It’s Probably Not the Best Idea to Make a Costco Run on Foot


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

My wife is no big spender, but during her regular visits to Costco she’s been known to throw this and that into the cart along with items from her list. Problem is, “this and that” at Costco can easily add $50 to your bill.

So when she told me she needed a few things from our favorite bulk food outlet, I offered to go instead. “Just text me your list,” I innocently said.

Driving to work that day left me missing my morning walk to the office. To ensure I hit my mileage for the day, I decided to walk to Costco, pick up the food, walk back to the office, and then drive home.

You Decided to Walk to Costco?

You’re probably asking:

  • How far from your office is Costco?
  • How did you plan to get the groceries back to your office?
  • But, seriously, how were you going to get the groceries back to the office?

My answers:

  • Google Maps (which is a lying liar) pegged the distance at 1.4 miles (for a 2.8 mile round trip). As I flashed my membership card to the nice lady at the Costo entrance, my iPhone gps app registered 1.9 miles. Uh oh.
  • I had no plan for transporting the groceries back to the office. Actually that’s not true. My brilliant plan was: carry them.

As I headed out of the office, Chance (YNAB COO), said (with some confusion in his voice) “Do you think you maybe want to take your backpack?”

My backpack! No wonder Chance gets the fancy title.

After grabbing my backpack, I confidently strolled out of the office and marched myself to Costco.

I quickly made my rounds through the store, picking up the items on Kate’s list:

  • Four loaves of bread.
  • A six-pack of Orange juice concentrate.
  • A large bag of spinach.
  • A big plastic container of grapes.
  • A block of Tillamook sharp cheddar.
  • And…four dozen eggs.

As I headed to the checkout, my confidence in the mission wavered. The pile of food in my cart seemed like a bad combination of big and heavy.

I checked out, loaded everything into a pretty good-sized fruit box (you know how they do it at Costco) and headed for the door.

Once I cleared the door, I ditched my cart, loaded the spinach and the cheese into the backpack (thanks Chance), which left the juice concentrate, grapes, and the eggs in the box.

Welp, I thought to myself, we’ll see how this goes.

You’ll be shocked to hear the box made for an awkward carry.

I hefted it onto my shoulder, busboy style, and walked about 10 steps. My shoulder tired quickly, and I switched to a more traditional forklift approach.

Ten or twenty more steps, and I was ready to set the box down on the nearest mini-van and call my wife to bail me out.

No! That’s the coward’s way out. Finish the mission.

I made it to a stoplight and rested my load on the crosswalk button. One of my neighbors happened to drive by, giving me a confused look and a wave.

Only then did I realize how ridiculous I must look. Grown man, walking out of the Costco parking lot wearing a stuffed backpack and carrying a large box of groceries on his shoulder.

The light changed; I marched on. After a couple hundred yards I realized the box just wasn’t going to work out – it was too blasted awkward.

Luckily, I was right next to one of the two grocery stores I’d passed on my way to Costco. Did I forget to mention those?

I walked up to the store, set my box down on the ground in front of the big sliding doors, went in and grabbed five or six grocery bags.

Am I shoplifting? I remember wondering.

Back outside, I transferred the eggs, orange juice, and grapes into the bags, and took off, hoping there wasn’t a teen-aged grocery bagger behind me dialing up the cops.

Ahh, yes. The bags made for easier carrying.

Although I do have to hold them out from my sides to keep from banging them into my legs…

And, man, these bags are heavier than I thought. My arms are going numb…

And, hm, I don’t think I got the weight distributed quite evenly between the two bags, and the fingers on my left hand are dangerously close to giving out.

With dead arms and purple fingers, I picked up the pace. Fast enough to cut my time down, but not fast enough to risk blowing out the bottoms of the bags. So, instead of Strange Guy with Backpack and Big Box of Food, I’m now Weirdo Gently Speed-walking with Two Grocery Bags in Each Hand.

Finally I turned a corner and my office came into view.

I shouldered the door open, plodded up the stairs, and unloaded the food in the office’s kitchen area, cursing my own stupidity.

Chance walked by just then, and cheerfully asked “How’d it go?”

Panting and sweating, all I could think to say was,

“I hope the eggs survived.”

36 Responses to “It’s Probably Not the Best Idea to Make a Costco Run on Foot”

  1. Becky

    I tried to contain the giggles, but by the time you went to get bags from the other grocery store, I was disturbing my co-workers! Whew, that was good stuff!

  2. Meredith

    This just made my day! So…did the eggs survive?

    • mark

      Every last one of them. It was a Costco miracle.

  3. Mr. Money Mustache

    Sounds like a great trip to me, and I’m confused as to why you describe it as not such a good idea. How many new muscles did you work on that trip that don’t normally get worked so thoroughly? Is your goal LESS strength and fitness, or more??

    Still, you can be forgiven if you do it the easy way next time – with a bike trailer ;-)

    • mark

      Oh, I got thoroughly worked alright.

      And yes – future trips will be made with bike and trailer (both of which were purchased last month: bike for $110 and trailer for $40).

      Thanks for the reminder that things are only really good if they’re miserable. :)

    • David

      Mr Money!!!! I was just on your site reading about the bike and bike trailer and was thinking of your postings while reading this one!

    • jessica

      For a minute I was confused which blog I was reading… ;) Love that MMM is posting here!

    • Anna

      My wonderful grandmother used to carry her grocery in two heavy bags from the market every week until she was 95. She never took a cab (which she could easily afford) and refused any offers for lifts from neighbours (“they just don’t understand”) because she considered this her exercise. Please remember her next time, guys. MMM you need to visit good old Europe sometime. Might make a good MM business trip.

    • Carry

      I frequently ride my bike to Costco and love it! I have two grocery bag sized panniers and a bungee cord on the rack. Getting your groceries home would have been a breeze!

  4. Sarah

    GREAT story! You might need to get your own reality show now!

  5. Paul Johnson

    That was fantastic. Loved it!!!

  6. Mindy

    As one who lived without a car in a big city for 4 years, I completely understand your experience! It was always that halfway mark when I would think to myself, “I wonder if there’s a homeless person I could give some of this milk (or other heavy items) to,”

    • mark

      Glad to know I’m not alone. Near the end of my walk I was wishing a kid would wander by so I could offer to pay him to carry the stuff the rest of the way.

  7. Kristen

    Thanks for the chuckle! I was a missionary for my church in Portugal and we always had to carry our groceries. When it rained, we had to get inventive and anchor our umbrellas down the front of our shirts to leave our hands free for our groceries! :-) So, no, you are not alone! :-)

  8. Debt RoundUp

    Hmm….would never have walked to Costco, but I like your style. I am sure you felt it the next morning with all that carrying you had to do.

  9. yavanna17

    This is hilarious! Thanks for the great laugh! I have tears running down my face! :)

  10. Mrs. Money Mustache

    Haha! That was funny. I think the lesson here is to be prepared! Once you start doing things regularly, being prepared is easy – it comes more naturally. A large backpack and 2 cloth grocery bags could have helped. You also quickly learn to always put the heaviest stuff in the backpack.

    But overall, walking with groceries is much harder than biking, unless you can fit almost everything in the backpack.

    Good job! You have the right attitude and next time maybe you’ll be better prepared. :)

    • mark

      Hey Mrs. MM –

      Thanks for dropping by. You’re right on all counts. Looking forward to my first Costco run with the new (old) bike and trailer!

  11. Wali

    I didn’t just giggle, I laughed out loud… So loud that my coworkers wanted to know what was so funny. I am glad you (and the eggs) made it back okay.

    • mark

      Hey Wali – glad it gave you a laugh. Hope it didn’t disrupt the office too much. :)

  12. Rolo

    Whether intentional or not, you, sir, are a pioneer and an entertainer.

    I hope you’ll remember to put that new-found $50 grocery surplus cash into your fun money!

    • mark

      Haha – thanks Rolo. I’ll have to let me know I’m taking a $50 commission on the trip!

  13. Aoife

    Wife says to husband – will you go to the store and get some milk and if they have eggs, get 6.
    Husband returns with 6 pints of milk and no eggs.
    Wife says “what the *******?
    Husband says – they had milk.

    My strategy is not to use a trolley in the store and just use a bag I have to carry – I spend way less and still just as frequently as if I had brought a trolley. Great arm work out too.

    • mark

      Great idea about going bag only in the store. That would have saved me some grief on this trip.

  14. Bonnie Anderson

    I love this for so many reasons. First, I love Costco. Second, I love your humility to share your (dare I say, foolish) trip there. I think in the future you should just give your wife a fifty and tell her to have fun. Thanks for the chuckle.

  15. Zachary

    Hi Mark,

    My wife and I have been using YNAB since the beginning of this year, and we absolutely love it. You’ll be please to know that I’m trying to send some business your way–I recently wrote a blog post for this year’s crop of college graduates encouraging them (among other things) to live frugally and check out YNAB for their budget needs.

    Check it out here: http://zacharycrippen.com/2013/05/07/7-things-every-college-grad-should-know/

    Thanks for a great product!


  16. YYC

    First mistake was taking a cart into the store. Always carry your items in the store if you’re going to be carrying them home. If it’s uncomfortable to carry them in the store, it will be _hell_ by the time you’re home.

  17. Corinne

    Back in my college days, when I did not have a car, the only way I went to the grocery store was to walk. There was a lot of careful planning to figure out what I could buy that would fit in my backpack. Still now, I never use a cart if I’m going to have to carry my groceries home. (I know, I know, bike and trailer, I have neither and am completely terrified of riding a bike in traffic – driving with seatbelts and airbags is terrifying enough. I’d much rather walk.)

  18. Megan

    I can add my comment that I was attempting to stifle the laughter while at work…

  19. Jacq

    I have not read the other comments above, but I have two statements: 1) I googled, ‘Can I walk a bike through Costco?’ and this was one of the top sites that Google recommended for my search. 2) I am a newly married young woman whose husband has ‘highly recommended’ that she only go to Costco on foot. (As we are both quite frugal people, this makes perfect sense. One is only allowed to buy what one is physically able to carry with their own two hands…saves hundreds at Costco, and for a family of two, this is quite necessary advice for a place where impulse buying is of no small consequence to budgetary constraints.) I actually had implemented this ‘what-you-can-carry’ rule when a single woman to avoid buying too much and cramping my roommates’ freezer space.

    Rules for going to Costco on foot, or doing the ‘what-you-can-carry’ rule with a car:
    1) Double-bag recyclable cloth bags; take four, two for each hand when doubled.
    2) Consider, do I need two gallons of milk or will one do?
    3) Buy lightweight items if you are tired or have not been bulking/weight-lifting…loafs of bread, bags of chips, sanitary women’s products, bags of spinach/leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes…
    4) When weight cannot be avoided: consider can I do with just 3lbs of chicken, and a marinade to change up variety, or do I really need chicken and beef?
    5) If traveling as mama or papa bear, have bigger kids join in…if they want the go-gurt, apple-sauce snacks, ding-dongs box or cheesecake snacks…have them carry it and build some muscle.

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