By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
My husband and I love saving money by shopping at Costco. During our shopping trips we’ve enjoyed quite a few dates in the food court, chatting over a couple hotdogs for $3.18. Those cheap dates were something we always looked forward to in the early years of our marriage (and, if I’m honest, we still enjoy them occasionally as we hold to the 80/20 rule when it comes to the food we eat. Eighty percent is real food, twenty percent is freedom and grace).
Everyone has different standards for their food, and different budgets. These are our personal choices. It may not work for you, and that’s ok. However, I believe that buying some food in bulk is one of the smartest moves a savvy homemaker can do with her budget.
If you are looking to support all local and organic farms (which I love to do when I can), then shopping at Costco isn’t going to be your thing. If you’re hoping to get the most for your money, while still eating real food, then Costco may be a great option!
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Any dollar I can save is worth it, especially since our family grew recently through foster care (holy cow, toddlers can eat a lot!). Costco has saved our butts quite a few times.
Living on one income causes you to truly evaluate your needs vs. wants. We’ve learned to delay gratification, and only purchase food that will be used for our meals. This means we don’t really buy snacks at all except the occasional organic tortilla chips and salsa from Costco, or organic popcorn kernels that I get for a steal at our local market (then we slather it with Kerrygold butter that we stock up on at Costco).
If you want a snack in our home, it may not be as convenient as opening up a package, but it’s well-worth it for our family and personal financial situation.
The biggest factor in making Costco work for us is meal planning. It’s really important that the fresh produce I buy is eaten before it spoils, or I buy heartier varieties like apples, carrots, avocados, bananas, or citrus fruit. I cannot justify letting any bit of food go to waste! If it’s gone bad in my refrigerator, it’s likely due to poor planning on my part.
Upon arrival home from a Costco trip, I freeze the meat, cheese, and any other item that would store well there. This makes meal planning quick and relatively easy for me as I just glance in my freezer and see what I have stocked up for the month.
An additional aspect of my meal planning includes occasional freezer meal prep. Costco’s packages of chicken drumsticks make this a snap. A Ziploc bag with meat, a marinade, and chopped veggies are simple and nourishing.
Here’s a list of what I purchase from Costco:
Avocados ($5.99/6 count)
Clementines ($5.99/5 lbs)
Lemons ($6.99/5 lbs)
Organic Apples ($9.99/5.5 lbs)
Organic Spring Mix Lettuce ($4.89/1 lb package)
Kerrygold Butter ($6.99/3 8oz packages)
Kerrygold Cheese ($5.18/lb)
Raw Honey ($14.79/2.75 lbs)
Pure Maple Syrup ($12.79/1 quart)
Carrington Farms Coconut Oil ($17.49/54 oz)
Kirkland Peanut Butter ($10.99/2 40 oz containers)
Mayorga Coffee ($12.99/2 lbs)
Almonds ($15.99/3 lbs)
Itaja Organic Sugar ($8.49/10 lbs)
Organic Tomato Paste ($5.99/12 6 oz cans)
Organic Tomato Sauce ($5.49/2 25 oz jars)
Canned Sardines ($8.49/5 3.75 oz tins – these are sustainable and one of the least contaminated fish available)
Organic Frozen Fruit Mix ($10.49/3 lbs)
Kirkland Frozen Wild Alaskan Salmon ($32.99/ 3 lbs)
Kirkland Toilet Paper ($15.99/30 rolls)
Aluminum Foil ($15.99/500 sq ft)
Gallon Ziploc Bags ($12.59/152 bags)
Kirkland Diapers and Wipes (Price depends on size)
Parchment Paper ($9.99/410 sq ft)
Kirkland Paper Towels ($15.99/12 rolls)
Plastic Wrap ($9.99/1500 sq ft)
Kitchen Trash Bags ($14.39/200 13 gallon bags)
Occasional Splurge/Convenience Items:
Kirkland Chocolate Chips ($8.69/72 oz)
Applesauce Go Go Squeez Pouches ($10.49/24 pouches)
Kirkland Organic Corn Chips ($4.99/40 oz)
Aidells Chicken Apple Sausages ($13.59/3 lbs)
Kirkland Organic Salsa ($8.49/2 38 oz containers)
A few last tips, and things to think through:
- Ask yourself – Is it worth the $55 membership fee and cost of gas if you live far away?
- Go during lunch time for free samples (but don’t be a sucker and end up with a cartload full of junk).
- Take advantage of the coupons and manufacture rebates, many of which are instant at checkout (this is fairly new).
- Meal planning is key when buying in bulk. Be sure that nothing will go to waste!
- Always be on the lookout for changing prices in your area. I buy a lot more produce locally during the summer when it’s cheaper, and less from Costco.
Do you shop at Costco? How does your family save money there?
All images by April Swiger