First Time at Costco!

Costco Shopping

The first time I ever stepped foot into a Costco, it was like stepping into a dream, or another dimension. Perusing every isle, tongue hanging out like a kid in a toy store. It was rare to leave without spending at least $300! Truth be told, it was more like $500. The plan was to have our purchase be enough groceries to get us through the whole month! It didn’t. Hard to believe we ever struggled maintaining a budget isn’t it? Good news: our Costco shopping list is a lot more money friendly these days.

Now we eat even healthier than we did back then, our kids are older and eat more, we live life on a budget and are able to make it out of Costco each trip spending around $100! The majority of what we eat, we buy organic, all of our meals include fruits, veggies or both. We rarely buy frozen or pre-packaged meals and are still able to maintain a reasonable spending limit. So how do we get this done?

You can read a little about how we started working with a budget in my post, Finishing TouchesIn there I talk about how we decided on a $600 budget for groceries each month for our family of 5. That usually puts us around $150 each week and $100 of it is spent at Costco. The remaining $50 goes toward little odds and ends things (that we don’t need in bulk.) We make all this happen by a little preparation and good strategy.

First: Check the cupboards.

Take your time to browse throughout the cupboards and see what you already have on hand. This will give you a better idea of what different meals you can make. For example, if you still have a few potatoes, but not enough for mashed. You also have one onion that is going to go to waste unless it gets put to use. With this information, you can plan on buying some additional vegetables like carrots and zucchini to roast all together for a dinner during the week. Checking your pantry for what you already have lying around will help you when it comes to the next step.

Second: Get a plan for a week’s worth of meal ideas together. 

Stick to buying weekly especially if you eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies. If you get excited and stock up with the intention of making the food last for 2 or more weeks, chances are, some things will start to go bad after the first week and then you’ll wind up making more trips back to the store! You also don’t want to give into all those cravings and wind up clearing your cupboards before the end of week two. This would also result in trip back to the store. So, stick with the one week at a time strategy; you know, trying to follow that whole out of site, out of mind thing.

Third: Avoid excessive recipe browsing:

If we all took the time to look up 3 great breakfast ideas, 7 different lunch ideas and 7 separate dinners we would quickly have a lot of food, a lot of ingredients and a lot of unnecessary spending. Try planning one simple meal for breakfast, one basic meal for lunch and a few dinners that allowed you to make the most of your ingredients and what you already have. This will make things so much easier on you and your wallet.

Try to stick with buying 2 types of meat to plan your dinners around. There are so many different ways to season and flavor fish and meat, it’s very easy to avoid getting bored or feeling repetitive.

One week you can make the choice to have waffles for breakfast, salads at lunch and  use turkey meat and shrimp for dinners. Next week’s plan could be for overnight oats with fruit, fish and veggies for lunch and dinners can be strongly veggie or chicken based.

Four: Get a grocery list together.

(cross out the things you don’t need in bulk, therefore won’t buy at Costco)

-bananas (for smoothies, snacking and waffles)

-kale (for green smoothie)

-lemons (great for smoothies, lemon, pepper shrimp and veggie seasoning)

apples (Costco tends to give you less for your money in comparison to Trader Joes or Target)

-eggs (seriously, $6 for 2 dozen organic eggs! You can’t beat that)

-frozen fruit (for smoothies and waffles)

-dinosaur kale


-pumpkin seeds

-avocado (all of these are items could be bought for much cheaper elsewhere. Whole Foods being my personal favorite)

**Side note** I know Whole Foods get a bad rep sometimes because of the higher prices, but let me just say 2 things: #1. You get the quality you pay for. #2. If you strategize and only make it there for the few specialty items you want, they always got your back. (They always have our dinosaur kale fresh, organic and $5 for 2 bunches. Plus, their seed, nut, grain selection is amazing. You can quite literally choose exactly how much you want and of what. So you will only be charged for what you need. This is ideal when we are buying things like pumpkin seeds that will only be sprinkled on top of a salad)


-broccoli (use as a main side dish for most dinners)



-peppers (peppers and onion will be used for shrimp kabobs)


-ground turkey (tacos, chili and meatballs, oh my!)


pine nuts (to make mushroom croquettes)

Try to making as many simple meals as possible, especially if you have kids. I’ve found that when I browse Pinterest for meals I find more complicated ones and I often get myself into big trouble.

 Final note: willpower and determination are key.

I know Costco can be a magically overwhelming place to visit. Learning to plan ahead, set up a game plan and you can strut into that place like a boss. Costco can get pretty busy. Get your strategy all set up in your head so you can hit all the places you need to, check out and get out! All the extra fluff Costco has to offer will only distract you! Trust me, you don’t need a big screen TV or a kayak right now. You came for eggs. Don’t be one of those people.

About The Author


Renee is the blogger behind The Fun Sized Life. After downsizing with her family, she also took the time to get serious about he finances. Now she is sharing the wealth with all of her readers.