How to Shop at Costco or Sam's WITHOUT getting Fat, Wasting food, or Wasting Money!

Everybody loves a good deal. And because we're always looking for the best prices, I've always wondered whether people really save all that much shopping at warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam's.

Then - I got a membership. At both warehouse clubs! That should both shock and disgust you. It disgusts me. But I have both memberships because they were free. And I decided to take advantage of those free memberships and find out whether there were any real deals to be had.

For the record - let it be known that I am a health food snob. I do not like packaged foods. I am completely against rampant accumulation and most of all WASTE. Wasting of money. Wasting of Food. Wasting of Time.

And that's the person I take into Costco and Sam's on a weekly basis to do some of our grocery shopping. I have been a member at Sam's for about a year and Costco for 6 months.

If I had to pay for the membership I would not join again. 

Phew. I got that out of the way. I just wanted to be honest. Now I can talk about how you can shop at warehouse clubs and not waste your time/money/food or get fat.  

Why do I say "get fat?" Am I just some skinny bitch that focuses on weight? No. Yes. No. But honestly, have you walked around a mall lately? American has a problem! 

And warehouse clubs can get you into that trouble. Here's why:

Huge Portion Sizes. You can't just buy one loaf of tasty bread. You HAVE to buy two (or more!). You notice that your favorite "snacks" are a better per unit price at the warehouse club - but you have to buy 50 servings - and if they are in the house, you will eat ALL 50 servings.

Free Samples. Servers give out Free samples down almost all the high traffic lanes. Those snacks add up. And they are often things you wouldn't normally eat or even want. 

Low Prices on Your Favorite Snacks. This is sort of the same as the huge portion problem, but worse. If you see all your favorites at a much better price than the grocery store, then you might as well get them while you're there, right? More snacks = less healthy food eaten = bigger waistline. 'nough said. 

Packaged Food. Most of the food for sale is packaged. Processed. Artificial. Unhealthy. And they sell huge packages of candy, chocolate, ice cream....

So how do you avoid getting fat if you shop at the warehouse clubs?  You have to exercise constraint. Don't buy the pack of 200 bagel bites. If you want bagel bites, make them a treat and by the 6 pack at the grocery store. You're much less likely to overdo it if you buy the 6 pack. The worst you can do is 6. With the 200 pack - you could easily eat 20 for dinner or a late night snack. You know the consequences!

If you absolutely must buy the packaged foods, then repackage them when you get home. Put them in reasonable sized packages and stick some of them out of sight. In a basement freezer. At the top of the cupboard. Anywhere so you don't over eat them.

You could also share with friends. Buy the tasty artisan garlic bread - but give one loaf away to a friend or guest. Easier said than done, I know. But your health is at stake!

By far the biggest problem with warehouse clubs is WASTE. Wasting Time, Wasting Food, Wasting Money.

If you've never been to the clubs, then you have no idea how full they are. People are everywhere. People with super big carts. Loaded to the brim. Eating samples. Waiting at checkout. Waiting to be processed on the way out. Waiting for a parking spot! These places are zoos. A lot of time (and patience) gets wasted.

I have an ex-friend (emphasis on the ex) who spends $500 a week at Costco. Wow, right?!!?? Guess how much of that ends up in the trash? A whole heck of a lot! 

She wastes so much food (and money) because she got such a great deal at Costco. No! You don't save money if you end up throwing it all away! 

That being said - let me tell you what the best deals are at Costco and Sam's. 

Boxed organic spinach - their prices beat the smaller packages at grocery stores, are organic, and are generally of good quality.

Frozen Berries - Excellent quality, price, and origin (organic etc.)  Costco has excellent organic raspberries and wild blueberries. Sam's club has the best frozen strawberries.

Nuts - Shelled almonds, walnuts, and pecans are priced extremely well at both clubs. I go through nuts like water, but if you don't, then buy smaller containers at the grocery store and keep them in the refrigerator.

Pure Maple syrup - Both clubs have maple syrup priced better than the grocery/discount stores

Pure Vanilla Extract - The price for vanilla extract is unbelievably lower at the warehouse clubs. If you bake a lot, then you will want to buy this at Sam's or Costco. Note: costco's pure vanilla contains sugar. I only buy this from Sam's.

Spices - Again, if you are a big spice user, this is a good place to shop for them. I go through cinnamon like crazy and always buy this at the clubs. 

Lemon Juice - Organic lemon juice containing only lemons can be found at Costco. You must buy 2 ginormous bottles. I buy about 4 per year. If you hardly ever use lemon juice - then buy an occasional lemon at Target for 29c. ;)

Artisan breads - Their bakery breads are pretty good, but you must buy more than you'd ever want. 

Organic chicken and beef- You can buy organic chicken at a good price at Costco but you will have to buy a lot. If you'll waste it, then don't buy it. If it will get freezer burn before you have a chance to use it, then don't buy it!

Grilled chicken burgers or sausages - Costco carries a great variety of all natural, preservative and artificial gunk free chicken burgers and sausages. 

Nitrate/Nitrite Free hotdogs and bacon - Costco is a good source for reasonably priced preservative free, uncured hotdogs and bacon. You will have to buy a whole lot - so be prepared to use it before it goes back. Remember, no preservatives...

Wild Salmon - You can get a great deal on all natural, wild salmon. Frozen only. 

Fresh Produce - This is a place where people can accumulate a lot of waste. I don't buy a lot of produce from the warehouse clubs. They generally have good prices for apples, berries, and pineapples. Lucky for me - when they have berries for cheap, I have organic berries for free in my own backyard. If you buy their monster packs of berries, eat them all in a few days or freeze them. Seriously, don't waste them.

I can tell you without question that my family could finish a Costco sized package of berries (any type) within a day. Actually, I can almost guarantee they will be gone by the time we get home. But if you can't - freeze them single layered and store in a ziploc bag - or puree and store for smoothies/pancakes toppings/baking ingredients. 

If you are going to buy warehouse produce - plan ahead to use it or preserve it. Most fruits can be dehydrated, frozen, pureed, baked, or used in a smoothie. If you throw it out - you are wasting money and food. Both are yuck!

Depending on the brands you prefer - you may also find good savings on dishwasher soap, bottled water, juice boxes, toilet paper, and big items (like Christmas trees, furniture, compost bins....)

My best advice - share a membership with someone else. Then you can stock up on frozen berries, wild salmon, and occasionally pick up a big ticket item you really need. But for day-to-day shopping, your time and energy are better spent looking for higher quality items at your regular stores: buying and Using what you actually need.


Anonymous said...

i was surprised that you had memberships at both clubs but if they're free then i guess it made sense.

I never shop there.

Jessica-MomForHim said...

Good article! I can tell you did your research and everything was well-thought out. I also don't think it is worth paying for a membership, so we don't shop there either.

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