our attic, which allows us to pick up HD signals from Global, CBC, CTV, OMNI, and CITY, and between all of those we get basically every major cable show;
  • a Tablo PVR that provides us with TV listings and recording ability;
  • an Apple TV that makes all this stuff run;
  • the YesTV app loaded on our Apple TV that allows me to watch Jeopardy, but only live, which means I now have a weekday alarm set on my digital watch to warn me that JEOPARDY IS ON, pathetically;
  • YouTube app on our Apple TV for live streaming certain events (this is how we watched the American Presidential Debates) and watching gamers play Minecraft, which is apparently VERY IMPORTANT, MOM.

So you can see, we still have lots of content available to us, and we’re keeping up with current TV as well as deep diving into old TV (currently on season 4 of Friends!). The up front investment for all this technology will pay for itself after about a year of not having Bell Satellite. Isn’t that crazy? Not to mention the fabulous bonus of being able to tell both Bell and Rogers to stuff it. STUFF IT.

(I should also mention that our internet comes via TekSavvy, who also provides our phone service, and our cell phones are through Telus.)

Our second major change is that I finally, after years and years of dithering about it, joined Costco. I have problems shopping at a place where I have to be a member, and also, it’s not super conveniently located to my house, so I knew I’d never go there on a weekly basis. But I finally decided to join after a test run shopping trip there last spring with my friend RheostaticsFan, when I learned that Vanilla Extract sells for like, 1/4 the price of the Superstore. I needed more vanilla last week and the price at the Superstore made my head spin, and I was all like, WE ARE JOINING COSTCO.

We decided on the basic membership (MUCH to the disappointment of the girl who signed us up) and we are looking at this as a one year experiment. This may seem really anal to you but I went to the Costco the day after we joined and wrote down prices of stuff that I actually thought I might buy there – stuff that we use already, that would keep if I bought it in massive bulk format.

Then I went to the Superstore, which actually has really good prices in my opinion, and also has the benefit of being three minutes from my house. Plus, we save 4% on everything at the Superstore thanks to our cash-back credit card, which gives us a bonus on grocery stores. So with that in mind, I went through the same list and wrote down the prices of the same stuff. Then I came home and put it all in a spreadsheet to see what was of benefit to buy at the Costco, and what wasn’t.

I learned from this exercise that in general, it’s better to buy in bulk – but that Costco’s prices aren’t necessarily better. For example, I usually buy a 5 kg bag of flour every few weeks. Costco sells a 10 kg bag and per kg, it’s a better price. But the Superstore also sells a 10 kg bag, for the same price as Costco. So, I could save money just by buying the 10 kg bag instead, at either location – but the problem is, my kitchen has no space for a 10 kg bag of flour, so I don’t know how I can make that work.

Same with dish soap – I could save money by buying the 5 L bottle at Costco, or the same 5 L bottle at the Superstore, which is actually 10 cents cheaper. But again, what am I going to do with a 5 L bottle of dish soap? How will I pour from it? What will I pour it into? Where will I store it? It’s a whole new mess of problems – and joining the Costco didn’t actually save me any money, because if I were willing to buy these massive sizes, I could actually do it at the Superstore for free.

Another thing I learned is that things that are on sale at the Superstore are usually a better price than Costco, per unit. Three of the things I tested out – Coke, Lays Chips, and Dove soap – happened to be on sale this week at the Superstore, and per unit, were actually LESS than at the Costco. So if you watch for sales in the flyer, and/or price match, and then buy up a bunch of that stuff while it’s on sale, you can probably do just as well, if not better, than at the Costco.

So, is anything worth it? A few things. The savings at Costco on vanilla extract and baking powder alone are enough to pay for our annual membership (I do a lot of baking). Also worth it:

Advil and Tylenol
Benedryl (we go through a LOT of Benedryl here)
Parchment Paper
Kitchen Compost bags
iTunes gift cards (we use these to pay for Netflix, and you can save $10 on $100 of gift cards, giving us a small discount there)
Dishwasher pods
Apple Juice

And that’s basically it for us. You can probably save tons more if your family goes through stuff quickly – for example, I could by ketchup there, in a two-pack of two enormous bottles, but that’s enough to last us at least a whole year, for a net savings over the Superstore of 90 cents. So is it worth it for me to find a place to store an enormous backup bottle for a 90 cent savings? Maybe, but maybe not.

I also think there’s significant savings to be had on meat, bread, and cheese, if you have room to buy that stuff and break it up into smaller pieces and freeze it. We don’t eat a lot of that stuff around here due to allergies so I didn’t look too closely.

I’m keeping a running tally of everything bought at Costco, and the savings on that item over the Superstore, so we can determine if we want to go back at the end of the year. I’m sure the membership will pay for itself but the question is – how much savings would I have to see to make it worth it to me to a) have to run to yet another grocery store on a regular basis (I already go to three different ones every Sunday morning), b) have to face the horror that is the Costco parking lot (seriously, why is it so busy on a Monday afternoon?), c) have to find a place in this already overstuffed house to store all the massive quantities of stuff we buy there.

I guess we’ll see at the end of the year.

What do you buy at Costco? What would you recommend?

21 thoughts on “Leaving One Cult For Another

  1. Funny, I was just thinking about my Costco membership yesterday. When my trio were younger it made sense to have the membership as our Costco was located right beside their elementary school. Now that I’m down to one child, who has graduated from that school, living at home and I’m not making big meals I’m wondering if it still makes sense to have a membership there! I’ll have to do the math too! As for my recommendations, If you buy books or magazines, they are a great deal at Costco, as are socks and laundry detergent! 🙂

  2. I’m new to Costco too, but my house is still the same size as before even though it’s renovated, so UI hear you on the space issue. But I still am happy to have joined less than a year ago. I go once every 2-3 months, and the big items are:

    – eggs (we go through so many eggs, and that’s not even counting the baking this time of year)
    – mixed nuts (bonus, the containers are super handy and I reuse them for other things such as bulk items I buy like baking soda, or kids erasers, beads and other crafty things)
    – olive oil
    – canned salmon
    – baby wipes (even tho my youngest is 9, I keep a Kirland pack in the car, in the bathrooms, in the garage…)
    – greek feta cheese/ parm cheese to grate
    – and these seed granola bars that have no nuts in them for school snacks (can’t find them elsewhere)

    I did not know about the few items you mentioned and must have a good look at those prices (painkillers, Benadryl, parch paper, flour…vanilla extract? really?)

    We’re gonna stick with Costco I think but like you, keep a close eye on prices. I even have a couple of pairs of yoga pants from them that I like, and remember thinking back then that the price was good and there were many sizes in stock. And I’m pretty sure my mom bought the kids snowsuits from Costco back in the day when they still wore them, and she swears up and down the prices are unbeatable (and her background is retail in the clothing section).


    1. I can definitely say that if you are buying no name brand Olive Oil at the Superstore, it’s less per ml than the big tub of it at Costco. So double check that one!

  3. MrsCarlSagan

    We’ve had a membership for a long time now and two or three years ago changed to the executive membership. I too, hate paying to shop somewhere, but it’s working well for us. The membership gives us 2% of our purchases back in the form of a Costco coupon once a year. That alone, pays for the membership. Also, we have the Costco mastercard and once a year we receive a rebate coupon to use in the store as well. Last year those two coupons paid for the membership plus gave us about 220$ to spend in the store. To get the most out of the membership we shop there roughly every two weeks. You are right though, you do have to know your prices and buying in bulk is not necessarily the best deal in town. We have consistently found Costco to have the best prices on things we buy regularly such as blocks of cheese, eggs, butter, cream, lunch meat, bacon, baking supplies, fresh fruits and veg like spinach and apples, toilet paper, vitamins, laundry soap, olive oil, coconut oil, and wild rice. Clothes too are generally well priced, as well as the basics like socks and underwear.

    Often, the store opens earlier than its stated opening hours….so head over by 9:45am, snag a great parking spot and chances are good that you will be all done and headed out of the parking lot just as it’s filling up.

    1. Oooh, GREAT tip on opening early. On Sunday I got there five minutes after it opened and already the lot was 3/4 full. Guess that’s why! I’m a Costco newbie :).

      I was really hoping they would have better prices on bacon but I was surprised that the Superstore was actually better – not the same brand, but still. I will have to double check that one, I think.

    2. Kay, I have double checked and just wanted to comment here to say you are absolutely right about the bacon! I had written down the wrong amount when doing my calculations – I thought the price was for 2×500 packages but it’s actually for 4 packages. So we picked up some bacon there last night :).

  4. MrsCarlSagan

    Check the package size…it’s 500 grams at Costco. I know where I do the weekly shopping (a combination of Freshco and Loblaws), the bacon usually is the same price per one package, but the package is 375gams I think. Same with the packages of lunch meat (ham) that I buy. It’s about 5$ for 175grams at Freshco. The same product is 11$ for 3 packages of 250 grams. I know, I know, that’s a lot of ham 🙂 If we don’t use it all up before the bb date i freeze it and then use it in pea soup.

  5. I wold totally cut the cord because I absolutely never watch TV. Literally, I don’t know how to turn it on. I watch French programs streaming on my computer or documentaries online. But Feng likes sports and apparently, that’s a cable-only perk…

    I’m not a Costco member and this is not the place for me because I can’t stand buying in bulk. I… I’m French. I already find cookie boxes are too big here in Canada (take me like a month to finish one if I eat it alone) so I find the idea of more product terrifying. The main reason though is that we are a family of three. Buying in bulk makes a lot of sense when you have several older kids!

    My in-laws shop at Costco and it’s crazy how much they buy for just the two of them. They often bring us stuff from Costco and while I do find Kirkland is a solid brand, I really don’t need a giant box of whatever.

  6. I have shopped at Costco a few times, but don’t enjoy the experience. the scale of everything just feels wrong to me. too.much.stuff. no judgement to so many of you who shop there, but it is simply not for me.

    However, I have had a strict grocery budget since my first son was born ($140/wk for 4 people). I do most of my shopping at Metro. they have great sales and I also love the AirMiles and use them often for travel. For the most part, I found when price comparing at Costco, they are cheaper when compared to regular prices at the grocery store, but not cheaper than the grocery stores sales, which I shop mainly around. does that make sense?

    congrats on cutting the TV cord….. and as for Netflix…… how you doin’? enjoy Friends!!

    1. Wow, that budget is amazing!! I’d love some tips. And I agree – this whole Costco exercise has shown me that stuff on sale at the regular grocery stores is actually less than Costco, so if you focus and you’re willing to tour around to a few different stores (or price match), you can make it work. We’ll see how it all turns out.

  7. mdavis94538

    I’m guessing that when you wrote “Costco’s prices are necessarily better”, you meant “Costco’s prices *aren’t* necessarily better”, right?

    In any case, I think if you really want to know which is the better deal, keeping track of all your purchases for a year is a great way to do it. I’ll keep to myself what I think the outcome will be, and will look forward to your post in a year 🙂

  8. smothermother

    We cut the cord years ago. And we are will Teksavvy as well. Love them. Love not being attached to Bell or Rogers.

    We joined Costco a couple of years ago. There are only a few things I buy and go maybe once every 2 months.
    – you are so right on the vanilla extract!!
    – Quaker oats
    – cereal in general. and when they have a sale it’s ridiculous
    – peperettes (yes, meat sticks. the natural GF turkey ones)
    – snow suits. just can’t beat the price for quality
    – books
    – trail mix
    – clothes. seriously, my three most favorite tops right now are all from Costco. I live in them on the weekends.
    – parmesan cheese
    – GF crackers. this was the main reason to get the membership. they have the most incredible GF crackers that are not available anywhere else. And they aren’t the Kirkland brand.

    I would love to buy their meats. The quality is excellent, but we don’t have an extra freezer.

  9. TD

    Until a celiac diagnosis, Kettleman bagel’s at Costco were one of our biggest savings. Bacon is the other one. Like mentioned above, I find it much cheaper than the grocery store since it is a 500g package instead of 375g. I will now be looking for the GF cracker’s mentioned above.

    One of my friends mentioned that Costco does a soft opening 30 minutes before it officially opens. Also, although it says it closes at 8:30pm, that is when they last let people in, they actually let you do your shopping and only want you out by 9.

    If you have a gas BBQ, the propane is much cheaper too.

    1. smothermother

      There are two kinds of GF crackers. The CrunchMaster which are awesome. And also ones that are made from lentils and beets. They are red and round. I can’t remember the name off hand. Delicious! Both are celiac association approved.

  10. bibliomama2

    Costco gives me the vapours, and I don’t think it’s at all anal to do the math – it’s the only way I would ever get a membership again, and I just don’t feel up to the task. Every time I used to go, I would spend two hundred dollars on books I don’t need, some weird clothing item and giant blueberry muffins.
    I’d love to cut the cord, but sports seems to be the sticking point here. Go you!

  11. High Five for TekSavvy – I like them as a company – they do customer service right. Thanks to them, my laptop and a WiiU that plays Netflix and Youtube, I have all the tv I can handle. Interesting price break down! I live by the byward market, so that’s my savings when it comes to veggies and fruit. Otherwise it’s a pretty pricey place!

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