Kerry Acker, Epicurious
Costco just rocks. As Kmart, Target, and Walmart made news last week for announcing they'd kick off the holiday shopping frenzy on Gray Thursday, a.k.a. Thanksgiving Day, Costco stood apart as one of the few companies (along with BJ's and Nordstrom) committed to putting their employees first and staying closed on Thanksgiving.
This got us thinking about all of the other things we love about the Seattle-based members-only warehouse club, one of the largest -- and most admired -- retailers in the United States.
Here are 14 reasons we think Costco is fabulous:
1. Costco really does care about its employees. In addition to paying them very decent wages compared with their competitors, Costco also offers health insurance for both full-time and part-time employees. Plus, CEO Craig Jelinek has spoken out in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. (HuffPost has compiled a great list of other ways the company is good to its workers.)
2. We love Costco's rack. Epicurious' Kemp Minifie, longtime Gourmet kitchen editor and our resident food eminence, loves Costco's $15* Australian rack of lamb. "It makes serving a rack as a special-occasion meal feasible for the middle class!"
3. Cheese heads, take note. If you are a goat cheese fiend, Costco's two-log pack of chevre is a total steal, according to Epicurious' Tanya Steel and Kendra Vizcaino. The two enormous logs will cost you roughly the same amount you'd pay for a single miniature grocery-store-bought log. Other smart buys: the Reggiano (which many of us at Epicurious use constantly), and big bags of cheese sticks and BabyBels (which my dairy-obsessed toddler is, well, obsessed with).
4. Costco's Kirkland Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is actually extra-virgin oil. Unlike so many impostors out there, Costco's extra-virgin oil is legit, passing UC Davis' rigorous olive oil tests with flying colors.
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5. Costco's got the best bang-for-your-buck organic good-quality maple syrup around. (Ours costs just under $16 for 1 liter.) And if you're like us and want waffles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will use every last sticky little drop.
6. Costco's vanilla may be the deal of the century. Not baking enough to warrant purchasing the 16-ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract, or the Rodelle 10-pack of long beautiful Bourbon Madagascar beans? You should probably still buy them, and share them with friends. Or have a baking party!
7. Choosing Costco's affordable organic frozen produce just makes good sense. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be as nutritious as -- or more nutritious than -- their non-frozen counterparts, and, of course, the frozen stuff lasts a while. We buy bags and bags of their frozen organic berries and broccoli.
8. Live longer: Buy Costco's nuts. Recent studies make a superstrong case for eating nuts to reduce your risk of death from heart disease and cancer. Kemp and her family are huge fans of the walnuts and pecans."They're delicious," says Kemp, "and I've never had a rancid nut!" That said, Kemp notes that "the best deal is the pine nuts." "They are hugely expensive elsewhere, and they are beautiful, sweet, and not a rancid one among them -- and pine nuts are really prone to rancidity." Buy Kirkland pine nuts! Make pesto! Bake a tart!
9. Costco's bags of big, beautiful Haas avocados are a dream. Costing around $5 for a bag of four or five avocados, they are a lot cheaper than their $2 to $2.50/apiece counterparts at more upscale grocery stores. Keep this in mind when you're planning your Super Bowl or Cinco de Mayo party.
10. Speaking of the Super Bowl, let's talk about Costco's Signature Handcrafted Beer variety pack. Come to think of it, let's not talk about it. Let's just sit back and enjoy their selection of easy, highly drinkable, and highly affordable brews. A few 24-bottle cases priced at around $20 per case might serve you just fine for that Super Bowl party of yours.
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11. Costco's huge bags of Stacy's pita chips will actually get eaten. If your family scarfs down these healthy snacks the way Tanya's does (her two teenage boys are famous around the office for their enormous appetites), the 28-ounce bags are a no-brainer.
12. If you use certain spices again and again and again--black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, oregano, chili powder--Costco's cheap, ginormous containers of them are a great deal.
13. Samples! Lots of free samples!
14. Sometimes a $1.50 Hot Dog/Soda combo is exactly what you need.
*Please note that selection and pricing of products vary depending on location.