Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash
I had a feeling when I sat down with my menu planning spreadsheet on Thursday that I was in for a bit of an odd week. With the eclipse yesterday and the craziness from a million extra people moseying into and out of my cute little state this weekend, I decided to back away slowly from the grocery store.
I’ve never lived in a place with natural disasters but with how people were talking I bet this is what it’s like to stock up for some more minor apocalypses (sub world-ending events of course, there are still lines). It turns out the reality was far tamer than that, thankfully, but my boss did mentioned that she got the last gas can at Fred Meyer’s.
One of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money, re-posted an episode last week about the birth of Costco. Nerd factor aside, it did remind me of the reasons I love that place. Oh, and also that marketing is cray and the psychology behind selling people literally anything is downright eerie.
Now, Costco has 3 major perks.
- It’s a giant warehouse filled with unending quantities of food.
- It’s members only.
- Whenever I find an excuse to go I get a hot dog and free samples.
I know, #3 is plenty for me too.
If you saw my last post you’ll know that I’m trying to not eat my way through my paychecks every month, and Costco isn’t known exactly for its cheap factor. In fact pretty much everything there is $10. Rice? $10. Almond milk? $10. A thousand rectangles of dried seaweed snacks? $10 and delicious.
How do you avoid spending $400 at Costco?
1. Screw recipes
Unlike with most of my other weeks, recipes are not your friend here. If you walk into a Costco with a normal recipe’s number of items on your list, you’re going to be walking out with a cart that could have paid for a year of my bio textbooks in college. (Not the best reference point but I’m STILL salty over how much those things cost.)
2. Be strategic with your produce
Versatility and lifespan are key here. Eggplant might not take you far if you only know how to prepare it one way, and I have yet to meet someone other than myself who likes it that much.
Any kind of onions are a no-brainer but garlic I’d avoid. I honestly would pay money just to see someone make it through the whole bag before it goes bad. I’ve tried multiple times. I used to regularly make a recipe that had 50 cloves of garlic in the title. I still failed. Same goes for lettuce unless you’re a salad errday kind of person.
You all know zucchini is one of my favorites though. Zoodles. Roasted. Sautéed. Raw. Anything goes.
Bananas are probably the only thing that’s not $10 and they’re excellent for breakfast, snacks, or frozen fake desserts that taste good if you’re not convincing yourself it’s ice cream.
And avocados, because the quantity you get (5) is the correct number to secure unending happiness in one week on this earth. Side note: I can never write the word avocados without saying it like they do in the new Scooby Doo show.
3. Raid your freezer/fridge/pantry before you go
Also a no-brainer, but check for general-use sauces that can make a good stir-fry. Lingering tortillas for taco night. Food you want to use up. Break down meals into protein, fat and carbs and make sure you’ve got some of each.
4. Protein will be the most expensive item
Don’t try to get too creative here, and stick to one cut of meat if you’re getting it. If you’re aiming for the crossroads of healthy and inexpensive, poultry is your best bet. Whole chickens are versatile (white and dark meat all in one!) but don’t necessarily pass over the ground turkey options. A big pork roast can serve a similar purpose if you pop it in the slow or pressure cooker and shred away.
Eggs are the best bang for your buck by far. They’re great at breakfast. They’re wonderful for dinner. boil them for snacks or plop them on lunch salads.
If it’s your thing, Costco does have truly enormous quantities of protein powder as well.
5. Plan on leftovers
Repurpose that chicken in a Buddha bowl. Roasted veggies can go from a side dish one night to a scramble the next morning. Make a bunch of rice early in the week. Or just plain eat the same exact meal for a few nights, it won’t kill you.
6. Don’t be afraid to change up your usual meals
Yes, my favorite overnight oats recipe is tasty AF but it’s way more convenient if you have a bulk food aisle or even just a regular grocery store. This week I’m all about the yogurt with random toppings for breakfast, kitchen-sink style salads for lunch, and burrito bowls for dinner.
My honest recap for the week’s recipes and menu plans goes up every Sunday, so check back in if you’d like to see how I end up substituting ingredients, any tips I pick up while making a dish, or if there were any recipe fails.
Go forth and conquer your local Costco!
And remember the 12,000 rolls of toilet paper while you’re there.