Budget Savvy Costco Shopping

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

I love me a good shopping trip to Costco. I had only been to Costco a handful of times growing up since my mom didn’t have a membership, but my memories of Costco were grand. The lights, the large aisles with so.much.stuff, the extra wide parking spots, the FREE SAMPLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I’m only slightly making fun of people who plan their entire meals around Costco sample day), seriously though, I loved it all. Yet I knew you could only shop there if you had the room to store your purchases, something our apartment lacked so the week hubby and I closed on our house we went to the brand spankin’ new Costco in town and signed on the dotted line for our annual membership.

Say What?!

You’re telling us we could buy over-sized bags of chips?! A year’s supply worth of granola bars for a family of two in one box?! Buy five pounds of rice or eight liters of ketchup at once?! We were over the moon with excitement, until we hit the cash register.

Every time we went to Costco we filled our cart with more food and ‘stuff’ than we needed, especially for our small family of two. Yet, after every trip we found ourselves planning our next. It was like a drug. Don’t get me wrong, Costco has some good deals even for our small family but if I’m being honest our cart was always full of stuff we didn’t need.

Helpful Shopping Tips

Here are a few tips I’ve learned from many trips and shopping mistakes that help us from not overspending at Costco and maximizing on our shopping experiance:

  1. Give up the membership. If you know someone else who has one, shop with them. Hubby and I would often end up in the store just because we were ‘in the neighborhood’. Having to go with someone else (the in-laws) requires us to plan the trip, saving us from crazy impulse shopping. If you can’t give up the membership, maybe share your membership with another family. To do this you may have to temporarily ”marry” your best friend/co-worker/whoever since Costco requires you live in the same household for membership, anything for a deal though 😉
  2. Do a ”dry shop”. Leave you wallet at home and do a good walk-through at your local Costco to price things out. Check out the prices, package sizes and quantities before buying. Some things are a great deal but not necessarily for every family size.
  3. Share the cost with friends or family. Sometimes there are good deals but again for a larger group. Recently we found a double pack of a salad dressing that we really like but knew we’d never go through two extra-large bottles before it expired, so we split the cost with someone else who wanted to try it as well.
  4. Keep a running list of things you know Costco sells (on a regular basis) and prefer to buy from them. This may help you from overspending at other stores. For us it’s cereal and bananas. It kills me to buy bananas anywhere else knowing I can get a ginormous bag of 10-12 bananas for $1.69, not per pound but $1.69 total. It’s one of the best deals in town. Same with cereal, I can buy a Costco size box of cereal for less than $6.00 or pay $6.99 for a regular size box of cereal at the grocery store.
  5. If you find you consume a lot of any one thing, check to see if it’s something Costco sells it and price it out. We eat a lot of broccoli. The best price I can get at our local grocery stores for frozen broccoli is $2.50 for a 500gm bag and this is an infrequent sale price. I just bought 2kg bag of some of the best looking broccoli at Costco I’ve ever purchased for $6.00. We’re set for a while.
  6. If you’re an infrequent shopper like us, shop with a list as well as a ”Costco contingency fund”. Costco often carries one-off items, their stock is constantly changing. Rather than allowing your budget to get busted by one shopping trip, try sticking to your list and bring what I like to call a Costco contingency fund; a set amount of money you’ll allow yourself to spend if you decide there’s an item you need and may not be at the store during your next trip.

Costco also has a bang up return policy. You can buy pretty much anything you want, even food, and then return it no questions asked.

Costco is a great store if used correctly. It’s easy to go overboard and just buy stuff because it’s a good deal and end up tying hundreds of dollars up in food and ”stuff”.

Do you shop at Costco? Any money-saving tips to share?

My ‘Big Cook’ Weekend

This past weekend my sister-in-law and I went to her aunt’s house for our first Big Cook. If you’re not familiar, Big Cooking is preparing multiple meals at once for your freezer so you just have to throw it in the oven or slow cooker and supper is done! Sounds pretty awesome to this momma who is always looking to invent a few hours every day!

Given that this was our first time doing a Big Cook, we decided on 10 recipes to try; preparing two meals of each recipe, giving each of us 20 total meals. Since both my sister-in-law and I have households of two adults and each recipe recommends a serving of 4-6 adults, we further reduced each meal (except one casserole) by two, giving us a meal total of 38 each, plus her aunt’s 20 meaning we prepped 96 meals in one day! Pretty awesome right?

We made:

  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs
  • Tatertot Casserole
  • Chicken Cacciatore
  • Amazing Chicken
  • Cranberry Chicken
  • Honey Sesame Tenderloin
  • BBQ Pork
  • Friendship Soup
  • Bruschetta Chicken
  • California Chicken

All this required a multitude of ingredients including:

  • 60lbs of boneless/skinless chicken
  • 20lbs of lean ground beef
  • 24lbs of pork (tenderloin/roast)
  • 24 cups of cheese
  • 24 cloves of garlic (minimum, because we all love a little extra garlic!)

When we started adding up everything we needed I began panicking at what we were going to have to spend, 60lbs of chicken?! It ended up working out pretty amazing though.

For all the ingredients needed, everything listed, plus probably close to 100 other items from soup stock to canned tomatoes to green peppers, we spent a grand total of $461.09

$461.09 total=

  • $153.70/per person or…
  • $15.37/ recipe or…
  • $7.68/meal (4-6ppl) or…
  • $1.53/serving (5 person average)

$1.53/serving for fresh veggies, lean meat and no ”cooking”!

Planning was key in saving money.

We planned for about a month. Decided on the recipes and shopped the sales for the 3-4 weeks leading up to it. Just as I would for any normal meal plan. Costco came though for items we needed a lot of (tomato paste, chicken broth for example) but wasn’t great for meat prices per kg price. We ended up buying the chicken and beef from a local butcher and it was a beautiful product. He sold it to us for his sale price given the volume of the order. We got the chicken for $3.77/lb and lean ground beef for $2.49/lb. Bulk Barn was also a huge resource for all spices/herbs/powdered stocks.

It was a LONG day (8hrs of prepping the meals) but so worth it. I have 38 yummy, healthy meals in my freezer that I can throw in either my crock-pot for 6-8hrs on low or cook in my oven for 1-2 hours if I’m home.

Tuesday being my birthday, I certainly wasn’t cooking, so took the opportunity to try one of the recipes. We ate the sweet and sour meatballs and they were delicious! Even with me halving the recipe, my sister, husband and I ate and were stuffed! This full recipe could easily serve 6-8 average adults (they were healthy sized portions).

It was a great experience and we’re already planning our next one for the new year!

Have you ever done a Big Cook? Will you try now that I’ve incited you with no ”cooking” and budget friendliness?


Photo Source