November 23, 2010

Don't take your shopping list to Costco

So ... we had a free pass to Costco Saturday night, and we went on our first ever shopping spree to that crazy place. I dutifully wrote out a shopping list, and we headed off to see what we could find. I'll tell you up front we spent $100, and didn't buy one single thing on our list. In our defense, except maybe for one or two items, everything we bought was something we actually use, but not in such an abnormal quantity. For example, my husband really, really wanted a 10-pound bag of organic brown basmati rice, even though I prefer short grain rice, but I finally gave in. It was a great price, and the bag itself was very cool, but we don't have storage space for so much rice, and we don't go through it as fast as we used to when we had three hungry boys to feed.

Then there was the case of 18 Larabars for a measly $15. Who could resist? OK, so I normally maybe buy five Larabars in a year, but that's because they're so expensive, right? And they are delicious, but did I really need 18? Thank goodness the five pound bag of chocolate chips had butter and cream in the ingredients list. And I sensibly passed up the three quarts of organic carrot juice, after reminding myself we can barely get through one quart before it turns gray.

I came out of the produce room clutching a three and a half pound bag of broccoli for $3.99 and the same amount of crimini mushrooms for about the same cost. We now have a rule at our house that broccoli must be consumed at every meal. Three pounds is a LOT of broccoli. And there will be a surfeit of mushrooms in the Thanksgiving dinner. I also wanted a 10 pound bag of giant onions but my husband talked me down. He, on the other hand, got a one pound tub of organic salad mix for $3.99. We also purchased a five pound bag of frozen blueberries, but we usually keep a lot of frozen fruit in the house for smoothies, so that seemed normal. And a giant jar of almond butter.

What was I thinking? I'm not even a big fan of sweets.

The one thing I bought (besides the Larabars) that makes no sense is a 28-ounce jar of capers. It seemed like a bargain, and I have until April, 2013 to use them up — should be plenty of time. By the way, what's your favorite way to use capers? Maybe I also bought something else that calls my judgment into question — a 10-pound bag of organic evaporated cane juice. Now that's just plain nuts, but it helps to explain why we decided a Costco membership is not in our future.

I don't remember what else we got but I just want to describe the party scene at Costco before signing off. There were people holding large trays of food samples everywhere we looked, and shoppers were walking around gnawing on whole chicken legs, among other delicacies. There wasn't a single thing we wished to sample, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying the food. Is this the way it always is at Costco or is this a holiday occurrence?

I don't mean to imply that shopping at Costco is a bad idea, but it would require a completely different mindset from what we've been operating on, and eating broccoli for most of our meals. I'm intrigued but cautious.


  1. I'm jealous about the Larabars! My Costco stopped selling them.

  2. haa haa!! there are ALWAYS lots of samples, but it sounds like they went BIG for this party - I've never seen a chicken leg!! :D as I don't eat many of the samples either, I find them annoying because there are CROWDS of people around the sample areas, and it's hard to navigate through.

    I *LOVE* the produce room, though, for the simple fact that I go through HUGE amounts of fresh spinach and frozen blueberries...

    I would totally get through that caper jar quick... just today I made a bagel sandwich with tofutti, onions, tomato slices and capers! SO good! I also add them to salads a lot... great salty flavor!

    I'm also laughing because I think I know which rice you speak of, only because you said it had a neat bag... kinda like a burlap bag, right? :D we bought the same one... I think we gave it away the last time we moved. ;)

  3. Yeah shopping from Costco is a total life style! And yes the sample thing is every single day! We shop there and pretty much only there! We eat an obscene amount of veggies, I eat one of those bags of broccoli every other week! It takes adjusting in recipes but boy does it help if you are super broke all the time! We have two little kids and boca burgers and veggies are pretty much our staple food. The soymilk alone makes our membership worth it! If we had more money, we probably wouldn't shop there as much. But it works for us.

  4. Hi, Andrea, Your Costco list sounds like mine. I love roasted broccoli, broccoli soup, etc etc. I get a broccoli bag every other week. Right now, my Costco has 2 lbs of brussels sprouts for $2.99 and 2 lbs of cubed butternut squash for 3.99. What deals!

  5. I only get to go to Costco when my dad or mother-in-law come to visit us. It's crazy the amount of things you can buy there. Geek...I bought soymilk there too, it was cheap!! The almond butter is pretty inexpensive too, so I grabbed one of those.
    Capers....they make good in salad dressings.

  6. I've never been to costco, so can't say about the chicken legs.

    But, a 28oz jar of capers? lol Sounds like you're set in the caper department for a while. I really like capers on pasta with red sauce...sometimes, when I'm in the right mood.

    Have fun munching your broccoli, mushrooms and brown rice! I'm sure you'll come up with plenty of yummy meals with them!

  7. my heads still spinning!! it sounds like you had a good time!!! the larabars are a great deal!!
    carrot juice turns grey?

    and TEN POUNDS sugar??? looks like you need ideas for capers and sugar....but not together, yuck. im glad you didnt put the price of the blueberries, im already jealous of the pound of greens for 4 bucks and all those mushrooms!! i love cosco but we dont have anything like that here. i really wish we did:) but its probably better not to go, id get lots of stuff i didnt need also:) lol have fun with all that good stuff this thanksgiving!!!

    Rose, you have never been to cosco?? this is the perfect post, it completely describes a super store trip, to a T!!

  8. Winnie,
    I believe I may have already eaten my normal year's quota of Larabars.

    Oh yes, the crowds around the samples made getting up and down the aisles difficult.

    I guess I'm going to have to start getting creative with the capers. Maybe I'll put some in the Thanksgiving stuffing.

    Geek 3000,
    If we still had three kids living with us I think it would be great, but for just us, it's too tempting and the quantities may be too big.

    Broccoli soup! I should have thought of that. Thanks. I could have used the brussels sprouts because we're having them for Thanksgiving. They were on my unused list!

    The almond butter was REALLY cheap, and I did grab one. The soymilk was cheap, too, but we didn't need any.

    Capers on pasta sounds good. I'll have to try it instead of artichoke hearts.

    Carrot juice gets weird if you don't use it in a few days, and once it does, no one wants to drink it.

    Don't rub it in about the 10 pounds of sugar, please. Or the capers. The blueberries were about $11. Sorry.

  9. Hi Andrea-
    We belonged to Costco in Hawaii and it was great, but very hard to resist all those less than healthy samples! You can use the capers in tapenade!
    Happy Thanksgiving,

  10. hehe, $100? pikers! my dad has a cosco membership and he rarely leaves that place without spending twice that. he buys these enormous 40lb boxes of birdseed that the backyard birds go through in about a month. i always stock up on soymilk and ricemilk there. those organic salad mix tubs are great, and the veggies, and berries...and this will probably disgust you, but i went through one and a half of those 10lb bags of organic sugar over the course of a month last summer when i was making ridiculous quantities of fruit preserves.

  11. Aimee,
    Tapenade! Of course. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

    I stand in awe of all the preserves you made. Nothing disgusting about it. My sugar will probably go into baked goods, but it may take a while ... I wouldn't mind going back to Costco again, but I'm not sure I could do it on a regular basis. Probably not.

  12. I echo all the laughter going on here. Very funny post. Costco is truly a lifestyle, and no, you shouldn't take your list. Last time I went, I had a list...didn't get anything on it but like you bought a huge quantity of other stuff for a very good price. Last year around this time I remember I bought a 50 pound bag of coarse-ground whole wheat flour. Fifty pounds! I live alone! But the price was something like $10 - totally irresistible. I had to store it outside in the snow until the spring. I buy capers in big jars like this, but not at Costco--ours doesn't stock them. You'll use them up, eventually.

    And the free samples. I swear, people go there just to eat. I have a real aversion to lining up for free samples that borders on phobia, and so I have to look away, very far away...

    P.S. Other commenters have way cooler stuff in their Costcos than we seem to in ours. WTH?

  13. Ha! We joined Costco three years ago when SR was eating us out of house and home. We buy some of our produce there, boca burgers, toilet paper, oatmeal, coffee, flour, and so on. I go there once a month and stock up. Snacks are offered every time, and the kids like to see if there's a treat they can have. Lots of times there's hummus with pita chips, nuts, pop chips, juices, and more. Join the dark side, join the dark side...

  14. Oh, use those delicious capers in a marinara with artichoke hearts and olives! It's puttanesca minus the anchovies.

  15. I've only gone to Costco a few times and never found much that I needed, for two it just doesn't make much sense. Although I could go through that sugar bag with all my kombucha making. I mean, the scobie has to eat!

  16. We belonged to Costco when we lived in California, but although the prices were good, I remember being mostly annoyed by the giant packages (there are very few things I want to buy in such big amounts, after all). ;) Three pounds of broccoli for $3.99 sounds great, though - I can barely get half a pound of broccoli for that price here! I also wouldn't mind eating it at every meal; it's probably my favorite vegetable. Secondly, I'm really jealous of your Lärabars; ONE bar is $4 in Copenhagen. :)

  17. As my husband gets tired of hearing me say, "There's a "Seinfeld" about this, y'know..." I've never been in a Costco, but was in a Sam's Warehouse once, which is probably pretty close. We get 20# bags of brown rice at the Co-op here in Madison, and take a while to go through that. Main problem is getting it home on the bike!

  18. 50 pounds of flour? Now I'm the one who's laughing, but I understand the lure of irresistible prices. Some of the out-sized items were the same price as normal amounts in other stores.

    We just don't have the eating power we used to have when the boys were growing up. It's tempting to join. (I just wish I'd bought the two-pound package of dates when I had the chance. I'm sure I could have eaten that by myself. Darn.)

    As a matter of fact, we had capers in marinara sauce over quinoa spaghetti last night. Pretty, pretty good.

    Maybe I should take up kombucha brewing!

    The Lärabars were a good deal, and I can see using them up won't be a problem. :D But, yes, the package sizes were a little too impractical for us.

    Marina and Steve,
    Doesn't Madison have a Costco, now? It might be a long bike ride — especially on the way home! Here in Seattle, Costco is considered a local company, but it's a far cry from North Farm.

  19. We have a Costco membership but really try to avoid the place and only go when we have to. I don't like the feeling in there for one thing, like there's this thing that comes over people and they buy more than they really need. Still, we've gotten used to it and can actually manage going in and spending under $20 and sticking to our list by not browsing the aisles. I'm not sure we'll join back up again once our membership runs out.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  20. Heidi,
    Buying in bulk is supposed to be more economical, and when we had growing boys in the house, I think it was. Now, when we buy in bulk, we may be buying more than we need, as you point out. We were completely unfamiliar with the Costco stock, but I think if we went there more often, we'd get a better idea of how to shop there. Your system seems to be working, and there are certain items I wouldn't mind buying there, but, like you, I'm not sure it's worth becoming a member.

  21. That's exactly what happens to me when I go to Costco. . . I can't resist the bargains! And the food does get used up, eventually (and sometimes I wonder why I didn't buy TWO!) ;)

  22. Ricki,
    Sigh. I'm thinking about the stuff I didn't buy that would come in handy now, and imagining I could possibly become familiar enough with the Costco stock to shop sensibly. But not until I live in a more permanent situation. I don't want to end up moving or giving away lots of stored food items.

  23. We don't have a Costco, but there is a Sam's - I don't know if that's the same thing. We're not members, but my parents are, and they bring us back bulk loads of things when they go - like the huge containers of lettuce, big tubs of blueberries, etc.

    You guys are so funny, squabbling over what type of rice to get, etc. You "gave in," - I'm trying to picture that conversation. :)

  24. Jenny,
    Yes, hah! If one or the other of us didn't take control, we would have brought home half the store. It's easy to lose sight of what you need as opposed to what you think you need in a crazy place like Costco.

  25. I would gladly take any of your extra broccoli. I'm not sure whether I should be proud or completely embarrassed that I buy at least one of those Costco bags of broccoli a week and completely go through it... singlehandedly. Clearly I like my broccoli :). And getting more really does give me an excuse to eat more of it. Maybe there aren't that many savings afterall :P.

    Have a lovely day!

  26. Mandiee,
    I think it's great that you eat all that broccoli. I have to be careful not to overdo it with any particular veggie so I don't get sick of it. I once had to stop eating broccoli because I ate it so often I reached a point where I couldn't even stand to see it, let alone eat it. I'm starting to miss having my giant Costco bag of broccoli, and my monster bag of frozen blueberries. (Still have plenty of sugar and rice. :D )


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