All from Costco
Aloha y'all. I live on the tiny island of Kauai, and aim to feed my family and friends entirely from Costco and my garden. I have started a blog about this (not a plug, just sharing my experience) and am wondering if anyone is doing the same. It is an interesting problem: we are only 2 people but work from home so we have 3 meals a day to fulfill. If we shopped at our grocery stores we would blow our food budget out of the water. So, I often am finding myself figuring out what to do with stale bagels, a pound of fresh figs, and a case of refried beans.
I only go once every 2 weeks because the Costco bills can be astronomical, and I am pacing myself.
Anyone else dependent upon Costco by choice?
We shop all three bulk warehouses, Costco, BJ'S, and Sams. I find it impossible to only shop at them. Bulk staples like flour, sugar, eggs, butter, tomatoes, some fruit and whatever we can use up before it goes bad we'll buy from there. There are things that you just can't get from any of the bulk places. I watch the supermarket ads like a hawk and buy specials from them, got bone in chicken breasts a few weeks ago for $.98 a pound, got a full 8 1/2 pound pork loin last week for $16.84. I break down the package of breasts into 2 breasts and freeze them, the pork loin I cut into 2 2 pound roasts and 10 1 inch thick chops. That's meat for 8 meals for about $2.00 a meal. You can't touch that at a bulk store. I usually buy pork loin at Sams and they are usually at $2.77 a pound here. If you shop smart and shop from a list, you can keep your budget under control shopping other places than the bulk warehouses.
If you can, get a chest freezer & the foodsaver machine (also available at Costco). I find that buying the meats in bulk (whole chickens & primal cuts of pork/beef) offers great savings & convenience. Takes some practice to get the butchering down to a science...but it's not too hard.
I break down the primals (15 lbs or so) into 2-person servings, pack into the vacuum bags, label & keep a log. chickens freeze whole very nicely. fish such as wild the sides of wild salmon also freeze very well.
Any breads that you will eventually toast (eg, bagels) or reheat in the oven to crisp (baguettes, croissants) also freeze well.
You can increase your thriftiness by saving chicken backs & necks for stock. The beef/pork trimmings also make good ground beef, sausage, stew meat, etc.
The vacuum bags work very well at preventing freezer burn (but I still make sure to rotate stock).
If your garden is very productive, start canning the excess. It is a very rewarding process...much more enjoyable than you'd think & kids love prepping the mass quantities of ingredients (though keep them away from the boiling/pressure cooking parts).
For your pound of figs - Alice Waters has a great recipe for fig preserves & fig newton-like cookies using the preserves.
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We love Costco but are not dependent by choice or anything.
If I had a garden (and could successfully grow our own fruit and veg) I could TOTALLY do it. A big freezer and reliable food sealing solution is critical. Stale bagels are called bagel chips, honey. Slice and bake them, then use them to scoop up the dip you made with the refried beans.
Cereal turns into trail mix and cookie bars.
Lettuce gets warmed and topped with garlicky white beans and tilapia
Cucumbers turn into planks topped with ahi, sesame seed oil and love...
I really try to use everything. We both work full time outside the house and are sometimes exhausted and tempted to just call for a pizza but I can always whip up something from whatever is hanging around.
I freeze cheese (shhhh don't tell anyone, when I cook with it, it melts and it's fine)
Don't freeze soy milk, it separates and stays that way.
I shop at both Sam's Club and Costco -- mostly for sport. I also shop at a high end specialty store that you can go broke at, and at regular supermarkets if all I want is one or two of some items. The key to keeping most of your purchases from the warehouse clubs is to shop carefully and plan carefully. Storage is key. I used my can of refried beans over about eight meals -- it was fine. On the other hand, I can plow through a case of tomato sauce really quickly.
BTW, you can freeze bagels. We do when we import them from New York back here to Texas, where DH says a decent bagel just can't be found. Just slice them first and wrap well. Just about all bread freezes well, including tortillas, (which should be separated by paper first). You may need a bigger freezer.
I found that large packages of meat and fish are the best buys there. Cut and package into the sizes you need. Costco's chicken breasts and parts are packaged well and don't need rewrapping, so that is an advantage. I also like the produce section, but you need to buy selectively or you will have a lot of waste. Only buy what you really like. It may be that once in a while you have to go to a supermarket for one or two items to supplement.