A Mini Guide to Healthy Grocery Shopping at Costco
I recently posted the article, What Wholesale Shopping Actually Looks Like. Since then I've received questions about Costco specifically. So, I've put together this post to include:
- Questions & Misconceptions
- Reason Why I Shop at Costco
- Example of My Personal Costco List (quantities, favorite uses and recipes included)
- 10 Things I Won't Buy Anywhere but Costco
What is Costco? It is a membership based wholesale warehouse that offers everything from groceries to electronics to vacations at low prices. The annual fee to become a member is $60. For a little perspective, it took me less than one grocery shopping trip for the membership to pay for itself.
Questions & Misconceptions
1. Aren't wholesale stores only worth it for large families? Nope! - Anyone can benefit from wholesale stores whether you’re shopping for one person or 12 people.
2. Don't you need a big kitchen and walk-in pantry to store those large quantities of food? Nope! - For starters, the quantities sold at wholesale stores aren't that large. Secondly, storage is less about space and more about organization. When stored efficiently, the quantities of food sold at wholesale stores take up far less space than you might think. Store food in stackable containers or plastic bins to keep things organized. You can find a few of my favorite food storage products HERE.
3. I've heard wholesale stores don’t actually save you money. If you buy more, don't you eat more? Depends - We’ve all heard people claim that buying larger quantities of food doesn’t actually save money because having larger quantities available just means you’ll eat more in shorter periods of time, entirely counteracting any savings. This logic generally only applies to highly processed foods like packaged snacks, chips, pop, sweets, frozen meals and does not apply to healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and minimally processed protein.
For example, last summer a friend of mine made amazing queso dip. Two hours later everyone was laying on the floor in pain from eating 5 pounds of liquid cheese. That story would've been much different if we were presented with a crockpot of spinach instead of a crock pot of liquid gold.
It’s not to say that healthy foods aren’t delicious and satisfying but they don’t have the unhealthy addictive effect that causes over-consumption that we often see in processed foods. This is why I highly advise against buying unhealthy foods in quantity not only for health purposes but to save money instead of needlessly spending and over-consuming.
Top Reasons I Shop at Costco
- Quality Foods: Costco offers a wide array of healthy food options. In my experience the quality has consistently been outstanding and by far better than my local grocery store.
- Organic Foods: If you have even a small interest in purchasing organic foods, Costco is the place to do it. The prices of most organic options simply can't be beat AND they have a huge variety. In fact, Costco is the largest organic grocer in the U.S..
- Saves Time: What I get in one trip to Costco can equate to 10 trips to the grocery store which reduces the frequency and duration of my weekly grocery runs.
- Saves Money: On a per unit basis, Costco's prices are significantly lower than other grocery stores. It's as simple as that. With an effective buying strategy, stocking up on the right foods at Costco is guaranteed to save significant money.
- Improves Diet: Eating healthy is much more appealing when you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to do so. Also, seeing your kitchen stocked with healthy foods will encourage you to eat them more often.
Below are some of the healthy foods I recommend. However, this is far from a comprehensive list as there are so many good options to choose from. If you're looking for something a little more specific, I've shared an actual example of one of my Costco lists that you can find HERE. The list includes specific food items, quantities and my favorite uses and/or recipes for each item on the list (all recipes are linked).
10 Things I Won't Buy Anywhere but Costco
Ok, the title of this section is a little dramatic. Obviously, if I need something, I will buy it wherever I can get it. However, I try to save the following purchases for my trips to Costco because it is so worth it!
- Avocados - I've never had a bad avocado from Costco. I realize that is a bold statement but it is the truth. Every single one I've ever purchased has become perfectly ripe without a single bruise. It is actually shocking.
- Organic Dried Apricots - I love dried apricots because they're like adult fruit snacks but they can get expensive. However, you can pick them up at Costco for 1/4 of the price.
- Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil (Kirkland Brand) - We use a lot of coconut oil in my household. I like to cook with it and use it as moisturizer, toothpaste and conditioner. My husband uses it as chapstick and has even used it to get rid of minor ear infections for our puppies. For the amount we go through, the quality and price of the Kirkland brand coconut oil can't be beat.
- Organic Quinoa (Kirkland Brand) - Again this simply comes down to the price. Quinoa is compact and easy to store. So, stocking up is a no-brainer.
- Goat Cheese (Kirkland Brand) - I'm a huge fan of goat cheese. I can buy it at Costco (Kirkland brand) for about 1/3 of the cost of the grocery store. Since goat cheese doesn't have a terribly long shelf-life, I cut the logs of goat cheese into slices, put the slices in baggies and toss them in the freezer. The 1/2" slices (single servings) take about 5 minutes to thaw at room temperature.
- Organic Pre-cooked & Peeled Beets - I love beets but preparing them can be tedious and so messy that my kitchen looks like a murder scene afterwards from all the beet juice. So, buying them cooked and peeled in convenient little vacuum sealed packages makes my life a lot easier. Did I mention they're 4x cheaper than buying them at my local grocery store?!
- Organic Pure Maple Syrup 100% Grade A Amber (Kirkland Brand) - The price is still the cheapest around for the level of quality but the reason it made this list is because of how damn good it is. Hands down the best maple syrup I've ever had. Aside from pancakes, I use it to sweeten my coffee, oatmeal, yogurt, pretty much anything.
- Fresh Spinach - Spinach made the list for two reason. First, it is always fresh and stays fresh. Second, organic spinach very affordable and regular spinach is unbelievably affordable. The organic spinach at my Costco comes in the standard 16 oz. containers but is half the price. If you're really pounding down your greens, you can get a 5 lb. bag of regular spinach for 1/6 of the cost! Amazing!
- Organic Almond Milk (Kirkland Brand) - This makes my list simply because it is convenient. Realizing you're out of milk AFTER pouring a bowl of cereal is THE WORST! So, I like to stay stocked. This almond milk is sold in a pack six 32 0z. containers (standard container size). I always get a box or two while I'm there because it is cheap, has a long shelf life and doesn't need to be refrigerated until the individual container is opened. So, storage is easy peasy.
- Organic Tortilla Chips (Kirkland) - A bag of tortilla chips from the grocery store costs roughly the same as a bag of the Kirkland tortilla chips from Costco. The Costco bag of tortilla chips is only slightly larger than the standard bag of tortilla chips. Here is where they differ. The standard bag of chips takes up about half of the container below. Such a big bag for such a small amount of chips. When I pour the Costco bag into this container, the chips just keep coming. It's like a damn clown car! I can just barely fit all the chips in TWO of the containers below. Now that is a big bang for your buck!
Bonus: Kirkland Brand Vodka - I had to throw a fun one in the list. Many of you likely already know this but for those who don't, Kirkland Vodka is good. You basically get the Grey Goose experience without the Grey Goose price tag. Happy hour here we come!
Honorable Mention Foods
Clearly, I have issues eliminating foods to make a top 10 list. I was so indecisive, I had to give a quick shoutout to the following foods that almost made the list. They're all delicious, heathy, convenient and a good deal!
- Organic Raw Honey
- Organic Chia Seeds
- Plain Greek Yogurt (conventional and organic)
- Organic Frozen Fruit
- Organic Peeled Hard-Boiled Eggs (conveniently packaged in individual servings)
If you're looking for more info or tips for shopping wholesale and eating well, checkout the articles below!