Though not everyone should go there, shoppers who joined Costco with cheap TVs and bulk toilet paper in mind may not have considered all the health-related goods and services available at the warehouse club. Cheapism compared prices on a handful of items at Costco, Walmart, a regional supermarket chain in Columbus, Ohio, and online sources. The warehouse club undercuts the competition, sometimes by significant amounts, on products from organic food to medication to insurance. Here's where consumers can find savings to keep the whole family healthy, even pets.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
WHOLESOME CHIPS AND DIP
Healthy snacks for easy after-school nibbling include products such as organic Wholly Guacamole and Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips. Costco sells the dip in a 12-pack of 2.5-ounce cups for $12.89 (roughly $1 per container) compared with a four-pack of 2-ounce cups for $4.58 (roughly $1.15 per container) at Walmart. The chips come in a 24-ounce bag for $6.99 (29 cents an ounce) at Costco and an 11-ounce bag for $5.29 (48 cents an ounce) at the local supermarket.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that organic produce is the top seller in the organic food space. Costco meets the demand with an array of fresh fruit, such as organic blueberries, at budget prices. Eighteen ounces of the sweet orbs go for $8.99 at Costco compared with $4.99 per six ounces at the local grocer.
Demand for organic food products may be outstripping supply, but Costco is well-stocked with large quantities of organic vegetables and undercuts other retailers on price. Organic spring salad mix, for example, sells for $4.49 a pound at the membership club and $3.50 for just five ounces at a local market.
Skinny Pop Popcorn, a family favorite, contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 75 milligrams of sodium in each serving. Costco charges $4.99 for a 14-ounce bag, the equivalent of 28 cents an ounce, while Walmart's $3.29 price on a 4.4-ounce bag comes out to 75 cents an ounce.
Gluten-free food is all the rage these days, and Costco is a price leader on Udi's, a well-known brand. The price for a 30-ounce loaf at the warehouse club is $7.59 (25 cents an ounce). The same brand in a 24-ounce size sells for $7.94 (33 cents an ounce) at Walmart.
LEAN LUNCH MEATS
Prepare a healthy brown-bag lunch for any member of the family by pairing gluten-free bread with lean, oven-roasted turkey breast. The sliced lunch meat is available at Costco for $6.89 a pound compared with $7.99 per pound at the grocery store.
Almond butter is an excellent source of fiber, protein, and unsaturated fatty acids, and a particularly good snack for people with diabetes. Costco, again, takes the lead on low price. A 27-ounce jar of almond butter costs $7.99, or 30 cents an ounce, at the warehouse club. At Walmart, the per-ounce cost is 42 cents for a 12-ounce jar costing $4.98.
ORGANIC APPLE SLICES
Add a touch of almond butter to pre-sliced organic apples for a healthy grab-and-go snack that will appeal to young and old alike. The apple slices are tagged at $8.99 for eight 4-ounce bags ($1.12 per bag) at Costco. The local grocery store had them for $4.99 for just five 2.2 ounce bags ($2.27 per bag) and the bags are half the size as the Costco version.
In a Consumer Report study conducted in 2018, secret shoppers called 150 pharmacies, including Costco, inquiring about the cost of five commonly prescribed medications without insurance. Costco was cheaper by far. For example, Costco priced the anti-depressant Cymbalta at $35 for a month supply compared to $195 at CVS.
More than a quarter of American adults 40 and older take the cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lipitor, a commonly prescribed statin, cost $13 at Costco and $135 at CVS/Target, the Consumer Reports study found.
Vitamins are a good deal at Costco after determining the price per pill. A 300-tablet bottle of women's One A Day 50+ multivitamins costs $17.99 (roughly $.056 per capsule) compared with $13.92 for 200-count bottle ($.07 each) from Walmart.
OTC PAIN RELIEVER
Ibuprofen, a common pain reliever and fever reducer, is cheaper at Costco than elsewhere. The cost for Costco's Kirkland Signature brand ibuprofen is $11.29 for 1,000 200 mg capsules. The price for the same quantity and strength of Walmart's house brand Equate is $12.97.
Costco offers members living in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington individual and family dental insurance with premiums starting as low as $80.99 a year through a third-party provider. Coverage includes orthodontics, preventive, basic, and major services. Compare this against an average yearly cost of just under $200 for an individual plan, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.
Costco Optical (not available at all locations) can save members money on contacts, glasses, and prescription sunglasses with a current prescription. Many stores also host independent optometrists who conduct exams. Costco charges a median of $184 for eyeglasses, according to Consumer Reports, a price that is hundreds less than some competitors. The warehouse giant ranked top in customer satisfaction with a much larger selection than its competition. Still, Costco faces some stiff competition, particularly for consumers with simpler prescriptions. It's possible to buy a pair of single-lens specs from an eyeglasses website for less than $50.
Costco typically provides flu shots to members and non-members alike for $19.99, no insurance required. The same shot costs $33 at Sam's Club, while CVS/Target, Walgreens and Walmart all cost roughly $40.
Costco offers a host of free health screenings for conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis through health clinics at some locations on select days. This is quite a bargain considering that the going rate for a bone density test is $125. The schedule can be downloaded from the pharmacy website.
Costco even throws a bone to the family pet: The warehouse club fills more than 150 commonly prescribed medications for dogs and cats. For example, Temaril-P, prescribed for itching and coughing in dogs, could be a daily medication the animal takes for life. The cost is 85 cents a tablet at Costco and $1.37 at 1-800-PetMeds.