Buying food in bulk is a time and money saver when you're trying to create well-balanced meals.
It's hard to truly explain the magic of Costco. There are TVs bigger than your living room's wall, jars of peanut butter the size of your head, and of course samples throughout the store of tasty snacks and mini meals. Costco is a dream come true, but there are some tricks to making the most of your trip to the megastore.
When one Cooking Light Diet member asked our community Facebook page what the best healthy eating steals at Costco are, it got us and other members thinking about all of the opportunities. Should we dodge the snack aisles and head straight for the fresh produce? Not necessarily. But there are some easy, cheap items to stock up on to make meal prepping a breeze. Here's everything you should snag the next time shop to prepare for healthy eating (be sure to check with your local Costco if these items are in stock).
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At Costco you can stock up on bulk grains to help you stay on track, without it getting crazy expensive. After all, the store is known for oversized bags of quinoa, rice, and pastas. Plus, some carry harder-to-find grains like farro and couscous, most at lower rates than the average grocery store. Always double check the ingredient list to ensure you're getting true whole grains.
Bulk meat and seafood means you can fill your freezer with tons of meal starters. Cooking Light Diet members specifically love the pork tenderloin, frozen shrimp, frozen single fillets of salmon, and flank steak. You can buy any variety of seafood or meat frozen already or buy it fresh, use what you need, and simply toss the rest in the freezer for later.
Nuts and Nut Butters
We know that nuts can get really pricey, but Costco packages large containers at significantly lower prices than the average store. Snag a bag of pine nuts for pesto and side dishes or a jar of almond butter to mix into oatmeal. Costco even sells varieties of nuts that are roasted but unsalted, which can be tricky to find in other locations for a similar price.
Whole-grain varieties of sliced sandwich bread, flatbread, pizza dough, and English muffins are ideal for buying cheap and freezing for the future. If you plan to freeze leftovers, be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, foil, or zip-top bags to avoid freezer burn.
Sure, the bags full of fresh cut lettuce leaves, containers of sliced mushrooms, and boxes of bell peppers seems great now, but in just a few days these fresh veggies are quickly going to rot. You're headed in the right direction, but when buying bulk, it's easiest to snag frozen veggies. Most brands freeze veggies at their peak, so you can easily incorporate produce throughout the year.
Toss a bag of your favorite fruit in the freezer for instant smoothie ingredients. It's a simple way to make sure you can create quick breakfasts for busy mornings, or even defrost to top pancakes on lazy Sundays.
Stocks and Sauces
Snag jars of premade marinara for pasta dishes or packs of cheap chicken stock for any soup. These super, shelf-stable ingredients are sold in bundles, so you can use one and keep the rest for another time. Also, grab some cans of diced tomatoes for easy chili bases or homemade stews.
This deal isn't so much a money saver as it is a time saver. Tons of Cooking Light meals use rotisserie chicken to cut corners on busy weeknights, and Costco's is a real winner. Cooking Light Diet member Andrea Lee Carter says she weighs 2-ounce portions of chicken and places them in snack-size, zip-top bags. She'll then store them in the freezer in a larger freezer bag. When recipes call for 2 ounces of rotisserie chicken, she can grab however many bags she needs and thaw right away.
When you're cooking more often, it's always ideal to invest in a variety of oils. Costco typically sells large containers of canola cooking spray and one- to three-liter bottles of extra virgin olive oil for all of your healthy cooking and salad dressing needs.