52 ways to save money on a healthy diet: Real food at Costco at affordable prices

When many of think of Costco food, we often think of frozen, premade food that you pop on a tray and cook in the oven. Certainly healthy, whole food dinners aren’t what we think of as the typical Costco dinner. However, you can easily skip all the junk and buy a lot of whole food ingredients there!  A very lovely organic salad with low-mercury sustainable tuna, organic quinoa, avocado, and shredded organic carrots with a vinegar and organic olive oil dressing can be made from ingredients found at Costco.

My local Costco has some real gems, such as the cheapest prices for organic quinoa, Kerrygold pastured butter, and Nutiva coconut oil in town! One 8 oz. package of Kerrygold butter only costs $2.33, and Nutiva coconut oil is only $.28 an oz. Amazing deals.

But is the cost of membership worth it? It costs $55 dollars for a yearly membership. Whether that cost is worth it for you or not is going to depend on a few things. First, what is available at your local Costco, as items vary, will be a factor. How far away it is from your house is also something to consider and how many items you’d be willing to buy there. They do have clothing items, books, toys, kitchen items and other household goods for good prices as well as the food. For natural cleaning, large bottles of white vinegar are avaible for next to nothing (probably made using genetically modified ingredients, by the way, though I use it anyways) and 13.5 pounds of baking soda is available for $16.59.

If looking just at the food, I think it depends also on whether you are a 100%-buy-from local-farmers person or not. If you are, it won’t be worth it for you. But if you have some flexibility, you may, like me, find enough food items to make it worth it. Plus, it seems like they are adding more healthy items in every month right now! I found several new items there today. Finally, a single girl mostly cooking for herself might not find significant savings, but a mother cooking for a family of six (or in my case, four), probably will – especially if you go through Kerrygold butter like we do!

There are several Costco’s near me, and even these can vary a little in what they carry. So keep in mind that you will need to check your local Costco for what they carry and prices. For example, one reader informed me recently that their Costco had even cheaper organic whole chickens than mine does.

However, here is a run down of some of the products of interest (I don’t necessarily buy all of these items, but was trying to find items my readers could be interested in. For the sake of length, I won’t go through the pros and cons of buying all of these items, but you are welcome to mention them in the comment section! I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

Dry Goods:
Organic Maple syrup 1L/$13.69
Adam’s Peanut Butter 80 oz./$.8.99
Maranatha Natural Almond Butter 26 oz./$6.79
Tree Top Organic Applesauce 36-4 oz. containers/$10.49
Tree Top Organic Applesauce 4-47-25 oz./$9.69
Organic Salsa, 2-38 oz./$7.75
Organic Tomato Paste 12/6 oz./$5.99 (they also had organic tomato sauce, diced, and maybe stewed for good prices as well)
Truroots organic, gluten-free pasta 2.20 lbs./$7.49
Organic wheat pasta from Italy 6-1.1 lbs./&8.49
Organic quick oats 112 oz./$7.79
Organic Lundberg short brown rice 12 lbs./$12.99
Seeds of Change organic quinoa 4 lbs./$8.79
Sprouted Grain Medley, 3 lbs./ $8.99
Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar (Fair trade, unbleached – good for kombucha making) 10 lbs/(need to re-check the price on this item)
Vitacoco Coconut water 6-1L/$15 (may be sometimes $20 as it was on sale)
Himalayan pink salt in salt grinder container 13 oz./$3.99

Canned and Smoked Seafood:
Wild Planet’s low-mercury, sustainably caught tuna 6-5 oz. cans/$14.99
Kirkland’s Wild Sockeye Salmon, canned 3-6 oz. cans $10.89
Bear and Wolf Wild Alaskan Salmon 6-6 oz./$11.99
Smoked Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon 24 oz./$16.89
Organic Chicken Stock 6-32 oz./ $11.99

Nuts:
Walnuts 3 lbs./ $16.99
Almonds 3 lbs./$12.79
Pecans 2 lbs./$13.99
Raw pine nuts 24 ounces/$23.99

Oils and Fats:
Organic extra virgin olive oil 2 L/$12.39
Nuova olio extra virgin olive oil, unfiltered and unheated (California brand) 1 L/$7.99
Kerrygold butter 3-8 oz./$6.99
Organic butter 2 lbs./$7.69
Nutiva Coconut oil 78 oz./$21.99

Frozen and Refrigerated Goods:
Frozen organic dark cherries 4 lbs./$12.69 (lots of other frozen fruits and berries, but not any other organic ones)
Organic frozen green peas 5 lbs./$4.65
Organic frozen corn 3.5 lbs./ $4.65
Frozen wild Alaskan salmon burgers 3 lbs. (12 count)/$14.89
Wild Alaskan frozen halibut 2 lbs./$37.69
Wild caught frozen mahi-mahi 3 lbs./ $23.99
Wild Alaskan frozen sockeye 3 lbs./$26.89
Organic eggs 24 CT/$6.99
Kerrygold cheese 2.18 lbs./$12.99
Lamb Leg Roast $4.99 a pound
Organic whole chicken $2.49 a pound
Organic drumsticks $1.79 a pound
Organic chicken thighs $3.99 a pound
Organic chicken breasts $5.99 a pound
5 CT bag of large avocadoes $4.49
Organic Fuji apples 5.5 lbs./ $6.99
Organic baby spinach 1 lb./$3.99
Organic spring mix 1 1b/$3.99
Organic baby kale mix 1.5 lbs./$4.99
Organic broccolini 2 lbs./$5.50
Organic carrots 10lbs/ $5.99

What do you think? Do the above food items make it worth it? Any other Costco members out there?

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Cheryl Adkins says

    Indeed, Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart which is notorious for having the worst employee-employer record. While they rake in billions, their employees are paid a non livable wage are subsidized by the taxpayers in the form of foodstamps and medicaid. I personally will not shop at Walmart nor any of their subsidiaries. Costco on the other hand has a business plan that pays their employees a livable wage while striving to keep prices at a minimum. Unfortunately we don’t have one near here but my daughter is a member where she lives near D.C.
    http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/retail/bigbox_livingwage_policies11.pdf
    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/costcos-ceo-becomes-a-progressive-hero-internet-meme/6894

  2. says

    I love Costco! You can get everrrrrrything there from body wash to a lobster meal! It’s convenient and an awesome place to save and stack up on groceries!

  3. Val Naegele says

    I have been a Costco member since the 80′s. Well worth the money. Even when I am cooking for 1, I go to Costco. The fruit and vegetables are outstanding. They now carry gluten free bread in the 2 pack, for what 1 costs at the grocery. My daughter will be marrying and moving to Australia. She is mourning the loss of the Costco. Her fiancee has visited a couple of times and also wishes they had one in his hometown of Adelaide! I have already been told that I will be doing some shipping! I have been flooding them with suggestions for getting gluten free flour and the nut flours, maybe even Pamelas. I hope it will happen sooner than later!

  4. Jennie says

    I’m a total Costco fan! It’s hard to serve whole, organic food to a family six on a limited budget. We also just started seeing Lara Uber bars, chia seeds, organic whole chickens (so beautiful for making real stock), and a variety of gluten-free products. And, yes, the vegetables are beautiful. Whenever they stock organic fruits and veggies we snatch them up!

  5. Elizabeth Bailey says

    They also carry another brand of organic coconut oil that is $15.99 for 54 oz. I have been very happy with it!

    We’ve bought Almond Milk there, frozen organic strawberries, frozen organic blueberries, and then their organic beef is $4.99 a lb. for us.

    I never realized the bargains they had! I’m so thankful. :-)

  6. Katie says

    If you buy an executive membership ($110) you receive coupons in the mail from Costco each month and also you receive 2% of your spendings back in a check at the end of the year. So if you shop there a lot, which I do, the membership is definitely worth it.

  7. Nicole says

    Another note on the Executive membership, even if you don’t spend enough to get the difference between that and the regular membership back, Costco will give that much back automatically. You just bring your check in with you when you renew and they will take the full $50 off your next year’s membership.

  8. Ronda says

    Sadly, my Costco does not seem to have Kerrygold butter anymore. I am going to try another location, but I am not very hopeful.

    • says

      They moved it at our Costco. I thought they no longer carried it, but it was on an endcap in the prepared salads (tsatsiki, salsas) and cheese section. Try looking again! Apparently they move things frequently – one of their strategies.

  9. says

    Thanks for the work on this–we love Costco, too! If you do a lot of shopping and are strategic using the American Express credit card, the Executive Membership is the way to go. We just earned an $892 rebate. Yes, I typed that right. I turned around and spent every nickel back at Costco and we are set for quite a while on many of the exact items you listed above…plus some new plants, a few outfits for everyone in the family and a few gift cards for holidays!

    • Jennifer says

      Sandy,
      can you explain how the American Express credit card works with your Costco purchases?
      Thanks

      • Ashley says

        You get a percent back when you use your Amex, even at other places. A check comes on your February statement that you can use at Costco or they give you cash for it. We use our Amex all the time and earned 300 in one year with there only being two of us.

        • Barbara says

          Just want to second what Katie and Ashley point out — the Amex card offered through Costco has given us free membership for the last 2 years in the form of rebates. We’re a one-income family of 3 living on less than 45k/year (gross) and we always get enough rebates back from using the Amex card only for gas and Costco purchases to pay for the exec ($110) membership plus a little extra in the form of a rebate check.

  10. Tara says

    I wish the Costco I go to in leesburg va carried kerrygold butter. They have dubliner cheese, but no butter. Still, I’ve gotten some great deals on coconut oil there recently, which is awesome, and kitchen appliances can be found for great prices too! And the books! I love costco

  11. says

    We totally buy most of the items you listed from our local Costco, too! We’re a family of 3 and our little guy is 9 months and noshing his way through our organic produce so the prices at Costco are great for us. However, I would caution folks about buying private or even big label “organics”, especially when it to dairy and eggs. It seems (somewhat unsurprising, given the state of food in our country) that USDA Organic standards aren’t all up to snuff. I’ve been using this source to help me discern brands that are using good organic practices to produce dairy and eggs. http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/ and http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html

  12. SedonaMichelle says

    Thanks for this great post! I haven’t shopped at Costco in years and think I may have to check it out again. I will say that Kerrygold butter is under $3 at Trader Joes’s. Its the only thing I buy there because most of their food is processed and their produce is always wrapped in plastic and spoils easily! So now, I just buy our butter there!

    • Claire says

      I go to Costco more (mine does not have as many organic products as mentionned in the post, but it still works for my family of 5; I also have the Executive membership and I am on my way to change my AmEx) and to Trader Joes less because of the packaging and because I do not buy any of their premade food. I still go for cheese and yogurt, nuts and cereal. Note that the best milk deal is Whole Foods (next to Costco): local glass yummy milk at $3.79 a 1/2 gallon BUT I get $2.00 back when returning the bottle so it’s $1.79. Not officially organic but it’s a great farm in MA which also has grass fed beef and pork.

  13. Heather Miles says

    On the missing Kerrygold butter at Costco I asked and was told by that they only carry it as a seasonal item. Aargh.

    • amanda says

      its actually only produced seasonally, since it comes from milk of cows eating young, rapidly growing grass :) so next time, stock up!

  14. Kim Kauffman says

    We love Costco! I might be totally wrong, but did I read somewhere that you live in Portland? Just wondering which Costco you get the Kerrygold butter at because we live in Salem and ours doesn’t have it. However, my hubby works in Portland so I could maybe have him pick some up for me. That’s an amazing price! We also get many of the items you listed. We buy a huge bulk of our groceries at Costco. Ours now has an organic berry mix in addition to the cherries so that’s been good for our smoothies!

  15. Maria says

    You should get commission from Costco – I joined this past weekend after reading your post! It looks like the Wilmington, NC store has most of the items you listed (I didn’t check for all of them.) My husband is a US Marine, so I have the privilege of commissary shopping which is a big savings over Food Lion, or Harris Teeter (the big grocery chains here) but there just aren’t as many organics offered. So we’ll keep ‘voting with our dollars’ at Costco and hopefully the real food revolution will continue to grow! Thanks so much for all you do to educate and encourage your readers.

  16. wildrosegourmet says

    Thanks so much for sharing this list! One negative thing I will say about Costco is that the kirkland brand almonds are pasteurized with propylene oxide (ppo), a known carcinogen which is banned in many countries due to toxicity. I was dismayed to find this out while I was pregnant. While some may not find that concerning (costco says ppo has evaporated off of the nuts before sale and that the levels of ppo present are safe) it is nice to know so you can do the research and make the decision you feel comfortable with for yourself rather than costco making it for you. My mom called costco to get this information and only asked about almonds, so i am not sure about their walnuts and pecans. All almonds are required by law to be pasteurized and are still allowed to be labeled raw. Organic almonds are steam pasteurized (not ppo) so that is the best option. Second best is trader joe’s or whole foods or azure standard if you’re in the NW because they guarantee that their non-organic almonds are steam pasteurized. Even better, if you can buy them direct from a farmer prior to pasteurization then they’re even raw. For those in Portland and surrounding areas, surprisingly New Seasons almonds that are non-organic may be pasteurized with ppo or steam. You can also buy roasted almonds to avoid unknowm methods of pasteurization. A good reason to buy roasted almond butter. It’s crazy all the things we end up having to be ultra conscious about to avoid toxixity. Choose your battles, right?

  17. amy says

    I can say that the avocados are worth it! They are really good. The olive oil is something I am considering. I haven’t bought that before but it is pricey, even at Walmart. Anyways you can always split a membership with someone. It could be a way to save and still shop there.

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