Budget-Friendly Healthy Finds at Big-Box Stores
Even if you're grocery shopping for a small household, there are lots of healthy deals to be found at warehouse stores.
You may have shied away from Costco, Sam’s Club or other warehouse stores if you are single, or shopping for a small family. If so, you could be missing out. With a wide assortment of produce, organic, and fair trade products, even singles can get bargains beyond the 36-roll toilet paper packs.
We priced out these healthy grocery items. All items were more budget-friendly at no-frills warehouse stores than at supermarkets, discount stores such as Walmart and Target, or often even Amazon. Prices will vary, so price out your favorite items, and then compare at warehouse stores, including smaller warehouse stores like ALDI.
If you go through a typical 24-ounce cottage cheese container in three days, the warehouse-store-sized 48-ounce (or even 80-ounce) tubs are for you. We found it priced per ounce at half the cost of grocery stores.
Plain Greek Yogurt
While our favorite is the 2% version for the potential health benefits of dairy fat, you can also get 40-ounce containers of name-brand fat-free plain Greek yogurt for less than $5.00. Even if your household is small, this is a steal for something you’ll use often in smoothies and baking.
Eggs and Milk
It’s tricky to get refrigerated items at online retailers. So browsing for bargains in the refrigerated section of the store is a good idea. A pack of 36 eggs can sell for about $0.11 per egg. And remember, eggs can safely be eaten 3 weeks past their ‘sell by’ date. When milk costs only about $2.00 a gallon, it’s hard not to stock up. Milk is good 7-10 days past the expiration date if properly refrigerated.
Especially if you shop for the organic versions of dried fruits like raisins, dates, and figs, prices at warehouse stores will likely be better than you’ll find elsewhere. And while raisins may come in a four-pound box, the box usually contains two resealable packages. Plus, dried fruits are super shelf-stable.
How about a 2.5-pound package of almonds for only about $12.00? Price nuts out carefully. Some nuts are less expensive at big-box stores…others, not so much. Large quantities of nuts do last well in the refrigerator or freezer.
If buying organic is important to you, check out the variety of fruits and vegetables at warehouse stores. Again, compare prices. Other fun finds are new produce varieties. We’ve discovered new types of apples in warehouse stores that aren’t yet found in supermarkets. Sometimes produce companies have exclusive deals with big-box stores to test market new forms of single-serve produce packaging too.
A 3-pound bag of quinoa was priced at only around $3.00 per pound. We’ve also seen budget-friendly large bags of brown rice. Stick with non-seasoned varieties for the best value.
As in the regular supermarket, good buys may be found in the freezer case. If your freezer can hold a 4-pound bag of blueberries, snatch it up at $10.00. (Or, share it with friends.) Fish can be grabbed a great cost savings; we like the high-quality of frozen fish in general with today’s flash-frozen-at-sea technologies.
Coffee and Dark Chocolate
You can find less-expensive fair-trade coffee K-cups…just be prepared to carry home a package of 100. And because warehouse stores generally carry only a few brands of most grocery items, they often have information posted (online or in in-store magazines) about why they carry certain ‘responsible’ brands of coffee, baking cocoa, and chocolate chips.
Spices in some supermarkets can be notoriously stale. But if a spice doesn’t sell well, it’s not sold in warehouse stores., so spices are generally fresh. That said, purchase only quantities of spices you will use in 6-8 months. We like to buy garlic powder, black pepper in the grinder, and dried oregano. Plan to divvy up the large 21-ounce-sized container with friends.
Coconut, Olive and Other Oils
These large jars can be a bargain, but only if you can share with neighbors. And if you pour the oil into your friends’ recycled glass jars, you’ve reduced a little packaging in the world.
Now, a few words on budgeting: avoid impulse buys. While snack mixes and granola bars may be healthy, they may also be more inexpensive shopping elsewhere — or they may not. Compare prices before purchasing, or make your own. Lastly, Costco and Sam’s Club have a yearly membership (ALDI does not.) Membership is usually around $45-60, so make sure you figure this into your budgeting. Take advantage of the free opportunity to walk around stores to compare prices before purchasing a membership.
Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing Healthy Kitchen Hacks and recipes. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and @BakeMoreBread on Instagram.