Shopping at Costco with Kids: A Survival Guide

Without proper planning, an Costco trip with kids can bring a parent to his or her knees. Hopefully, these tips I’ve learned over the last few years will be of some help…

1.  A list is an absolute must.

When I shop with my kids at a regular grocery store, they sometimes will talk me into a special box of Pop Tarts or box of Fruit Loops. On these trips, the kids are happy, they get a junk food breakfast the next day, I get well behaved kids for the rest of the shopping trip and it only cost about $3. Well worth it, in my book. But at Costco, those little things can add up, quickly. If your kids talk you into Pop Tarts at Costco, not only are you out about $15, you’re also stuck with 48 Pop Tarts, and if your kids are like mine, they won’t eat half of the flavors in the jumbo box (no love for brown sugar). If you let your kids talk you into an extra treat or two at Costco, your grocery bill is easily an extra $20 more. My fear is that on some random Costco trip, in a moment of weakness, my kids will talk me into purchasing something random like a $500 Stand Up Paddle Board.

2. Know the samples.

It is important to know the samples aren’t set up until the store has been open for an hour. Use this knowledge to your advantage. If you want to make a “quick” Costco run, go right when they open. If you want to feed your kids lunch by wandering around the sample areas, go right at 11, before the other moochers get there.

3. Reward your kids…at the end

Speaking of food, if you are planning to bribe your kids with food for good behavior, make sure you offer them the food that’s in the little food court area in the front of the store after you check out. It is unbelievably cheap. The other day I told my kids I would buy them pizza for lunch if they behaved. Three slices of pizza (each slice larger than the plate it came on) cost me a grand total of $6. Just remember you can’t pay at the food court with a credit card…cash only (or you can add food court orders at the regular grocery check out.)

4. …Or the Beginning.

The food court will sell you a smoothie or cup of ice cream and divide it up into however many kids you have, so for my family, our three kids each get their own cup of ice cream to eat as we walk around the store, for $1.50 total.

5. Get a Cart…Everytime

Even if you’re just making a quick trip in for a bottle of vitamins, go ahead and get a cart. There’s a decent chance that in addition to your vitamins, you’ll impulse buy a king size waterbed or some other strange item you didn’t know you needed until that very moment.

6. Know which day of the week is best

Avoid Costco on the weekends, the place is an absolute zoo, this includes Fridays as well. Don’t go on Thursdays either, because that’s the day everyone trying to beat the weekend crowd goes. Also, avoid Mondays because that’s when shoppers are buying groceries for the week. Come to think of it, Tuesdays and Wedensdays are both pretty busy days as well. The truth is, I’ve yet to find a day of the week where Costco isn’t a complete madhouse.

Costco can be your friend, but without proper information, it can also be your checking account’s worst enemy. Hopefully, these tips help make your next Costco trip with kids at lease moderately bearable.

I’m off to go fill up my king-size waterbed,


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