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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| February 19, 2019
For many, retirement is a time to pinch pennies on everyday expenses. It might help explain why retirees are so fond of Costco. Research shows that older shoppers tend to prefer the discount warehouse club over popular retailers such as Walmart and Target. Further, baby boomers -- there are about 74 million of them alive today in the U.S. -- are more likely than millennials to renew their Costco memberships, which run $60 to $120 a year.
As a boomer and regular Costco shopper, I've learned over the years that some of the best values can be found in the warehouse club's own Kirkland Signature line of products. In fact, one in five products on Costco's shelves carry the Kirkland brand. Many of these exclusive items hold unique appeal to retirees as well as near-retirees like me. Oh, and don't let an empty nest discourage you from buying in bulk. Check expiration dates, stock up on items with long shelf lives, and remember that a surprising number of foods can be frozen. Take a look at our list of retiree-friendly Kirkland products from Costco.
In 2016, I first explained “Why I Bought My Prescription Glasses at Costco,” and since then I bought another pair at Costco and had lenses replaced in older frames. Why Costco? Put simply, I found that the warehouse club offered the best product and service at the best price, especially compared to the retail eyewear outlets conveniently tucked inside your eye doctor’s office. Heck, even my eye doctor recommended I buy my prescription eyeglasses at Costco.
The ultimate cost of your eyeglasses (or contacts) from Costco depends, of course, on the frames and lenses you choose, but that goes for any retailer. I often see a recurring deal at Costco for $40 off a second pair of glasses after paying the full ride on your first pair. And though you may be tempted to use online eyeglass services, remember fit is crucial. And try as it might, the Internet isn’t going to fit you and adjust your frames. You can also get an eye exam at Costco, done by a licensed optometrist.
A good night's sleep becomes increasingly challenging as you age. Up your odds with a new mattress set. The Kirkland Signature mattress and foundation I was eyeing at Costco was made by top mattress manufacturer Stearns & Foster. The luxury firm Euro pillow top Hope Bay queen set is $1,099.99 ($899.99 for the mattress alone, I was told). Costco will even haul away your old mattress and box spring for an additional $80.
While you're at it, you can also pick up a new set of bedding. The 540-thread-count Kirkland Signature six-piece queen sheet set goes for $58.99.
As many athletically inclined retirees might recall, Costco's highly lauded Kirkland Signature golf balls first hit the market in 2016 -- and promptly sold out nationwide. At the time, the balls were being compared to the highly regarded Titleist Pro V1. Yet, a Costco-branded golf ball retailed for 60% less than a Titleist. Kirkland Signature golf balls are back on Costco shelves ($23.99 for two dozen) just as the snowbirds are returning north. We can't guarantee your game will improve, but we can guarantee you'll save a few bucks. Costco was also selling Callaway Superhot 55 golf balls for $59.99 for four dozen, or $3 more per dozen that Kirkland golf balls.
Aloha, Kirkland Signature! We have our Hawaiian eye on your travel packages. One Kirkland Signature-stamped vacation pack features a five-night stay at Marriott's Wailea Beach Resort in Maui. The resort sits on "22 oceanfront acres between two beautiful beaches on Maui" and "offers swimming, snorkeling, sunning, and spectacular views of Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe," we're told.
This travel package includes an oceanfront room, a five-day full-size car rental, $600 in resort dining credits, daily buffet breakfasts and more. The total price for two: $2,943.86 for a June stay (excluding airfare). Costco members who carry the Executive Member card earn an annual 2% reward on Costco Travel.
You booked your vacay through Costco Travel, but have you checked your passport? Like mine, it may have expired. It’s time to apply for a new one.
Stop by the one-hour photo shop inside Costco, present your Costco membership card to the clerk, pay $4.99 for four headshots compliant with U.S. passport requirements, and you’re in. The clerk will take your picture with a DSLR camera, show it to you for your approval, and have it printed and good to go in about 10 minutes. The Post Office charges $15 for two passport photos.
All those rock concerts. All those portable listening devices, from Walkmans to iPods, Beats and iPhones wired to your ears. Many boomers are paying the price with hearing loss -- and boomers who already turned 65 know that Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, which can run as much as $3,000 per ear.
Costco’s made some assertive moves into the business of selling and servicing hearing aids, offering an array of devices at reasonable prices. Free hearing tests are even conducted in-store at Costco Hearing Aid Centers. Costco works with four major suppliers of hearing aids, and also carries its own store brand. The Kirkland Signature 8.0 Premium Digital Hearing Instruments Kit costs $1,600 and includes a pair of hearing aids (available in 10 different colors "to match your style, skin tone or hair color"). And, of course, you’ll need extra batteries on top of the 10 that come with the kit: A package of 48 Kirkland Signature hearing aid batteries is $8.49. To compare, a package of 60 hearing aid batteries was selling for $15.30 on Amazon.
You'll need plenty of calcium as you age to stave off osteoporosis. Here's one place to get it. Kirkland Signature cheeses are all the rage among cheesemongers. Seriously. They're that gouda (sorry).
Fans throw some love at the Kirkland Signature imported French brie ($6.55 a pound), Pecorino Romano ($4.99 a pound) and Manchego ($7.49 a pound), among others. At a Giant supermarket in Northern Virginia, by comparison, brie cost $10.99 a pound.
There are always long lines at the Costco hot-food stand, especially during the lunch rush. The food is inexpensive: An all-beef Kirkland hot dog with a 20-ounce soda and refills goes for a mere $1.50. An 18-inch whole pizza is $9.95. Cheeseburgers are $4.99. And for dessert, a twisted churro, for a buck.
Still hungry? Dining at Costco doesn’t only mean eating at the food court. The warehouse club is swimming in food-demo stands. Employees cook up small bites for shoppers. If the first sample wasn’t filling enough, you can always circle back and wait your turn again. Costco doesn't mind and neither does the manufacturer of that dumpling or meatball you keep sampling. By the time you check out, you’ve had a free meal.
You can't count on Kirkland cheese for all of your calcium. Active retirees need the right multivitamins, and Costco has stepped up to the plate. A bottle of 500 tablets of Kirkland Signature Mature Multi Vitamins is just $12.69. Costco still carries name-brand vitamins, too, but they're more expensive. A 325-count bottle of Centrum Silver was nearly doubled the cost of the Kirkland Signature product, selling for $18.99.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day at any age. The product-testing pros at Consumer Reports put bacon to the test and deemed Costco’s store-brand regular sliced bacon the top dog -- make that the top pig. And what goes better with bacon than eggs. No less an expert than my wife raves about the price and packaging of the two-dozen organic brown eggs that bear the Kirkland Signature name.
The Kirkland bacon was $3.49 a pound (sold in four pound packages), while at Giant, a pound of Oscar Mayer bacon was selling for $6.99 a pound. Note that you can freeze the extra bacon for later use. The Kirkland organic brown eggs were $5.99 for two dozen. Giant was selling one dozen for $5.49.
The Party Planning Committee at your office determined a sheet cake would do for your retirement party. They'd save money if they ordered that half sheet cake from Costco's in-store Kirkland Signature Bakery. Your custom-designed theme will be baked for you in the store, for $18.99 for a half sheet. A custom-baked half sheet cake costs $33.99 at Giant supermarkets.
The affordable sheet cakes are also a hit at grandkids' birthday parties.
You can't beat the price, or the taste and convenience, of those store-cooked Kirkland Signature rotisserie whole chickens, selling for a fixed price of just $4.99. And Costco stores churn out a lot of them -- 60 million rotisserie chickens are sold annually -- spinning in the giant ovens all day long.
What isn't sold whole goes into packages of pulled chicken you can take home, split up and freeze. The chicken also goes into the store-made chicken noodle soup. There's a slew of other store-made meals you can watch the kitchen cooking up, from stuffed peppers and meatloaf to taco platters and shepherd's pie. They sell in the $16 range and are in portions big enough for two or three people.
Gallons and gallons of Kirkland Signature milk flow out the door at Costco clubs. You can buy a gallon of whole milk for $2.25 or a gallon of 2% milk for $2.09. A gallon of milk at Giant will set you back at least $3.19.
Don't stop with the vitamin D. Kirkland Signature also has its own version of antioxidant-rich cranberry juice that comes in a two-pack. Two 96-ounce bottles of 100% cranberry juice go for just $6.99 at the warehouse club. We saw a single 96-ounce bottle of Ocean Spray 100% cranberry juice selling for $6.19.
Proteins can be budget-busters for many retirees, especially fresh fish and prime cuts of beef. But Costco's back-of-the-store cold cases are chock full of Kirkland Signature seafood and meats, and at bargain prices compared to most supermarkets. Kirkland Signature wild sockeye salmon, for example, was selling for $9.99 a pound. At Giant, wild sockeye salmon was $14.99 a pound.
Hosting a special occasion? Kirkland Signature whole beef tenderloin was selling for $19.99 per pound, already trimmed. Comparable whole tenderloin at a nearby Wegmans supermarket was going for $36.99 a pound. Kirkland 88% lean ground beef was $2.79 a pound and Kirkland organic ground beef was $4.99 a pound. A nearby Giant supermarket was selling 90% lean ground beef for $5.49 a pound and organic ground beef for $7.49 a pound.
Some breakfast syrups are primarily a blend of high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. The only ingredient listed for Kirkland Signature maple syrup is...maple syrup. It's also organic and a relative bargain at $10.99 for just over a quart, making it an affordable luxury for pancake and waffle lovers. At a Giant supermarket, Nature's Promise organic maple syrup was selling for $18.39 a quart.
You and your spouse aren't the only oldsters in the homestead. That old dog you can't teach new tricks to has some senior moments, too, and you have to feed her like she's elderly. Kirkland Signature Mature dry dog food goes for $29.99 for a 40-pound bag (that's 75 cents per pound). The name brands also target the senior mutt market, but at a stiffer price. A 15-pound bag of Pedigree Active Senior dog food sells for $15.79, or $1.05 a pound, at Giant. Sorry, but we didn't taste test either one.
Weekly fill-ups are a recurring expense. Why spend more than you need to. Select Costco locations have on-site gas stations for members that carry Kirkland Signature regular unleaded (87 octane) and premium unleaded (91 or 93 octane) gas. The Costco I frequent just installed the gas station, and its prices are considerably cheaper than the nearby Shell and Sunoco stations. For example, Costco's regular unleaded was recently selling for $1.97. The Shell and Sunoco stations nearby were charging $2.31 for regular unleaded.
And here's a tip: The hoses on the pumps are extremely long. If your gas tank is on the left side of your car, you can pull up to the pump on either side. Many people wait in longer lines to get their car's gas tank aligned with the pump.
Looking for a heart-healthy snack to replace the potato chips your doctor told you to put away for good? Kirkland Signature is nuts for nuts, and you should be too. A 3-pound jar of Kirkland Signature almonds, for example, was going for $12.49, or $4.16 a pound. Giant was selling Blue Diamond almonds for $9.29 a pound. Deals were equally as good on Kirkland Signature cashews and pistachios. Nut hoarders note: Nuts can be frozen, so don't be afraid to stock up.
While the proof isn't definitive, some studies have indicated that caffeine can slow cognitive decline and decrease the risk of dementia. And if you know beans about coffee, you know Kirkland Signature’s line of coffees, from ground coffee to K-cups, has a legion of fans. We found a pack of 120 Kirkland Signature Pacific Bold K-cup pods for $31.99, or about 26 cents for each pod. Compare that to a 60-pod pack of Starbucks dark roast coffee, which was selling at Costco for $29.99, or about 50 cents per pod.
Trying too stay away from all those plastic pods? A 2.5-pound bag of Kirkland Signature medium roast ground coffee was selling for $11.99, or $4.80 a pound. Near it, a 2.81-pound bag of Dunkin' Donuts original blend ground coffee was $16.99. That's $6.05 a pound.
Our usual advice when it comes to batteries is go with the name brands, such as Duracell, which you can buy in bulk at Costco. A 40-pack of Duracell AA batteries sells for $12.99 or about 32 cents per battery. That's a good deal at Costco.
But you can cut costs even more without cutting corners when you buy Kirkland Signature batteries, which got high praise from Consumer Reports in its test of batteries. A 72-pack of Kirkland Signature AA batteries sells for $19.99, or about 27 cents per battery, a nickel cheaper than Duracell on a per-battery basis.
We've found the under-$10 bottles of Kirkland Signature wines to be quite good, and we aren't alone: Wine rating websites typically give Kirkland Signature wines high scores, in the mid-to-upper 80s out of 100. Like white? Take your shot at a bottle of Kirkland Signature Pinot Grigio (from Italy) for $5.99. We also found a Kirkland Signature Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand) for $7.99 and a bottle of Kirkland Signature Chardonnay (from California) for $7.99.
Costco is the biggest seller of wine in the U.S., with annual wine sales of $1.8 billion. And its Kirkland Signature line has a loyal following. Annette Alvarez-Peters, who heads Costco’s wine-buying team, told Wine Spectator, "The Costco consumer is very loyal to the [Kirkland Signature] brand. They will always give the item a shot.”
Olive oil is at the heart of the famed Mediterranean diet, which purportedly contributes to the longevity of the region's inhabitants. And Costco’s olive oil rises to the top, notes the University of California, Davis, which conducted a chemical and sensory study of olive oils. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one of only a few imported oils that met international and U.S. standards for extra virgin olive oil. The many brands that fell short in the testing were diluted with cheaper oils and exhibited problems with quality and flavor.
As for cost? A 3.17-quart bottle of Kirkland Signature Organic EVOO was selling for $13.69, or $4.31 a quart. Costco was also selling a 750-milliliter bottle of Lucini Premium Select EVOO for $10.99, or $13.91 a quart.
If you're retired and eating at home more, you're running the dishwasher more. And you've probably noticed the mounting cost for those convenient dishwasher pods, especially if you’re buying name-brand detergent. You don’t have to.
Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Pacs get the job done at a fraction of the price of national brands. You’ll pay $9.79 for 115 pods, or less than 9 cents per load. Costco also stocks packages of Cascade Complete ActionPacs for $15.99 for 104 pods, or more than 15 cents per load. In recent testing by Consumer Reports, Kirkland’s pods bested all competitors including name-brand pods from Cascade and Finish. On a personal note, we recently switched from Cascade pods to the less-expensive Kirkland Signature. We notice absolutely no difference. And that's a good thing.
My home has become a Kirkland Signature paper products home: facial tissue, TP and paper towels, all better, in our experience, than most national brands we previously used. During cold season, we use a lot of tissues, and need only one Kirkland Signature tissue versus two with national brands to get the nose job done.
Need more proof? My colleague, Andrea Browne Taylor, recently researched the cost of Kirkland Signature paper products at a Costco in the Washington, D.C., area. She found a 30-roll pack of Kirkland Signature 2-Ply Toilet Tissue (425 sheets) cost $15.99, while a 30-roll pack of Charmin Ultra Soft 2-Ply Toilet Tissue (231 sheets) was $21.99. A 12-roll pack of Kirkland Signature Premium Paper Towels (160 sheets per roll) was $15.69, while the same size package of Brawny Paper Towels (156 sheets per roll) priced at $15.99. It all adds up.