You want to commit to a healthier lifestyle, but worry that all the healthy food will cost you an arm and a leg compared to the value menu at your go-to fast food chain.
Healthy food is notorious for costing more. Interesting how that works, isn’t it? Nevertheless, if you are committed to eating healthier food without breaking the budget, here’s what to do.
…Or Sam’s Club. Or one of the other retail wholesale stores. All of them will work, but I’ll specifically be talking about Costco here because it’s the store in which I have the most experience.
Most people don’t consider Costco for budget-friendly because of, a) the up-front membership cost, and b) the higher price for larger packages. (Especially if you’re only eating for one.)
Here’s how to make it work:
The Membership Cost
The basic membership at Costco is $60 per year. This is the cost to simply gain access to the store. However, Costco also offers gas at a discounted price for your car. If you fill up your car exclusively using Costco’s discounted price, the money you’ll save over the course of the year will more than pay for the membership cost.
This past week I filled up my tank for $43. It’s a roughly 13-gallon tank—about $3.30 per gallon. On average, Costco is about 35-cents-a-gallon cheaper than a normal gas station. If I were to fill up my tank once every two weeks (#workfromhomelife), I’d save roughly $118.30 over the year—almost double the cost of the membership.
This doesn’t take into account how much you’ll also save in food costs over the same time period.
Additionally, they offer an Executive membership for $120/year. This comes with access to extra services related to their travel program, car insurance, etc. The biggest benefit (in my opinion) is the extra 2% cash back you get on all Costco purchases. As long as you spend an average of $115/week, you’ll make enough cash back to pay for the entire membership after your first year. Spend just $57/week to cover the additional $60 add-on for the executive membership.
Even with the cost of the membership, it makes sense with all that you’ll save.
Navigating the Food Costs
One thing is clear: Costco only knows BIG.
Want a few apples? No, here’s five pounds.
Have a craving for cinnamon toast crunch? Too bad, you’ll now be eating them the rest of your life to get through the gigantic box.
You can’t shop at Costco the way you shop at other grocery stores. Packages are bigger, and as such the upfront cost is more. Wasting food in this scenario can hurt your wallet.
I don’t suggest, especially if you’re just one person, buying fresh fruits or vegetables from Costco unless you are committed to the race against the clock before they spoil. I will do berries, apples, greens for salads, and tomatoes.
If I do the greens, I’m committed to salads daily to try and get through the package. Even still, there’s a 40% chance I’ll have to toss at least some of the package.
The real value comes in the frozen and non-perishable foods. A six-pound bag of frozen chicken will save you $1/pound compared to the regular stores, and can last you weeks in the freezer. The frozen vegetables make for an easy addition to meals at home, and a 7-pound bag for $9.00-10.00 is a steal compared to buying that amount fresh at the store.
If you’re ok eating similar foods for a given period of time (say, one week), then it’s incredibly easy to shop on a budget with Costco.
In the end, using a retail wholesaler like Costco makes financial sense when you factor in all the money you could save. You’ll be able to buy healthy food without the sinking feeling that you just drained your 401k to pay for a weeks-worth of groceries at a place like Whole Foods. (IYKYK)
Think beyond the upfront costs to how much you’ll save long-term. This is how I was able to survive on $70/week back in 2014 when I was less financially secure. I’ve been using Costco as a means to save money ever since.
*I am not affiliated with Costco, or any other retailer. I make no financial gain if you decide to sign-up. This information is for education purposes only.*
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