Monday, November 20, 2006

Big Love.

I was feeling pretty good on Friday and fully recovered from our two-day Disneyland adventure - I managed to scrape that last piece of gum off my shoes and I'd finally stopped answering every question with, "Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me!" So I decided to splurge and take the day for myself. I gassed up the van, hit the ATM and headed for the land of free food and cheap booze, the place where time flies and money flies faster.

Vegas? Ha!

I'm talkin' bout Costco, baby.

I've never been a big warehouse shopper, but since Rigel's company pays for our membership I thought it was about time I started taking advantage of it. When the kids were small I had a hard time picturing us as a Costco family. It wasn't often I thought to myself, "I sure could use a wheel of cheese the size of a manhole cover" or "Let me go pick up a twenty-gallon drum of milk." That was for the Osmonds, or those women you see on TV that gave birth to twelve babies at one time. I was fine buying my eggs, vegetables and underwear at the grocery store just like I've always done.

But as the kids grow up and their appetites grow with them, I'm beginning to see the logic in buying in bulk. I used to laugh at the gargantuan boxes of Goldfish at other people's houses until suddenly I realized that a regular sized bag could be inhaled by my girls and their friends during the first two minutes of a playdate. And so what if I needed to bust a hole in my cabinet to store it, this fifteen-liter bottle of apple juice is going to save me money, damnit!

Everything is big at Costco. The carts are the size of Hondas and require some brawn to maneuver them down the wide aisles. I feel dwarfed in that place, like a little girl pushing her toy stroller around. Normally I would feel embarrassed having to ask a stranger to lift a tin of cookies onto my cart, but not when it weighs more than my 10-year old. I've learned to avoid the bigger, heftier shoppers who maneuver their carts around like tanks and will roll over you to get to that last keg of Diet Coke. Which by the way, is the perfect beverage to enjoy with the five-pound slice of pizza you can buy on your way out.

I've been noticing that shopping at Costco carries a certain cachet now among my peers. Before, in our younger, single days we would attempt to impress by whispering "Fred Segal!" or "Spago!" when asked about our latest outfit or party offering. Now, ask about someone's new ski parka or their fabulous hors d'oeuvres platter and they're likely to say "Costco!" as evidence of their expertise at scoping out a good deal or their ability to lift heavy things. Frugal is in, and the race is no longer to see who has the best toys, but who's toy was cheapest and came in a 2-pak.

One of the big attractions at Costco are the free food samples. Years ago I remember a friend proudly telling me that she had a complete meal there one day while shopping for a computer - starting off with some asparagus bites and ending two hours later with a cup of their fresh-roasted coffee. I told her this was gross and disgusting, but knew then in my heart that I had found the shopping experience I had only dreamed possible. Shop for cds and cleaning supplies and then walk a few feet for a free slice of quiche? I love America.

You can always tell alot by a person by the free samples they take - the super-thin mom who ignores the chicken nugget but waits patiently for her tiny cup of smoothie, and the overweight guy with the huge arms who swoops up five pizza bites at a time. (And there I was, shoving five teenagers aside to get one of those little wieners wrapped in a crescent roll.) It's certainly not the place for the connoisseur or food snob, which I tried to point out to a woman who was holding up the line by asking repeatedly whether a cheese she was sampling was imported or not. I told her she might not get the answer she was looking for from someone wearing overalls and a hair net. And then I politely asked her to step aside since she was standing between me and my appetizer course.

I'm thinking that the whole era of the warehouse superstore has got to end sometime, and the trend will reverse. The micro-amount will replace the stockpiles of big food. Instead of showing off my five-pound bag of French Roast, I'll be bragging about how I stood in line for an hour just to buy a single coffee bean. Until that time, though, I'll continue to make my monthly trek to Costco to fulfill my hoarding instincts and to stuff myself on those free samples. And call me crazy, but I'll sleep better tonight knowing that, barring a nasty stomach virus or a bad pot of chili, I just bought enough toilet paper to last us the next three years.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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42 comments:

  1. Oh man, I love Costco.....I have 4 kids the oldest is 15, 6'1" tall and 230 lbs. Can that boy eat.

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  2. Excellent post, Marsha! We have Sam's Club here, and this past weekend was their Holiday Tasting Event, with a free sample table every few feet. I had chicken sausage with spinach and asiago cheese, cheesecake with tart cherry topping, and an ice cold cup of Starbucks Frappucino. It was HEAVEN. I also bought a pack of 36 juice boxes because my boys inhale them, and a box with three bags of cereal which will last a week, maybe. On the way out, I bought a 32 ounce fountain pop and a double slice of cheese pizza. It's one-stop shopping at it's finest!

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  3. Aww, you just made me nostalgic! I grew up in the suburbs but live in Manhattan now. I buy daily groceries just for what I'm cooking that night, and just for me & my boyfriend. Then we crawl into our tiny bed corner & huddle for warmth until daylight comes.

    Yeah... your world sounds much better & brighter!

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  4. We call Costco the $300 store. We only go 3 or 4 times a year, because we buy so much crap. Books, toys, dog food, frozen stuff and giant jars of artichokes. I never eat the food samples(weirdness about being overweight and having people consider me a pig)but my husband and kids treat the place like a damn buffet. My favorite Costco item? The giant cans of tuna-what are they 20lbs? Who ever could eat that much tuna at one time?

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  5. I simultaneously dread and relish the Costco trips. They were much better in my pb days. But they still have merit - as long as I remember to steer clear of the toy aisle (aka seventh layer). Dear lord but that place is crazy. And while I once grimaced in the face the women trying things on in the middle of the clothing tables, I have lately joined their ranks, and am usually concurrently begging my child not to eat the wrinkled gummy bears hidden beneath the gigantic palates of clothes.

    The metamorphosis is complete. I am she. I am my mother. Someone shoot me.

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  6. damn, this is where my children and i go eat lunch! "okay, kids, eat all you want. mama didn't have to make it."

    though, i have to confess, i feel a little guilty if i don't purchase an item from one of the poor food handlers.

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  7. Too bad they don't serve alcohol there. Then it would really be worth a trip.....

    AD

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  8. Value pack sista!! That's what we're all about here. The Costco samples are much better than the BJ's samples, that's where we belong since Costco is too far from us. But it's really bad that I don't leave the place without shelling out $200-$300 for gigantuan products that I don't really need. Yeah, I love America too!! You are hilarious as usual!!

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  9. i am obsessed with costco -- the one i go to in brooklyn has 2 floors and a special cart escalator which i love. . .almost as much as i love the feeling of pride i get looking upon my closet stuffed so full of toilet paper and laundry detergent that the only conclusion can be that we are very, very dirty people.

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  10. I heart Costco and the free samples along with electronics and DVD's is what I wiggle in front of my husband to get hom to come help me.

    It was a big and exciting day for you! Congrats!

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  11. This is so true! There's this major current in NYC right now that "moms in the know" buy their bday cakes at Costco. It's almost a status symbol, because to have a membership, it means you also have a car.

    Now if only they sold cars at Costco. But then...how would you get there?

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  12. I have a love/hate relationship with Sam's Club. I hate heaving around 50lb bags of cat litter and 36-packs of Diet Coke...but I love not having to go to the store every week. And damn, do I love the samples. I've been known to push for the mini pizza slices.

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  13. Is it wrong that I love visiting my in-laws in Texas because they live near a Costco and a 24-hour Super Wal-Mart? I actually bring empty suitcases when I go visit them.

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  14. I love Costco...although some things there are just weird. But certain things, like cheerios and goldfish and go-gurts go too fast around here. The only thing I hate is trying to find places for all the crap I buy.

    And girl, I'm going to tell you something evey person with a Costco card should know. Their rotisseri chickens are the best I've ever had. Maybe they shoot em up with crack, but we adore them.

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  15. My eyes twinkle and I am short of breathe just thinking of the nubmer of garbage bags I can buy at one time.
    *drools*

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  16. Ha! Yes, I'm the "food snob" of which you speak.

    No worries, I shan't be holding up any of those line.

    Before we moved to an "anti-corporate" town, we used to shop at Sam's club (Costco was on the other side of town) for papergoods, and we purchased some of our groceries for our cooking classes.

    *Sigh* Oh, Sam's Club and Target, how I miss thee...

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  17. OH I love Costco. LOVE it. It is the $300 club, we buy SOOO much when we go in there. I try not to shop there if we don't have any money, because I can't stick to a budget there, to save my soul.

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  18. I love it too, although after a half an hour in there I need a good stiff drink. I'm waiting for the hair-netted ladies to start handing those out.

    -annie

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  19. Mom 101, they do sell cars at Costco!!!!

    And vacations, and tires, and generators, and granite countertops!!!

    Oh, for the love of Costco!

    By the way, I scored a $16.99 microfiber reversible vest the other day AND a french wire basket for my bananas!!!!!

    Carrie

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  20. I wrote about about Costco not too long ago and I agree with you completely. That said, I feel guilty for not--at least--trying to save more money by going there.

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  21. The best thing about Costco is the returns. Hands down. Three years later, you can return that toilet paper for a full refund without a receipt. Even used. (okay, not toilet paper in that example but almost anything else.)

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  22. Costco totally freaks me out. Even the parking lot. I mean, the carts are huge. Lines are huge. Every food item, huge.

    Terrifying.

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  23. Like Target, I can barely remember what my life was like before Costco. In my early 20's Costco was where I would dine off of free food samples because I was out of money until my next paycheck. Now in my early 40's, and a bit more money in my pocket, but still can't pass up the free food!

    Although, I'm not sure about your Costco, but once my Costco started selling CASKETS, I was more than a little disturbed!

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  24. A brand spankin' new Costco just opened about 5 miles from my house. You've got me hankerin' for a crescent wrapped weenie! Who needs lunch when I could go and sample enough free food to last me until rush hour?!

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  25. I'm a BJ's girl myself.....
    (wait that didn't sound good)

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  26. I love the warehouse stores, although they do frighten me. The last time I was there I bought a hundred pound bag of dog food for my chihuahua. At the rate she eats, it should last me twenty years.

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  27. Picked up my organic, free-range, billion dollar turkey from Whole Foods today. Yesterday, I picked up a sack of fresh cranberries that will last me through Xmas (and that includes stringing them without popcorn for the tree) and two major meals. Also heaved a 20 lb bag of sweet potatoes into my cart(WTF?). I am apparently delusional. There will be 10 of us for dinner tomorrow, three of whom are under 5.

    So, when we finally get together for coffee, please let me know in advance if you need any cranberries or sweet potatoes.

    And just for the record, Costco backed the Democrats in this past election. Walmart...well they didn't change anything.

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  28. Woooo Costco! I'm a bit of a foodie but I still gorge myself on those samples. I always say, if someone else is cookin, then I'm eatin'!

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  29. I'm a hoarder. I stock up like armageddon is just around the corner, so I know how you feel.

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  30. Oh man. I JUST got a Costco membership. I can't wait to hoard.

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  31. My husband and I always marveled at the difference between west coast and east coast people. On the west coast it was all about labels and how much you spent. On the east coast it was all about how much you saved. I have to say, I got a kick out of this post because it seems like the west coast is finally coming over to our frugal, east coast ways.

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  32. "I used to laugh at the gargantuan boxes of Goldfish at other people's houses"

    LOL. This cracks me up too!!

    You know, Costco's great, but my problem is that I'm too cheap to pay the $40 membership fee. But seriously, I think that right now our family is still too small to benefit from shopping there. Once we have a couple more kids, though,... Costco here we come. And I know a mini-van won't be far behind at that point too!

    I guess you know you've really arrived as a mother when you're driving your mini-van to Costco to buy gargantuan boxes of Goldfish, eh?

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  33. I might be ending, but judging by what I saw at Costco yesterday I don't predict it to be any time soon. How crazy!

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  34. Jealous doesn't adequately describe how I felt upon reading this post. I have four kids and no Costco. Granted, we've got a super wal-mart, but so far the only freebie sample I've gotten was some day-old donuts lying on the bakery counter with a sign next to them that read "PLEASE!!! TAKE!!! THEM!!!" One has to wonder why they feel the need to beg. I mean, c'mon! They're donuts!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Marsha!!

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  35. oh my word! just for a moment i thought you said 'the trolleys are the size of honduras'!
    i'm going to answer every question tomorrow by saying, 'yo ho! a pirate's life for me'
    x

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  36. I admit it. I love Costco. Buying in bulk can really work if you know your prices.

    Plus, our toddler has learned the joys of Costco. I blogged about our most recent trip a couple of weeks ago - he happily grazed his way through the store. ;-)

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  37. So do you guys only use one square at a time in order for the TP monster packs to last 3 years? I'm just asking because I have a sneaking suspicion we are too liberal with our paper use, and that's why those packs are gone in two months tops;scarily, only three of us here at urchin house are potty trained!

    It never fails I go into Costco (I luv costco) to buy soda and tp and come out with some product that seemed like a good idea at the time- 55 gallons of jalepeno hummus? Sure we'll get through that ASAP. And as someone who hyper ventilates when the bill is over $200 at any store regularly requires support at the checkout stand...

    Hope your Thanksgiving was happy..

    urban-urchin.blogspot.com

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  38. We do the Costco here too. My biggest problem is that I absolutely cannot leave that place without spending at least $150 to $200.

    The other problem I have is that with the little one in tow, I never have enough room in the car (and we have a 7-seater Pacifica!) for all the stuff I buy!

    I also look pretty stupid, standing in the middle of the aisle, trying on jeans over my shorts. A dressing room would really be nice...

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  39. This so funny and I was so in need of a laugh that I just want to tell you thank you and <3

    MOobs

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  40. We relinquished our COSTCO membership several years ago, because every time we went we'd come home with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff we didn't need.

    Those free samples are mighty tempting, though. Oh no, I feel the lure...

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  41. This is my most favorite post of yours to date. LOVED it!

    And am envious that you have a Costco near you. I hear we're getting one soon!

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  42. My husband calls a meal of Costco samples "The Buffet." He and Lumpyhead lunch there twice a month.

    A couple of weeks ago he complained mightily when the samples weren't properly stocked and he and Lumpyhead had to buy pizza and hot dogs on the way out. He'll still mutter and fuss if I ask him about that visit.

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