Costco? Sam's? BJ's? You know - those HUGE warehouse stores that make your budget-spidey-senses tingle and the electric thrill go up your spine! Where ELSE can you get a flat-screen TV at an unbeatable rate (oftentimes with an additional concierge service for minimal to no charge) AND filets of fresh tilapia or prime cuts of steak?? Places like these can be extremely overwhelming if you charge in without a plan! Trust me, I walked out with things I didn't even KNOW existed or that I needed...which turned into things that I never used and eventually gave away. So...I learned my lesson a LONG time ago, and I hope to pass on some tips, wisdom, and advice that will help you minimize your trips to your local warehouse store, but also that will help you make the most out of your trips!
1. RESEARCH: Sometimes, the membership cost isn't worth it! I have a Sam's membership. Sam's is literally 15 minutes MAX down the road from me. Costco is 30 minutes (minimum) away from me, and subsequently, I never go there. Even the least expensive membership of $50 isn't worth it if I never go! Find which warehouse stores are closest to you, and which ones you will use the most!
2. PLAN AHEAD: I look in my freezer and fridge before I leave - like any normal grocery store trip. Why buy what you already have, right?! I make a master list of things I am running low on or out of. We generally eat a LOT of chicken, so purchasing it in bulk is cheaper for me than buying it at my local supermarket. BUT if the local supermarket has chicken on Manager's Special - you best believe I am buying them out instead! It's much cheaper that way! But I rarely get lucky enough to find enough chicken and subsequently buy from Sam's instead. Plus, there's so much that it lasts forever!!!
3. That Includes a Menu Plan: Well, sort of....I know that if I buy one "pack" of Italian Sausage at Sam's it will last me close to a year if I freeze it. You know those packs of Italian Sausage at the grocery store? Double it - that's one layer. 2 layers are included in one Sam's "pack" of this sausage. Chicken breasts are conveniently pre-packaged into packages of 2 breasts (boneless, skinless). Chicken thighs - don't hold your breath. I am WAY off topic. My apologies. I know about how much meat we go through per month...LOTS of chicken, 1-2 steaks, 1-2 packs of stew beef, LOTS of bacon, 4-6 pounds of ground beef (spaghetti, burgers, etc.), 4-8 fish filets...You get the drift. Write down how much you use per meal (And document if there are any left overs you can freeze/take for lunch/etc. It may cut down on what you buy for lunch!) for one month. Then use that as your gauge. We have enough meat in our fridge for probably close to 6 months (yes - you read that right). Just this past weekend, we bought 3 pounds of ground bison (I'm a ground meat snob, sorry!), 1 fillet of salmon (it was the entire body in a "fillet"), 1 "pack" Italian sausage, 1 pack of 8-10 tilapia filets, 1 pack chicken breasts, 1 pack chicken thighs, 1 package (which equals 3 grocery store packs) of bacon....you see?! We took a fairly big hit to our budget, BUT it will help us keep things in line for the next 6-8 months!
4. Take Time to Browse But Be Careful: We found organic spinach & cheese ravioli...uh, yes please! Was it on our "official" list?! Nope. But it is delicious (my mom used to serve this 1-2 times per month!), and you can add your own sauce or eat it plain - it's great either way. What else did we get?! A family pack of greek yogurt. J loves the stuff, and it cost us a LOT less to buy it there than at Publix, Kroger, OR Ingle's! Pesto - we found a huge jar (triple the size of the grocery store jars) for only $4-5 more. We use pesto a lot, so it made sense for us to get it. My point?! Stick to your list but be open minded! Just not TOO opened minded. When I find something that I want to get, I just try to remember how often I actually eat/use said item...is it fairly frequently?! Then I might buy it for a trial run. I eat it or use it once a month? Put it back.
5. Know Your Limits: We go through fruit by the pound-ful, particularly in the summer. J can put away fruit like a garbage disposal. So purchasing fruit at Sam's is totally worth my while. Keeping that in mind, I know that we aren't going to go through 6 heads of Romaine lettuce in a reasonable amount of time...so it would go bad more than likely. So, to me, the few extra dollars I might save aren't worth it to watch the lettuce rot in the fridge.
6. Have Fun! I love going to Sam's! It's so amazing to see all the incredible new wonders there. I could spend hours in there...sometimes, J and I do! Expect to find plenty of what you need, and then some things you didn't know you wanted/needed! Enjoy some samples (particularly on Saturdays) or a $1 slice of pizza. It's even great for lunch time when you have little munchkins with you! Enough of the samples equals lunch for them!