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12 Best-Ever Costco Essentials, According to Our Groceries Editor

The famously cheap rotisserie chicken and hot dog combo aren't the only incredible deals at the warehouse.
FACT CHECKED BY Justine Goodman
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

Consumers with an eye for quality and value have been drawn to Costco for decades. The popular warehouse club currently includes some 129 million card-carrying members worldwide (and counting). But, for a long time, I wasn't one of them. Then, I took a job as Deputy Editor of Groceries at Eat This, Not That! Suddenly, Costco became the center of the cosmos.

A groceries editor without a Costco card is like a film critic who's never watched The Godfather. His opinion isn't worth much without that gold-standard frame of reference. So, yeah, signing up was essential.

While not quite as omnipresent as Walmart or Amazon, Costco nonetheless wields extraordinary influence in the grocery business. According to Progressive Grocer, the warehouse club annually outsells Kroger, America's largest traditional supermarket operator. It reportedly even sells more organic groceries than Whole Foods Market and more hotdogs than all the ballparks in Major League Baseball combined.

Since joining the club, I've quickly come to understand why so many people brave the huge crowds, long lines, and log-jammed parking lots to shop at what would seem from the outside to be just another big-box store. Within these aircraft hangar-like warehouses are products and prices that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and there's a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes at the end of each quest to acquire these things. So, I, too, now regularly go to great trouble to pick up many household essentials from my especially overpopulated local warehouse.

Here are the items I simply can't pass up at Costco—and no, the famed rotisserie chicken is not one of them.

Heinz Ketchup

Heinz ketchup at Costco
Costco
Per Serving (1 tbsp): 20 calories, 0 g fat, 170 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein

You'll find many brands of ketchup at other retailers, but we all know there are really just two choices: There's Heinz and then there's the rest. Costco doesn't waste your time with any of those other lesser brands. It stocks only the best and only in bulk. The price is unbeatable: a three-pack of 44-ounce bottles costs just $12.99 at my local warehouse—that's less than half the price of the same multipack at the nearest Walmart.

Beyond the mere cost savings, you're also getting a sense of security. If you have kids, then you probably know what happens when the ketchup bottle suddenly runs dry. In a word: chaos. But, your chances of calamity are greatly diminished if you buy your ketchup at Costco. Just one of these ginormous 44-ounce squeeze bottles will last my family of four at least a month, if not two. And you get two big backups with every purchase. So, go ahead: squirt freely!

 5 Ketchup Brands That Use the Best Quality Ingredients

Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter

Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter
Instacart
Per Serving (1 tbsp): 100 calories, 11 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g protein

Irish butter is all the rage these days, and with good reason. It's made with milk from grass-fed cows, hailed as nutritionally superior to the conventional kind. Kerrygold is one of the most popular and highest-quality butter brands out there, and professional chefs say it's great for cooking. My local supermarket charges $6.49 for a single eight-ounce bar, but Costco sells a box containing four of those same bars for just $14.49—that's a savings of over $11.

Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips

Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips
Instacart
Per Serving (1 oz): 140 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Some popular authentic-style tortilla chips these days are simply too thin to withstand a chunky dip. They often break apart, cluttering your dipping bowl with brittle shards that quickly turn to mush. But not these durable corn chips from Costco's house brand, Kirkland Signature. They're dependably sturdy, with a satisfying crunch and genuine masa taste. And because it's Costco, they come in a blow-out party-sized bag—a whopping five pounds worth for just $5.99. You'd pay that much for a single 12-ounce bag in some stores.

 10 Best Tortilla Chips—and 3 to Avoid, According to Dietitians

Horizon Organic Whole Milk Boxes

Horizon Organic Whole Milk
Instacart
Per Serving (1 milk box): 150 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 8 g protein

My son drinks more dairy milk than anyone I've ever met. Having single-serve milk boxes on hand is essential, both for his school lunchbox and for those times when the regular milk supply runs dry, which happens all too frequently. These particular organic milk boxes from Horizon are an especially hot commodity in the kid-overrun neighborhood where I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., and local grocers sell them for around $2 each. Starbucks charges $3.25 for a single box! So, stocking up at home is the most cost-effective way to go.

A 12-pack of the same brand costs me $15.47 at Whole Foods Market. But, at Costco, I can get 18 boxes for $18.99. That not only saves me money ($1.05 per box versus $1.28 per box) but it also keeps me stocked longer, which is crucial when there's an insatiable teenager at home.

La Boulangere Pains au Chocolat

Costco La Boulangere Pains au Chocolat
Costco
PER SERVING (1 PAIN AU CHOCOLAT): 180 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein

My daughter knows precisely one line in French, and it has served her well: "Je voudrais un pain au chocolat!" (Translation: "I would like a chocolate croissant.") Suffice to say, she's a fan of the classic pastry. She enjoys all kinds, from those made fresh at legit French bakeries to the pre-packaged, quickly warmed chocolate croissants at Starbucks. But, these individually wrapped pastries from La Boulangere are just as good as the Starbucks variety and, of course, they're much, much cheaper. The coffee giant charges $4.45 for a single croissant. A bag of 16 pastries costs $8.69 at Costco.

 25 Costco Items You'll Need for the Perfect Brunch

Kirkland Signature USDA Prime Beef Loin New York Steak

Instacart
Nutrition information not available.

Perhaps you are content with eating USDA Choice steaks at home. I know I used to be. After all, it's high-grade beef, just not the highest. And it's a bit easier on the wallet. Take my favorite cut to cook at home: the New York strip. The Choice cut costs $13.99 per pound at Costco, while the higher-end Prime cut costs $16.99 per pound. But, once you taste the difference, it's hard to go back. That's how I felt after trying both varieties side-by-side in a taste test for Eat This, Not That! The fattier Prime cut is more tender, more flavorful, and far more luscious. In short, it's worth the extra money. You usually won't find this caliber of meat at a regular supermarket, and a proper butcher shop would charge a lot more. A Prime strip steak from a reputable butcher near me right now costs $27.99 per pound.

La Colombe Cold Brew Coffee

La Colombe Cold Brew Coffee
Instacart
Per Serving (12 fl. Oz.): 15 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 3 g carbs, 1 g protein

La Colombe is one of my favorite coffee brands. Its cold brew is smooth and invigorating. Picking up a two-pack at Costco will ensure that you have at least one 12-ounce cup at the ready for seven straight days. A single 42-ounce container would cost you $5.49 at Whole Foods. But, with a Costco membership, you get two of these for $8.99 at the warehouse.

 The 11 Best Quick & Easy Lunch Options at Costco Right Now

Tuttorosso Tomatoes Crushed With Basil

Tuttorosso Tomatoes Crushed With Basil
Instacart
Per Serving (1/4 cup): 15 calories, 0 g fat, 130 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

What, you were expecting Rao's? Sure, you can get a really good deal on the ultra-popular brand of jarred marinara sauce at Costco. But, if you like to make your own sauce every Sunday like I do, then this bulk pack of canned crushed tomatoes will keep you stocked for weeks. At a regular supermarket, a single 28-ounce can can cost anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99, depending on the brand. At Costco, I can get eight cans for just $11.99 in the warehouse. Brown some garlic in olive oil, add red pepper flakes, pour in the crushed tomatoes, sprinkle some salt, simmer, and you're in business.

Kirkland Signature Cauliflower Crust Supreme Pizza

kirkland signature cauliflower crust pizza
Courtesy of Costco
Per Serving: 310 calories, 15 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 900 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein

My wife has been gluten-sensitive for longer than most people I know. We've tried umpteen kinds of gluten-free pizza crusts over the years. This one is hands-down the best. It's crispy but still pliable so you can fold it, and the supreme-style toppings are everything I want in a pizza. You get two of these excellent frozen pies for $11.99 at my local Costco.

RELATED: 25 Best Frozen Foods at Costco Right Now

Hiiros Tomatoes

Chris Shott/ Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition information not available.

Fresh produce is not Costco's strong suit, to say the least, but occasionally you can still find some gems in the fruit and vegetable section. These greenhouse-grown tomatoes from Canada's Nature Fresh Farm are a great example. You can see how fresh and ripe they are from the bright color of both the fruits and stems, and they taste just as good as they look—juicy and sweet. A 1.5-pound package costs $7.99 at the warehouse.

Nongshim Tonkotsu Ramen Premium Noodle Soup

Nongshim Tonkotsu Ramen Premium Noodle Soup
Instacart
Per Serving (1 Bowl): 450 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 1550 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein

Instant ramen is a dependable pantry item to have on hand for whenever you need a cheap, easy meal. This Nongshim Tonkotsu at Costco is the best one I've tried, taking top honors in a recent ramen taste test of eight different brands. The broth is robust, creamy, and delicious, and it clings to the noodles better than other ramen varieties, ensuring a flavorful slurp every time. A pack of six ready-to-heat bowls costs just $11.99 at the warehouse.

 20 Best High-Protein Foods to Buy at Costco

Foster Farms Take Out Crispy Wings Sweet Chipotle BBQ

 

Foster Farms Take Out Crispy Wings Sweet Chipotle BBQ
Costco
Per Serving (3 oz wings + 2 tbsp sauce): 230 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 950 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (4 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 12 g protein

You might just forgo your regular go-to spot for chicken wings once you realize you can have equally crispy, tasty wings right at home. Costco shoppers have long raved about these "restaurant-quality" wings from the freezer section—especially the Sweet Chipotle BBQ flavor. I wholeheartedly concur. In taste tests, I've compared these to multiple other wing varieties at Costco and other air fryer-ready wings now on the market at large. They're the lone standouts in both cases.

If you have an air fryer, and you like wings, then you need to have a bag of these beauties in your freezer. A big four-pound bag costs $15.99 at the warehouse. Heck, they're also gluten-free—so even your usual breading-averse friends can finally indulge, too.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris