I’ve always enjoyed a trip to Costco. When I was younger, it was a time for my sisters and I to convince my mom to buy chocolate covered raisins or individual bags of chips. I’ve come a long way from my Doritos days.
Now, Costco is my place to stock up on chia seeds, almond butter, and coconut oil for much cheaper prices. Buying in bulk can definitely save you money but only if you know the tricks.
Keep in mind that food corporations and grocery stores spend a lot of money researching how to get you to buy their products. They spend billions on food product placement, marketing, and more. Popular kids cereals (read: sugar in a bowl) are often placed on shelves at kids’ eye level. The kids will see the cereal, recognize it from commercials, and beg their parents for it. How nice of those food companies, right?
I suggest meal planning and having a list before you head to any grocery store. If you have a list, you’re more likely to follow it. Costco sells bulk items, in both individual packages and one big container. If you are likely to stick to individual packages, it can work out well and save you money.
However, research shows that the larger the food package, the more you are likely to pour. Large bag of cereal = larger portion. A large bag also leads to a mindset of “eat it before it goes stale/bad.” You may buy a big bag of tortilla chips at Costco in an attempt to save money but end up eating larger portions throughout the week. In the end, it may not lead to the cost savings you hoped for.
If you’re interested in learning more about the psychology of eating, check out the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.
Produce is one area that you will likely save money. Costco offers a wide variety of produce, including organic spinach, tons of fruit, sweet potatoes, carrots, avocados, dates, and more. If you have a family or will eat the produce before going bad, then bulk produce may be a good idea. If you live alone, then focus on buying produce that will last longer, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, rather than produce that goes bad fast, such as spinach. Costco also has big bags of frozen fruits and veggies, which are fantastic. Frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh, so buying a bag of frozen mixed veggies will ensure that there’s always veggies available for meals. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies!
You can get a variety of whole food items at Costco as well that are significantly cheaper than in the store. Here are some of my favorites:
- Maranatha Almond Butter ($6.99 for 26 oz at Costco; $18.49 for only 16 oz online!)
- Coconut Oil
- Chia seeds
- Raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
- Canned wild salmon, sardines, tuna
- Olive Oil – Costco olive oil was found to be more pure than other brands
- Coconut water
- Organic meats & eggs
- Organic diced or stewed tomatoes
- Larabars – good for a snack, small ingredient list from whole foods
- Balsamic vinegar
- Kerrygold Dubliner cheese (grass-fed)
Of course, you won’t find much local foods here, but Costco is great to stock up on staple items, such as almond butter and coconut oil. It’s perfect for summer parties as well! You can make a delicious fruit salad, buy organic ground beef for burgers, and even guacamole or avocados for a delicious topping.
If you shop at Costco, take advantage of the whole foods on sale. If you buy big bags of items, such as nuts or chips, pay attention to your eating habits. Portion them into individual bags to control the portions. If you don’t shop at Costco, the regular bulk bins in grocery stores can save you money as well.
Lastly, DO NOT go to the grocery store hungry. If you’re starving, the candy or snack food aisle is probably going to look much more appealing.
I’ve also been eyeing the juicer Costco sells to make fresh vegetable juices. That giant 10 lb bag of carrots they sell would be put to good use in a juicer.
What’s your favorite Costco food item?