Costco – A Little Slice of America

30 Oct


I recently made my way down to the Docklands to check out Costco, holding on to a tiny sliver of hope that I might be able to find some American goodies there. I was really excited to go there, finally. Is it lame that I’m excited about an overgrown supermarket? Whatever. I don’t care.

The first thing you need to know about Costco is not to park in the Costco parking garage. It costs $12 to park there and you’ll have to wait in a long line to take your cart back down there on the elevator after you’re done shopping. Instead, park in the parking garage across the way nearer to the other shops that charges only $6.

The second thing you need to know is that Costco requires you to have a membership to get in, just like in America. Your Costco membership is good around the world, if you’ve already got one, but if you don’t, you can get visitor passes Monday through Thursday only (and you will only be allowed to pay in cash), or you can sign up for a full membership for $60, which is fully refundable at any time if you decide you don’t like Costco. I signed up for a membership to keep things simple. It was pretty painless. You just need a photo ID and something that proves your address.

Upon entering the store, you will find that Melbourne’s Costco is just like any other warehouse club. It’s big and no frills, filled to the rafters with items ranging from homewares and electronics to jewelry and clothing. They also stock a lot of seasonal items. Right now, they have Christmas stuff and camping equipment, among other things.

My main reason for going, though, is for groceries. Discounted, bulk groceries, to be specific.

I was moderately disappointed in the selection and the prices. Many items were either the same price or slightly more expensive than it would be at the regular grocery store when that particular item is on sale. Is it really worth it to buy 60 rolls of toilet paper for $30 when that same brand goes on sale for $12 for a 24 pack at Woolworth’s every two weeks? Since I live in a small flat and am not willing to waste any of my precious storage space with toilet paper, I decided it wasn’t.

Or take, for example, a 3-pack of Tim Tams for just under $10. That’s $3.33 a pack, but if you wait for them to go on sale, you can get them as cheaply as $2 a pack at the grocery store. So don’t assume that just because it’s Costco and everything is bulk-priced that you will be saving money. It helps to know what things cost for comparison’s sake.

Some things are a great deal, though, especially once you get away from the packaged foods. I got a huge block of Pecorino cheese for only $10.55, where a little sliver of the stuff at the grocery store is $7 and up. I also got an entire kilogram of grape tomatoes for $7. At the grocery store, you’ll pay $4 for 200-250 grams. Not bad, especially because I happen to love both Pecorino and grape tomatoes.

Of course, you’re just dying to know what great American treats they have in there, aren’t you? Of course you are!

My personal favourite was the candy section. They had Reese’s Pieces, Reese’s Miniature Cups, and Christmas coloured M&M’s. Jackpot!

I also found Ruffles potato chips, Hormel bacon bits, and A&W root beer, all direct from America. I’m not a huge fan of these items, but I know some people are, so I thought I’d give them a mention.

I was, however, baffled by the presence of a large pallet of Spam. Seriously, that stuff is GROSS. Who the hell is eating that in sufficient quantity to justify importing it?! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

Anyway, even though I thought Costco was moderately lacking in some area, there are certainly some good deals to be had and I like knowing that I can get Reese’s Pieces when I want them. Someone also told me they will stock any item if you request it, but I’m not sure if that is true. I kind of doubt they would stock ANY item, but I might inquire about candy corn next time I go there. Or Tampax. I noticed they did NOT have any American feminine products, which was a HUGE disappointment. Pretty sure they could have imported some of those instead of, say, grapes.

Probably the thing that reminded me the most of America was seeing a bunch of fat people push their giant carts around, filled to the brim with oversized junk food, like the guy who had four packages of the giant dozen-count muffins from the bakery. Not that you don’t see fat people with junk food at the regular grocery stores, because you do. But it’s more like America when the portion sizes match the people, as it does at Costco.

I’ll probably keep shopping there and I’m sure by the time we have several children, it will make a lot more sense to buy certain things there. As with any warehouse club, when you shop for just two people, what you can buy is a bit more limited. (No way would the two of us eat 5 kg of carrots before they went bad.) But I still found plenty of paper products and non-perishables to make the trip worthwhile, not to mention a few of the perishable items that we do use up quickly.

Like most people who live in Australia, I think the Cole’s/Woolworth’s duopoly sucks, so I’m happy for any opportunity to shop elsewhere. Oh, and I also love that the shopping carts don’t require a coin deposit.

So far, there are only three Costco locations in Australia: Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide.

12 Responses to “Costco – A Little Slice of America”

  1. Cosette October 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Thanks for the review. Theo and I went to Campbell’s Cash and Carry, which is similar, but meant for business owners; it requires a business license. We didn’t find the prices to be all that much better than what we can get at the markets and supermarkets. Plus, we don’t necessarily have the room to store bulk goods. They did have a lot of American products though especially candies and, now that you mention it, Spam (what’s up with that?).

    • housewifedownunder November 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      We have a pretty small flat with almost no storage space, so I’ve had to get creative about bulk buys and also be somewhat choosy. My rule is that if I can get it on sale when I need it from the regular store for the same price as Costco, I’ll buy it in the smaller quantity. Like, I really don’t know where I’d put 60 rolls of toilet paper. The package was just massive! But I don’t mind buying a huge jar of, say, peanut butter (they have Skippy peanut butter in a 48 ounce jar for $7!!!) when it is clearly a big savings and I know I’ll use it quickly. I wouldn’t buy two or three jars at the same time, but I don’t mind making room for one. Other items are things I buy in multiples anyway, just because I like to have them around, so I don’t mind buying a 3-pack of canned beans when they won’t go bad before I use them. And last week, I got a huge pack of organic chicken breasts (I think there are 9 in there, vacuum packed into separate compartments) for only $26. I mean, that stuff you can just freeze almost indefinitely and that’s just an insanely good price. You do certainly have to change the way you think about shopping a bit when it comes to bulk buys, but there are almost certainly some things that it would make sense for you to buy in bulk, depending on your consumer habits.

  2. maggiemyklebust October 31, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    Well you’re one up on us poor American’s here in Norway… No Costco. And No fat people (well, hardly any) I guess thats because they don’t sell candy cheap or in bulk, ha!

    Anyway, you’re right, whats up with the spam? That stuff is GROSS!

    • housewifedownunder November 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      If I lived in Norway, with everything there being as expensive as it is, I’d probably be rioting in the streets demanding a Costco or Sam’s Club. :-p Norwegians are probably so thin because it’s too expensive to eat very much at all.

      • maggiemyklebust November 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

        You don’t know how true that statement is and Norwegians are very peaceful and excepting… You would never know they were once Vikings!

      • housewifedownunder November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

        A shame that their Vikingness seems to have been bred out of them. Vikings are basically like the coolest things ever to have walked the planet. I like telling people that I’m descended from a long line of Teutonic and Viking warriors, so they had better watch out for me because some day I might just snap and tear their head off with my bare hands and eat it. Or something like that. πŸ˜‰

      • maggiemyklebust November 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

        And I believe it πŸ™‚

      • maggiemyklebust November 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

        Sorry, accepting… its early here πŸ™‚

  3. Anon. October 31, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Spam is popular among Pacific Islanders. Australia’s proximity to the south pacific probably explains the large quantities of Spam in stores.

    • housewifedownunder October 31, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      I had no idea! Thanks for that bit of information. But having choked the stuff down as a kid, I can’t imagine why anyone would willingly buy it!

  4. Hailey November 3, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    We don’t have Costco…or any place that sells Reese’s peanut butter cups. I could really go for those right now.

    • housewifedownunder November 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      What are the customs rules on bringing foreign food into Hong Kong? Would you be allowed to bring candy in your luggage next time you go back to America? They are really strict about that stuff here, so I never bring candy back with me. 😦

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