What to buy, where.
I'm starting to do a lot of cooking at home, for one, because I want to start learning to cook and eat good, healthy and savoury. And two because I need to watch the wallet a little. These are opposing forces so I want to ask you all what you thought.
I just got a membership at a warehouse store and was thinking about the quality of the food. Part of me thinks for example an onion, is an onion, is an onion, but maybe not. When it comes to meat without any real knowledge on the subject I just rather shop at the local supermarket and a butcher for the good stuff, but again maybe not. Is food at a warehouse store just as good as say walmart, supermarket... (lets keep the discussion centred around chain stores)
What say you. I'm wondering about the veggies, fruits, cheeses, milk..... any opinions would be appreciated.
I can only comment on Costco but I'm sure Sam's is likely the same. The produce selection is far more limited but the quality is at or above supermarket levels and teh prices are almost always better. Ditto cheese/dairy. Those places move a lot of product so nothing sits very long. And, for Costco at least, if you're unhappy with a purchase they'll take it back.
We have a Costco membership, and I've found they are much better, both in quality and price, for things like pre-made pesto, sundried tomatoes, or frozen foods than my regular store (King Soopers, which is owned by Kroger). A tiny container of pesto at Soopers is close to $5, whereas at Costco I can get a very large jar of it for around $8. I freeze it in ice cube trays (each cube is 2tbsp) and keep in the freezer for when I need it.
Also, while the cost is a slight bit more than the regular store during a sale, their meats, especially beef, are much higher quality than what I can get at my store, and often have cuts that my regular store doesn't always have, like tri tip. On my trip this weekend I stocked up on ground beef, tri tips, sirloin steaks, and flank steaks. I spend over an hour once I'm home portioning them out, weighing, and freezing all the meat.
I don't buy a ton of perishables there (produce, dairy items etc) only because there's only 2 of us so it goes bad before we can use it up, but this last trip I made I did buy asparagus and organic fuji apples... hoping we can make it through them before they go bad. The asparagus was much higher quality than I can get at my regular store, for around $2/lb... the regular store is cheaper when it's on sale but not by much, and again, it's not as good of quality. Oh I also buy the giant 5lb bag of organic baby carrots at Costco but those don't go bad very quickly. But, as ferret mentioned, the selection of produce is small, and they don't always have the same things every time. I like the big bags of snap peas, for example, but it's very hit or miss as to whether or not they have them. I've also purchased goat cheese there as the price is by far the best around, but again, we have a hard time getting through the 2 logs.
Also, this is not food related, but we also buy things like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry and dishwasher detergent, body wash, razors, deodorant and vitamins. These items could probably be had at the regular store if you're a savvy shopper and use coupons matched w/ sales etc, but I just like the convenience of buying a whole bunch of it at once and not having to think about it for a few months.
Also referring to Costco only since that's my only membership. I prefer buying meat there because the quality is much better than my local supermarkets [Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC]. The places that have quality as high charge twice the price. I usually buy the top sirloin for $4.99 lb and then re-package and freeze most. We also buy the organic chicken breasts $5.99 lb, cheaper than at the supermarket. They also carry local chicken breasts for about $3 lb. which are the producer as you would get for double the price in the supermarket [unless on sale].
In the Seattle area we buy the frozen 6 oz. portions of wild sockeye and cod from Trident seafoods. Excellent quality. When thawed it tastes fresher than most of fish in local grocery stores fish cases and the portion size is just right for us.
For veggies we usually get the organic baby kale, peppers, organic apples, asparagus if the price is right. Potatoes, onions, etc. are in too large a quantity for us so we just shop sales for those.
If you have freezer space and plan accordingly, your purchases will not got bad cooking for one. I cook for one mostly, sometimes up to three people once a week. Some things are much better quality and last a long time or can be frozen. On regular purchase is butter, Canadian bacon, the potstickers (already frozen), some meat (I'm not a big meat eater) and Costco's fruit salad. I'm comfortable trying their meats as I've never been disappointed but I did have a sticker shock when choosing such a large quantity.
The fruit salad is normally purchased in the summer months when I'm working outside a lot. I can easily go through an entire container in a week.
If you're talking Costco, their return policy is epic. I've never abused it but I have no qualms returning a purchase I wasn't happy with.
Bottom line for me is it is cheaper by a long shot compared to most grocery stores and I live in an area with a LOT of different stores (8 within a 10 mile radius of where I live) and I use it for almost all of my non-perishables (gas, toiletries, cleaning and paper products)
I just wanted to reply to the OP that I really can't compare any experience to Walmart - I really, really can't deal w/ the lines (one register open when they have 36 available) but I'm comparing my experience of Costco's quality and prices to Sprouts, Bashas (local), Safeway, Albertson's, Fresh and Easy, Fry's, Whole Foods (not that I can afford to shop there) and Trader Joes.
Personally, Walmart's meat department is not one I'd use as a standard bar to compare. Supermarket meat departments vary. Costco carries quality meat, but I don't buy imported shrimp or farmed salmon, both of which they sell. I don't buy ground meat at all, I grind myself. I generally buy my meat at Costco, Whole Foods or sometimes at a local market. It depends on the product. I don't buy any meat at Sam's club unless it's cryo packed by someone else.
Produce, is generally good at Costco and Sam's, although Costco has a bigger selection IME. I don't buy onions at either because I'll never use them up before they go bad. Blueberries are a good deal, if I'm going to make a pie or a big batch of muffins.
I buy butter in bulk at Costco and it is cheaper plus I can get unsalted for baking there. They also have some nice unbleached AP flour which I've been baking with. Great prices on cheese if you will use it up. My husband loves their coffee. Their polish dogs are really good.
I tend to buy staples and not much prepared foods there. Except during holiday season.
We also get rx filled there for our dog, my allergy medication, and sometimes clothing.
I used to buy milk there, but since we moved we are 30 miles away so I only go every 4-6 weeks now. I just stock up the deep freezer.
We have a Sam's and a B.J.'s in my area. B.J.'s has the edge on meats and cheeses. As I do not buy in bulk, they are not cost effective for me.
I enjoy going to independent as well as chain supermarkets. As I live in what is basically a giant suburb with no downtown, I have almost a dozen food stores within 5 miles. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. It takes time to figure it out. Have fun.
If it's processed, boxed foods any store is OK with me. Then there are other packaged foods which are more perishable and fresh meats, vegetables which I will only buy at certain places. I love fish and had such a bad experience with SAfeway and Harris Teeter that now I only buy fish at Whole Foods, Wegmans or H Mart. The quality is infintely better and they provide useful information like fresh/previously frozen and site of origin. With meat, run of the mill chicken breasts and other chicken parts I will buy at any store, but if it's a whole chicken I will go for free-range and/or organic and also I have noticed the air-chilled chicken to be of higher quality. For beef, I have had much more success with Whole Foods and Wegmans than Safeway but this is for grass fed meats as well as whole steaks. For regular run of the mill ground meat any store will do. Also I go to Whole Foods specifically for Applegate Farms deli meat and cheese products as it's lower sodium and has fewer preservatives (the deli meat and cheese will actually go bad if you leave it too long vs other products at regular stores) and has a better taste at least to me. For vegetables, any store generally will do but I will not buy if the quality doesn't look good. For example, I often to go to Safeway for beverages and other odds and ends like aluminum foil and will also get vegetables while I'm there. The packaged mushrooms are always fine as well as other vegetables and lower priced than other stores, but the asparagus for example often looks quite helpless whereas at Whole Foods it's always much fresher so I will go there. I have noticed a difference with particular ingredients as I've described above but do not feel that I need to buy everything at a specialty store.
Costco has a few better quality items in its stores. I'm thinking of the albacore tuna, the canned white salmon, the large salmon burgers, the bags of whole raw almonds, and whole bean coffee. I don't buy brands there that I can get elsewhere, excepting paper goods and cleaning products.
You just have to visit several times to see what is available. Some people love the produce, and others love the meat. I buy the products I listed above.