When I first started bulk shopping I made a lot of mistakes. I knew that not everything was a better price at bulk stores and I did have a price book, which helped, but I still wasted a fair amount of money in my first trip. If you’re gearing up for your first bulk shopping experience learn from my errors!
- Don’t try anything new. Ok, as a life philosophy this is terrible advice, but as a Costco rule it makes sense. Only buy stuff that you have purchased before! On my first Costco trip I was seduced by great prices on almond butter and pork loin. I had never bought or tasted either item before. Turns out I don’t like almond butter or pork loin and neither does the fella. We ate it, and ate it, and ate it. For weeks. Trust me when I say Costco is not the place to try something new.
- Bring a calculator, pen, and paper. Maybe some people can keep everything straight in their heads but I definitely can’t and the whole atmosphere of bulk stores is kind of overwhelming. The fella mans the cart and the calculator while I zip in and out of crowds grabbing things and scouting prices. Our Costco is also cash only, I don’t know if that’s a NYC specific thing or not, but calculating things as we go helps us stay on track.
- Make a list of meals first. I think one of the toughest things about bulk shopping, especially if you’re like us and have a small family (2), is getting items in the right ratios. It’s difficult to imagine how much tomato paste versus green beans versus chicken you eat in 3 months (we shop at Costco 4 times a year). A good way to start is by listing your 20 most made meals. You have to be totally honest and realistic. Next make a master list of every ingredient in every recipe. If you use tomato sauce for more than one recipe list it more than one time, etc. Once that’s done you can tally up the number of times you used each ingredient. You might find that you used 10 pounds of ground beef and only 5 pounds of chicken, or that you use double the amount of chickpeas that you do kidney beans.
- Eat before you go: Normal shopping when you’re hungry is a bad idea. Shopping at Costco when you’re hungry is borderline insane.
If I had known all this before my first bulk shopping trip it definitely would have gone a little smoother. I hope these tips are helpful to someone out there!