Bulking Up: What to Buy at Costco or Sam’s Club

By Lisa Rhea

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My shopping buddy helps me pick out the good deals.

If your New Year’s resolutions included eating healthier and saving money, then read on. Today I’m going to share my tips and advice on what to buy in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco to get the most bang for your buck, but also giving you the foods for healthy eating.

Warehouse stores are great – if you know what to buy. Don’t automatically assume the prices are better when you buy in bulk. In fact, many items are actually more expensive at Sam’s or Costco than in the grocery store or Walmart and Target.

There are, however, two scenarios that can lead to significant savings. One, when you have a big family to feed and lunches to pack, and two, when you eat a lot of the same foods day in and day out. I fall in the latter category.

Be sure to look for the instant rebates – often those items are your best deals. And certainly be sure to check the cost per unit when comparing products.

You always have to price check, but here are my picks for what to buy and how to use it:

  1. Chicken – specifically frozen chicken. Kirkland brand offers individually sealed frozen chicken for great prices. The fresh chicken that’s packaged in twos isn’t bad, at around $2.99/lb, but often the grocery store will offer fresh chicken for $1.99/lb on sale. My preference is to stock up on the frozen breasts, and then if I’m interested in getting fresh chicken, picking that up on sale at the grocery store.
  2. Beef – large roasts and steaks are much less expensive at the wholesale stores. BUT that doesn’t mean you’re always getting a premium cut of meat. Again, if you’re looking for something to keep on hand in the freezer, there are some great options. But if you’re looking for a great steak, I prefer to hit the local grocery store when they’re on sale.
  3. Greek Yogurt – you can find great prices on the large containers of plain fat-free greek yogurt, as well as the individual containers. For me, I use the large containers like sour cream and they last for a very long time in the fridge. The individual containers are great for snacks and packing in lunches.
  4. Cottage Cheese – a great source of protein, you can find big tubs or a great price. I like to have this as a snack with no-sugar-added mandarin oranges – also a great find in individual containers at Sam’s or Costco.
  5. Frozen Berries – you will get a great value on frozen berries and other frozen fruits at Costco or Sam’s – far better than the grocery store. Stock up and enjoy smoothies or throwing them in your morning oatmeal.
  6. Almonds – If raw or roasted almonds are a regular part of your diet, you need to buy them in bulk. Buying nuts at the grocery store can put a big dent in your pocketbook. While they’re never cheap, a giant bag of almonds is a much better deal, especially when compared to the individual packets. Simply buy the big bag and some ziplock baggies to divvy them up in.
  7. Produce – I know all stores vary, but at my Costco, you can find great deals on veggies and they last a long time. I like to get a big bag of greens (a mix of spinach, baby kale, etc.), green beans and brussel sprouts. It can vary, but you can also find fresh blueberries, apples, and potatoes for good prices.
  8. Rice – if you have a rice cooker, you can really save by buying whole grain (no quick cooking) rice in bulk. Big bags come at bargain prices. Avoid the smaller containers or individually packaged options.
  9. Coffee – specifically K-cups. You can drop a pretty penny at the grocery store for those individual containers of morning happiness, but at Sam’s or Costco, you can save a bundle by stocking up. The only downside – limited selection and/or flavor choices. Since I drink my coffee black, I prefer flavored coffees, but I make do with a plain medium roast to save some cash.
  10. Protein Bars/Pre-Mixed Shakes – while they’re still expensive, it can be helpful to have some protein bars or shakes on hand in your house to grab in a pinch. Sam’s/Costco has good prices on large packs of various protein products. I certainly wouldn’t make them a regular part of your diet, but they’re definitely a better option than fast food or gas station snacks.

So what should you avoid buying? Stay away from cereals and snacks. Cereals just aren’t a better deal, and unless you have a large family, large quantities of snack foods will only tempt you or cause you to grab less healthy food when hunger strikes.

Do you have a strategy for stocking your kitchen with healthy foods? We would love to hear from you. Share your tips and tricks by posting in the comments below!

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