Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Costco Trippin'

Once a month, I do a HUGE Costco trip with my family. I make Scott come along to wrangle the children and push the cart while I run around the store throwing all the food into the cart. The cart gets heavy FAST! I started doing a monthly Costco trip shortly after I started monthly meal planning. I was looking for ways to cut our food bill while eating healthy and being more efficient about my grocery runs. Now that I have two kids, I just don't have time to run to the grocery store on a daily basis so I like to plan ahead.

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I've been asked by lots of friends about my monthly Costco trip and how I manage it so I thought I'd share the process here. The first thing I do is create my monthly meal plan which has my Costco shopping list along with my weekly shopping lists. Costco doesn't carry everything and some things just need to be purchased that week in order to remain fresh.

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Once my list is finalized and I've doubled checked that we are really out of certain items (laundry detergent, soap, etc) then we head to Costco. We tend to go the first Saturday of the month and we get there right when it opens. This is crucial. The store gets busy on the weekends and we want to get in and out as fast as possible. I wear Maggie while Scott gets Molly into the cart.

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I organize my list by store sections so that I can quickly spot what we need. We usually start in the fruit and veggie area and load up the cart quickly! I get HUGE bags of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. These are veggies that tend to last longer. I also buy a bunch of apples which are either eaten or turned into applesauce by the middle of the month. I used to buy bananas at Costco but we don't go through the large bundle of them fast enough and I have way too many frozen bananas in my freezer now.

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Next we visit the meat area. This is where having a chest freezer has really helped me. For instance, this month I bought ground beef. I only need one pound but with my chest freezer, I can freeze the rest and use it next month. I also buy a rotisserie chicken or two. I like to put them in the fridge when we get home and then pull the meat off later, once they have cooled. I use the shredded chicken in various meals throughout the week. Then we cruise through the prepared speciality food area. I usually grab some single serving hummus and avocado packets. Molly loves these and they make for a quick snack or lunch item. We buy our milk and coffee creamer at Costco too. This is where our large fridge comes in handy. We usually buy 4 gallons of milk (depending on expiration date) and 2 or 3 creamers. These take up space but we have the room for them and it means I don't have to buy them later.

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Next we head over to the durable goods and stock up on toilet paper, laundry detergent, cat litter, etc. At this point the cart is getting full and Molly is usually getting wiggly so I start to move faster. We dash through the freezer area and snag a few things like frozen peas, frozen blueberries and sausage before hitting the egg and cheese area. I usually buy two cartons of eggs, a huge block of cheese and cheese sticks. The last area we visit is the dry goods area. I try to keep my eyes open for gems in this area but my energy is usually low so I miss some things. This time I was able to buy some fruit pouches for Molly. She loves these and they make a great snack when we are out and about. I also load up on huge bags of rice, quinoa, etc in this area along with a box of chicken broth and my go-to pasta sauce jars. I have a great area in my basement where I store extra food. It means that the giant bag of rice has been a savings for us. I bought it earlier this year and portioned out the rice. Now when we run low, I head down to my storage area and grab one of the portions. When things start to run low, I add them to my Costco list.

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Arrr Matey! Pirate Booty was on sale this month and we have a Pirate Booty obsession in this house! 

Once we get home with our Costco goods, I still have more work to do. I check my menu plan and pull out the meat that I'll need for the week. I keep a bowl in the fridge that I put our meat in. It keeps any spills contained and allows me to see what I'm working with. I also use the bowl to defrost meat as needed.

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Then I portion out any dry good items and put the appropriate items into freezer bags. For instance, Scott really likes bagels and you have to buy two sleeves of them at Costco. This works out just fine for us as I freeze one sleeve and leave the other out for him. I freeze a lot of bread items!

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We've been saving a lot of money and food by shopping this way. I used to throw out a lot of food that had gone bad because I didn't plan appropriately and then I spent way more money than I needed to at regular grocery stores. I'm also one of those people that feel more comfortable when we have a house adequately stocked with food. It makes me feel less anxious.

That my friends is how I Costco shop! Careful planning, a focused eye and a wonderful sherpa make it all work out.
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