Why Costco's Bulk Soda Isn't Actually A Great Deal

Costco offers its members plenty of great deals on groceries, clothes, and other household supplies in bulk. Frequent customers won't hesitate to buy virtually everything they need at the warehouse chain, but not everything at Costco is necessarily the best deal you can find. Interestingly enough, soda is one product you're better off buying elsewhere.

To be clear, Costco does sell soda at a lower base price than many other grocery stores. However, this is no longer true if your local supermarket is running a sale — and it probably is. Costco's competitors frequently offer soda on sale — even at an overall financial loss — as a tactic to draw in customers. Soft drink discounts are usually at their peak around holidays like Fourth of July. These sales make Costco's soda prices look like a drop in the bucket, especially if you need a lot of drinks for a cookout or party.

What's more, Costco doesn't really try to compete when it comes to soda. The chain doesn't manufacture its own soda, showing that it isn't trying to trump the name recognition and brand loyalty that comes with products like Coke or Pepsi. It also doesn't offer large, two-liter bottles. Instead, Costco only sells flat packs of smaller soda cans, and never at as much of a discount as other stores. For the best soda prices, keep an eye on your local grocery store and stock up when it's offering some kind of BOGO sale.

Fresh produce isn't worth purchasing in bulk, either

Another item to skip at Costco is fresh produce sold in bulk. Sure, you'll find great deals, compared to what you would pay for the same amount of fruits or veggies at a grocery store, but you'll only benefit from the discount if you're feeding an army. Costco sells highly perishable produce like apples, berries, and lettuce in packages far larger than a four-person family could hope to finish before everything spoils. Next thing you know, you're left with several pounds of rotting fruit and veggies, essentially throwing money in the trash.

There are a few notable exceptions to this rule, with the first being hardy produce like potatoes. Stored properly, such as in a cardboard box, potatoes can last up to six months. Buying them in bulk isn't likely to cause waste, so long as you don't forget about them. You should also feel free to purchase Costco's frozen produce, or even freeze fresh produce yourself to extend its shelf life. Though the exact shelf life varies from one type of produce to the next, you can reasonably expect most items to last at least eight months in the freezer, if not longer.

Be wary of the meat counter at Costco

As is the case with soda, Costco's bulk meat deals aren't for everyone. The meat counter at your local Costco likely sells very large pieces of meat. In order to avoid wasting any of it, such purchases would require you have quite a large freezer, or perhaps a smoker at home to preserve the meat long-term. 

Even the smaller pieces of meat at Costco aren't always a great deal. Yes, the regular price on a package of Costco chicken might be better than that of another grocery store, but that all changes when the other grocery store places its chicken on sale for a hefty discount. You might be better off taking advantage of a good deal on a smaller quantity of meat, which you can actually finish before it goes bad.

All in all, if you're limited on your freezer space and grocery budget, you're much better off waiting until a store other than Costco has a sale on meat. Stock up while the prices are lower, making sure to safely keep raw meat juices at bay in your fridge or freezer, and only swing by the Costco meat counter if you're willing to pay the upcharge for higher quality (and maybe invite some friends over to finish off all those tasty steaks you're buying).