What’s your Costco number? For example, when my kids were little (and there weren’t so many of them!) I called Costco the $100 store. Meaning I never got out of there for under $100. Those were the days, I tell you! Now it’s more like $300, for sure.
But with 2 growing pre-teen boys to feed, diapers and pull-ups, a house to clean and a family to keep in clothing, I am no longer surprised by my Costco totals. And I like going to a store where I can buy enough of something that I’m not back there a few days later because we’ve run out already!
I do try to be careful and not make too many impulse purchases (hello, book section, and coconut chocolate-covered almonds!!) But no matter what other things end up in my cart, there is a core list of food items I always buy when I go to Costco. Moreover, they are the reason I go to Costco. I love them, and if I didn’t have them on hand, we wouldn’t eat! Simple as that. So here we go.
I love the fresh chicken breasts and thighs. They come pre-packaged into about 1 pound portions. So when I get home, I can toss the whole thing in the freezer if I want to, without having to worry about separating raw chicken into freezer bags, while I’m trying to get a mountain of groceries put away! We use these in crockpot meals, my Traditional Chicken Dumplings, soups and salads, or just baked or grilled.
And usually grocery shopping day is a busy day, so I grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner. Then I toss together a bagged salad kit or just pull out veggies with ranch dip, and I have dinner on a busy day! Sometimes, I put the carcass in a ziplock bag in the freezer and use it to make chicken soup!
2. Deli Meat
My favorite is the seasoned roast beef, while my kids love the black forest ham. And I usually grab some of the turkey as well, for good measure! Having this on hand means there is always a quick, nutritious meal available, even for the busiest kids on the busiest days! I have been known to throw slices of meat in a bowl, along with a little fruit, string cheese and a cookie, for a child to eat in the car on the way to an activity, rehearsal, or event. Or throw some meat on quesadillas for a more filling meal. Or the obvious….make a sandwich!
We love fish! My family prefers the farmed salmon to the wild caught salmon. That may not be the politically correct thing to say! But it’s cheaper, with a slightly milder taste, and no skin remaining on the filets. I often just marinate thawed fish with soy sauce and a sprinkling of brown sugar, then bake it at 400° F for 20 minutes. Delicious! The tilapia is also wonderful baked, but my Fabulous Fish Tacos are the ultimate way to eat it!
4. Ground Beef
This ground beef is 88% lean, it’s always fresh, and it’s consistently cheaper per pound than anywhere else I have found. Yes, I do have to portion it out into freezer bags when I get home, but it’s the only meat I have to do that with! I probably don’t need to explain all the ways to use a pound of ground beef, but if you read my Simple Formula for Meal Planning, ground beef is awesome for a zillion different “level 2” and “level 3” dinners!
5. Pork Tenderloin
Long ago, I gave up buying nice cuts of meat. They were expensive, and I couldn’t cook them well. No matter what I did, they turned out dry, and it felt like a huge waste. So I gave up, and decided just to eat nice cuts of meat at nice restaurants. Maybe you’re like that, too. If so, pork tenderloin is a game changer! Living up to its name, it is juicy and oh-so-tender, even with me, the master of dry meat, in the kitchen! And it isn’t hard to prepare! And it feeds a crowd! I could go on and on. If you need a good place to start, my Citrus-Dijon Pork Tenderloin is one-pan simplicity, and completely delicious!
6. Frozen Vegetables
So, I’ve bought all my meat for the main dishes, now I need vegetable sides. Easy vegetable sides!! The frozen veggies we love are the green beans and broccoli. If I’m feeling fancy and I have the time, I will sauté them, but my family eats them steamed with a little butter and salt no problem! I should add here that Costco only carries these veggies in the organic variety, which is nice. But I don’t go out of my way to buy organic over conventional in this case!
7. Frozen berries
While I am in the freezer section, I grab a bag of frozen berries. Sometimes the berry blend, sometimes just blueberries, just to keep things exciting. We use them in milkshakes and smoothies (this Blueberry Almond Smoothie is awesome!) Or eat them plain for a snack, or with yogurt for breakfast. Even in desserts! I love frozen berries because we don’t have to go through them super fast, so they are always on hand when we want them.
8. Cheese, Butter, and Eggs
Okay, I’m cheating here a little, putting these 3 items in one! It’s all kind of in the “dairy” category though, right?! I love having tons of grated cheese on hand. Grilled cheese, quesadillas, scrambled eggs with cheese, microwave nachos, etc. There are so many fast and satisfying snacks, meals, and mini-meals we can make with grated cheese. Which is essential with my perpetually hungry children! And the butter at Costco is consistently the lowest price anywhere without a coupon. And since I choose not to coupon, I buy butter at Costco! And while I’m in the cold dairy section, I grab the eggs. We will easily go through that many.
The snack section in Costco is pretty prolific! I grab different things in there, depending on what’s marked down and what sounds good to my kids for lunches and after school. But no matter what, I always buy the microwave popcorn. It’s an easy, not-sugary snack that everyone loves, even the baby! Enough said.
10. Chocolate Chips
What trip to Costco would be complete without buying at least one form of chocolate?! I always have chocolate chips on hand. Even without a mark-down price, these chocolate chips are the cheapest anywhere. And they are the good brand! Sold.
Having these items in my kitchen ensures that I can always make something simple and reasonably nutritious for my family to eat. I do buy other things at Costco, but having a core list for every time I go makes shopping and meal planning faster and easier. I highly recommend it!
Check out some of my family’s favorite Main Dishes for some great dinner ideas!