When I first started seriously using coupons after our first son was born, we actually canceled our Costco membership. We were getting so much for our pantry for so little out of pocket that it seemed a waste to spend the $50 for the annual membership if we were only buying a few things. Along came Little Man #2. With him came a lot less time for coupon shopping and a lot less energy to actually make the trips to the store required to maintain our current grocery budget.
My parents bought us a Costco membership for our birthday a few years ago. Scratch that, they bought it for my husband. He made the comment once that he missed going to Costco to just “walk around and look” and they felt bad for him. With this came an unintentional renewed love for Costco from me.
There are definitely things you can get for much cheaper with coupons than you can get at Costco. There are also TONS of items that are a better deal at Costco or that you can get in much larger quantities for a decent price, instead of a smaller quantity for super cheap at the grocery store. Quite honestly, most times it is worth it to me to pay a few pennies more and not have to drag my kids to 7 different stores with 32 different coupons.
Since I started doing the Costco home coupon mailer match ups a year or so ago, your response has been off the charts. It seems that there are many of you out there like me, who want to save money and lower your grocery budget, but struggle finding a good balance of time and energy spent versus pennies saved.
We thought it would be helpful for me to share my favorite items to purchase at Costco. These are things I buy on a very consistent basis and will rarely buy anywhere else. Since everyone shops Costco so differently, we’ve also included lists from our contributors. Emilie does a little bit of everything around TBFL and is a far fancier chef than me, check out her list of must-have items here. Jessie is our resident recipe guru and is an amazing cook, her list is here.
- Lettuce – The romaine lettuce comes in a pack of 6 for about $3.50, which is about $.58 per head. This is a crazy low price and having this much lettuce in our fridge forces us to eat more salad. I’m sure you can grow it for cheaper, but it’s not cheaper if you kill your lettuce plants year after year. (Hint: It’s me. I kill them.)
- Spinach - Almost every morning we do green smoothies with spinach, bananas and various frozen fruit (also from Costco) and the bag at Costco is ginormous for right around $5. I have never found a better deal unless I grow it myself and again, I’m good at killing things.
- Bananas - Rarely do I find bananas cheaper than Costco sells them. Just about every trip in to the store, I pick up a bunch or two for less than $1.50. All my boys eat these for snacks, I mash them up for banana bread or breakfast muffins, I freeze some peeled and chopped for smoothies. Super cheap super food.
- Organic Carrots – These come in a 10 pound bag for just $5.99 or $.60/pound. The bag is so big I can barely fit it in the produce drawer of my fridge. Carrots last FOREVER, so we use them as our last chance vegetable. We throw them in salads, keep carrot sticks cut up for snacks, steam or roast them for my kids dinner, shred them into pasta sauce. You name it. These carrots can do it.
- Frozen Fruit - Costco carries several varieties of fresh fruits throughout the year and depending on what you get, they can be a steal. We generally pick up the frozen strawberries and pineapple to use for smoothies and both of these tend to be cheaper than we could ever get fresh, even in season. They are perfect to have on hand to throw in the blender in the morning.
- Organic Eggs -We used to get farm fresh eggs on a weekly basis for $2/dozen (I know, amazing), but we haven’t been able to get them in quite some time. I have found Costco to be the next best (and most convenient) option. We try so hard to eat quality foods, produce and meats but it can get expensive. Buying good quality eggs is definitely not as expensive as switching to all grass-fed beef or pastured chickens, so this is a switch we are comfortable with right now. At around $3.50/dozen, they are definitely more expensive than conventional eggs, but significantly more delicious.
- Raw Almonds and Walnuts - Both my husband and I (and sometimes our kids), eat these for snacks every day. We don’t keep crackers or chips in the house, so these satisfy our need for crunch. They are a good healthy fat and I can rarely find them cheaper than Costco.
- Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese – These come in 3 pound tubs from Darigold and are priced at $3.89 and $4.99 respectively. Quite a few of my freezer meals call for sour cream and we just love cottage cheese, so go through it like crazy. Great sales on these items are pretty few and far between, so for our family, it’s just much less of a headache to pick it up at Costco and call it good.
- Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil - This is a new addition. Costco just started carrying it at right around $.28/ounce, which is seriously unheard of for this brand (or any brand for that matter). We use it in just about everything, swapping out most oils in baking with it, roasting veggies, greasing baking sheets and muffin tins. For ideas, you can follow my Coconut Oil Recipes + Uses Pinterest board.
- Organic Maple Syrup - We gave up on pancake syrup a long time ago, but struggled to find a quality maple syrup at a reasonable price. Kirkland’s syrup comes in a 1-liter bottle for around $13.99 and tastes great! While this is obviously more expensive than your Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, it isn’t loaded with artificial ingredients and actually tastes like maple. Hooray! We try to use it sparingly as a sweetener in baked goods or my homemade coffee creamer, but sometimes get all naughty and make these Creamy Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons.
- Pecorino Romano – At $5.49/pound, it’s almost half the price of Parmesan and it lasts forever. This was one of the things I rarely bought when I was a “serious couponer” because it never went on sale. However, for about $9-$10 at Costco, I can snag a good size wedge that will last us at least a month or two. It doesn’t take much to add a huge punch of flavor, I just shave off a little bit here and there and it makes all the difference in some of our recipes. Sometimes I just eat it plain, because it’s good.
- Half and Half - We don’t buy traditional coffee creamer anymore, I make my own. The Darigold 1/2 and 1/2 comes in a 1/2 gallon for just $3.29 and I make my own Homemade Chocolate Almond Creamer and Homemade Date Caramel and Vanilla Creamer (along with other flavors and varieties). So much cheaper than coffee creamer and beats chasing the “deals” any day. The taste is definitely different, as it doesn’t have any fake sweeteners, but I’m come to love it even more.
- Spices – Truthfully, almost every spice at Costco is an amazing price. The cinnamon is just $2.65 for a 10.7 ounce bottle, which will last me approximately forever. We also buy cumin, sea salt, pepper, smoked paprika when they carry it and several more.
- GoGo Squeez Applesauce Pouches - These are all-natural, made with very few ingredients (like basically apples and water) and are perfect for on-the-go snacks. I don’t buy them all the time, but they are perfect for road trips, long mornings in the car with lots of errands or just a special treat. At $.48/pouch, the price absolutely can’t be beat!
- Organic Diced Tomatoes and Tomato Paste - We use both of these for homemade sauces, casseroles, soups, chilis and more. It’s hard to beat their per can price (around $.85/can for diced) and both items are so versatile. Great pantry addition!
- Dog Food and Cat Litter - Alright. Honestly, I have no idea if these are cheaper at Costco, but the convenience beats everything else. We buy 50 pound bags of dog food and don’t have to think about it forever. We also buy the Scoop Away cat litter when it goes on coupon and prefer it over most other brands. The packaging is efficient and makes very little mess and it doesn’t have much of that nasty cat litter steam that pours off when you change out the box.
There are a zillion other things we pick up, but these are consistent favorites. I’ve spent quite a few hours compiling a list of my stock-up prices including Costco comparison prices, so if there is something you are looking for, definitely check it out.
Please let us know about your favorites, I’d love to hear what you all have found to be the best deals for your family!
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