Use Costco's Free Food Court Ice To Travel With Frozen Groceries

Filled to the brim with large packages of practically everything, Costco is heaven for those who like to shop in large quantities. From frozen dumplings to sectional couches, the popular chain of warehouse stores is well known for its membership, low prices, and now, its inexpensive prepackaged Thanksgiving meals. But while you are happy to put the giant bags of frozen goods in your cart, another question comes to mind: How to transport these frozen items back home without them becoming a thawing, melting mess?

Luckily, the solution is right in front of you during checkout: the ice in the food court. With just some forethought and a couple of reusable insulated bags, you can place your frozen goods in a bag filled with food court ice and keep it nice and frozen all the way to your home. However, if you do plan to do so, you should plan ahead to avoid food court crowds and ice shortages — or else you are going to end up with tiny amounts of ice and a long wait.

Timing and equipment is everything

On the surface, the logic is sound: What's better than free ice to keep your purchases frozen? After all, there is plenty of ice available from the soda machines in a Costco food court, and they are absolutely free to use. On the other hand, the food court is also a very busy place. Lured by the famously inexpensive hot dogs and tired from hours of wandering the aisles and snacking on samples, many shoppers choose to stop at the food court for a meal and for some sitting, during which time the soda machines (and their ice dispensers) will be under heavy use. Therefore, if you plan to take advantage of food court ice, you will have to come during the hours when the food court is not as busy. Moreover, it is extremely rude to make fellow shoppers wait at the soda machine while you spend minutes filling bags of ice.

The other tip about using Costco food court ice for your purchases is equipment-related. As any member surely knows, the store does not offer shopping bags as a way to cut costs and pass the savings to the consumer. Instead, guests have to go find their own containers by searching for discarded cardboard produce carriers, which are not ideal for carrying ice in any way, shape, or form. So, in order to make use of the food court ice, consider bringing some insulated reusable grocery bags.

Other Costco-related tips

Aside from using Costco food court ice to keep your products cool, there are many other tips to make your warehouse shopping trip efficient and less wasteful. For example, eating a meal before you go is a surefire way to avoid impulse buying a bunch of snacks in bulk that will often end up uneaten in the pantry.

Another tip is that you should only purchase goods that you know you can consume in time. While it seems to be a good value to buy in bulk for less money per unit, the savings are lost if you cannot fully use the item. A large amount of meat might get freezer burn, and a large bag of fruit can spoil before you can finish it. Instead, check out the per-unit prices of grocery stores and compare them against Costco prices in order to determine if the extra costs of the grocery store offset any potential waste by buying in bulk.