The Stages of Costco

It’s true, I’ve never run a marathon, but shopping at Costco in the winter sure makes me feel like I had. This is probably an indication that I should never, ever run a marathon, but really, that wasn’t on my list anyway.

Because even the thought of Costco during the month of December makes me curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth, I generally make a large shopping trip in November and then avoid it until all the Costco related items in the house are essentially gone. Today, I found myself pushing a part with a few hundred pounds’ worth of groceries through the soft slushy snow in the parking lot, then doing the requisite dozen trips to get it all into the house and up and down the stairs to put said items in the basement pantry and main-floor kitchen. I felt like I had an actual intense cardiovascular workout, and to be honest, I probably haven’t done one of those since I took up “spinning” and step aerobics, back in the nineties. Whew! The good news is, I’m all warm. The bad news is, I need some Robaxecet. Lifting giant flats of sparkling water and boxes of coconut milk is core-strength building, I kept telling myself.

There is a group of people that I find amazing – everyday heroes, if you will – and that group consists of people who can go to Costco and purchase one item. How this is possible I do not know. An elderly gentleman was behind me in line, holding a single package of hydrating hand cream. I implored him to go ahead of me, me with my 300 pound cart, and he courteously argued with me for a moment. “I’m sure you have much more to do today, and I don’t.” he said. After a few moments’ conversation, he DID go ahead of me and we chatted happily about the need for super hydrating hand cream at this time of year.

A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned the “stages of Costco shopping”, and I found it brilliant, to be honest.

Stage One: NO COSTCO

At this stage, you do not think that you will actually purchase enough groceries to warrant the membership fees.

Stage Two: Reluctant Member

After some deliberation, and possibly spousal pressure, you relent and get the membership. You go through fear, loathing, and denial every time you go, but still you cannot turn down the giant wheel of cheese for $10.

Stage Three: Over Purchasing

This stage can last a while. Wow, that’s such a good deal! you may think as you purchase giant vats of everything from Greek yogurt to shampoo, which leads to….

Stage Four: Regret

At some point, we all purchase something we instantly regret, we know we’ll never use up, and that our grandchildren will have to deal with when they are cleaning out our homes for the estate sale. In my case, this is an enormous two-pack of plastic wrap and a gigantic box of 100-calorie packages of Snapea Crisps.

Stage Five: Acceptance and Reality

Happily, this is the stage I’m at now, where I can actually bypass an item – no matter how great a deal it is – by thinking that I might end up on one of those hoarding reality shows, with thirty tubes of toothpaste stashed beside 100 bars of soap. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t currently have two giant jars of coconut oil and three enormous bags of chocolate chips in the pantry. What, I bake a lot! I’ll use it! Really! I don’t want to run out!

Speaking of running out of things, the other day I noticed that I had almost run out of hand sanitizer, which filled me with great panic. At this time of year, and especially with the insane media play about the flu – which has led to mass panic and vaccine shortages – it feels like one can never have enough hand sanitizer. Here’s a tip – Costco only sells hand sanitizer OVER THE COUNTER and also, it’s alcohol free. Why does it need to be over the counter? I don’t know. Maybe it’s like in my local old-people Co-Op, where they have to keep the tooth whitening strips at the customer service desk because of thievery. Are people making off with the giant bottles of sanitizer? This seems unlikely, but maybe during the cold and flu season there is a hoarding problem that would lead to – like the flu shot – shortages and panic. Well, I can understand that.



  1. Not Inadequate says

    I just got back from Costco a few minutes ago and they didn’t have pesto and now my life is ruined.

    They had organic tortilla chips, though. So I am slightly mollified.

  2. I am sure there is another stage or substage of PANIC: maybe after regret? It might have just been a postpartum thing, but I am sure I had a few panicky visits where I would become paralyzed with “why should anyone ever buy THIS much of THIS thing?” And then I would need to leave empty handed.

    I have bounced back though. Sometimes I do carry out my purchases and get stared at. And I even went on December 20th – because we needed giant quantities of cheese for Christmas, ha! Just think though that soon boys will help you carry those flats out of the van!

  3. I had a Costco membership for a year and let it lapse – it just didn’t work for us. But I went through the other stages… especially regret. So much regret.

    I subscribed via email to your blog and it hasn’t sent me a note yet… is there a delay on it, maybe?

  4. My MIL gets us a Costco membership every year. It was SO GREAT when my kids were babies and I was buying all the diapers, wipes, and formula. Now that they have outgrown that, I find I seldom go there because I cannot get out without spending $300 and buying all kinds of things I really don’t need. Our family mantra became “don’t go in the middle” because that’s where every impulse buy came from. We are currently almost out of TP and paper towels though, so I’m probably going to have to go soon. Aerobic workout, here I come…

  5. I’m permanently stuck in regret mode. I can’t walk out of there without paying at least $350. Ever. Time.

  6. I.Will.Not.Conform
    Because I go with my mom and use her card but that’s only when we run out of shitter paper and I have a hankering for a massive bag of jelly belly jelly beans.
    Hey, they’re fat free.

  7. I love Costco. We’re at the stage now where the boys eat everything and in such large quantities that we can get thru that gigantic bag of cucumbers and the cauliflower that I need 2 hands to lift very quickly. Of course, we also live in a small town with a poorly stocked grocery store so stocking up is a necessity and it’s nice to go to a store where no one bats an eyelash when you buy 60 kilos of rice.

    My least favourite thing about Costco is that so many other customers are glum, if not outright sullen. I don’t understand why people would shop at a place they had actively dislike.

  8. Beth went to Costco recently and asked me if I wanted her to get a tray of those Starbucks flavored bottled coffees I love. It was weeks ago and I still feel virtuous for saying no thanks.

  9. Sarah Piazza says

    Your Costco sounds uncannily like my Target.

  10. BAM! The five stages are spot on.
    I would probably spend more at Costco if I had more storage (ie: a chest freezer) because I love all the frozen fruits and vegetables and emergency pizzas and things.But I don’t. I have a scarily crammed-full fridge freezer that can barely handle a trip to Superstore. We go for the cheap Parmesan cheese and the coffee, and I do toss in the occasional impulse like the organic chocolate pumpkin bark I bought back in November that was like WHOA HOLY TASTY and of course now I can’t find any more. 🙁


  1. […] not quite finished. The result is an immense amount of wrapping paper. This is Stage Four in the Stages of Costco, I believe. My coffin could be wrapped in the paper I amass through my lifetime, hopefully not any […]

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