I love Costco.
My routine before the pandemic included a quick ‘mid-week early in the morning’ hop for primarily paper goods, organic milk and eggs, organic produce and a few other odds and ends. When we moved to Burlingame 3+ years ago, I explored the various Costco locations within a 20-mile radius, and discovered that the one closest to us had organic produce (especially berries) that competed in quality (and won in price) with our local go-to grocery store, and their customer service was exceptional. So Costco became one of my staple shopping stops.
Fast forward (or rewind) to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Shelter-in-Place order, we transitioned to using Instacart exclusively for grocery shopping. I quickly discovered that our Costco orders produced the most successful results – fewer substitutions and refunds than other orders. But I also knew that buying too much at Costco will end up resulting in wasted food and money.
It took some planning (and even investing in a new deep freezer in the garage – my new best friend), but I’m pretty happy with our current routine. I haven’t done the math, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we are actually saving quite a bit with our bulk grocery-shopping (we might have already paid off the freezer?). Either way, it works, so I thought I’d share my tips:
Breakfast, Baking & Dairy
FROZEN FRUIT / SMOOTHIE PREP: As soon as the bags arrive, I dump the fruit into a large bowl and prep quart-size ziploc bags and measure out 2 cups of berries (and/or frozen mango and pineapple), and one cup of fresh baby spinach per bag. The ready-made combo bags are stored in the freeze.
When someone is craving a smoothie, they follow this quick recipe:
- 1 pre-mixed frozen bag of fruit and baby spinach
- 1.5 cups of vanilla almond mil
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein (Trader Joe’s).
SHREDDED CHEESE: we eat a tons of shredded cheese – 🧀 in our pasta, homemade pizzas, quesadillas, omelettes, etc. But the 2lbs bag was going to be too much. Turns out you can freeze shredded cheese and it still tastes great melted. So as soon as the bag arrives, I break it down into 1/2 cups stored in (snack size) ziploc bags.
FLOUR & SUGAR: We do bake regularly (breads mostly, but also (cup)cakes and muffins. It worked better for us to buy the 25lb bag of flour and 10lb bag of sugar. To keep them both fresh, I store them in this 22qt container and this 6qt container.
Frozen Meats & Vegetables
That deep freezer is definitely coming in handy, as well as ziploc bags of all sizes (including 2gal bags that aren’t as easy to find).
Dinner is always cooked from scratch, but lunch tends to be a quicker bite to eat. My kids LOVE the Dino chicken nuggets, Aidells meatballs, turkey wraps, bean and cheese burritos to name a few. They also love the Costco signature hot dogs (not pictured), but the dogs are too big for them, so i cut them in half before freezing them, and they become the perfect size for one kid. For dinner – our Cuisinart Air Fryer and Instapot work overtime. It’s a huge hit every single meal.
FROZEN VEGETABLE BLEND: we love these veggies. As soon as the big bag arrives, I split it into quart-size ziploc bags and freeze them. When I’m ready to use them, I steam them within 6 minutes using Ziploc Zip n’ Steam bags. Life savers. My kids eat their veggies!
Fruits & Vegetables
I already shared my tips for making your produce stay fresh longer. The cauliflower, corn on the cob, and most of the spinach goes straight into the freezer. I portion the baby carrots and edamame into snack-size bags and store them in the fridge in a container accessible to the kids, so they are easy-to-grab snacks when they just want to munch on something.
When the LEMONS start looking a tad dull, I’ll either make a big batch of fresh lemonade, or will squeeze them into an ice cube tray to have fresh lemon juice on hand later.
ZUCCHINI (and squash) are our favorite new veggie to throw in the air fryer with a spray of oil and a dash of salt. My 3yr old son will easily eat an entire zucchini on his own.
The individual portions of CHUNKY GUACAMOLE and HUMMUS (not pictured) are fantastic dippers for carrots, cucumbers and chips. I buy the individuals rather than the bulk because they end up lasting longer (less waste).
We love CUCUMBERS. When they are just about to lose their crunch, I pickle them. Delicious!
We usually run out of BANANAS before they run soft, but if they do get a bit too soft to eat on their own, they are great in a smoothie, mashed into pancakes (add sweetness and fluff) or in a high-protein banana bread.
We try to limit processed sugars and sweats, but we all love our ice cream. We also enjoy popsicles in the afternoon on a sunny day. Dried fruits are a great healthy alternative, and Costco has a bunch of great options to offer.
So there you have it. In a nutshell – how we make our Costco orders last longer, waste less and help us stay healthy, happy and nourished through these crazy times. I hope you were able to pick up a helpful tip or two!
QUESTION: How have your shopping practices changed since we’ve been sheltering in place? What have you been doing differently? Is there anything you changed that you might end up keeping even after everything “goes back to normal”?