Grocery

10 Smart Costco Products This Busy Mom Always Buys in Bulk

Confessions of a deal-loving hoarder.

January  8, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

As a food writer and recipe developer, I’m also by default a professional food shopper. I have all kinds of user-generated algorithms in my mind about where I like to buy certain things, how much I want to spend on them, how much of them I want to keep on hand, and so on. Even though I need to shop continuously for my job, and, like many people, I have a family who needs to be fed, I still get a little adrenaline rush when I food-shop. And thank goodness, because it’s a pretty big part of my life.

I’m also a little bit of a hoarder. When I see only four rolls of paper towels in the closet, I start to feel a little frisson of panic. But buying things in bulk has its pros and its cons. The pros include being stocked up for a long time, and usually saving some cash when you compare prices by weight, volume, or unit against smaller packages. The cons are buying too much of something, which can be problematic in terms of storage space (especially for those of us city-dwellers), and also spoilage (it feels so wasteful to throw away half of a 64-ounce container of sour cream just because it was a little cheaper per ounce than the smaller tub).

Few places challenge our abilities to bulk-shop smartly like Costco. The choices range from necessary to enticingly impulse-purchase-y, and the size of the packages is usually large to ginormous. But there are some items I have no qualms about piling high in my cart on repeat. Your list of Costco stocker-uppers will surely vary from mine, but these are the items that I most often load up on.


The Best Costco Products to Buy in Bulk

1. Broth

There are a variety of brands sold at Costco, and a variety of sizes, from big 50-ounce cans to packs of smaller 32-ounce cartons or multipacks of 14.5-ounce cans. The options often include chicken, beef, vegetable, organic, and less-sodium. I use gallons of broth every week—in soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles. You name it. If it’s savory and hot, there might well be broth in it. I like to keep an assortment of sizes of cartons and cans on hand for various recipe needs.

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Want to make a rich, semi-homemade chicken stock? While you're there, buy a rotisserie chicken (one of Costco’s most famous products for quality and price—$4.99!), have it for dinner and use the carcass and some of that store-bought broth to make delicious, mahogany-colored stock. Add ramen (without the seasoning packet) and any leftover shredded meat from the rotisserie chicken to make the world’s easiest chicken noodle soup.

2. Canned Tomatoes

There are often several versions available—whole, crushed, diced, paste, and sauce. I buy these in two sizes: the mega cans (6.6 pounds) and the eight-packs of everyday 28-ounce cans. The big cans are for huge batches of pasta sauces, like bolognese or marinara (which I love to freeze), and for when I’m throwing the occasional lasagna party. The smaller sizes are for day-to-day cooking, for recipes like my One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni or Fragrant Chicken Tomato Soup. Costco can carry a variety of brands. Last time I got eight 28-ounce cans of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes for $6.39 (about 80 cents each). Or if you want to splurge on the San Marzano tomatoes, those can be bought for $8.99 for a three pack of 28-ounce cans.

3. Parmesan

If you cook with real Parmesan regularly, then you know that this cheese is a) expensive and b) worth it. But the wedge Parmesan carried by Costco is a mere $10.59 per pound (some versions even less). Plus, it lasts for months when properly stored, and you can grate it freshly as needed. Perfect over salads, pastas, or this simple, four-ingredient creamed kale .

4. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

Costco makes it easy to buy their chicken breasts in bulk because they come in connected, perforated six-packs, each containing about 1.5 pounds of chicken breasts (9 or so pounds total). This allows you to open and use as many sections as you want and leave the rest perfectly sealed. These sealed packages can also go right into the freezer, and are easy to pull out and defrost in the fridge as you need them. They're $2.79 per pound, and also available in organic form for $4.99 per pound. Organic boneless, skinless thighs are $3.99 per pound, packaged in the same way (for some reason the boneless thighs are only available in an organic version).

Whatever the recipe—whether it's grilled chicken breasts, marinated kebabs, or rolled cutlets, you'll know that you're set because you've got some bulk chicken hanging out in the freezer.

5. Hearts of Palm

This is a weird one, I know, but I love hearts of palm dearly—and they can be very pricey! Since they come canned or jarred, they last for years. But because I add them to as many salads as I can and eat them by the handful as a snack, I can never have too many jars in stock. (Hearts of palm were also my pregnancy craving—I ate them every day while I was gestating Charlie.)

6. Peanuts

Okay, well, for those of you without allergies to tree nuts, I guess this would translate to ALL nuts. I'm only able to eat peanuts, though, and my family eats a lot of them. Luckily Costco has quite a number of ways for us to sate my peanut fix in a more economical way: The most important buy is the 48-pack of 1-ounce Planters salted peanut packs. I know you can do even better price-wise when you buy larger containers, but I appreciate the individual packages because they help me keep track of how many peanuts I'm inhaling. They're also terrific protein-filled snacks to keep in my bag when I'm on the go.

I also love the 2 1/2–pound canister of Kirkland Super Extra Large Peanuts, which are impossible to resist at just $6.69—but you need some serious self-discipline with these in the house, or a lot of peanut loving friends. Or just whip up a batch of cookies.

7. Cooking Spray

Sometimes you can find their house brand of cooking spray, Kirkland, which is very well priced. But even if they're only carrying classic Pam, you're going to save some real cash. Two 12-ounce cans are $6.99 at Costco, compared to about $4 to $5 for a single 8-ounce can at a standard national supermarket. And cooking sprays last forever, both in terms of spoilage and in terms of use. A critical staple to keep on hand for all manner of baking projects.

8. Pure Vanilla Extract

If you're a baker (or you're a reluctant one because your kids go to a bake-sale heavy school), then you'll immediately realize what a great price you’re getting for their big 16-ounce bottle of vanilla extract. $34.99 is a total steal, it lasts for years, and the quality is great—pure vanilla, not artificially flavored (which is not worth using even if it’s free, by the way). Elsewhere, a 1-ounce bottle of a leading national vanilla brand might be closer to $6 or $7, which would translate to almost over $100 if you were to buy the same amount of vanilla, or 16 of those little bottles. Startling, huh? Now you won’t need to hesitate before baking up a batch of oatmeal or chocolate chunk cookies.

9. Aluminum Foil

I have what can only be termed a deep, meaningful relationship with my oversized role of Kirkland Signature Reynolds Foodservice Foil. 12x1000 feet of aluminum foil may not be what everyone needs in their house, but if you regularly line baking sheets and wrap brownies for freezing (before sliding them into zipper-sealed bags of course), then you can seriously save a large amount of money by purchasing this mega-roll. I buy about one of these a year for $27.99, and that carries me right on through.

10. Prosciutto

While I know that you can’t stock up on prosciutto the way you can on paper towels or aluminum foil, a sealed package will last for four whole months, so you can certainly buy for the future. And it just so happens that my kids' favorite sandwich is prosciutto and mozzarella on a baguette. On my last visit to Costco, a 1-pound sleeve of Citterio prosciutto was priced at $9.99. Suddenly indulgences like prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and this easy party appetizer seem much more accessible.

What do YOU like to buy in bulk at Costco? Let us know in the comments below.

This post is an unsponsored grocery-store love letter.

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90 Comments

Sharon R. January 27, 2019
I didn’t see these mentioned. Kirkland Brand Vodka, it’s not as good as the high end brands, but if you’re not drinking it straight, it is excellent, especially for the the price. Also the Balsamic vinegar, and the sirloin hamburger patties. I also buy the Scoth brand scrubbies. A package lasts forever. I tend to cut them in half, so they really go a long way..I also like BIBIGO frozen dumplings. They come 6 in a tray, and at least 6 trays to a box. They make a wonderful filling snack. In the drug aisle, the Kirkland brand vitamins, industrial size Advil, Gavison, and Kirkland baby wipes. In addition to their intended purpose, I use them all the time when I craft. Last but not least, their Cheescake! It’s the one in the bakery section refrigeratored case.<br />Does anyone know what happened to the Tira Misu? They changed brands. The old one was to die for. The new brand isn’t.
 
Bryanah W. January 20, 2019
Oh and almond flour and dates is a must add to this list!
 
Mathew B. January 18, 2019
Costco oh Costco, my unhealthy obsession with Costco. I tell myself it’s healthy because I’m “saving” money and try to avoid buying too much junk. <br /><br />Favorite regular purchases are the two-packs of whole chickens, the giant, resealable(!) bags of frozen veggies for steaming on a week night when you just want a low-effort dinner, the 3-packs of sliced turkey that comes in a Tupperware that’s great for pantry storage or sending people home with leftovers, two-packs of Kirkland’s organic peanut butter, 6-packs of unsweetened almond milk, the organic Garo Falo brand pasta, Spanish Queen olives, Better Than Bouillon, and basically all the produce. <br /><br />Latest winner I’ve tried is the organic heirloom bean blend in a 5.5 lb bag. Really pretty and high quality dry beans. <br /><br />One thing I wish they had was bay leaves. I love soups and stews and go through bay leaves quickly!
 
Eileen January 18, 2019
Avocados. They are large and for some reason they keep better than the ones from other stores. I suspect they are shipped and stored correctly. I have far fewer avocados turning dark inside before I can eat them. I put one under a bowl with a banana to hasten ripening, and when the rest ripen I put a couple in the fridge to extend their life. BUT SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED TO COSTCO AVOCADOS. The last few bags have been strangely slow to ripen, and they never seem to release the seed. What happened, Costco?
 
paseo January 20, 2019
Check to see where they are from. I only buy Mexican or CA avocados and recently the Costco ones are from Chile which I don't think measure up - for the reasons you mention.
 
mela January 20, 2019
If you refrigerate the olives as soon as you bring them home, and just bring them out as you need them to ripen, they will keep as long as ever. It's a little more to remember, setting out avocados in advance as needed, but you always have perfect avocados ready to eat in the fruit bowl.
 
mela January 20, 2019
Oops. Avocados, not olives.<br /><br />
 
Lynne M. January 21, 2019
Underripe...roast them. Wrap in foil, roast at 200º for 10-60 min (depends on how ripe they are). They will soften and develop a slightly nuttier flavor. Not perfect, but good enough for guacamole or a sauce.
 
Lynne L. January 22, 2019
I have tried that with no success. The avocados that i tried in oven never ripened. I was sooo sad. I have talked to people for whom this trick worked so thank you for suggesting it. :-)
 
Clare F. January 18, 2019
olive oil, Kirkland Marcona almonds, discounted cookbooks, trio of rolled cheese and prosciutto (along with another deli meat), paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, cheddar caramel popcorn, Himalayan pink sea salt chips and the list goes on...
 
Donna January 18, 2019
I always buy avocado oil at Costco. It’s half the price of what’s available at local grocery stores.
 
Elizabeth H. January 18, 2019
Costco plastic wrap is heavier than what you buy in the grocery store and it seals and stays in place better. It comes in a two pack, and seems expensive; but it will last for months (or even years for some people). You can always buy the two pack and give the second one away.
 
tastysweet January 20, 2019
Does this wrap have the slider to cut the wrap?
 
mtnnewf January 22, 2019
Yes
 
Mallory January 18, 2019
Canned coconut milk has a been a solid go-to at costco for me lately. This winter I've made a ton of coconut-milk based soups, stews, and curries. The 6 cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk gets added to my cart every time I swing by Costco.
 
Bridget P. January 18, 2019
Our favorite is Maya Kamal curry sauce in the refrigerated aisle, two types in the package. Just put it with shrimp or chicken for a great quick meal over rice.
 
Pamela B. January 18, 2019
Kirkland brand goat cheese - double pack - creamy goodness! Other cheeses too- manchego, parm-reg for grating - many are now organic! And organic gourmet coffee beans!!
 
Lynne L. January 18, 2019
Several of you have mentioned buying cheese at Costco and freezing it. How do you do that? How long does it last? is it appropriate for chevre goat cheese as well?
 
nancy January 19, 2019
Their Parmesan cheese (hard cheeses in general) and goat cheese freeze perfectly. I put them in a freezer bag for good measure. I use both frequently, but I would guess 6-8 months in the freezer no problem. Easy!
 
mela January 20, 2019
European-made hard cheeses (Parmesan, Pecorino, etc) will keep in the fridge - in separate glass containers - for a really long time. Cheese was traditionally a way of keeping dairy products before there was refrigeration.<br />I don't recommend keeping cheese in the frige past their Best Before date if they are N.American made - the manufacturing process seems to be different. <br /><br />European-made hard cheeses can be kept refrigerated long after their best before dates. (Months. I forgot an unopened piece of Parmesan and it was lovely six months after the BB date.) <br />Refrigeration does not change the nature & flavour of the cheese as freezing does.<br />I always have several kinds of cheese on hand (pecorino, parmesan, gruyere, british cheddar) and the European-ones actually improve.<br />That said, Costco cheese quality seems to be going downhill and their cheese quality is sliding. Some European cheeses, esp. the 'coastal' brand british cheddar, can't be kept like a traditional cheese anymore. (Its texture & flavour have both declined.) <br />
 
tastysweet January 20, 2019
😞😞
 
mtnnewf January 22, 2019
I don't freeze mine; I vacuum-seal my cheese. The texture doesn't change (like it often does when I freeze it) and it keeps for--years! I don't recommend it, but I've had provolone that go lost in the back of the fridge and when I found it, it had been there about 2 1/2 years.
 
Christine January 18, 2019
I just made my next shopping trip list from the lists mentioned! The one item no one has mentioned that I love is the giant roll of parchment paper. It is 205 square feet of pure convenience. When I was a working chef I aways had a few boxes stashed. It is not always stocked and you may have to hunt for it a bit, but it beats those skinny grocery store boxes hands down.
 
sarah C. January 18, 2019
I found out the parchment paper is in warehouse for holiday season only. In August when I ran out, the parchment was available @ Costco.com
 
dietjessg January 18, 2019
I love shopping at Costco! Recently, I bought frozen organic butternut squash cubes, the bag is 5# and is seapareted into one-pound packages. Ok so there’s some packaging waste, but the squash has been perfect for making all of my favorite butternut squash soup recipes! I also buy a large container of organic cremini mushrooms to make a big pan of mushroom risotto. My daughter loves the Simple Mills almond flour crackers, we found them at Costco and bought several boxes.
 
tastysweet January 20, 2019
Always looking for cubed Butternut Squash. Didn’t realize Costco has this. Should have had that when I made Thai Style Bitternut Squash. <br />Do you know if this is something they always carry? Or is it seasonal only in certain stores?
 
Katherine January 18, 2019
Frozen wild salmon burgers are fantastic...on the grill or stove. And when they have fresh shrimp, it's amazing...huge, cleaned, tasty. I also check the clothes and have picked up workout stuff, socks and men's cotton button downs. The books are usually a good deal.
 
Mike January 18, 2019
Forgot the rotisserie 4.99 roasted chicken.! You can have the bird for Sunday dinner and what's left over you make a nice chicken soup with.
 
Troy L. January 18, 2019
Not my original idea but the baguettes can be bought frozen and taken home to be baked "fresh" They are freezer staple and when living somewhere without a genuine "known" for bread bakery they are ideal. You have to ask for the Frozen Par Baked Baguettes and they will look at you funny the first time.
 
Patti P. January 18, 2019
Not sure whether anyone mentioned the quarts of heavy whipping cream! Such a good price! In PA they also have a great price on Fage Greek yogurt—not sure if that’s a national product? Kirkland is also very good.
 
Nancy H. January 18, 2019
I buy many of these and would add the raw nuts: almonds, walnuts, even pinenuts. For a while they had skinned, roasted hazelnuts and I wish they brought them back. I also buy various of the canned beans which I often turn to if I need a quick dinner be it dal or a bean salad.
 
Ann P. January 18, 2019
So many great ideas that I need to grab on my next trip. We are a small household of 2 so I keep to simple items and try my best to avoid processed snacks. Here's my essentials re: food...<br />Canned Tuna<br />Baguettes<br />Kirkland goat cheese (freezes well)<br />Kirkland EVOO (the domestic is certified Italian, organic is not)<br />Quaker old fashioned oats<br />Almonds/pecans<br />Pure Maple Syrup<br />Vanilla<br />Cinnamon<br />Black peppercorns<br />organic string cheese<br />Wine<br />Wild Caught smoked Salmon
 
Susan January 18, 2019
I love Costco and I have to say that all the suggestions in the article and the comments are superb except for hearts of palm. I have not eaten those for years because when the heart is harvested, the palm dies. Why not substitute artichoke hearts?
 
Nancy H. January 18, 2019
Yes, to the marinated artichoke hearts. You can drain them and roast them and they are a great snack, addition to salads or pasta and more. You won't be sorry.
 
Laurence T. January 18, 2019
Despite the fact that our Costco is a trip full of traffic and so crowded the parking lot is a real challenge, I will have to sally forth again after reading this. Hearts of Palm is one of my secret passions too....especially in vats of Swamp Cabbage. When the weather turns chilly down here in central Florida, nothing like a bowl of steaming SC to warm the cockles!
 
tastysweet January 20, 2019
Have a recipe?