There’s one part of the store that makes me justify the crowds and the trip.
Costco Store front with shoppers with carts outside with a design treatment
Credit: Getty Images / Xinhua News Agency

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Alright, let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I don't like going to Costco. Similar to my feelings about Trader Joe's, I am pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one. But Costco anxiety is a very real thing that keeps some of us avoiding it. Between the crowds, the lines and the seemingly endless aisles towering with boxes, the whole shopping experience isn't my jam. That is not to say Costco is a "bad" store and you shouldn't shop there. They have everything from healthy snacks to great deals on house plants. Before you get too angry with me, I admit that there is one section of Costco that can't be beat in my eyes—the meat, poultry and fish department of the store. 

Even though I try to limit my Costco trips for my own sanity, I always make an exception when it comes to meat. I live alone and usually cook for two, so you may be wondering why I'm getting my protein in bulk. Well, buying meat, poultry and fish in bulk at Costco definitely saves me money. They typically carry higher quality products for a fraction of the per-pound price at standard grocery stores. They also carry cuts of meat I can't find anywhere else for super affordable rates, like their lamb chops for $11 per pound compared to almost $16 per pound at Walmart (which is one of my dinner party go-tos). 

Even though I live alone, I have a foolproof way of making my Costco meat haul last. Once I get home, I split up the raw meat, fish or poultry into individual portions and freeze it until I'm ready to use it. I will even do this for ground meat like beef and turkey, since I usually only use half of a package at a time. This helps me take advantage of the discount prices without wasting the larger portions. Plus, I always have proteins on hand so I can get creative with dinners based on the vegetables that are in season and what I'm in the mood for.

Let me be clear, I do not think you're a bad person if you have a laundry list for Costco every week (here are EatingWell's recommendations for the best healthy foods to stock up on at Costco). I concede that they have incredible deals and numerous eye-catching snacks. For me, as a person living alone on a budget, buying most of my food in Costco sizes doesn't make sense. Plus, the experience of shopping there is anxiety inducing (thinking about the parking lot in particular). That said, I always buy my meat, poultry and fish at Costco because it's more affordable, better quality and reliably stocked.