$1200 Costco Haul

As a family of seven, we buy a lot of food. And I do mean a lot! Like two Costco rotisserie chickens is not enough. From always hungry teens to fussy eaters, we need not only variety but also quantity.

We typically grocery shop once a week for groceries which will include everything from produce to toilet paper. However, this month we decided to do it differently. We went to Costco and managed a shopping trip for a months’ worth of groceries!

On average we would spend between $350-$400 a week on groceries which didn’t include toiletry items like paper towels, toilet paper, etc. On top of our standard trip, I would estimate another $100 or so on last minute store runs for things I forgot I needed or did not add to the list. (This mom is very forgetful.) That means our monthly food expenses add up to $1400 to $2000! That is a huge price range. So much so that the hubs and I decided something had to change. We had to quit our Walmart “quick stops.” Second, we needed to rethink the way we shopped and planned our food budget.

Embarking on a once-a-month grocery trip for a large family can be a daunting task; some would even say crazy! I’m here to tell you, with proper planning and strategic shopping it can be done. Let me tell you how.

Plan.

Seems obvious right? But how many times have you gone to the store on a whim to buy your dinners for the week? You walk in expecting to pay $200 and leave with $500 worth of groceries you won’t know what to do with when you get home. I have done this myself repeatedly.

What am I doing now? Below is a bullet list of pre grocery shopping tips to help set you up for a successful grocery trip:

  • I take inventory of what I already have in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. This not only helps to eliminate unnecessary duplicates, but it also allows you to throw out expired items. There is nothing worse than getting home to find the sour cream you needed for a casserole is expired!
  • Consider dietary restrictions, preferences, and any special occasions or events that may require specific ingredients. For example, this shopping trip happened the first week of February, so we planned for Valentine’s goodies as well.
  • Choose your meals. Decide now what you would like to eat for the month. Try to choose meals that have the same ingredients so you can take advantage of Costco’s value packs and minimize waste. I like to choose about 14 meals that we will rotate and then a couple that we’ll only eat once.  I also account for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Doing this means you have all food in the home accounted for and designated to a meal which in turn eliminates running out of an item.
  • Create a shopping list. This is the fun part. I love to make lists and organize my thoughts. I divide my list into categories such as meat, dairy/deli, produce, frozen foods, canned goods, beverages, snacks, and non-food items. Try to estimate quantities based on your family’s typical consumption and recipe requirements. I also like to use Costco’s app for this. I set it up like I am putting in a delivery order. This marks the cost of items up a bit but gives you an estimate of how much your total will be.
  • Prep for storing and food organization. If you took inventory before then this step is half done. Make sure you have enough space for everything you plan to bring home from your grocery haul. Maybe you noticed in your inventory that you had a lot of canned vegetables. Account for that and purchase frozen to allow for variety.
  • Lastly, set a preferred budget to stick to.
  • Mental preparation! Ok, you have checked your inventory, made your menu, and written your list. It is now time to shop!

(DON’T FORGET TO CLEAN OUT YOUR CAR BEFOREHAND SO YOU HAVE ENOUGH SPACE…made this mistake a time or two.)

The easy part is done, and the real work begins. Navigating through Costco is a task. You can most definitely take advantage of Costco’s same day delivery service, but with a family our size I like to do it myself.

Upon arriving at Costco, I like to say a silent prayer to help me get through the chaos that lies ahead. Haha just kidding…well not really.

For this trip, we needed various toiletries and bulky items so for that reason we opted to use both a flat cart and a basket. I like to have an organized shopping run. To make my life easier during check out I shop in order starting with the nonfood/non-perishable items; most of which are boxes/cans and can manage the weight of everything that is to come. We then head to the frozen section followed by the dairy/deli and so on, leaving produce and bread on the very top.

Of course, by the end of the Costco marathon we were exhausted. When we finally made it to checkout, we already felt accomplished and strangely enough I wasn’t at all surprised or stressed about the final cost of our endeavors. After we loaded it all up, we decided to capture this moment with a photo.

Some last-minute thoughts:

Remain flexible and adaptable. Sometimes things happen. We hoped to spend about $900 when we planned our trip but ended up paying just above $1200. My husband travels for work and needed food for when he was away. Also, prices vary, and items run out and you’re stuck with the more expensive option.

Still, I feel successful. As I write we are more than halfway through the month, and we have plenty of food left. Waste is down and we have frequented Walmart less. We are new to the way of once-a-month shopping, but I foresee it becoming an established routine from here on out.

Happy shopping!

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