How smart is Costco? I mean, they charge for membership. Then they entice you with samples. And they have EVERYTHING. All for a cheaper price than you’d find (almost) anywhere else.
But here’s the downside. You don’t need a 10 pound block of cheese or 50 veggie burgers at once. Unless you’re about to cater a party, for vegetarians, that’s an insane amount of food to have at your house. And really, who has enough fridge/freezer space for that?
So how do you use Costco (or Sam’s Club or whatever bulk store you shop at) to your advantage and not get sucked into the fun of saving?
Make a list. And stick to it.
The idea of going to Costco without a list gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it. It’s the biggest recipe for disaster (and overspending) ever. So before you leave the house, take stock of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Think about what you’ll be making for meals in the coming week(s). And then write down the things you need. Just the things you need. Not the stuff you may need (aka want). And you know which things I’m talking about…
And once you get in the store, stick to the list. Seriously. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked. Don’t go down aisles you don’t need to go down…you will only find more things to buy. Just put your head down and get your items and get the eff out! Check your list before you check out and compare it to your cart – do you have more than you came for? Put. It. Back.
If you go to the store without something on your list, and then you see it in the aisles looking oh so inexpensive, chances are you DO NOT NEED IT. It wasn’t on your list. You wouldn’t have even known about it 5 seconds ago. So don’t buy it.
The two main ways to fall prey to this can be divided accordingly (1) the items you frequently buy at Costco that you didn’t add to your list and (2) the items you don’t buy at Costco that you didn’t add to your list.
Example 1: Organic quinoa. The last time I was at Costco I saw a 4 lb bag for ONLY $6.99 (which is a really good deal). But I still had quinoa at home. So why buy more? Because it’s “such a good deal”? No, that doesn’t make sense. Buying something you already have simply because it’s inexpensive and in front of your face is not economical. When I run out, then I can go back and get more. Costco isn’t going anywhere. Restocking food in anticipation of running out is a slippery slope…and soon you end up with enough stuff stockpiled in your pantry to feed an army. Use what you have before buying more. You will surprise yourself at how much longer you can stretch things when you cook this way. It’s way more economical, I promise.
Example 2: Frozen lasagna. No offense to Amy’s vegetarian lasagna, I’m sure it tastes amazing (all Amy’s products do), but the convenience of having frozen food is not worth the freezer space. I make lasagna almost every other week. It’s really easy. It’s really cheap. And I know exactly what’s in it. But the thrill of having (lots of cheap!!) individual lasagnas is so enticing, sometimes the fact that I prefer my own cooking escapes my brain. I’ve never actually bought these frozen lasagnas, but I’ve been close (and I imagine others feel the same pull to the rest of the frozen fare – like Lean Cuisine meals and such). In the moment, try to remember this – even though that item may be cheaper than it is elsewhere does not mean it’s a good deal. You probably wouldn’t even buy it elsewhere! Would you? No. Because it wasn’t on your list!
Consider the size and how long it will last before going bad.
I am shopping for two people. Just me and Kyle.
So many times I have been thisclose to buying massive tubs of greek yogurt and cartons of berries and bags of green beans and…I could go on and on…
But these things go bad. And my fridge is only so big. So I have to force myself to be practical. And selective. 4 pounds of organic carrots is actually something I will go through. It’s on my grocery list every single week. It’s cheaper than I’d find elsewhere. It won’t go bad anytime soon. And I won’t go through it at a faster rate just because the supply seems endless (like I might with a family sized bag of pita chips).
And once I commit to that (massive) bag of carrots, I mentally block off the (entire) produce drawer it will take up. That way, I don’t buy a million other equally huge veggies that will have no place in the fridge.
How many green beans can two people eat before they go bad? Not multiple pounds, that’s for sure.
Most produce will be better bought and eaten when it’s fresh; and it won’t go bad that way. Wasted food is obviously not economical.
Other random little tips:
Shop with a buddy and make a pact to not let each other splurge on extra things. It’s easier to be strong when you have someone looking over your shoulder as you add things to your cart.
Shop with a buddy and split the bulk things that you both want. Maybe you can’t make it through 8 pounds of spinach before it goes bad, but splitting it between two households makes it totally doable (and even cheaper).
Go to the store an hour (or less) before closing time. That way you only have a limited amount of time to shop and you can’t afford to get distracted or lured into extra aisles in the store.
Now let’s discuss all the ways that Costco is awesome.
First off, the Kirkland brand is amazingly cheap and it’s basically the copycat of another beloved brand. Can’t beat that!
And even the non-Kirkland brands are ridiculously inexpensive. On my last Costco visit I wrote down the prices of everything I have bought in the past or will likely buy in the future to do some price comparing back at home. I searched online – bulk grain websites, nut.com, amazon.com and anywhere else I could find that sold wholesale items. And every. single. time. Costco came out WAY cheaper. Not just a little cheaper, WAY cheaper. Nut butters, quinoa, brown rice, almond milk, maple syrup (and we’re talking organic here people!)…the list goes on and on. Costco annihilated the competition. So the moral of the story is: wait until you run out, then hit up Costco. Diapers and wipes and other baby stuff wasn’t as huge of a savings as food was, but it was still a few dollars off. We are amazon prime members though, so there’s the benefit of having free shipping (that arrives at our doorstep) at our fingertips that may cause amazon to slightly edge out Costco in a diaper emergency.
Here are some of the things I personally think are excellent scores:
- toilet paper (19.99 for a TON)
- paper towels (19.99 for a TON)
- green laundry detergent (12.99 for 160 oz)
- toothpaste (6 large tubes for $9.99)
- hand lotion (it’s plant based & paraben free, 2 22oz for $10.99)
- shaving cream (6 6.25 oz for $10)
- trash bags (200 for $14.99)
- Almond Breeze almond milk (6 32 oz non-refrigerated boxes for $8.79)
- organic quinoa (4 lbs for $6.99)
- organic eggs (24 for $7.29)
- organic baby carrots (4 lbs for $5)
- organic maple syrup (1 liter for $13.99)
- organic garofalo pasta (6 17 oz. packs of pasta for $7.99)
- brown rice (10 lbs for $5.39)
- almond butter (26 oz for $5.99)
- organic peanut butter (2 28 oz for $7.69)
- organic oats (10 lbs for $9)
- Clif bars (24 bar variety pack for $21.99)
- organic tomato sauce (12 15oz for $7.15)
- Sabra hummus (16 2oz mini tubs for $7.45 or 2 lbs for $5.99)
Extras (only buy if these are on your list!)
- electronics (TVs, computers, cameras, etc.)
- sonicare toothbrush heads
- memory cards
- printer ink cartridges
Great vegan & gluten free finds:
- Sabra hummus (vegan, gluten free)
- Falafel Republic falafel & wraps (vegan)
- Crunchmaster gluten free crackers (vegan, gluten free)
- Boca burgers (vegan)
- Clif bars (vegan)
- Corazonas bars (vegetarian, gluten free)
- gardein frozen meatless chik’n (vegan)
- soy milk, rice milk, almond milk (vegan, gluten free)
- produce (vegan, gluten free)
- roasted nuts (trail mix blends, cashews, almonds, mixed nuts, etc.)
- oats, brown rice, quinoa (vegan, gluten free)
I’m tempted by a few other things but have yet to buy them (because they are things I’ve never tried before). And it is completely illogical to buy a massive amount of something I don’t know if I like or not. Let me know if you’ve tried any of the following:
- organic rice milk (12 quarts for $13.59)
- baby diapers (we are cloth diapering, but it might be nice for the early weeks – cloth diapers are huge!)
- baby wipes
- Seeds of Change organic quinoa & rice (6 8.5 oz for $11.49)
These lists are just a small sample and selection and prices vary by location.
Your turn to share!!! What have you tried and loved (or tried and found not worth it)? Favorite Costco purchases? Other cheap baby items I should be aware of? Tips to avoid impulse buys?