Home Eat Well, Be Well Costco Shopping List: Real Food on a Budget and Money Saving Tips

Costco Shopping List: Real Food on a Budget and Money Saving Tips

by Bethany
shopping list grocery costco real food

Costco is incredible. We have a Costco membership and I have been told this is what makes you a “real” adult.  Haha! We do our groceries at three stores: Safeway, Trader Joes and Costco (but mostly Costco). Our Costco shopping list is generated for a two person household and lasts us about a month. We also purchase cat food and dog food here.

Before I show you our list we have put into practice a few tricks to use all of the groceries we have, not go out and spend as little time in the store as possible.

Real Food and the Emergency Meal

Our FI fridge stays full of real food. We are firm believers in food for nourishment and try to stay away from as much packaged/processed foods. The one exception to this is our “Emergency Meal” that we keep in the freezer for that one late night or crazy week.

The “Emergency Meal” takes away any excuse to go out or pick up some kind of fast food. Even though it is typically processed, it is still better than McDonalds. This meal is typically a bag of orange chicken that we can then throw some rice in the Instant Pot and have dinner in 26 minutes. Another go to for the Emergency Meal is the bean and cheese organic Amy’s burritos. These in the oven or microwave with some salsa and dinner is ready in about 8 minutes.

If you know that Thursday nights are crazy and your dance class doesn’t get out till 8:30, then have an emergency meal in the freezer for those evenings. Keep it easy on yourself and do not judge yourself for opening a package 4 times a month.

Bottom line: Most food we buy is real and healthy. Keep the emergency meal to save money and avoid the trap of going out when you do not want to cook or are utterly exhausted.

Allergies and Dietary Restrictions and Cost:

I am dairy free (most of the time) and HisFI is not so we have both items on our lists. I was previously a vegetarian for 2 years, and no matter your diet choices you can eat real food and not break the bank.

Is real food more expensive? Well the real question is more expensive than what? Could we eat bread, Jiff peanut butter, and spaghetti noodles and save money. Abso-freaking-lutely.  Would our bodies be healed and nourished? No. With food you make trade offs and our health is very important to us. We choose to eat real food on our budget. There will always be a cheaper way, but in the long run you are saving yourself from medical bills and discomfort.

Bottom Line: Regardless of your allergies or diet restrictions you should be eating real food and budgeting for it. You do not have to shop at Whole Foods for this. There will always be a “cheaper” alternative processed option- but consider the cost to your body in the long run.

25 Meals and Multi Use Items

At this point in your adult life, if you have not adopted the grocery list- you need to. Have a plan in place for what general meals your family tends to eat and create the list from that.

It has been suggested on many FI blogs and podcasts to create a list on your phone or notepad of the 25 meals you cook. Your go-to 25 meals. Maybe even 50 if you are feeling like 25 is too constraining. This will help to give consistency to your list.

We have figured out what items are “multi-use” and make sure to keep these stocked. This is especially important at Costco since everything comes in giant portions. Your Costco shopping list should include the items you will finish all of,not small random ingredients-because let’s face it nothing will be small from Costco. For example, we purchase pesto which is used for about 6 of our meals. It is great on salads, ingredient in salad dressing, cold summer pasta, basil-pesto chicken and cous cous, etc.

We have also recently been using an app called Mealime to plan out recipes and create our shopping lists. The video below is an example of how we meal plan using it.

Bottom Line: Make a list of your top 25 most cooked meals. Make a grocery list or use the free printable at the bottom. Have multi-use items on this list.

Time is Money. Do not Waste it “Shopping”

A shopping list, as mentioned above will help you save time. Yet, you still have to drive to the store, park, and make it through the MASSIVE warehouse that puts out the most delicious samples in order to entice you to purchase more. Darn you Costco!

Have a plan and shop in a circle. We start on one end and head straight to veggies, meats and dairy (all located in the back). Then over to laundry soaps and dog food/cat food (also in the back). Go down the ONE freezer isle that has fruit for our smoothies and get that emergency meal. Have a few samples but do not buy.

Walk along the back of the dry food isle and one of you (your partner or kids) run down to pick up the item that is needed such as steal cut oats or granola. Skip the snack isles expect the nuts and check out. This is the one time when it is socially acceptable and not irresponsible to keep your blinders on remaining unaware of new and shiny things for purchase.

DO NOT walk down every isle “just in case you missed something on the list.” You will buy things you do not need.

Bottom Line:  Avoid  the center isles of every grocery store- these are all the processed stuff.  Shop with someone to stay accountable and stick to the list. Go in a circle towards the back of the store.

There is a FREE printable Costco Shopping List at the bottom separated into sections so you can optimize your time spent in the store. I am not a fan of long shopping excursions and prefer to get in and get out.

Costco Shopping List

Finally, the moment you have all been waiting for! Or you just scrolled down to the bottom. Ha! No judgement. Here is our Costco Shopping List.

I am considering putting our the recipes that go with this as well. Let me know if this is something you would like or not?  For now here are a few go to 5 minute recipes. 

If you have gotten this far and are wondering if the Costco Membership itself is worth it, check out this great article that breaks down the savings for Costco by Budget Kitty:

“Is the Costco Membership Worth It?” 

Here is the exact Piktochart infographic list above: Costco Shopping List Infographic.

Here is the same list with added blanks for you to fill in as needed: Costco Shopping List with Fill in the Blanks

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4 comments

freddy smidlap April 25, 2018 - 7:15 am

i’ve never been to a costco. i’m allergic to the suburbs and am not even sure where one would be. however, we do enjoy making real food almost every day and try not to waste any of it. we’re basically a once a week one stop shopping family with the occasional stop at the little italian produce market in the neighborhood. i had to give up on the tony’s frozen pizzas as my emergency meal as they were just too junky despite being delicious.

Reply
Anonymous February 19, 2019 - 7:17 am

Seriously, allergic to the suburbs!!

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DGuy April 29, 2018 - 6:31 pm

We mostly eat real food and find that it is probably cheaper than processed and packaged food. I love the idea of the Emergency Meal. For us, it is frozen dumplings that I pick up from Chinatown. A bag of 40 veggie and 40 chicken last us a good month and a half. They definitely come in handy when we don’t want to figure out what to cook!

Reply
Bethany April 30, 2018 - 6:31 pm

Yum! Those sounds SO much better than the frozen pot stickers emergency meal from Costco. 🙂

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