For six ounces of raspberries, that usually mold in a day or two, I pay my grocer $4.00. This seems ludicrous, and so raspberries are a “treat” that we get on sale occasionally. My grocery budget is admittedly larger than a lot of families, but it still has a strict cap and has to go a long way.
About six months ago, I visited the Big Box Warehouse Store in my city to pick up something with a friend. I was shocked. Those same raspberries, in a package three times the size, were the same price. And the kicker? They were organic. And I found that to be the case over and over.
I almost exclusively buy my fruits and vegetables at this warehouse store now, along with a number of other items that are always on our “healthy” grocery list. I get them at a fraction of the cost, and when anyone is trying to stretch their dollar further at the grocery store, less cost and more food is always a win.
Yes, the total at the end of your receipt might be higher than what you typically pay, but don’t let that initial sticker shock weigh you down. Remember, you’re getting at least two or three times the food for that price. Where you couldn’t buy raspberries every week before, now you can. And it doesn’t stop at the berries.
Last year, Lisa Johnson conducted an experiment to feed her family on a poverty level budget exclusively at Whole Foods for 30 days. She pulled it off, with wine and money to spare. Just imagine what you could accomplish with that budget at a place like Sam’s or Costco, both of which accept SNAP, or food stamps.
We’ll share with you our shopping tips for navigating the store and getting the most out of your time and money. As well, we’ll share with you the healthiest must-have food items there (at least at our location).
The Big Box Warehouse doesn’t just have to be super tubs of cheese balls and a month’s supply of chocolate chip cookies.
Warehouse Shopping Tips
- Get a free one-day pass for new customers to check out the prices and selection before you commit to a membership. Without a membership or day pass, shoppers incur a service fee.
- Take cash and a list. With a hard budget you can’t afford to break, take cash instead of a credit card and shop only according to your list. This prevents impulse purchases.
- Take reusable grocery bags. There aren’t any shopping bags and you can’t always get a “good” box to carry home your loot.
- Shop the perimeter of the store, mostly. “Shop the perimeter and make the most of the middle,” advises Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA,RD,CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It.
- Avoid weekends when these stores are at peak volume. You’ll get in and out faster, face fewer headaches, and avoid unexpected calorie bombs from the sample booths.
- Leave your coupons at home. Sam’s and Costco do not accept standard manufacturer coupons. Their prices are typically a score without the extra 50 cent savings anyway.
- Divide and conquer. Taub suggests that when buying fresh meat, poultry, and fish, that you clean and freeze separately “so that you have the individual-sized portions you’ll need when you’re ready to cook for your family.”
- Don’t go hungry. Taub also advises not to go shopping with a grumbling stomach, you’ll be less tempted to take the samples and unexpected snacks.
Warehouse Shopping List
Whole Chickens and Breasts, organic available
Jennie-O Ground Turkey
Jennie-O Whole Deli Turkey (the butcher will slice it for you, then freeze one-pound packs at home)
Sargento String Cheese
Laughing Cow Babybel Cheese, wedges and wheels
Fat-Free Feta Cheese
Raspberries, organic available
Blackberries, organic available
Strawberries, organic available
Blueberries, organic available
Spinach and other greens, organic available
Apples, several varieties
Tomatoes, several varieties
Whole Grain English Muffins
Stacy’s Pita Chips
Skinny Pop popcorn
Food Should Taste Good whole grain chips
Pistachios, almonds, and other nuts
Rice, several varieties
Canned Black Beans
Spices and Seasonings