For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, finding affordable gluten-free products can be a challenge. Many specialty gluten-free items are priced at a premium, making it difficult to stick to a gluten-free diet on a budget. This leads many gluten-free consumers to ask: Is Costco worth it for gluten-free?
What is Costco?
Costco is a membership-based warehouse club selling groceries, household goods, clothing, appliances, and more. Costco is known for offering low prices on bulk items and discounted name-brand products. With over 500 locations in the US and Canada, Costco provides an affordable shopping option for many families.
To shop at Costco, you must pay for an annual membership. Memberships start at $60 per year for a basic Gold Star membership. Executive memberships cost $120 per year and offer additional perks like cash back rewards. You can access Costco stores and discounts with either membership level.
Why shop at Costco for gluten-free?
There are several reasons why Costco can be a smart choice for gluten-free shopping:
Costco sells many popular gluten-free brands for less than traditional grocery stores. You’ll find significant savings on gluten-free pasta, baking mixes, snacks, and more. Costco’s bulk sizes help lower the per-ounce or per-item costs.
Kirkland Signature gluten-free products
Costco’s private label Kirkland Signature offers nutritious gluten-free foods like oats, trail mixes, protein bars, and canned foods. Kirkland Signature products are typically 15-30% cheaper than branded equivalents.
Organic and specialty gluten-free brands
In addition to affordably priced conventional gluten-free brands, you’ll also find premium organic and specialty items. Popular brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Lundberg, Nature’s Path, and Kinnikinnick are frequently available.
Online ordering and delivery
Can’t make it to the warehouse? Costco offers delivery through Instacart and two-day grocery delivery with a free shipping minimum. You can conveniently order gluten-free kitchen staples, frozen foods, and snacks online.
If you aren’t satisfied with a gluten-free Costco purchase, returns are easy. Most items can be returned with a full refund. This risk-free shopping makes it simple to try new gluten-free products.
What gluten-free foods does Costco sell?
Costco stocks a rotating selection of gluten-free products across categories like:
Gluten-free baking mixes and flours
Brands like Krusteaz, King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill, LiveGFree, Cup4Cup, and Birch Benders are often available. You’ll find gluten-free mixes for pancakes, bread, cookies, brownies, pizza crust, muffins, and more. GF flours like almond, coconut, tapioca, rice, and cassava are also sold.
Find gluten-free crackers, pretzels, granola, popcorn, chips, and bars. Enjoy snacking on brands like Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Kind Bars, Popcornopolis Popcorn, and Enjoy Life.
Stock up on gluten-free sugar, spices, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and other baking supplies. Brands carried include Ghirardelli, Guittard, Nestle, Hershey’s, McCormick, and more.
Costco sells gluten-free pasta made from brown rice, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, or corn. Popular brands include Tinkyada, Barilla, Banza, DeLallo, and Kirkland Signature. Pasta variety packs are a convenient option.
Gluten-free oats and grains
Find single ingredient gluten-free oats and rice from brands like Bob’s Red Mill. Other gluten-free grains sold include quinoa, amaranth, teff, and buckwheat.
Gluten-free canned foods
Gluten-free broths, chilies, tomatoes, beans, and other canned goods are available under Kirkland Signature and name brands like Amy’s Kitchen. Canned salmon, crab, and chicken can make quick gluten-free meals.
Gluten-free frozen foods
frozen pizza, waffles, pancakes, potstickers, chicken nuggets, veggies, fruits, and convenience meals are sold. You’ll find options from Against the Grain, Van’s, Udi’s, Evol and other GF brands.
What about gluten-free specialty items?
In addition to pantry staples, you can sometimes score harder-to-find gluten-free items like:
– Bread and bagels
– Tortillas and taco shells
– Cookies, desserts, and ice cream
– Plant-based meat alternatives
– Gluten-free beer and seltzers
– Meal kits and heat-and-eat meals
– Personal care products labeled gluten-free
The options rotate, so keep an eye out for your gluten-free favorites. Holiday baked goods like hams, cookies, and desserts are also available seasonally.
How to save money on gluten-free groceries at Costco
Follow these tips to maximize gluten-free savings at Costco:
– Compare unit prices. Larger packages aren’t always cheaper per ounce.
– Look for coupons, rebates, and instant savings in the Costco monthly coupon book. You can also find printable coupons online.
– Shop Kirkland Signature gluten-free products for the best deals.
– Stock up during Costco sales events when prices are dropped temporarily on select items.
– Save by buying gluten-free flours and baking mixes in 5-10 lb bags rather than small packages.
– Purchase shelf-stable gluten-free items in bulk to save. Refrigerated and frozen items may go bad before use if overpurchased.
– Split large packages with gluten-free friends or family to take advantage of bulk savings.
– Take advantage of the warehouse credit card cash back program.
Is a Costco membership worth it for gluten-free families?
Whether a Costco membership is worth it depends on your gluten-free budget and shopping habits.
– Save up to 30% on popular gluten-free brands.
– Lower grocery bill with bulk purchasing of gluten-free kitchen staples.
– Access to organic and specialty gluten-free products not carried at regular supermarkets.
– Convenient online ordering and delivery options available.
– Upfront annual membership fee of $60-120.
– Must buy in larger quantities, which can lead to waste if unable to consume timely.
– More limited selection of gluten-free items than a dedicated health food store.
– You may need to visit Costco frequently to find the best gluten-free deals before items sell out.
In general, Costco is a smart money-saving option for families that regularly use pantry staples like gluten-free grains, flours, pasta, baking mixes, snacks, and canned goods. The lower prices offset the membership cost for most active gluten-free shoppers. But it may not be worthwhile for occasional gluten-free shoppers or very small households unable to use bulk quantities timely.
Tips for shopping gluten-free at Costco
Follow these best practices for a successful gluten-free Costco shopping trip:
– Check the monthly coupon book for gluten-free deals and new items. Coupons also available on the Costco app.
– Scan the gluten-free price tag callouts on warehouse signs to easily spot deals.
– Read labels carefully and check ingredients on new purchases since gluten-free offerings frequently change.
– Inspect packaging for damage that could cause cross-contamination.
– Always check at checkout if uncertain an item is gluten-free. Cashiers can verify ingredients.
– Open packages as soon as possible after purchase to ensure product freshness, especially for baked goods.
– Use open packages of gluten-free flours, grains, and baking mixes within 3-6 months for optimal quality and flavor.
– Store unopened gluten-free baking mixes and flours in freezer to prolong shelf life if unable to use within a few months.
– When buying perishables like gluten-free bread, divide into individual portions and freeze to prevent waste.
Is Costco’s bakery gluten-free friendly?
While Costco sells some gluten-free baked goods, most items from the in-store bakery are not gluten-free. Breads, cakes, cookies, and muffins contain gluten ingredients unless labeled gluten-free.
Some Costco locations will take special orders for gluten-free baked goods like sheet cakes. However, there is high risk of cross-contamination from shared equipment and facility.
The safest option is to choose bakery items that are certified gluten-free and packaged. Read labels carefully and avoid loose bakery items. Also take care when ordering meat deli products, as cross-contamination can occur from slicers and prep areas.
Does Costco offer gluten-free samples?
Costco frequently offers complimentary bite-size samples of products to members passing through the warehouse aisles. However, persons with celiac disease or sensitivity should use caution when partaking.
While some gluten-free foods may be sampled, there is always a risk of cross-contamination from equipment and serving utensils shared with gluten-containing items. Costco employees preparing samples are often not trained in gluten-free handling procedures.
Before eating any sample, inspect the tray and ask the server to verify ingredients and preparation process. Use your best judgment, as mistakes can happen in the busy warehouse environment. Consuming samples is ultimately at your own risk.
Can you eat at the Costco food court gluten-free?
Costco’s famously affordable food court with pizza, hot dogs, churros, and ice cream is not gluten-free friendly. All menu items contain gluten, and the chances of cross-contamination are very high in the busy order and preparation areas.
Your safest bet is to avoid the food court if you need to strictly avoid gluten exposure due to medical reasons. However, some gluten-free shoppers report being comfortable having a coffee or soda that comes in a sealed cup.
If you want a meal after shopping, it’s better to pick up a heat-and-eat gluten-free entree option to enjoy at home rather than risking the food court. An exit stop at the grocery aisles for a GF treat like Kind bars is another idea.
Should you get a Costco membership for gluten-free perks?
Here are some things to consider when deciding if a Costco membership is worthwhile for your gluten-free lifestyle:
– Calculate if you’ll save more than $60-120 annually based on current grocery spending. Look for at least 10-15% in possible GF savings.
– Shop with a friend who has a membership first to test if enough gluten-free variety and savings are available at your local Costco.
– Make sure your household can use large packages timely before they spoil or go stale. Buying in bulk is key to saving.
– Consider how far you live from Costco and how often you’ll realistically shop there. Is it worth the membership fee based on your needs and convenience?
– Compare availability of specialty gluten-free items between Costco and other stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Trader Joe’s.
– Weigh the risks – is it worth exposure to possible cross-contamination from samples, deli, food court, etc to shop there?
Bottom line: if you frequently use pantry staples, Costco can substantially lower gluten-free grocery costs. But supplement with grocery stores for fresh foods and more choices. Read labels carefully and use member satisfaction guarantees to guide purchasing. With some care, Costco can be a big money saver for many gluten-free households.
The verdict on Costco for gluten-free shopping
Costco offers notable value for shoppers needing to follow a gluten-free diet. Thanks to its low prices on bulk and name-brand gluten-free groceries, Costco can shave hundreds of dollars off yearly grocery bills. The savings on staple GF foods typically offset the annual membership fees for regular shoppers.
However, those with celiac disease or wheat allergies will need to weigh risks of cross-contamination from samples, preparation areas, and unlabeled products. Careful label reading and caution are required. Costco is likely not the best solution for 100% gluten-free environments, except for purchasing unopened specialty gluten-free brands.
In summary, Costco provides an affordable option for bulk gluten-free essentials like baking supplies, snacks, pasta, and canned items. But supplement with regular grocery stores for fresh meats, produce, and bakery items. Compare prices between retailers, buy only what you can use before expiration, and leverage member satisfaction guarantees to maximize value. With realistic expectations, Costco can be a worthwhile part of a gluten-free shopping strategy.