True confession: I love peeking into other people’s shopping carts. I’m fascinated by why someone might stock up on a particular product.
There’s no better place for such spying than the membership-only warehouse chain Costco.
I once saw two women in Costco loading up a pair of carts with humongous bags of Skinny Pop popcorn. My imagination went wild. Were they teachers planning a school movie night? Or did they just really, really love the stuff?
That inspired me to let you, dear reader, peek into my own Costco shopping cart. I’m a veteran of more than two decades of shopping there, after all.
Below are some of my favorite items to buy at Costco. Where possible, I’ve included links to the products. Take note, though: Prices online can differ from Costco’s in-store charge for the same item.
1. Gift cards
Need a gift card you can tuck into a birthday card? Or a card to tape to a teacher’s end-of-year gift basket? You’ll find gift cards at plenty of stores, but rarely at a discount.
Costco has such bargain cards, however. Granted, you won’t find the selection you might see elsewhere, but the prices are great. For example, I’ve picked up a two-pack of $25 gift cards for See’s Candies for $38.99 — a savings of about $11.
2. Rotisserie chicken
It’s almost cliche now, but unless you’re a vegetarian or on a low-sodium diet, it’s a no-brainer to pick up a fresh, hot rotisserie chicken on every Costco trip you make. The whole cooked bird costs just $4.99.
If five people get dinner out of it, that’s just $1 a meal. Shred the remaining meat for everything from soup to tacos, and use the carcass to cook up a batch of homemade stock.
3. Flavored sparkling water
At home, we’ve cut back drastically on soda and now lean heavily on water. We love lightly flavored sparkling waters — coconut is my favorite — and Costco is the place to stock up.
I have found a 24-pack of La Croix sparkling water that is cheaper than at my local grocery store, Target or even Walmart. Costco carries a variety of other sparkling water brands, too.
4. Sandwich platters
Every December, I host a cookie swap for 60 guests. Every Easter, a dozen or more kids and their parents come by to dye eggs and hunt for candy.
On the morning of these parties, I send my husband on a Costco mission. The main goal: Bring back a croissant sandwich platter.
These freshly made sandwiches have fillings such as roasted chicken, ham and roast beef. There’s cheese, lettuce, mustard and mayonnaise provided on the side.
Each platter serves about 20 and typically has cost me about $33. They’re so popular, we’re lucky if we have a sandwich or two left for lunch the next day.
Just note that you might have to pre-order Costco sandwich platters — check with your store.
5. Over-the-counter medications
We’re a pretty healthy family. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep a hefty handful of over-the-counter medications on hand.
Advil, NyQuil, Bayer Aspirin and cough drops — Costco sells them all.
I love making my own quiche, but since I discovered Costco’s two-pack of egg-white quiches, I always keep a few in the freezer. Some days, simply beating up some eggs feels like just too much work.
The two-pack now offered in my Costco store is perfect for vegetarians. It has a spinach-and-artichoke quiche and another with cheddar and broccoli.
I love buying bacon in bulk at Costco. Why? Because we eat it so seldom. That sounds illogical but hear me out.
Costco sells four 1-pound packs of bacon strapped together. After I get it home I cut all the bacon slices in half, wrap them in parchment paper (to ensure the slices don’t freeze together) and store in freezer bags.
Whether we need two pieces or two dozen, I can reach into the freezer and get my hands on precisely as many slices as I need.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand of bacon comes in low-sodium and regular. Those 4-pound packs are around $14 at my store — just $3.50 a pound.
8. Birthday cakes
I’m a fan of homemade birthday cakes, although my cake-decorating skills are reminiscent of drip-and-pour artist Jackson Pollock.
Occasionally, for example when I’m hosting two dozen kids at a bounce-house birthday party, I need a cake bigger than my baking skills can handle.
Costco’s half-sheet cakes come in white or chocolate, are iced with buttercream, and are layered with either vanilla cheesecake mousse or chocolate mousse.
You can choose from among a variety of themes, from rainbows to surfboards. But, here’s a pro tip: For a roomful of grade-schoolers, choose a cake that has a rosebud on every single piece to prevent fighting over the icing. They cost me about $19 for a cake that serves 48 — a deal that beats any I’ve seen.
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