A Costco Survival Guide

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SINCE THE FIRST Manhattan outpost of suburban staple Costco opened in East Harlem, there have been arguments both for and against the spot. On one hand, it supposedly demolishes the bohemian spirit that so many people love about New York, but on the other hand, where else can you get wild king crab legs for $10.99 per pound?


“Every Costco has its own personality,” one of the uptown store’s managers told me on a recent visit, and he was right.The Manhattan Costco has a certain city chic, stocking twopack Trois Petis Cochons smoked salmon pate ($10.49) and a $14,500 Rolex. It’s also one of the only in the country to have a dedicated Kosher section, which is doing brisk business.

The key to making a trip to the behemoth store work for you is having a battle plan; follow the one we’ve made here and you should survive. How you get your entire haul home, however, is another story completely.

Rule No. 1: Know Your Role

Not every item in Costco is intended for your consumption—plenty of restaurants come to Costco to stock up on items like San Marzano canned tomatoes, imported from Italy ($3.89 for 7 pounds) and 4.5-lb packages of Nathan’s beef franks ($12.49).

“That’s embarrassing.Who eats that much mayonnaise?” asks a shopper, gesturing toward the giant, 128-oz. tub of Hellmann’s Best ($9.99). He grabs the pack of three squeezable, 22-oz. bottles ($8.99) and walks off.

Uh, that’s the point.We don’t eat that much mayo; so don’t get hung up on the bulk stuff.The three-pack is for regular shoppers and the tub is for the guy that’ll be making giant batches of tuna salad at the bodega.

Rule No. 2: Know Your Appetite

Even with a permanent case of the munchies, it’s hard to put away two pounds of sliced Jarlsberg Swiss cheese ($8.99) and two 32-oz. loaves of split-top wheat bread ($3.99) before the cheese turns and the bread goes stale.

With perishables, consider what you will actually be able to consume—and how the rest is packaged for storage. In the meat department, for example,Verde Farms’ organic ground beef ($12.99) is already separated into three 1-lb vacuum-sealed pouches. Same with Kirkland’s boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which are packaged two fillets per vacuum-sealed pouch and are sold in bundles of six ($2.99/lb)—think about how much you’d shave off your Seamless Web bill if you had some protein ready to go in the freezer.

Rule No. 3: Know the Value of Space

The cubic feet tucked away in kitchen cupboards and other storage nooks have just as premium a value as the rest of your apartment, which means skip the 36 rolls of Kirkland two-ply bathroom tissue ($17.99) and other items where the room it takes to store the product outweighs the savings.

Rule No. 4: Know Your Budget

Because it’s almost impossible to not impulse shop when you stumble across such items as a cheesecake variety pack from Cheesecake Factory ($14.89) and the city’s cheapest case of Brooklyn Lager ($27.99), establish a budget in advance. For $60, you could hypothetically walk out with:

2-pack of 32-oz. Naked Juice, Mighty Mango ($6.99) 1-lb. fresh organic spinach ($3.79)

1 loaf Eli’s hearth baked bread (which looks deliciously nutty) ($4.19) 2-pack of smoked salmon pté from Trois Petis Cochons ($10.49) 1 hot rotisserie chicken, just pulled from the spit ($4.99) 8-pack Amy’s Organic Soups, four lentil and four minestrone ($12.59)

2-pack of Honey Nut Cheerios ($6.99)

The next time you drop $5 for a small tub of Sabra hummus at your corner bodega, think about it.

Rule No. 5: Know Your Transportation Yes, East Harlem is far, as in, “I have to look that shit up on HopStop and I’m still not sure” far. So work out your game plan in advance.

Driving in is the easiest option. If you plan on doing enough shopping that you need a car, and don’t have one, consider renting a ZipCar for a few hours or setting up a car service. For those on foot, the M116 crosstown bus stops practically outside the warehouse, and there’s a 6 Train stop at E. 116th Street and Lexington Avenue.


517 E. 117th St. (at Pleasant Dr.), 212-896-5873.

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