Walking into Costco for the first time can feel like you’re entering a retail wonderland. With discounts galore and bulk items stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
But, it can also be extremely overwhelming. As a Costco newbie, or even as a seasoned veteran, it can be hard to decipher which grocery items actually offer a good deal and which you’re better off picking up elsewhere.
Some items simply aren’t meant for bulk buying—unless you’re feeding a football team or stocking up for your family-owned restaurant. For other products it’s not about the quantity, but rather the quality that simply doesn’t cut it.
Costco members—as well as food bloggers, nutritionists, and even chefs—have shared their insights about which items to avoid when perusing the store’s grocery aisles. According to these trusted insiders, one specific item stands out as the worst one to have in your shopping cart: fresh produce.
While it can be tempting to pick up generously-sized bundles of fruits and vegetables at a discount—especially since the average price for both has risen over 10% in the past year—many shoppers fail to think through what will happen once they are back home with their haul.
“Will you really go through 10 pounds of potatoes before they start sprouting? How about 17 bananas?” says food writer Lacey Muszynski for the Cheapism blog. “If you have to throw out some of every large bag of produce you buy, you’re not really saving money. Especially stay away from lettuce, spinach, and other delicate leafy greens unless you have specific plans for it immediately. Large fruits you have to buy whole, such as pineapples and watermelons, are also often more expensive at Costco than at your local grocery store.”
Chef and Costco member Lizzy Briskin agreed that buying large quantities of fruit from the warehouse is a risky move. “Depending on the season, you can keep fruit fresh in the crisper drawer for some time. But if you’re buying fruit that’s already past its prime, and in big quantities to boot, you’re not doing yourself any favors,” Briskin shared with Insider. “Delicate fruits like stone fruit and berries are best bought in smaller quantities and locally, if possible.”
And this seems to be a pretty widely shared opinion. Costco customers have outlined on Reddit some of their grievances about the store’s fruits and veggies—including, but not limited to, broccoli, bananas, salad greens, strawberries, onions, and green beans—saying they were often moldy, flavorless, unripened, or went bad at an alarming rate.
“Fresh produce in general from Costco goes bad twice as fast as from anywhere else,” one disgruntled Costco member reported back in 2020. “I have kids that could easily live off fruit and we can’t get through a package of strawberries without tossing half because they are already mushy and moldy. Same with their zucchini/squash packs.”
Most recently, Costco’s fresh (or not so fresh) avocados have additionally been singled out. Outlets such as Reddit continue to be flooded with various complaints about the declining quality of the fruit along with pictures of browning, rotten avocados for proof.
In a neighboring region of the store, another sub-par product category lurks. Bakery items also top many lists of the least desirable products found at Costco. We can already hear audible gasps from the bakery’s die-hard fans, but hear us out. Similar to fruits and veggies, fresh bread and other pastries can quickly go bad right under your nose. Not to mention, most bakery products–including the chain’s famous gooey cinnamon rolls, muffins, and flakey croissants–hold little to no nutritional value.
“One of the biggest challenges with this is that the portions are huge and you can’t buy just one,” says nutritionist Lisa R. Young of Costco’s Cinnamon Pull-Apart Rolls. “You need to buy 12 items, which encourages overeating. And they are high in sugar, fat, and calories!”
“Their muffins are so big that they are equivalent to eating four to six pieces of bread,” she adds. “They often have 500 calories, many more than people think.”
Aside from fresh produce and baked goods, here are a few more bulk Costco products you should purchase at your own risk, according to shoppers: ground coffee, cooking oil, spices, breakfast cereal, flour, and condiments. While many of these choices seem like they would be good to have on hand, in such large quantities they tend to spoil, lose their flavor, or become stale quicker than the average shopper can consume them.