August 25, 2016
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You try to buy just the things you need, but every time you go to Costco, you lose all willpower. It’s so hard because with so much good stuff in one place, it seems like they want you to go overboard. Everything is such a great deal; you’d be stupid to miss out, right? Actually you might be saving more by skipping over certain purchases.
We Americans are very wasteful. Up to 40% of food goes uneaten here in the United States alone. That didn’t happen a century ago, when times were tough and nothing was thrown out. Remember when you got scolded for not eating all the food on your plate? You can probably hear your grandma’s voice now: “You better eat everything on your plate. There are people starving in Africa.”
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You don’t need to live like that. Make a change to only buy what you truly need so that food doesn’t end up wasted. You’ll make smarter decisions for the planet and your budget. How do you do that? Follow the tips below to make your Costco trip last so you’re not wasting hundreds of dollars a week.
- Plan ahead. This is the most important step you can take. Many purchases are made on the spur of the moment. You walk into Costco and you’re bombarded with sweets, snacks, meat, produce and much more. It’s like a food lover’s heaven. But in order to drive away temptation, you need to place ahead of time. Before you even drive to Costco, take stock of everything you have at home and determine what you need. Put it on a list. That way, when you get inside, you can say “Oh, I already have that at home.” You’ll feel more confident about your purchasing decisions.
- Think long-term. Remember that every time you buy something, you spend money – money that can be used to pay down debt or save for retirement. A couple bucks here or there doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up over time. When you have the urge to splurge, think about your long-term goals and determine if this purchase will help you in the long run. Most likely, no. So put those pastries away and buy the stuff you really need.
- Be mindful when buying produce. Costco is known for selling just about everything in bulk, and produce is no exception. But remember that produce doesn’t last forever. It spoils quickly, so can your family eat everything before it goes bad? Do you really need 10 pounds of apples and 10 pounds of oranges? It may seem like a good deal, but not if you’re throwing half of it out. When it comes to produce, buy only what you need. If necessary, go to your local grocery store or farmer’s market and get what you need. Unless you have a huge family, you’ll likely save money in the long run.
- Avoid items you won’t use often. Once you open a package or container of food, it starts going bad. Spices are the worst offender. You might think they never spoil, but they start to lose their potency over time. Do you need a 2-pound container of cinnamon? Cheeses, dips, yogurt and other perishables also go bad if you don’t use them right away, so keep this in mind when you decide to splurge on five pounds of them at once. Will you eat it daily? If not, go to your grocery store and buy a smaller size. You’ll save money and reduce waste.
- Use your freezer. Many foods can be frozen and used later, so you can take advantage of the bulk savings that Costco offers. Fruits such as berries and bananas can be frozen and used in smoothies, jams, baked goods, and more. When shopping in bulk, keep in mind whether or not the item can be frozen. If so, then load up that freezer.
- Don’t take expiration dates to heart. In most cases, expiration dates are simply a guide to freshness. You’ve likely eaten many foods past their expiration dates and not even known the difference. It’s highly unlikely that your food is going to suddenly taste bad on that exact date. You can still use most foods after that date and they’ll taste fine. You should take the dates into consideration, but don’t automatically throw out a food that’s one day past its expiration date. You’ll contribute to unnecessary waste.
- Know how to store food. By storing items the right way, you can buy in bulk and cut down on waste. Put food such as cereal in airtight containers to prevent bug infestations. It’ll make them last longer as well. It’s also important to keep storage areas clean. Refrigerators can grow mold and pantries can attract moths and bugs. These issues can affect food and cause it to spoil.
- Share with friends and family. It might be a good idea to share your Costco membership with your friends and family members. That way, you can buy in bulk and split the purchases. Buy four heads of lettuce for $3? That’s a great price, but you likely won’t eat them all before they spoil. Split them with your sister, mother or best friend. At the very least, give away any extras at work. It feels good to share, plus you’ll be reducing waste.
It’s tempting to fill your cart every time you step inside Costco, but say strong and stick to your list – especially when it comes to food. Think about each purchase thoroughly. Will you really eat that 5-pound can of nacho cheese? Do you need three pounds of garlic? By planning ahead, you’ll end up with less waste, so the environment – and your wallet – will thank you.