A Family of 9 Living on Costco for a Year

Over a year ago, I began a little project for the blog which I labeled “Costco”. It consisted of saving our weekly receipts and tallying all our food purchases. The project began the first week of October, 2017. So after our last grocery shopping trip in September, 2018, I enlisted a helper and a couple of calculators. Thirty minutes later, we had the grand totals of what a family of 9 spends at Costco for groceries and non-food items in a year.

For some of you our expenditures will seem like an exuberant amount, and for some it will appear to be ridiculously low. The point of this little project was not to point out the frugality or over-spending of anyone, but to sincerely reveal to you and myself what we tracked in a year for either reference or curiosity.

Here are a couple of things that have jumped to my mind as I’ve pondered on our trends in purchasing at Costco and about what we could do to be more efficient:

1. Natural Foods

If I look for patterns in the food we eat, I’m sure that eating healthy is cheaper. Eating healthy can be harder, though, because it usually means more non-processed foods with shorter shelf life. This means that it only helps our budget if I plan ahead. We always plan our meals at least a week in advance. Knowing what we’ll be cooking ahead of time means we can take one weekly trip to the store (which also saves on gas). But most importantly, we can plan ahead for how to use up any leftover ingredients to ensure nothing goes to waste.

2. Food Storage

We have a small chest freezer, and we use it to stock up on cheap meats and sale items. We also take time to cook and freeze in bulk, or simply make extra whenever we prepare a meal and then freeze the leftovers.

3. Eating Out

Since we are a homeschooling family, all of our meals are done at home. Nathan always takes leftovers, which he actually prefers to a sandwich. We never eat at a restaurant, but we do pick up 2 Little Caesar’s pizza ($5 for a large) or doughnuts on the weekend for a special treat sometimes.

4. Feeding the Troops

During this past year, we did some traveling and packed all the meals to take with us. The receipts saved throughout this year reflect our trip out east to Boston last fall, a ski trip in January, camping in late spring, and our end of summer visit to Washington DC.

5. Stuff Costco doesn’t Carry

We shop at Costco once a week. On some occasions, we stop at a smaller grocery store for herbs, ice cream, and random items that Costco doesn’t carry plus we rarely need. This could be candles, cosmetics for me, or a specialty ingredient before hosting a meal. We probably spend about $50 a month at the local market or Trader Joe’s.

6. Hospitality

Our family makes meals for friends or has friends over often which we needed to consider as additional food from Costco. On average we extend hospitality (hosted a meal) once a week throughout the year.

So….drumroll….from October 2017 to September 2018, we spent $6,090 on groceries!

For non-food items, we spent $1,714 at Costco. This total refers to:



paper goods

ziplock bags

athletic shoes


athletic sweatshirts



dish soap

laundry detergent


baby wipes

hand soap

flannel shirts


shaving cream




cold medicine





protein drinks

indoor and outdoor plants and bulbs

Do you shop at a bulk warehouse?

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, I’d love to hear your opinion!

With love, Damaris

Our Winter Pantry

“Hey Dear, could you pick up subs for dinner on your way home?” “Babe, how’s $5 pizzas for tonight?” Other times, we’re just feeling unsinpired to make dinner. We’re all too familiar with the mealtime crisis, aren’t we?

Managing a pantry is a skill that I learned from my mom, and I’ve found that it’s especially important during the winter. Managing a pantry involves more than having a stack of canned green beans. By having a well-stocked pantry we eliminate the first road block to cooking – what’s for dinner?? It’s often the main difference between a last-minute dinner scramble (“Spaghetti again, Mom?”) and a stress-free family dinner. When we have things on hand, we’re more likely to get in the kitchen and make home-cooked meals that will keep our famlies well-nourished and happy. I realize that a stocked refrigerator and freezer are essential too, but I’ll focus on our pantry today.

How can I cook everyday, three meals a day for a family 9 without constantly running out of food? My secret to being able to rely on what’s in our pantry is having two of each food item. What do I mean? I have the food item we’re using and a new one in the pantry. Do you do something similar? For example, I have a 10lbs bag of flour in the cupboard and another unopened in the pantry. As we are running out, we add it to the grocery list. This way our pantry shelf is never depleted.

A full pantry gives us confidence that we can make nourishing meals. When days are full, or we’re sick, or life gets hard, it is so much simpler to make a healthy meal for our family. Making simple meals at home does wonders for your health and your budget. Carryout or convenience foods can pack questionable ingredients (and pack on the pounds!), but stocking our pantry allows us to have control over what is in the food that our family consumes.

I’m certain that having a well-stocked pantry allows us the freedom to bless others. We can extend hospitality without much notice because we are confident in the basic ingredients that we can quickly reach for. For me, having food on hand takes most of the stress out of hosting.

No two cooks’ pantries will contain the same exact items, but I’m sharing with you the list of foods that are in my pantry right now. They all come from Costco or Trader Joe’s. Also, I always have beer and wine for cooking which I buy at Aldi. Drumroll……. Here it is : )


extra virgin olive oil

canola oil

coconut oil




marinara jars

canned tomatoes

tomato paste

chicken bone broth

canned pumpkin

coconut milk

vinegar (red wine, balsamic, apple cider)


dried beans and lentils

brown rice





almond butter

Nutella (of course)

box of crackers

chocolate chips

cocoa powder

rolled oats

raisins, dates

nuts (walnuts, almonds)

corn tortilla chips

salsa jars

canned tuna

canned salmon


Trader Joe’s

coconut aminos (similar to soy sauce)

baking powder

baking soda

canned green chilies

cereal bars

tomato soup

sundried tomatoes jar

tartar sauce jar

pizza sauce jar

spices and herbs

canned coconut cream

roasted peppers jar

capers jar

shelf-stable whipping cream (love it!)

FirstFruits Farms : )



maple syrup

There’s no end to the yummy goodness that can be made and shared from a well-stocked pantry. Do you have some pantry management tips? I enjoy hearing your ideas. By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day!

with love. Damaris