Costco GETS and SKIPS

I was not always a Costco fan.  The $200+ bill everytime we walk out of the place really irks me.  I still can't watch the checkout because I start to hyperventilate a bit watching the price.  However, I have come to realize the benefit of buying SOME things in bulk.  Things we love, things we use a lot of, and things that are a far superior buy compared to elsewhere, SO I have given in.  I am a Costco convert, but not without some hesitations.  Here are my GETS and SKIPS for the novice Costco shoppers! :)

So let's start with the favorites... Hands down, our favorite granola bar/ candy bar are these and they last quite a while, sothey are a fabulous deal for us!  The frozen pretzels are also a great deal and they serve as lunch for me once in awhile when I'm too tired to think about making a real meal.  They taste exactly like the kind you buy at a concession stand and come with those little bags of super white crunchy salt - yum!
Now snacks are all well and good, but the main reason we go to Costco is to stock up on easy fix, healthy hearty meals.  These are some of our favorites!

For breakfast:

 The oats are Quaker oats and come in two giant bags.  They last forever and ever!  I usually cook a large bowl and use it for several days for the kid's breakfasts.  Alex hates regular oatmeal and will buy the giant box of tiny little packs (which is a waste of money, and not as good for you, but I agree they taste better!).

The cranberries are perfect for breakfasts, snacks, treats when you don't want to actually give your kid a super sugary treat.  One bag lasts about a month in our house and this bag is a FAR better deal than the grocery store offerings.

When it comes to dinners, there are a few products we buy EVERY time we need them from Costco.  Basmati Rice and Pam (giant cans, 3 to a pack) are two of them.  We use them a lot, they are cheap and they are yummy and useful bases for meals.  The sun-dried tomatoes on the left are a treat.  I usually pick out one or two cans, bags or bottles of something really interesting that I'll use in just about everything for a month.  Sometimes we love it, sometimes we hate it.  I love the tomatoes, Alex hates them.

Walnuts were another spur of the moment buy for me this past trip to Costco.  Last month it was almonds.  A bag is expensive ($10-12), but lasts forever and ever.  I've been using these in chicken salad, regular garden salads, the kids stir them in yogurt, etc, etc.

Speaking of chicken salad, it is always better with freshly grilled chicken, but if you don't have the time and are going to use canned chicken, the Kirkland brand canned chicken is not that bad.  In fact, they come in interesting cans that are a little taller than typical tuna cans, so I've been saving them for DIY projects :)

Another standby for dinner is the tortellini.  It is full of flavor, easy to make and easy to change up for variety and it is frozen, so it will last forever if you don't happen to use it right away (though we always do...tortellini is like the exciting meal reward after a long hard day of shopping at Costco :)

Lemon juice is also another standard buy for us at Costco.  It comes as a 2 pack with these big bottles, so if you don't use lemon juice ever, it would be stupid for you, but I use it quite a bit and it lasts a loooong time, so I always buy it here when I need some.  It def.  beats the price of the fake little lemons in the grocery store.
Another staple?

 ...and to combat the butter... price we've found outside of WalMart's $5 deals on 24 packs.

 ...and wrapping up the gets...

 The brown sugar (and powdered sugars) are good buys - you just have to find a place to store them once you break the bag open.  The olives come in a two jar pack and I love them, so I go through a bottle in a month.  They last forever!  ...and those pretzels?  They usually last about a week in our house.  You can see how much we hate them right?

 Alex also loves these mixes, and I don't love love love them.  Of course I love my yeast rolls and Alex hates hates hates I guess we're even :)

We went to the store a week ago, so we have used up most of the fresh produce, so no pictures, BUT the favorite GETS for us include:

Cantelope (pack of 3)
Bananas (super duper cheap)
Romaine (pack of 6...only buy if you are going to eat salad lunches everyday)
Plums (yum yum!)
Frozen Broccoli (delicious full heads of broccoli)
Frozen Blueberries (a fabulous deal and they last forever and are delicious to boot!)
Sweet Potato Chips (they were gone 3 days after we shopped...oops)
The cakes from the bakery are beyond fabulous!

An expose on Costco would also not be complete without discussing the merits of the concession stand...the ice cream bars and smoothies and ice cream and ice cream sundaes are to DIE for and super cheap.  The rest of the food is so-so, but again...super cheap.  If you are super duper duper cheap, you'll also take full advantage of your membership and use Costco for entertainment by shuffling your kids around in a cart while sampling a few things, getting free cookies in the bakery and hanging out in the toy aisle.

Now for the misses...
The garlic is a half miss.  We are using it up slowly but surely.  We purchased it about 6 months ago and like garlic, but don't love love love garlic, so we probably won't buy it again.  The milk comes in the awkward square gallons, so I hate them, but in this family we always need milk, so we usually end up buying a gallon of skim and a gallon of whole every time we are at Costco (AND every time we are at Target, AND every time we are at Weis, AND every time we are at WalMart, AND everytiime we get in the blasted car we are usually stopping for milk...I am seriously considering getting a goat).  Anyway.
 Other misses include this cinnamon pecan cereal, organic carrots and ritz cracker packs.  The cereal is good, but not at all worth the $7 it costs.  The bags aren't that big and the taste is not mind blowing.  The carrots are not good.  They are stripped of flavor, too thick for baby carrots and have that nasty white gleam to them.  I'll stick with the little bags of carrots that go on sale for 99 cents at Weis.  The Riyz cracker packs were a good deal, and we purchased them for Red's "snack"  (someone please explain why they need a snack at their 2.5 hour Kindegarden???).  They are easy to pop in his backpack, but I feel horrible giving him chemical cheese, so we won't be buying this again.  It gives me so much more joy to pop a shiny red apple into the side of his bookbag...I'm such a mom...

As far as meat, I am a huge fan of the frozen tilapia, but I don't like the frozen chicken and the fresh meat seems far more expensive than the local grocery stores.  I will grab a rotisserie chicken now and again for a quick dinner.  Two misses on meat are the meatballs and bacon bits.  I thought the bacon bits would be good as an item to throw into a bunch of dishes here and there for variety (like the sun dried tomatoes and walnuts), but they just don't taste good.  They are supposedly "real" bacon pieces, but they just taste kind of leathery.  Moral of the the Oscar Meyer bacon, fry it and crumble it yourself.  A ton more work, but the taste is markedly different!  As far as the meatballs...I hate them - Alex likes them.

On the healthy side of things, I try to get new things once in awhile hoping we'll love it, but once in awhile I strike out.  The boca burgers, salmon burgers and this tomato based salad dressing were all misses.  The chickens won't even eat the cooked burgers, not to mention the kids...

I have found the cat food, toilet paper and paper towels prices to be more thanWalMart or Target. final note to the wise:  Don't buy the is too thick...
Now what are your GETS and SKIPS?


Miss Kitty said…
Thanks for all those tips about food items, etc. at Costco. I am an empty nester so I don't need to buy large volumes of food but we really like their pre-made chicken salad in the deli. When I can find it, the Kirkland's Merlot wine is very good...not the cheapest but a good value. The biggest bargain for me is the flowers when I need to do arrangements for an event. A large "garden bunch" (usually one type of flower) is only $9 and 24 rose stems are only $16. If you need lots of flowers, you can order ahead.
I LOVE Costco! But you are right, some things just aren't worth it. The bacon bits? I always but from there, only because we use a lot of them (salads, mac & cheese, omelets, etc.) and way cheaper this way (I've never had bacon bits without a slightly off taste). Have you checked out the Costco bacon? Fairly good deal (bacon got real expensive) ... I also buy the cream and the half and half. The milk jugs, I LOVED the square shape, but you have to get used to the pour. Key is SLOW. :) Great post...thanks for sharing!! (oh, and forget about the frozen burgers, I hate them things but still buy once in a while for parties)
I always buy EVOO, raw sugar, spices and seasonings at Costco, as well as afew other things like their monstrously huge box of oatmeal (we go through that pretty quickly). I used to buy their bananas, but when stored in the plastic bag like they do, I find they ripen funny with a hard middle that never goes away. It's kind of icky, so I gave up on them and buy bananas at Trader Joe's instead.
Holly Lefevre said…
Great tips and advice! Sharing on FB!
Anonymous said…
Although the asparagus is thick, it is TENDER. Sure, you have to cut a bit off the end (just like with any asparagus). But, there's not much waste. Most importantly, it is much more flavorful than the insipid stuff at the grocery store (or even at the local farmer's market).
jja said…
I never saw in Europe canned chicken and would not want to give this to my kids or is super easy to make it by yourself and much healthier...salat packed in a plastic, and waht is worng with normal garlic? I would rather eat real, as less as possible processed food. Milck also in a plastic, juice instead of rewal lemons, not really heralthy way of life...