There are some healthy staples you always want to have on hand for meal prep, your favorite recipes, and any other kitchen experiments. But these things can be crazy expensive — I was reminded of this on my last Sunday venture to Whole Foods when I picked up some organic maple syrup (you know, because protein pancakes) and gasped at the price tag.
As a 20-something who lives alone, I've learned to be creatively thrifty with my food as much as possible. I stock up on bulk, nonperishable items from Costco whenever possible to mitigate food waste (if one more avocado goes bad while I'm asleep, I swear to . . .), as well as to ensure that I have everything I need for any healthy recipe all the time. This method also helps cut down on trips to the grocery store, which can be a total mission when you're living in a city like San Francisco.
And the best part, as many of you know, is that Costco helps you save a ton of money. When you break it down either per ounce or per unit, the stuff you can get at this hallowed warehouse of reasonably priced goods is much, much more budget-friendly than going to your local market. Plus, Kirkland Signature is actually really fantastic quality. Here are the essential items I always get at Costco — Costco's best healthy staples, if you will.
- Quinoa: This staple grain makes for an amazing breakfast porridge, salad enhancer, side dish, and base for protein bowls for lunch and dinner. I always, always have quinoa on hand to cook in batches for the week. Buying in bulk from Costco — whether it's Kirkland brand or whichever brand is available in your area (I got truRoots in a four-pound bag) — saves you money as well as time at the grocery store.
- Chia Seeds: I grabbed myself a massive bag of Nutiva for less than $8 (as far as I remember) and it lasted me over a year. All the chia pudding, all the overnight oats, all the salad toppings — you can do so much with chia seeds.
- Coconut Oil: Possibly my favorite Costco hack is the coconut oil. Recently, the store upped the quantity from decently large 42-ounce tubs to MASSIVE 84-ounce tubs . . . in packs of THREE. You could fill a bathtub with coconut oil and swim in it. Here's the deal: Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil at Whole Foods is nearly $1 an ounce, whereas the bulk Costco version is about 23 cents per ounce. This means if you were paying Whole Foods pricing for this quantity of Kirkland coconut oil, this bulk order would cost you $252. The $60 price for 252 ounces is even cheaper than pricing you can get at Walmart, in which the coconut oil is 46 cents per ounce at full price.
- Organic, Pure Maple Syrup: As aforementioned, organic maple syrup is crazy expensive at the grocery store. Prices vary per region, but the last time I picked up a literal liter of this golden goodness, it was around $9 or $10. At Whole Foods last weekend a slightly smaller quantity was $22.
- Almond Milk: I've realized that with healthy baking, protein pancakes, and smoothies that I never won't need almond milk. It's like toilet paper. You can't overdo it. You'll always need it. Fortunately, you can stock up with Kirkland Signature or big brands like Silk to get your shelf-stable almond milk supply, save money, and always have something on hand.
- Canned Coconut Milk: Same goes for coconut milk. It's shelf-stable, inexpensive when bought in bulk, and great for so many recipes, from smoothies to chia puddings to curries. Brands will vary depending on your location, but I typically opt for the Thai Kitchen brand because it's significantly cheaper when you get it at Costco.
- Frozen Organic Chicken Thighs: Best way to always have protein on hand without worrying about it going bad? Frozen chicken. Save money with the Kirkland six-and-a-half-pound bag of thighs or breasts (whichever your preference), so whenever you need to cook up some protein, it's right there waiting for you. And nothing's going rancid in your freezer. Yay!
- Frozen Sockeye Salmon: Just like with the frozen chicken, it's so nice to have frozen fish fillets on hand to bake, broil, or sear. Sockeye salmon can be pretty expensive, even at places like Trader Joe's, but at Costco it typically rings in at $10 a pound. Seriously, a steal.
- Frozen Fruit and Smoothie Packs: While you can always stock up on bags of your favorite frozen fruits (either single bags of frozen strawberries or tropical blends that have papaya and pineapple!), some Costcos have premade smoothie packs with fruits and veggies and sometimes yogurt.
- Frozen Acai: You'll always be ready for antioxidant-packed smoothies and smoothie bowls on hand by keeping your Sambazon stocked in the freezer. Check your local Costco for availability — I know they're available in California!
- Alpine Valley or Dave's Killer Bread: Save a few dollars on seedy, nutritious, whole-grain bread with Costco pricing. I've noticed that locations in both Northern and Southern California offer these two superdelicious options. If you won't go through two loaves quickly (I know I won't), you can freeze one to extend the shelf life.
- Kerrygold Butter: For Bulletproof coffee, I love having Kerrygold on hand. You can freeze the bulk quantity you get from Costco that doesn't fit in your refrigerator.