I just did my first shop at Costco. I haven’t joined; I went with my son, who has a membership. It has long seemed to me that despite the enormous savings, buying huge quantities of stuff for two who live in a condo doesn’t make sense. I finally decided that it does make sense to buy large quantities of certain things like paper towels, for example. Also, Costco has great labour practices and pays its employees nearly twice as much as Walmart pays. The Costco CEO is a big supporter of Obama. So shopping at Costco makes good economic and political sense.
It turns out that it is impossible to walk through Costco with a shopping cart and stick to a written list. Certain items that are not on the list—enormous jars and other containers of pickled herring, capers, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, snack crackers, almonds, peanut butter, bags of steel cut oats, Parmigiano cheese, and tomato paste —seem to leap off the shelves and into the shopping cart.
We now have enough cans of tomato paste to supply restaurants for a year or so. A huge block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at $20 is an enormous savings, except that we now use three times as much Parmigiano-Reggiano in recipes as we used to. I’ve had pickled herring for lunch every day for a week, and I still have plenty left.
But it’s the household and cleaning supplies from Costco—the items that were actually on the list–that really make a difference. Laundry detergent, dish washer soap, freezer bags, garbage bags, compost bags, Swiffers both wet and dry, plastic food wrap, plastic food storage containers, aluminum foil, toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels,—we have lifetime supplies of all these essential items, unless medical advances in things like organ transplants drastically increase lifespans.
Storage is a problem. Almost all the non-food items that we will never have to buy again are stored in the bathtub of the guest bathroom, hidden, of course, by the shower curtain. If we have overnight guests who will use the guest bathroom, we will have to move all the stuff to our bedroom, since the master bathroom has only a shower. Part of the Costco shopping strategy for condo dwellers is to stop making friends who are likely to stay overnight.
I had a dream about a lunch in our condo after my funeral. Lots of people are milling around the condo, and there seems to be plenty of room for all of them. Somehow I am there even though I am dead. As each guest leaves, I give them a can of tomato paste and a roll of paper towels. I hear my wife say to somebody, “We just can’t part with the herring.”