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baby’s first costco trip

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(In case you are curious, I say it like the first green one.)

There are a lot of great things about where we used to live, but one thing that wasn’t so great about Bloomington was that it was a little isolated. Not, Into the Wild kind of isolated (side note: Emile Hirsch is Babyface’s doppelgänger), but definitely far enough away from any major cities to make certain luxuries inaccessible.

Now, even though we live in a much, much smaller town (read: population of 1400) we are actually much, much closer to all the amenities of the big city. We’re a hop, skip and a big jump over the Ohio River away from Louisville, Kentucky. Which has pretty much everything a girl could ask for, including a Trader Joe’s and a Costco.

Babyface and I set out to the Big City on Friday to stock up on low-cost foods from both TJ’s and Costco. We’d only been to Trader Joe’s once before (and it was a small, small store in Chicago) and had never hit up a Costco before. It was definitely an experience.

We hit up TJ’s first and, let me tell you, I went crazypants. Crazy. Pants. We dropped over $200 and I don’t regret a single penny of that! I’m guessing most of you already know the joy that is TJ’s, but this was really my first time shopping there for realsies.

Things that had me the most gobsmacked were cheap as hell organic cherries, cheap as hell whole wheat pizza dough and the insane selection of dark chocolate covered things.

We were also really stoked to find some all natural turkey jerky, which we noshed on in the car as we made the 15 minute trek out to Costco. Jerky gets a bad rap because of the yucky, processed, chemical-filled kind found at gas stations. But if you can find all natural stuff, it’s actually a really amazing, low-calorie, high-protein snack. And yummy dipped in hummus. Which is what we did the whole way to Costco.

I’m not sure I was really prepared for the amazingness that is Costco. I mean, I knew what I was getting into with TJ’s, but Costco almost blindsided me (read: we spent the same amount as our car payment).

There were so many organic, all natural and healthy options for so incredibly cheap. Like a giant bag of organic quinoa for $9 (which we bought)! Or this amazing 72 ounce bag of chocolate chips (which we, sadly, did not buy). I want to live in this yellow bag.

It took a while to adjust to the massive bulk shopping concept. I’ve never done much bulk shopping—I’ve only been to one or two shopping warehouses—so it took a while to grasp that, oh wait, everything is huge. Even the stuffed animals.

Thankfully we have a ton of storage in our house, because we needed it after unloading this cartful.

Overall, I’d say our trips to both stores were super successful! Because it does take 30-45 minutes to get to them, I’d say it’s a once-a-month kind of deal, but it’s nice to have some really good options within driving distance.

What’s your favorite item to buy at either Trader Joe’s or Costco?


Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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52 Responses
  1. Costco is my favorite store of all time! And TJs is a close second. We are lucky to live within 10 minutes of both so each store is frequented almost weekly. At Costco, I regularly buy organic baby spinach, broccoli florets, ground turkey, eggs, GREEK YOGURT (kirkland brand is really good)!, frozen salmon burgers, chicken sausages, selzter water, beans, quinoa, the list goes on and on. Oh, and really good steaks!

    You MUST try the creamy toscana cheese soaked in syrah from trader joe’s. It is life changing.

    1. Cassie

      Good to hear the Kirkland Greek yogurt is so good. I’ve heard a lot about TJ’s Greek yogurt, but I wasn’t all that impressed. 🙁

      And I will definitely try that cheese. YUM.

  2. Barbara Ford

    The majority of my grocery shopping is at TJ’s, so it’s a little hard to pick a favorite. The TJ’s brand Whey Protein shake (chocolate) is definitely a staple, as are bananas (we have a choice b/tw organic for $.29, and conventional for $.19), carrots, and lots of other produce.
    At Costco? Tillamok Cheddar Cheese, although I don’t know if that’s just a west coast thing.

  3. I am totally jealous! In Germany there are only small stores where you can buy healthy, organic food and we are far away from whole-wheat pizza dough. I am happy that I even find the right flour to make it myself…

    You said how you’re spelling Louisville but do you maybe know about the reasons of the different spellings?

    Greetings from sunny Germany without Trader Joe’s and Costco’s 🙁

    Katrin (who already arrived at chapter 3 in OB 😉 😉 😉 )

    1. Cassie

      We don’t spell it differently (we all spell it “Louisville”) just a lot of people pronounce it differently!

  4. Julie

    The soft baked cinnamon twists! I think they are called due canella, and they are with the breads and such! My mom and dad would always go straight for them, but they’d be gone so often! They are good with coffee and come in a package of two 🙂
    TJ’s also has pretty good crunchy cinnamon twists, or at least they did five years ago. And if you like the cookie butter, have you ever tried Biscoff spread?? So yum, and just $4.50 a jar at the Kroger bakery…it’s like a gingerbread cookie in the form of peanut butter. So good in overnight oats, or oatmeal pudding.
    As for Costco, my family would always go there for the free samples – perfect supper if you’ve been out running errands and are feeling peckish, haha! We aren’t cheapskates, I swear! I always drooled over the hot dogs, though. Costco and Ikea and Trader Joe’s have got to be the best stores ever. Also, that Teddy bear looks so huggable!

    1. Cassie

      Oooh! Thanks for the tip on the cinnamon twists. And guess what, I’ve never been to an Ikea, either! We’re about 2 hours from one now, so I’m sure I’ll end up there soon. 🙂

      1. Athena R

        I hope to take my first trip to TJ’s this weekend so this thread is awesome. Also, I just went to IKEA for the second time on Sunday, and it was great. Be prepared to spend several hours there. My first trip I was there for about 3 hours. They do have a restaurant and bistro so you can eat there…Swedish meatballs…yum! The $1 cinnamon rolls are a must!

  5. Large container of minced garlic and a big thing of feta cheese–and pre-sliced pickles, along with a bag of bacon bits = my Costco must haves. I am Canadian, must say I’ve never even heard of Trader Joes. ^.^

  6. Bridget

    My husband and I just joined Costco a couple weeks ago. We fondly call it the ten dollar store. Pretty much everything is ten dollars which makes it easy to add up your cart, 10 items = $100:) I’m totally loving their quinoa salad that they sell in the deli area. I’ve been a little obsessed with it. I highly recommend it.

    1. Cassie

      I came *thisclose* to buying that log of goat cheese just because it was so freaking cheap! But I didn’t because my cart was already packed.

  7. lauramich

    Oh, Costco and TJ’s. We live 2 hours away from either one, yet we have a Costco membership. Every time we hit one, we fill our carts—and empty our bank account.

    Some of my faves:

    From TJ’s—

    — Canned fish. I love the smoked trout (yummy in a salad with cannelini beans, spinach, cucumber, red onion and vinaigrette); Mr. Mich is partial to the smoked herring.

    — Spice grinders. Mr. Mich is absolutely addicted to the Everyday Seasoning. I use the smoked salt with most of my meats.

    — Grated parmesan/romano cheese (the kind in a green can). Forget Kraft; TJ’s is cheaper than the store brand at my regular supermarket.

    — Cheese, period. Reduced fat gouda and sharp cheddar? Bring a cooler.

    — Nuts, dried fruit, and trail mixes. I don’t know why TJ’s dried cranberries taste better than Craisins; they just do. Also addicted to the Wasabi Wow! mix (nuts, raisins, cranberries, and wasabi peas) and the one with nuts, raisins, cherries, and mini peanut butter cups.

    — Chocolate and junk food generally. What’s better than cookie butter? A dark chocolate bar filled with cookie butter, for 99 cents.

    — Booze. I don’t actually drink (especially now that I’m knocked up), but I keep the “two-buck Chuck” wine and the “Name Tag lager” beer around for cooking.

    At Costco:

    — Almonds, pecans, walnuts, and maple syrup. All staples in my homemade granola.

    — Balsamic vinegar. The Kirkland brand is my favorite.

    — Saigon cinnamon. Less than $3 for a ten-ounce container.

    — Marinated artichoke hearts. About $10 for two huge jars.

    Oh, and a caveat: To add to Tori’s warning about stuff flying off the shelves at TJ’s, be prepared for them to discontinue items altogether. They used to make my favorite dishwashing soap; no longer. The chocolate triangles with cinnamon and chilies? Gone. The dark chocolate almonds rolled in black cocoa powder? Gone. Which, combined with the fact that we only get there a few times a year, creates strong incentive to stock up on our favorites while we can.

    1. Cassie

      OH YAY! Thank you for this list! I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my next trip. One note: we did get the mini peanut butter cups and OMG they are almost gone already.

  8. Ohhh TJs…How I love thee.

    So, if your TJs is anything like mine, they run out of crap fast, and it’s annoying how hit or miss favorite items can be. For example, the Cookie Butter seems to fly off the shelves. If you can’t find their Cookie Butter, Biscoff Spread tastes basically identical, and hopefully you could find it at your big chain grocery stores.

    At TJs I LOVE their Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato soup(though the low sodium tastes like poop, so stick to the regular.) I also love their frozen fruit + frozen precooked edamame. Mmm…Their pizza dough is amazing too!! And mini goat cheese medallions!

    Okay, I’m done.

    I still have not experienced Costco! Sad day.

    1. Cassie

      They seemed to be pretty well-stocked when we go there. But we were there right after they opened on a Friday, so maybe that’s the difference.

  9. Love both of those places – I see you have my favorite everything crackers that I’m actually nibbling on right now. I also have that giant bag of quinoa from Costco and my husband has teased me about buying that giant teddy bear!

  10. Casey

    Ah, TJ’s and Costco are my favorite! My favorite TJ’s item is probably the frozen Indian meals (Lamb Vindaloo + garlic naan = amazing!), and my favorite Costco buy is either cheapo greek yogurt, or the organic spinach which is larger and still cheaper than I can find at any other store.

    1. Cassie

      We pretty much skipped the whole prepared foods section at TJs, but I’ve heard such good things about it, I might have to it up next time.

  11. Oh man how I miss me some TJ”s. I was introduced when I lived in Chicago for 3 years. By the end of my time in Chicago I did almost all of my shopping there. Then we moved back to Colorado, where sadly TJ’s don’t exist… yet. There are coming in 2013, HURRAY!! My favorite thing at TJ’s, so many to choose from but def the whole wheat pasta, like that Penne in your cart. I love how it tastes I don’t think any of the major brand whole wheat pasta’s taste as good. I also love the red licorice it’s a special treat.
    I def love Costco too! My favs there are the 12 pack of Fage greek yogurts (so cheap!) and the Half gallon of Horizon Organic Half and Half for what $3 and the Organic Laundry soap that smells great washes great and is like $8 bucks. Great deals!

    1. Cassie

      I saw the bananas for crazy cheap, but I didn’t know if they were organic or not? And I came SO CLOSE to picking up the goats milk yogurt. Next time!

      1. The 19 cent bananas are not organic, but I believe their organic bananas (when they have them) are still only like 25 cents a banana. TJ’s bananas are ridiculously cheap!

  12. *delurks*

    I like to attach myself to others for Costco shopping (my bff has a membership and a few others that I know) but my boyfriend and I have been talking about going in on a membership with another couple to reap the benefits. We don’t have a ton of storage, but there’s an appeal for things like endless shampoo, non perishable food items, bargain books, and their clothing. Their line of workout gear is actually quite comfy and super cheap! One of my favourite sweaters was only $20!

    I think I’m going to have to stalk out Trader Joe’s to see what one is closets to the border and the places in upstate NY I tend to frequent. It’ll just add to the mountain of unique food items I bring back from the States!

    1. Cassie

      My sister bought my a workout tank top from Costco and it’s definitely one of my favorites! But we skipped the clothing section this time because of how full our cart already was. 🙂

      And definitely hit up TJs! If nothing else, it’s just fun to browse and pick up a few speciality things (LIKE COOKIE BUTTER).

  13. Jenny

    I worked for TJ’s for years, so it’s impossible for me to pick just one favorite item. But I will say that the one thing that I ALWAYS have in my pantry from there is the Harvest Grains blend (mix of quinoa, couscous, pearl barley). Its great mixed with grilled shrimp, in a veggie salad, or stirred into beef stew. At Costco I always get the frozen Home Run Inn cheese pizza. I can only find Chicago’s HRI pizza at Marsh and Costco, but ya know Costco’s comes in a double pack for only $10 😉 It in no way compares to Avers (does anything, really?) but is my favorite frozen pizza by far.

    1. Cassie

      Nothing will ever, ever compare to Aver’s. Oh sweet, glorious, Aver’s.
      And I’m definitely picking up that grain blend next time I’m there. I need to start a list!

  14. Allie

    The quinoa at Costco is a staple at our house! Also – I’m obsessed with T.J’s produce section. They have such good quality food for cheap! They also have great boxed soup in low sodium varieties, as well as low sodium pasta sauce (which is so easy to doctor up at home and is the lowest sodium variety I’ve been able to find).

    1. Cassie

      Yay! I’m loving all these recommendations. I’ll definitely try out the soups once the weather cools down a bit. Thanks!

  15. I am at TJs weekly. Love the cookie butter. The pumpkin spice granola is amazeballs but it’s seasonal so stock up in the fall. We always stock up on the organic freggies because like you said – cheap! I love their fresh flowers and salsa too. Ok ok I will stop haha.

    1. Cassie

      Oooooh! Thanks for the recommendation on the granola! I was flabbergasted by how cheap and beautiful their flowers were. TJs was our first stop on a day of errand running in 105° weather, so they would have wilted something fierce in the car, or I would have stocked up on sunflowers. 🙂

  16. I’ve never been to either Trader Joe’s or Costco. However, a TJs just opened in Lexington, so I’m waiting for the crazy crowds to die down and then I’m going. I’ve never seen the appeal of places like Sam’s Club when shopping for just two adults. However, I’ve also never noticed that they have stuff like organic quinoa! I might have to make a jaunt on over to Loserville 🙂 to that Costco and check it out!

    1. Cassie

      Yeah, I would say Costco is definitely a place for more of the non-perishables if it’s just the two of you. We did end up buying a TON of perishable stuff, too because we did batch cooking! Our freezer is packed with meals now. 🙂

    1. Cassie

      It is crazy good! I’m sad we only bought that one bag. We totally polished it off before we ever got home. SO good.

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I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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