The Best & Worst Times to Shop at Costco

These tips from real shoppers will make your Costco runs more efficient.

When the first Costco warehouse opened its doors in Seattle in 1983, a new way of shopping — buying in bulk — was introduced to the public, and many haven't looked back. From that first store, the multi-billion dollar global retailer grew to have locations in 14 countries, with 583 stores right here in the U.S. There are nearly 121 million cardholders worldwide. Costco's stores average 146,000 square feet in size, and are filled with everything from fresh produce and groceries to electronics and car tires, and much, much more.

Costco storefront
Getty Images/Allrecipes

With so many people shopping at Costco stores, which are open seven days a week, it can be daunting to try and make your way through the aisles to find what you need. For insights on how to navigate the mega-store, we checked in with experts and some real-life shoppers for their tips.

When Is the Best Time to Shop at Costco?

According to The Krazy Coupon Lady, Costco's warehouse stores receive shipments at least several times a week, though many stores are getting deliveries daily or near daily. As far as getting that new product out onto the shelves, the stores' employees begin stocking at 4 a.m. and keep working until doors open for business. During busier times of the year, like around the holidays, stocking can happen throughout the day, too, according to Aisle of Shame.

"If you live in a college town, I have found going when said college football team is playing is the best time to go," Patti Shea, who shops at Costco in the Tallahassee area, tells Allrecipes. "Here in Tallahassee, whenever FSU [Florida State University] has a game, that's the perfect time to go." You can apply that same logic if you have a popular pro sports team in your area as well.

And another tip: "I try and go about 30 minutes prior to closing time, but I am not a browser," says Gitta Kroon-Florita, who shops at Costco in Connecticut. "I usually know what I want, and I'm in and out."

Lane Heaney in Indianapolis agrees.

"I do this, too, and go only during the week. The weekend is a nightmare," she says. "Also, go with a list or you'll buy everything you never thought you'd need!"

Timing is key when gassing up your vehicle, too.

"If you just need gas, go outside of opening hours for the store," suggests Jan Schroder, who shops at her Atlanta-area Costco. "Most of the gas stations open at 7 a.m., and there isn't a line then."

Mo Chiodini, who shops at Tampa-area Costcos, agrees with Schroder.

"I completely agree with Jan," she tells Allrecipes. "I drive to Brandon early just for gas so I can avoid the lines. Also, if you live equidistance from several Costcos as I do, check their gas prices online — they vary from store to store."

How to Shop at Costco More Efficiently

It's not only Costco's gas prices that you can check online but the stores' stocked products, too. According to to the warehouse stores' website, "The great thing about shopping on is that everything you see reflects our live, real-time, and up-to-date inventory." To confirm what you're looking for is in stock before leaving the house, it's best to call your store directly.

Another advantage of checking is to see what's available in other stores; even if the items aren't at your local store, chances are they can be shipped to your store for pick-up. "Some items can be purchased online and shipped to your local warehouse for pickup. If a product is eligible, it will be noted on the product page beneath the 'Add to Cart' button.," reads the website.

Of course, you can opt-out of visiting the store entirely, too. According to Costco, "Many food items and household supplies found in our warehouse locations can also be delivered right to your door through our CostcoGrocery program."

There are plenty of ways to shop at Costco, and if you plan your trip ahead of time, you may just save time as well as money.

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