Costco Food: How We Pre-Plan A Month Of Fast And Easy Meals In Just One Trip

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The last several weeks have been very hectic, and we just managed to visit our “new” Costco after moving. It may be a horror for some to hear, but sometimes a corporate chain can really give you a nice feeling of familiarity. While pushing the cart through the wide aisles, I noticed that I missed our monthly Costco run. In particular, we seem to have developed a routine for the food that we buy. Lest you think I am some sort of food snob that actually has the energy to cook a full meal every night, here are some products that we get that provide us with quick and easy meals for weeks. Don’t expect any gourmet tips here!

Today: Eat Lunch at Costco Food Court. My wife and I usually split a Hot Dog & Coke and a Chicken Bake. The hot dog comes with sauerkraut, which is key. I forget the total now, but I’m pretty sure it’s less than $5. You can buy the hot dogs and chicken bakes in the freezer section, but for health reasons we restrict our intake of these delicacies. If you still aren’t satisfied, you can always graze on the samples that they are giving out in the aisles.

Next Week: Buy Some Hot Dishes To Go. We always leave with a rotisserie chicken and one of the spinach salads. Much has been written about the many things you can do with that chicken, from quesadillas and sesame noodles to chicken salad and quiche.

First 2 meals – Chicken breast with spinach salad
Next 2 meals – Shredded chicken inside quesadillas with cheese and salsa
Last 2 meals – Take the bones and remaining meat on the bone, and make homemade stock for chicken and rice congee.

Long Term Staples: Minimal prep, on the table in 15 minutes or less

  • Krusteaz Pancake Mix – Add water, stir, and spoon onto the griddle! Stir in chocolate chips, bananas, or berries if you got ’em.
  • Individually Frozen Chicken Tenders – Lean protein, no preservatives, just chicken and salt. Although more expensive than the breasts, the tenders are more easy to portion, and cook faster without any extra work. Just grill/broil/saute and top with something: cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, cheese, gravy.
  • Individually Frozen Salmon – Similar to chicken, just grill and add lemon juice.
  • Paradise Valley Creamy Mash Potatoes – Instant mashed potatoes, but the only ingredients are potatoes, butter, and salt. Again, no additives or preservatives. Just add boiling water and butter, and you’ve got some carbs!
  • 20 lb sack of rice – More tasty carbs via my trusty and easy-to-clean Zojirushi rice cooker.
  • Dried pasta – Usually they have some sort of variety pack of shapes.
  • Kirkland Four Cheese Ravioli – These are well-stuffed and all you have to do is boil water. Goes great with just olive oil or butter and some capers, or add some jarred sauce.
  • Kirkland Lasagna, as well as other similar pre-cooked dishes – Just heat and serve.
  • Frozen Pizza – Although we usually prefer the Trader Joe’s frozen pizza, Costco has some decent options as well.
  • Frozen or Fresh Vegetables – They often have pre-cut carrots, blue lake beans, broccoli, and spinach in addition to their bagged frozen stuff. Just steam or stir-fry with some garlic.

Mix and match as needed, and you’ve got 20 different meals without breaking a sweat! For slightly fancier ideas, check out the recipes in the official Costco Cookbook.

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  1. Hmmm. I may have to rethink a Cosco membership. I let mine lapse after my youngest stopped wearing diapers. My budget downfall is eating out on nights that I’m too tired to cook, and you give some good alternatives here. I guess I just need to figure out if the membership is worth it and if we have the freezer space to make it worthwhile.

  2. not to mention king crab legs for $8 a lb., which is pretty much half of the other grocery stores around.

  3. Hmm. You could spend even less time cooking fresh and healthier with weekly planning.

  4. Congee! I’m a big fan of that. You can put scraps from last night’s chinese dinner in it, or some steamed veggies, or a little chicken, dried pork, or whatever. Also that rice cooker is a dream. I can’t imagine how I ever cleaned out my old cooker before.

  5. My local steak house has to go plates for $3.99 pound. I usually get meats and cheese. Friday is seafood day,same price. Works for me because I live one mile from restaurant. Almost all meals $3.00 to $4.25.
    Eat there twice daily!

  6. Erik Lane says

    We love Costco and use it for bulk items and when we do freezer cooking every few months. Yep, we only cook a few times a year and we are a family of 6. What’s freezer cooking? Google 30 Day Gourmet. We (meaning my wife) has been doing this for the last few years and its been great. It’s great for people who want to save time, money, and get to eat around the dinner table with your family.

  7. suma valluru says

    Hi, i agree that proper weekly planning is sufficient, to spend quite a very less time in cooking fresh dishes…

  8. Nice to see someone using Costco responsibly! And for the PP re: cooking from scratch, for busy people, using some pre-made and pre-portioned ingredients can mean the difference between eating healthily (chicken, rice, salad) and grabbing something from the drive-through.

  9. Financial advice with frugal eating advice as well — THANKS! This information will help us save lots of time and it’ll give my wife a chance to take a break from the kitchen while i grab the apron!

  10. I’d suggest going easy on the simple carbs – enriched flour pancakes, pasta, white rice, potatos. The spikes in blood sugar from them will damage your blood vessel walls leading to high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. You won’t be able to enjoy your early retirement as much – lack of energy, affected by summer heat, impotence…

  11. you’ve forgotten to factor in the hidden costs: the co-pays and medical bills that will result from eating like this. eat broccoli instead.

  12. When I first got custody of 3 little girls, I asked them one day what they wanted for lunch. They all chirped “COSTCO”. OMG, I was spending far too much time at Costco, as I still do.They know me us by name there. I have 3 kids, need convenience and am just a few blocks from Costco. Just make sure you make the healthy choices from their many choices at the warehouse.

  13. Rotisserie chicken: Yes I always leave with one also! And here’s another use for it–when almost all the meat is gone I plop the chicken in a big pot of water and boil it into CHICKEN CARCASS SOUP for my dogs. They love it! I pour the stock over their dry food and pick off any remaining bits of meat and add those too. The dogs know the words CHICKEN CARCASS SOUP now and get all excited when I tell them that’s for dinner.

  14. sfordinarygirl says

    I’m addicted to going to Costco lately. I’ve bought almonds and walnuts there in huge bags and they’re great healthy snacks – highly recommended from the “You on a diet” book. They’re so economical and go a long way at $20 a bag for raw almonds. You can toast them in the oven, add a dash of salt, make your own honey roasted almonds and the list goes on. My dad used to pay $3 for those blue diamond almonds. now that i figured out the right combo of flavors we don’t need to buy those expensive cans.

    i just had the chicken bake for the first time last week! we used to always get the kosher hot dog combo cuz it was cheaper. $1.50 vs. $2.69 (no soda either). but it’s really tasty and filling minus the overabundance of cheese in there. if they added some vegetables like some broccoli that’d be even better.

  15. Clay Parker says

    Please get Paradise Valley Creamy Mashed Potatoes back in your stores. They are the best in their category by far!!!!

  16. I turned so many friends and family onto Paradise Valley Mash
    Potatoes after they sampled it in the store. The next time I went in
    to purchase another box, I was told they no longer carry it. Why
    bother to get people hooked and them don’t carry them? It is an
    excellent product because of the taste and simple ingredients – no chemicals. Please rethink your policies.

  17. Costco is worth it for large families if you only buy what you need; staples to get at costco, that will save you 20-50% off grocery prices:
    Oj, Milk, butter,bread, frozen atlantic salmon, mortons tip sirloin , chicken salad, fruits are always fresh and salad is 1/2 price of publix, I get the large package of ground beef and cook about 7 different meat meals and freeze , frozen quesedilla’s ,frozen spinach lasagna, frozen nuggets for dinners and lunches where there is not enough time to cook. Dinners usually end up costing me for a family of 5- $8-max $15 a night.

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