I mentioned yesterday that I recently bought a Costco membership, and Juanita asked whether I find that I really save money, considering the way we eat. This is such a good question! I actually avoided a Sam’s or Costco membership for a long time because I thought it couldn’t possibly save me more than a few pennies. Shortly after I married, I visited a Sam’s to do some reconnaissance. I ran away, disgusted by the endless processed convenience food. It was rows and rows of absolute junk. After repeatedly hearing about Costco, however, both on The Nourishing Gourmet and Keeper of the Home, and after reading a fascinating article in Fast Company about what a great company Costco is, I decided to give them a chance. I am so, so glad I did! Even though we eat virtually no convenience foods, I’m finding Costco a real treasure trove. Here are a few finds I’m saving lots of money on:
- Nuts — Can I say “wow”? Costco’s prices on raw pecans, walnuts, and almonds (though I suppose the latter are irradiated now) are fabulous. If I remember correctly, I bought pecans for $4 or $5 per pound, when they’re $8 to $10 per pound to buy them in bulk at my grocery store. I also procured almond butter at a steal of a price.
- Canned Fish — I love that I can buy wild caught Alaskan salmon and light tuna for much better prices than in the grocery store. I know that canned fish is not as good as fresh or frozen, but this is our version of convenience food. I think it beats Hamburger Helper in the nutrition department any day.
- Frozen Fish — Okay, now this I’m really, really excited about. I’ve been buying wild caught Alaskan salmon, wild caught cod, and wild caught halibut for significantly less than at my grocery store. What has shocked me the most is how good this frozen fish tastes. I grew up under the tutelage of a food snob, so I’ve always scorned frozen fish. Only fresh for me. But that’s changed now. Yes, fresh is better, but this stuff is awfully close — especially the salmon. I can lightly season it and brown it in a pan, and it’s awesome. The halibut is probably the fishiest tasting of the three, and it’s still very tasty. I adore that the portions are individually vacuum-packed, which means I can throw 2 wrapped pieces into a bowl of warm water at the last minute and be eating dinner 30 minutes later. Sweet.
- Produce– Yes, really. Organic apples for roughly $1 per pound. One pound boxes of prewashed, organic baby spinach for $4. Ten pound bags of organic carrots for $5. The list goes on and on. I save on mushrooms, English cucumbers, garlic, and bell peppers too, though none of these are organic. (I can’t afford a 100% organic diet since we don’t have the luxury of filling up on the ever-so-thrifty grains) The produce offerings vary from week to week, but I’ve seen great prices on pineapples, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, and everything in between. In the past 2 years, I could have saved somuch on entertaining costs if I had owned a Costco membership. Argh.
- Spices and Seasonings — I saw vanilla beans for a very good price, and I picked up some whole black peppercorns at a significant discount. The other basics are available too.
- Household Products– I just bought recycled paper towels for a great price. I also restocked our toilet paper there, as well as massive bottles of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. I’ll buy bandaids here in the future, and if I need disposables for some kind of party, I’d buy those at Costco too.
- Organic Tortilla Chips — One of the few processed foods we buy regularly. My husband loves these things, and the Costco price is unbeatable. I think it’s about $4.50 for a 2.5 pound bag of organic corn chips.
- Lamb — I haven’t seen any grass-fed beef or hormone-free chicken, but I did buy a leg of lamb for $3 per pound. Nourishing Traditions says that it’s just fine to buy lamb from the grocery store because almost all lamb is grass fed.
- Gluten-Free Novelties– Again, a rare indulgence. I bought some gluten-free crackers that turned out to be delicious. I intended to save them for communion and for those times when we go out to eat (I can use them for hummus and other dips when restaurants only provide pitas or bread), but they were so good I ate the whole bag already. Oops. I also bought some Mrs. May’s snacks to keep in my purse for blood sugar emergencies. They’ve come in handy several times.
- Miscellaneous– I bought a pair of Mary Jane-style Crocs to replace the ones I left behind in New Mexico over Christmas. Get this: $15. I paid $40 for my original pair. Gah! I snagged some cute pajamas for J for next to nothing (one of his Valentine’s gifts) and got a really good deal on a set of cordless phones. I’m also secretly eyeing the deeply-discounted Movado watches. Not that it’s ever going to happen. Still, they’re fun to look at.
So. That’s a quick overview of a few things I’ve been buying. I realize that in an ideal world, I would buy all my produce from local farms and that I would never use canned foods or frozen fish. I might also scour the internet for even better deals on some of these items (like the vanilla beans or the phones). I am, however, human, and Costco meets my needs. It’s a good mix of savings and convenience for us. Combined with my farmers’ market and regular grocery store shopping, I’m very satisfied.
What about you? Do you have a Costco membership? Do you find that you save money, even when eating a healthy diet? Do you know of any alternatives?