Are you tired of dishing out big bucks on dining out or ordering in? Want to take control of your meal planning and save money in the process? Look no further than Costco, your secret weapon for cost-effective meal prep. In this guide, I give my best take on Costco meal prep, offering tips, tricks, and a shopping list that’ll have you eating well without breaking the bank.
The Costco Advantage
Costco, the land of oversized shopping carts and irresistible samples, might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of meal prep. But trust us, it’s a game-changer. Here’s why:
1. Costco is Your Bulk Grocery Haven
One of the key ingredients in successful meal prep is buying in bulk, and Costco is the epitome of bulk shopping. While it’s true that you might need a bit more storage space, the savings are well worth it. Buying in bulk means lower prices per unit, which can significantly reduce your monthly grocery bill.
2. Longer Shelf Life Options
When it comes to meal prep, you’ll want to select items that won’t go bad before you have a chance to use them. Costco offers a wide range of non-perishable and long-lasting foods, making it the perfect place to stock up.
3. Pre-Made Meals at Your Fingertips
Let’s face it, we all have those days when we’re too tired or busy to cook from scratch. Costco has you covered with its array of delicious and convenient prepared meals. These can be a lifesaver for those days when you need a break from the kitchen.
The Art of Costco Meal Planning
There was a time when every Costco trip would way over-exceed our budget. It truly took a learning experience to nail down the science and art of shopping at Costco to help (and not hurt) our budget. Before you embark on your Costco meal prep journey, here are some of my best tips to make your life easier:
Develop Your Go-To List
Creating a list of your go-to Costco items is like having a secret weapon in your meal prep arsenal. These are items you know you’ll use regularly without any risk of waste. Here are some of my personal favorites to get you started:
- Meats & Dairy:
- Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef, 4 lbs: Versatile and high-quality, this ground beef is a staple in many households.
- Kirkland Signature USDA Choice Beef Chuck Pot Roast: Slow-cook this for a hearty meal.
- Kirkland Signature 100% Grass Fed Beef Patties 15 x .33 lb: Burgers on demand!
- Kirkland Signature “Air-Chilled” Fresh Organic Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: Lean and perfect for grilling.
- Kirkland Signature Organic Free Range Egg USDA Grade A Lg, 24 ct: Eggs are a meal prep superhero – versatile and protein-packed.
- Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese, 52 Slices, 2.5 lbs: Cheese lovers, this one’s for you.
- Darigold Half & Half, 64 fl oz: For coffee lovers, this is a must-have.
- Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, Salted, 8 oz, 4 ct: Elevate your cooking with this delicious butter.
- Large Avocado Hass Variety, 5 ct: Avocado lovers, rejoice! These avocados are ripe and ready when you need them.
- Clovis Farms Organic Smoothie Blend, 6×8 oz: Smoothie prep made easy with these frozen fruit packs.
- Romaine Lettuce Hearts, 6 ct: The base for countless salads.
- Tattooed Chef Sheet Pan Vegetables 4 lbs: Convenient and healthy side dishes.
- Columbia Fruit Organic Mango Chunks, 80 oz: A tropical twist for your smoothies.
- Colossal Garlic, 2 lbs: Spice up your dishes with fresh garlic.
- Snacks & Quick Meals:
- Perfect Foods Organic Bar Variety Pack, 12 ct: These bars are perfect for quick breakfasts or snacks on the go.
- Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Variety Pack, 1.51 oz, 52 count: A quick and healthy breakfast option.
- Heavenly Hunk Organic Dark Chocolate Oatmeal, 22 oz: A guilt-free treat.
- Pantry Staples:
- Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 L: A kitchen essential.
- Rao’s Marinara Sauce, 2 x 28 oz: A jar of this sauce can turn a simple pasta dish into a gourmet meal.
- Kirkland Signature Organic Non-Dairy Oat Beverage, 32 oz, 6 count: A dairy-free alternative that’s perfect for smoothies and cereal.
- Ardent Mills Harvest All-Purpose Flour, 25 lbs: For all your baking needs.
- Kirkland Signature Basmati Rice, 20 lbs: Rice is a versatile staple that goes with almost anything.
- Garofalo, Organic Spaghetti Noodles, 17.6 oz, 8-Count: For quick pasta meals
- Garofalo, Organic Pasta, Variety Pack, 17.6 oz, 6-Count
Be Mindful of Shelf Life
As you cruise through the vast aisles of Costco, keep an eye out for items that aren’t immediately perishable and have a longer shelf life. This way, you can buy in bulk without worrying about food going to waste. Canned goods, frozen fruits and vegetables, pasta, rice, and pantry staples like olive oil and flour are excellent choices for meal prep. Freezing bulk meats is also a great way to save money.
Embrace Prepared Meals
Meal prep doesn’t always mean cooking everything from scratch. Costco’s prepared meals can be a game-changer. Whether you’re a fan of their rotisserie chicken, lasagna, or taco platters, these ready-made options can save you time and energy when you need a break from cooking.
Crafting Your Costco Meal Prep Plan
Now that you have your go-to list and some handy shopping tips, it’s time to put your meal prep plan into action. Here’s how to do it:
1. Create a Weekly Meal Schedule
Start by planning your meals for the week ahead. Knowing what you’ll be eating each day will help you make an efficient shopping list.
2. Make a Detailed Shopping List
Based on your meal plan, create a comprehensive shopping list. Be sure to include quantities for each item, especially for ingredients you’ll need for multiple meals.
3. Shop at Costco
With your shopping list in hand, head to Costco. Stick to your list as closely as possible to avoid impulse purchases.
4. Allocate Time for Meal Prep
Set aside a dedicated block of time for meal prep. It could be a Sunday afternoon or whatever works best for your schedule.
5. Cook in Batches
Prepare large batches of key components like rice, pasta, and protein sources (e.g., chicken, beef) to use in multiple meals throughout the week.
6. Portion and Store
Divide your prepared food into individual portions. Invest in airtight containers or Ziploc bags to keep your meals fresh.
7. Mix and Match
When it’s time to eat, mix and match your prepped ingredients to create a variety of dishes. For example, your cooked ground beef can be used in tacos, spaghetti, or as a pizza topping.
8. Freeze for Later
If you’ve cooked more than you can eat in a week, freeze the extra portions for future meals. Just make sure to label and date them for easy identification.
Costco meal prep is a smart and budget-friendly way to take control of your diet and budget. With a well-thought-out shopping list, some key staples from Costco, and a bit of planning, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals every day without the stress or expense of dining out. So, next time you visit Costco, remember that it’s not just a store; it’s your meal prep paradise. Happy prepping!