When I tell people I love to grocery shop at Costco, they sometimes give me a horrified look. And I know why. What they’re picturing is a cart full of Eggo waffles, chicken nuggets, and Otter Pops. Hardly what my shopping cart looks like when I head to the checkout.
Yes, there’s a lot of junk food at Costco, as well as a host of opportunities to make pricey impulse buys (giant trampoline, anyone?). But if you look carefully and avoid shopping on an empty stomach, it’s actually a great place to find healthy food at great prices.
Here’s what I like to buy at Costco:
- Pineapple – I swear they have the best pineapples in the U.S. outside of Hawaii
- Bananas – no organic, but often Rainforest Alliance approved
- Organic salad greens
- Melon – watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydews are to-die-for during summertime
- Fair Trade Coffee
- Nature’s Path granola
- Old fashioned oats
- Walnuts – 3 lb bag which dwindles quickly if you bake, sprinkle, and snack on nuts
- Natural peanut or almond butter
- Organic olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar – their’s is downright delicious
- Greek Olives – great to have on-hand for salads or appetizers when you have unexpected company
- Organic canned tomatoes
- Wild salmon – the fresh is only available in season, but they always have frozen filets
- Plain 0% Greek yogurt – only $4.99 for 32 oz!
- Babybel Light cheese – great for on-the-go snacking
- Feta cheese – they have real Greek feta made from sheep’s milk
- Sharp cheddar cheese – Tillamook or an Irish or English type
- Parmesan cheese – they have Parmiggiano Reggiano for significantly cheaper than anywhere else
- Organic Soymilk – 12-pk of quarts that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened
- Baguette or Rosemary garlic bread – fresh baked & ready for eating or making croutons
- Wine – even their $10 wines are excellent
This list varies of course, since Costco is constantly changing their inventory (one of my favorite things about the place – it’s like a treasure hunt for new fun stuff!). And I often skip the produce section if I’ve recently visited the farmer’s market. But in general, these are my staples. They’re easy to store and you don’t have to have a big family to take advantage of the great deals.
A few other tips for Costco shopping:
- Go around 4pm on a weekday – Don’t ask me why, but this seems to be the least crowded hour at Costco. (Note: this is based only on my experience and what cashiers there have told me).
- Allow yourself one impulse buy – and only one! I too get tempted by the tortilla chips, chocolate covered blueberries, and salty nuts. But if you give into each impulse while you’re there, you’ll end up with lots of high calorie food and a big bill.
- Eat before you go. Too many tempting less-than-healthy products to resist if you’re hungry.
- Make a list. Once again, too many temptations to not have a plan.
- Second guess each purchase. When you’re about to put something in the cart, ask yourself if you’ll really use that much of it, or if it is likely to go to waste or take up precious space in your house. If you need the item but not that much of it, put it back and buy it somewhere else.