Costco Shopping Tips for Busy Moms

I promise – this is not one big Costco Ad. And no, we’re not being paid or compensated in any way for the contents of this blog; although, I really do believe that maybe I should get a free block of cheddar cheese out of it. Right? 

But honestly, I could tell stories about life through Costco trips because we go there so often. Like the dates Trent and I would take when we were married just a few years and went grocery shopping with the kids sleeping in a double stroller. Looking at all the things, reading through all the books, and just lazily taking our time and getting excited at all of our finds.

Or the story of my 2-year-old daughter, Jacq Jacq, screaming at the top of her lungs in the back of the store throwing a tantrum, and me sitting there just waiting for her to calm down, refusing to give in. And the bakery worker who wanted to give her a cookie and was surprised when I kindly refused, letting her know we were waiting out a tantrum.

Or the time I took the kids to the bathroom at Costco and took a sec to check my Facebook–just in time to see a picture of our missing dog being put up for adoption by the animal shelter, even after we had called numerous times looking for her. And I could tell of the gratitude we felt to have her back in our family.

Then, of course, there are all the times when I would take all six kiddos shopping with me. Two kids in the top of the cart, oldest kid pushing the stroller, everyone else having a hand on the cart at all times. I’m still surprised at how well we did with that!

And, of course, there’s always, always always…the free lunch! We would take our time weaving in and out of every single sample station. Oh, how they loved that!

You name it, we get it at Costco – office supplies, school supplies, birthday presents, Christmas presents, eyeglasses, tires – pretty much everything.

Michelle hillaert

Costco has supplied many a party, many a birthday. It’s also recently where my son got many of the items needed in his new college dorm room. You name it, we get it at Costco – office supplies, school supplies, birthday presents, Christmas presents, eyeglasses, tires – pretty much everything.

Now that you know Costco is a family way of life for us, what really inspired this article is that over the years, I’ve had other moms ask me about our Costco regimen. They are curious about what we throw in our grocery cart on a regular basis, what a typical grocery haul might look like, and my best Costco shopping tips. 

So diapers, pull-ups, and wine aside, I decided to put together a list of all the things that we purchase from Costco regularly, and for some of the items, why we love them or how we use them.

1. Dry or Canned Foods

One of the first lessons I learned when we began our clean eating journey was to read the labels on everything I purchased. When I first started reading labels, I was in shock over the amount of sugar and salt present in most processed foods. It was surprising how many ingredients I couldn’t even recognize, much less pronounce. 

Now, when I’m grocery shopping and looking for canned tomatoes or getting a bag of chips or a treat for the kiddos, I always read the label. My eyes are searching for unrecognizable ingredients, additives like MSG, and anything else that might raise an eyebrow.

I love shopping at Costco because you can choose from such a great assortment of healthy or healthier items. I put together a list of the dry or canned foods we get regularly from Costco. You’ll see things like “canned wild salmon” and “Mayorga Organic Non-GMO coffee.” I’ve been very intentional with some of these choices. 

Considering how much coffee we drink, Trent and I decided that it would be best to get an organic non-GMO coffee with little, if any, pesticides. I purchase the wild Alaskan canned salmon because it’s one of the fish with the least amount of mercury in it. I won’t eat tuna because even if it’s wild, it more than likely has mercury, and with an MTHFR gene mutation, I steer clear of pretty much anything that has metals in it. 

When it comes to dry or canned foods, some of the items we love to purchase from Costco regularly are:

Organic tortilla chips
Canned wild salmon
Organic non-GMO almond flour crackers
Organic non-GMO oatmeal
Organic peanut butter 
Organic Strawberry Preserves
Kalamata olives
Organic brown rice
Organic salsa
Maple syrup

2. Cooking/Baking

We LOVE to cook and bake at our house. We make almost everything from scratch, so we always have a full spice cabinet. We can’t find all of our spices at Costco, but when we can, we’re excited because we get a huge container at just a fraction of the cost. Our spices take up an entire cabinet with multiple shelves, and then some. I might tell you more about what we keep in there another time, but for now, I’ll focus on the ones you can find at Costco.

When it comes to cooking, we were so excited when Costco started carrying virgin coconut oil and avocado oil. One of the things I learned awhile ago is that you shouldn’t cook with olive oil at a high heat. Once it starts smoking, it can actually become carcinogenic. So when we were introduced to avocado oil, we were SOLD! I use it for baking, cooking, frying. I even use it on my face and body when I run out of lotion. We use it for pretty much everything. And there’s the coconut oil, my fav go-to when making popcorn or frying up some sweet potatoes. I also use it in place of lotion, and if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that you can also use it in a handful of home remedies.

In the below list, the items we use the most are cumin, parsley, garlic, Himilayan salt, olive oil, avocado oil, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar. We use them frequently and therefore are some of our fav’ Costco finds. Here is a full list of the items we generally get from the Costco baking aisle:

Chili powder
Garlic granules
No-salt seasoning (great for seasoning baked chicken along with salt, pepper, and garlic)
Himalayan salt
Olive Oil
Avocado Oil
Coconut oil
Balsamic vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
White vinegar
Better Than Bouillon

3. Frozen Food

When I discovered frozen vegetables at Costco, I could never go back. You can buy HUGE bags of frozen organic vegetables that look good and taste amazing when steamed or broiled or baked or – well – anything. It’s pretty easy to throw some chicken thighs in the oven, steam some of these veggies, throw together some rice or potatoes, and have a quick and easy, healthy meal for your family in a jiffy.

The same goes for the frozen fruit. I love to make healthy shakes, so you’ll often find the blueberries or mango chunks in my freezer ready to be thrown in with some spinach and collagen for a quick breakfast. We also often have the organic wildberry mix that we use to make crepes for our kiddos on their birthdays.

The frozen ground beef rounds are AWESOME when you can find them. I buy them and throw them in the freezer, and when I need ground beef to make spaghetti or tacos, it’s easy to thaw it out for dinner. And of course – the chicken breast. I LOVE that we can grab a breast out of the bag, thaw it out and cook it, without having to thaw all the other chicken breasts out. It’s great for a quick lunch or dinner.

Here is a full list of our usual Costco frozen food buys:

Organic blueberries
Organic mango chunks
Organic wildberry mix
Organic green beans
Organic broccoli
Organic cauliflower rice
Ground beef (5 1lb rounds)
Frozen chicken breast
Wild Alaskan Salmon

4. Fresh Fruit and Veggies

To be honest, I would love to only eat organic fruits and vegetables. But the reality is, they’re often (not always) very expensive and just don’t fit into my monthly food budget. What I love about Costco is that there is a pretty good selection of organic fruits and vegetables, so we’re able to add more into our everyday diet. 

I also love that Costco has such affordable organic apples. We usually grab two bags, and they last us about a week and a half. Their organic spinach is also often a regular in my morning shakes and a common ingredient when we make eggs for breakfast or mix in with our salads. The kiddos love to add the baby carrots into their school lunches, along with sliced cucumbers and/or a clementine.

I do enjoy buying cherry tomatoes and grapes on occasion as well. They’re quite delicious! The only reason they’re not a regular buy for my house is that they’re usually gone within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, so I get them more as a special treat. My focus is on the foods that stick around a bit longer to get us closer to our next shopping trip.

These are our most common Costco fruit and veggie buys:

Organic apples
Organic spinach
Organic romaine lettuce
Organic baby carrots
Roma tomatoes 

5. Raw Meat

I purchase 99.9% of my meat at Costco. When we buy meat elsewhere, I can often taste the difference in quality. We love to throw the chicken thighs in the oven at 350 degrees, coated in a handful of spices, and let it bake for a quick and easy dinner. We make a yummy sausage soup in our instant pot with the Italian sausage, and recently threw together a fresh tomato sauce with the Italian sausage. So tasty!

My husband has a Texas-style smoker, so you’ll often find him on a Sunday afternoon out by his smoker, cooking up some beer can chicken or smoking a pork shoulder. Absolutely DELICIOUS!! I’m grateful for the good prices and quality food that we find on our Costco runs.

This is the meat you can almost always find in our freezer:

Chicken thighs
Whole chicken
Pork shoulder
Ground beef (if frozen isn’t available)
Italian sausage
Pork ribs

6. Dairy Section

When I go through the dairy section, I always grab the same things – two blocks of cheddar cheese, one tub of sour cream, two packs of 40 eggs, 3 gallons of milk, one quart of heavy cream, and in the summertime, some fresh mozzarella slices to make Caprese.

I love that the sour cream doesn’t have weird additives in it. I buy the block cheese instead of the shredded cheese because the shredded cheese has caking powder on it, and well, block cheese doesn’t. Because our family goes through this stuff so fast, I’m grateful Costco has the size and the prices to make these products more affordable for big families like ours.

The following products are mostly staples at our house:

Fresh mozzarella slices
Dubliner cheese
Block cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Heavy cream

If stores could tell stories, I’m sure Costco could tell quite a bit of ours. That store has seen us grow from a young couple with a couple of babies into a family where the kiddos are now starting to leave the nest. I’m grateful we have a place where we can buy the amount of groceries we need, keep the food fairly clean, and still not blow the budget.

Even if you don’t have a Costco membership and you go to your local grocery store, Aldi, or frequent a Sams or BJs, hopefully this list will give you ideas on things you can get that are mostly, if not all, clean, and can be a good staple for a growing family. 

It’s easy to get caught up in perfectionism while shopping, looking for the cleanest, most organic, and non-GMO foods. For some of us, especially when we have a handful of kiddos, we just can’t afford perfection.

Let me tell you something that took me a long time to learn…it’s OKAY. We don’t have to be perfect. In the end, we do the best we can with the budget we’re given. Go for the better options when you can’t go for the best options. We can do so many things to slowly make some healthier changes in our grocery shopping if that’s needed.

Just remember this: do the best you can and give the rest to God. He turned water into wine, so for all we know, while we’re bowing our heads and praying over this food we purchased and prepared, He may be turning GMO into non-GMO organic.

God is good. ALL the time. 

Hope that my Costco shopping tips were helpful for you, my friend. Be blessed. I’m praying for you. Have fun shopping!

About Author

Michelle Hillaert is a wife, mother, bestselling author, coach, and a woman of vision. She is passionate about spending time with her family, making memories, and being intentional in cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ. As an entrepreneur, avid blogger, and website design and branding enthusiast, Michelle is a recovering perfectionist who gets a woman’s desire to strive for more. A mom of 6 kids, she is attuned to the needs of busy women striving to stay ahead while still being “good enough.” She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and best friend, Trent. They have fun creating a close family culture and sharing the lessons they’ve learned in over 20 years of marriage in their new ministry and podcast, Catholic Family Uncorked.

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