Costco Anxiety Is Real—and It Keeps Me From Going Back
I wanted to believe the hype. I ended up overstimulated and empty-handed.
I've heard about how great Costco is for (basically) my entire life. My best friend's mom always had the best cheese sticks from Costco when we were kids, and several of my friends who grew up shopping there now have memberships of their own. They swear by Kirkland Signature nut butters, frozen staples and wine, and often get amazing deals on appliances and home decor. So I decided it was finally time to go to Costco. But now that I've gone once, I can honestly say I'll never go back—here's why.
Costco was so unassuming on the outside—it looked like a much wider version of your average grocery store—but it was a zoo from the moment I walked in. There were giant TVs to my left, stuffed animals and toys to my right, then a sea of massive aisles of stuff (for lack of a better word) for what felt like miles in front of me. I took a big gulp and entered the maze. I was very glad I chose to wear comfy sneakers that day.
I made it past the aisles of discount paperbacks, hoodies and "As Seen on TV" gadgets and finally found the food. The shelves were absolutely massive—and they had to be to fit the 10-pound bags of rice stacked on top of each other. It felt like I was in Home Depot, but one that sold cereal and maple syrup instead of lumber and hardware. I immediately realized my reusable canvas bags would serve little to no purpose at Costco.
I began searching for "semi-normal-sized" amounts of my usual staples—flax seeds, whole wheat flour, rice—but there was no way I was going to be able to haul more than a few items at a time to my car. Would I even be able to eat through these bulk items prior to reaching their "Best Before" date in 2022? (Looking at you, 18-ounce container of garlic powder.)
I felt like everyone was laughing at me as they watched me try to fit (read: wrestle) a two-quart jar of soy sauce next to a three-liter tin of extra-virgin olive oil into my little canvas bag. I now understand why you have to pay for a Costco membership —it basically doubles as a gym membership.
I ended up ditching the non-perishable items so I could scope out the produce and booze in peace, as I was getting ready to host a dinner party that week. I worked up an appetite carrying around those non-perishables and greatly appreciated the trail mix sample being offered to me by the kind woman in a hairnet.
She asked me if I was finding everything OK, and I just wanted to break down and tell her that no, no one told me I needed to bring an industrial-sized wheelbarrow to shop sustainably at Costco, but I smiled, said yes and took another trail mix sample for the road.
I must say, I was pretty impressed by the quality and price of Costco's organic produce, cheese and snack foods. Plus, there were some great deals here that I haven't seen anywhere else. But I would never need that many sweet potatoes at one time (unless it was Thanksgiving) and coming to this overstimulating, materialism-at-its-finest wonderland really wasn't worth it to get a few bucks off a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. I just don't "get" Costco, and I really don't think it gets me. I darted out of there and never looked back—I didn't even make it through the frozen foods.
As an avid meal-prepper and weekend baker, I was thrilled at the thought of buying in bulk, but the reality is, I needed a little less "bulk" than what Costco offers. But hey, 10 years down the road, I could be a vlogger mom with six kids who videos her shopping trips, throws a Costco-themed birthday for her fourth child and converts everyone she knows to buying seven-pound jars of peanut butter and jelly. I'm open to it, really, but I'll take my Trader Joe's and Whole Foods runs (and my vibrant youth) until then.