You know I’m a huge fan of both Costco and ALDI, and I shop both of them regularly.
I shop for real food groceries at Costco only about once every 4-8 weeks though, and ALDI is much more likely to be my regular weekly stop. That’s partly because of location and partly because it takes 20-30 minutes to get through ALDI and an hour for Costco, but I also feel like my regular stapes, especially produce, are much less expensive at ALDI.
So I have to say that I was initially quite shocked to see my friend Tiffany’s post about how many items were a better deal at Costco over ALDI – fully three quarters of what she checked, her typical staples, won at Costco. So what’s the deal? (pun intended)
As I dug into her list more closely, my surprise subsided.
It included a ton of items that I would never buy at ALDI: nuts, coconut oil, cheese, maple syrup, oats, dried fruit…
Nuts and dried fruit are just a no brainer to buy in bulk, because they can last a long time and are always expensive when you buy a tiny package. Cheese was initially a surprise for me when I discovered that Costco beat ALDI’s pants off consistently on that item (but I did know it), so I just plan to buy cheese regularly at Costco. BUT that is one of those items I think people have to be very careful and wise about. If my in-laws, who looooooove a great deal, heard that Costco cheese was THAT much more of a savings than ALDI (and it is), and they switched to Costco, they’d end up throwing away 18 ounces of the 24-ounce block every time they opened one.
They just don’t eat enough cheese, so what they really need to know is not unit price, but what store has the less expensive 8-ounce block. At that size, Costco is out of the running, and we only need to know if ALDI is better than regular price at Meijer (it is) and how to compare to a current sale price at Meijer (it will vary).
I am still pretty surprised that Costco won on peanut butter (good to know!) and ground beef and that ALDI won on pasta, especially since I had already decided that ALDI chicken was a better deal (I figured it might extrapolate onto more meats).
Time to do a little price comparing myself Costco…or ALDI?!
I mostly aimed for a departure of what Tiffany had already done over at Crumbs, but I ended up checking some of her work (notably applesauce, tomatoes, rice and salmon), and what I found may surprise her (and you too).
Costco vs. ALDI: Price Comparing Rules
I decided I better have some rules like Tiffany did, and I’m sticking pretty closely to staples I buy all the time as well. I do tend to buy a lot in bulk and then use it over a long period of time, so although I might not buy each of these items weekly or even monthly, they are used often in my house.
Rule #1: Buy the Basics
Like she did, I stuck with products that I buy and use very regularly in my basic, family-friendly cooking. We’ll look at things like beans, tomatoes, and also produce.
Rule #2: Produce is a Moving Target
It’s just important to remember that produce will have a ton of regional and seasonal flux, but if you can start to get a baseline for what things cost, you’ll be better able to compare on the fly. Our growing season is so short in Michigan that while of course I prioritize farmer’s markets and local growers in July-October, it’s just not possible for well over 50% of the year for most items that we eat all the time. I need to know where to shop weekly!
Rule #3: Compare Like Items
I did my best to standardize everything, from the thickness of the paper plates to whether something was organic or not, as that’s especially important for both cost and quality.
All prices are reduced to a comparable level, like per ounce or per pound.
The Results: Costco vs. ALDI Prices
Note: both Costco and ALDI have regional variance in pricing, plus as we all know, prices are constantly changing – UP – as each month passes. This list is still super helpful to use as a starting point, but you’ll want to print the printable and cross reference with your OWN store prices to make sure you’re making buying decisions accurately.
Gluten Free Bread = Costco
- to make sure you’re making buying decisions accurately. Aldi: $13.99/12 oz. ($0.33/oz. or $5.28/lb.)
- Costco: two 17.3 oz. loaves for $8.49 ($0.25/oz. or $4/lb.)
Regular Bread = ALDI
If you’re just looking for plain old sandwich bread, ALDI wins.
- ALDI: $0.69-$0.80/lb.
- Costco: $1.12/lb.
Whole Wheat & Italian Breads = ALDI
The next level up in price is usually these two more “specialty” breads. If you want multigrain, Costco’s matches ALDI’s whole wheat price.
- ALDI: $1.12/lb.
- Costco: $1.76/lb.
Mustard = ALDI by a mile
- ALDI: 20-oz. bottle for $0.59 ($0.0295/oz.)
- Costco: 2 30-oz. bottles for $4.89 ($0.082/oz. or like paying $1.64 for the 20-oz. bottle)
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil = Costco
- ALDI: 17-oz. bottle for $3.99 ($0.24/oz. or $1.92/cup)
- Costco: 2 liter (2 qt., 3.6-oz.) bottle for $13.99 ($0.21/oz. or $1.68/cup) – but you have to be able to use it up quickly!
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar = Costco
- ALDI: 17-oz. bottle for $1.99 ($0.118/oz. $1.88/cup)
- Costco: 2 32-oz. bottles for $5.99 ($0.0935/oz. or $1.49/cup)
Tomato Paste= Not a fair comparison
The store didn’t have comparable items – one is only organic one conventional.
- ALDI: (conventional) 6-ounce for $0.39 ($0.065/oz.)
- Costco: (organic) 12 6-ounce cans for $6.69 ($0.093/oz., $0.55/can)
Organic Diced Tomatoes = Costco (by a smidge)
- ALDI: 28-oz. can for $1.49 ($0.054/oz.)($0.63/cup)
- Costco: 8 14.5-oz. cans for $5.99 ($0.052/oz.)($0.41/cup)
My ALDI currently carries conventional diced tomatoes in 14.5-oz. cans for $0.038/oz. or $0.30/cup).
Organic Pasta Sauce = ALDI
- ALDI: 24-oz. for $1.89, no sugar added ($0.079/oz.)
- Costco: 3 32-oz. jars for $9.69, no sugar added ($0.10/oz.)
These are both the store brands, so I don’t think we’ll see a ton of variance like we might with some of Costco’s other sauces.
Conventional Pasta Sauce = ALDI
- ALDI: 24-oz. for $0.99, sugar added ($0.34/cup)
- Costco: 3 32-oz. jars for $6.59, sugar added, currently Classico brand ($0.56/cup)
I think this will vary wildly by location and season, but I list the sugar issue because if you ever eat a Paleo or Whole30 diet or care about sugar, it only makes sense to always keep “no-sugar” pasta sauce around. Considering ALDI’s store brand organic is less than a cent per ounce higher than Costco’s national brand conventional, I’m super happy with my decision to buy ALDI pasta sauce regularly. I used “one cup” as 8 ounces in the figuring above even though it’s not entirely accurate; it’s easy to apply to other stores.
Spaghetti = Inconclusive
My ALDI price for regular old spaghetti is over $1/lb. and Tiffany’s was only 73c/lb., and Costco didn’t even have regular spaghetti the day I was there…so…what?? That all seems very odd. I raise the white flag on this one. Organic spaghetti was available both places:
- ALDI: 16-oz. for $1.29 ($1.28/lb.)
- Costco: 8 1.1-lb. boxes for $9.99 ($1.14/lb.)
Gluten-free Pasta = ALDI
- ALDI: 7.9c/oz for corn-based pasta or 18.1c/oz. for brown rice pasta
- Costco: They are switching too much! I’ve purchased brown rice pasta there, black bean pasta (not a huge hit with all the family members although I liked it) and recently red lentil pasta. But on the trip when I was writing everything down, zero GF options. At least I can count on ALDI to always have the same 2 choices in their SimplyNature line!
Organic Applesauce = Unsure
Tiffany’s list gave Costco the win on this one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen organic (or any) applesauce in jars at Costco. They only carry the little cups (at 9c/oz. at my store). On the other hand, ALDI’s jarred applesauce came out to 4.1c/oz. for me and Tiffany clocked it at 7c/oz., underlining the importance of checking regional prices! EDIT: I was thinking this ALDI jar was organic, because many of their SimplyNature line products are, but I was mistaken! It’s still unsweetened applesauce, but of course we must compare (ahem) apples to apples. 😉
Canned Vegetables (corn, green beans, peas, etc.) = ALDI by a mile
Note: I don’t buy canned vegetables at all because fresh or frozen have so many more nutrients. But for emergency prep or if you just love them, it’s good to know who wins:
- ALDI: $0.49/can ($0.03/oz.)
- Costco: 12 can boxes ($0.041-0.046/oz.)
Organic Canned Beans = ALDI
Note: I prefer making dry beans from scratch because it’s healthier and saves a lot of money, but I always have canned beans on hand in case I’m unprepared.
- ALDI: $0.79/can (5.1c/oz.)
- Costco: 8 15-oz. cans for $6.59 (5.5c/oz.)
Regular Canned Beans = Not a Fair Fight (ALDI)
The day I was there, Costco had zero canned beans that weren’t organic, which is one of the problems with the warehouse store. Their stock changes a lot, so your choices even on what I think of as really basic staples may be limited. ALDI always has canned beans although their organic stock rotates a little bit. Both beans seem to be good quality to me; I have had Costco’s organic black beans and all of ALDI’s.
- ALDI: $0.59/can (3.9c/oz.)
- Costco: ???
Note: If you’re shopping rice, Tiffany’s figures definitely ring true for me. White, brown, basmati, jasmine, and quinoa too – they’re all a much better deal to buy in bulk at Costco, as long as you have room for a 10 to 25-lb. bag!
Produce: I Know Which Store I Prefer!
Bananas = Too Close to Call
- ALDI: 43c/lb.
- Costco: 46c/lb.
On the day I was tracking this, ALDI comes out slightly ahead, but I know these prices vary so much that you can’t just give the blue ribbon permanently away.
Avocados = Usually ALDI
- ALDI: 99c each, but I’ve seen them as low as 59c each
- Costco: $6.99 for 6 ($1.17 each)
For this and other produce items, you need to have a good benchmark in your head. For avocados, I like to get them at a dollar or below. When they’re at 59c at ALDI, I’ll get 10-12 of them and just allow them to ripen at different times by putting them in the fridge right away and taking 1-2 out to the counter at a time.
Colored Peppers = Usually ALDI
- ALDI: typically about a dollar each
- Costco: $6.99 for 6
Green peppers at ALDI almost always demolish the competition at Meijer, our big box store here, and Costco rarely carries them. Green peppers were only 75c each at ALDI recently.
Mushrooms = ALDI
- ALDI: $1.69/8 oz. ($0.21/oz.)
- Costco: $5/18 oz. ($0.28/oz.)
I never buy mushrooms anywhere other than ALDI unless they go on sale for 10/$10 at Meijer.
Cucumbers = ALDI
- ALDI: $0.49 each
- Costco: $4.99 for 3 long cucumbers, 1.5 lbs. ($3.33/lb. or $1.66 per cucumber)
It pains me to buy cucumbers at Costco! The Costco English cukes are longer, yes, but they’re not 3+ times longer!
Carrots = Up for Debate
- ALDI: 2 lbs. for $1.29 ($0.65/lb.)
- Costco: 10 lbs. organic for $6.49 ($0.65/lb.)
But that’s not a fair comparison. I’m pretty sure that when Costco carried conventionally grown carrots, they were 50c/lb. for that 10-lb. bag. The real question is this: Can you use 10 pounds of carrots quickly enough and fit it in your fridge? I try to keep baby carrots (organic or conventional) around $1/lb. whenever possible and make sure that whole carrots stay between 50-75c/lb. We can use 5 pounds of baby carrots and 10 pounds of long ones, no problem! So I just buy them wherever I am and don’t worry too much about perfect price comparing. I just know when I see a better-than-average sale.
Organic Salad Mix = Tied
ALDI and Costco are dead even with a big box of mixed greens for $4.49/16 oz.
Onions = Know Your Price Point
- ALDI: 3 lbs. for $1.89 ($0.63/lb.)
- Costco: 10 lbs. for $5.49 ($0.54/lb.)
These prices were in the summer in Michigan, but I know I’ve seen onions as low as 20-30c/lb. at ALDI before. I like to get them under 50c/lb. whenever possible, which obviously it just wasn’t at that point of the year. When I buy 10 pounds at Costco, sometimes they go mooshy before I can finish using them, especially in the summer heat, so I just limp along most of the time with 3-lb. bags until someone goes under 50c/lb.
Potatoes = Know Your Price Point
- ALDI: 10 lbs. for $3.49 ($0.35/lb.)
- Costco: 20 lbs. organic for $8.99 ($0.45/lb.)
I see potatoes go MUCH lower in price at ALDI quite often, and I will buy a couple bags when they go to 20c/lb. ($1.99 for the 10# bag). For this item, as for onions, you just need to have a target goal that you know you can find sometimes and an acceptable compromise.
Produce Limitations at Costco
More than anything else, fresh produce is something that you must be able to use in a timely fashion if you buy big. Costco is a terrible place to buy produce for many people because of that, because generally any cost savings aren’t big enough to justify freezing the extras, and there’s too much risk of waste.
Also, there are many things I love to buy weekly that Costco simply doesn’t carry:
- green onions
- red onions
All of those are nearly always less expensive than our other big box grocery, and I’m happy not to price compare to save pennies just in case the other store has a sale or something.
The Meat Question
Link Sausage for Grilling = Costco
- ALDI: 12 oz. package ($4/lb.) Never Any! chicken sausage with seasoning – these links are smaller than Costco’s
- Costco: 3 lbs. package ($3.36/lb.) Greenridge kale and asiago
As usual though, you have to make sure you can use all those sausages if you’re shopping Costco!
Organic, Grassfed Ground Beef = Costco (with a caveat)
- ALDI: $5.89/lb. (wow, it went down in the six months since I took that photo!! Or that might have been in a Chicago-area store…)
- Costco: $4.99/lb.
The caveat: Costco’s organic ground beef comes in 1 1/3 pound packages. That means that it’s far easier to use more than a pound in a recipe, or if you have a habit of using half a pound in soups and casseroles to save money like I do, you still might use more (unless you cook up all the Costco beef at once and separate it more evenly). If you used “a package” of the Costco beef like it was a pound, you’d spend more at Costco – so you have to know your habits and be savvy about usage for this “deal” to pay off.
Conventional Chicken Breasts = ALDI
- ALDI: $2.29/lb.
- Costco: $2.99/lb.
Conventional Chicken Thighs = ALDI
- ALDI: $2.29/lb.
- Costco: $2.49/lb.
Plus, Costco doesn’t even have bone-in breasts or thighs, so there’s no chance of making stock afterward or having yummy Cracklin’ Chicken from Nom Nom Paleo. When I’m going cheap and buying conventional chicken (I do this because I’m not convinced that grocery store organic chicken is really more than a fraction of a step up from the organic options), I’m an ALDI gal all the way. ALDI does not carry organic chicken but does have a “Never Any!” line with no antibiotics, hormones or fillers, ever. It is quite a bit more expensive than their regular line.
Besides all that, ALDI has frequent meat sales and Costco rarely if ever lowers their prices on meat.
Bacon = Dead Even
Tiffany gave ALDI the nudge on bacon by 50c/lb., but I found what I see as the equivalent product to be dead on – $3/lb. each.
Frozen Alaskan Wild Salmon = ALDI
- ALDI: $3.79/lb.
- Costco: $8.99/lb. (sockeye, but that’s all they have available without added ingredients)
Wow! That’s a huge savings…
Canned Alaskan Wild Salmon = ALDI (with a caveat)
- ALDI: $2.29/14.75 oz. can ($0.16/oz.)
- Costco: $12.99/6-6 oz. cans ($$0.36/oz)
It seems that ALDI blows Costco out of the water, but it’s not a fair comparison – Costco’s salmon is boneless and skinless whereas ALDI’s has plenty of bones and skin. Costco’s is more appropriate for a salmon salad or sandwich and ALDI’s goes perfectly in salmon patties. I buy both for the different purposes. They are each a better deal than Meijer’s comparable product, and they’re shelf stable, so I can stock up as needed.
Canned Tuna = ALDI (with a caveat)
- ALDI: 5 oz. can for $0.65 ($0.13/oz.)
- Costco: 12-7 oz. cans for $13.49 ($0.16/oz.)
This is the same problem as the salmon – Costco carries the Wild Planet brand of tuna which boasts sustainable sourcing, etc. ALDI actually does have “wild caught” tuna and sustainable sourcing as well. So are you paying for the brand? I admit I have both in the house.
Organic Chicken Stock = ALDI
First I have to say that I love that both stores carry organic stock made with bones! It costs just pennies to make your own chicken stock, but I always like to have a few boxes in the basement pantry just in case.
- ALDI: $1.79/32 oz. (5.6c/oz.)
- Costco: $11.79 for 6 32-oz. boxes (6c/oz.)
Sour Cream = ALDI
- ALDI: 16-oz. tub for $0.99
- Costco: 48-oz. tub for more than $3 (I actually didn’t write this down because in the last year, Costco’s prices went up enough that it was obvious that ALDI was a better deal, and I could stop worrying about finishing all that open sour cream before it got moldy.)
Both places have good ingredients – Costco stocks the Daisy brand and ALDI’s store brand omits the fillers I find in other stores.
Disposable Paper Products
I’m not a big proponent of buying things just to throw them away, but there are times that disposables are simply unavoidable. Might as well get the best price!
Paper Plates = Costco (with a caveat)
- ALDI: $2.89 for 80 thin plates (3.7c/plate) or $2.99 for 40 coated plates (Dixie or equivalent, 7.5c/plate)
- Costco: $16.59 for 800 thin plates (2.1c/plate) or 5.7c each for Dixie coated (although on sale) and 6.1c/plate for the very heavy duty Chinet paper plates
The caveat? After I did these figures I thought, “Well shoot, I always thought ALDI was the best by far for paper plates for camping. I’m getting them at Costco this year!” Um. 800 paper plates weighs almost as much as my 2-year-old and will last us like 7 years for camping! Now I have to store the darn things! Sometimes smaller packages have their advantages… #oops #onlylookedatprice #notpracticality
Cutlery = Tied
- ALDI: $2.99 for 96 count box (3.2c/piece)
- Costco: $11.79 for mixed 360-count box of more deluxe, heavy duty (3.3c/piece) or if you can use 500 of one kind at a time, they’re only 1.9c/piece
So for a big party, go Costco. You get better utensils for the same money or a lower quality for less money. But you have to need a lot – maybe just use real silverware and the dishwasher!
Storage and Freezer Bags (no slider) = Know Your Price Point
- ALDI: quantity varies by size and thickness, ranging from 4.0-6.7c apiece
- Costco: quantity varies by size and thickness, ranging from 5.0-8.5c apiece
Zippered Sandwich Bags = Tied
- ALDI: 100 for $1.99 (2c apiece)
- Costco: 500 for $9.79 (basically 9c apiece)
The lesson here? Good grief, just get some lovely reusable sandwich bags and save the earth a little!!
Kitchen Sized Garbage Bags = Quantity or Good Deal?
- ALDI: 80 for $4.99 (6.3c each)
- Costco: 200 for $12.99 (6.5c each)
Costco’s bags have a drawstring though and are a bit thicker – so you get what you pay for.
Paper Towel = Varies
- ALDI: ranges from 0.7-1.5c/sheet depending on the thickness
- Costco: Kirkland select-a-size was 1.1c/sheet and Bounty was 1.04c/sheet
So…if you can handle cheapie-feeling paper towel, go for the least expensive at ALDI. If you really need good stuff, it’s probably a wash. Use towels and wash them!
Use it or Lose It
As with any food purchases, if goal number one is to get the best per-unit price, goal number two MUST be to use it wisely. It’s never a good deal if it gets slimy and you have to toss it!
An important piece of insurance against food waste is meal planning. Plan to Eat, a longtime KS sponsor, is a great tool to keep all your recipes and the food you have purchased in order and on the table instead of in the garbage, saving you even more money every time you plan.
The Bottom Line on Costco vs. ALDI
When Tiffany found her final answers, Costco kicked ALDI’s patootie in 75% of her options.
Now I love Tiffany and I’m not questioning her results in the least, but I am saying that if you compare different items, you get awfully different answers:
Out of my 27 items compared (that had conclusive results), Costco lost on the exact same number of items ALDI did on Tiffany’s list: Twenty.
(I didn’t even set out to compare the exact same number, can you believe that! I thought I was comparing about 92 when I looked at my notebook, sheesh!)
Some of Costco’s winners, like apple cider vinegar and paper plates, are very seldom purchases anyway. Some of ALDI’s winners, specifically frozen salmon, chicken and cucumbers, we eat every week and the savings spread was significant.
So – what store has the better prices, Costco or ALDI?
It ultimately depends on how you shop, and the most savvy people are buying nuts, dried fruit, cheese, beef and peanut butter at Costco, produce and canned goods at ALDI and sourcing as much meat and vegetables as they can locally and in season!
Why You Always Need to Compare
Check out these chips:
Don’t they look pretty similar in the pictures on the bag?
I can’t prove it, but when the ingredients are the same and they taste the same, it’s possible that they’re made in the same factory. In this case, Costco has the better deal:
- ALDI: 7 oz. for $2.79 ($0.40/oz.)
- Costco: 15 oz. for $5.49 ($0.37/oz.)
With a caveat – when we open a bag of these, like on a fun picnic, we pretty much eat them all – no matter which size bag it is. Also, they’re not always available at Costco.
Want to Take This to the Store?
Here’s a printable chart with all this info plus space to add more for you to download!