Warehouse Stores: Good for Your Diet?

Why buying in bulk can be good for you wallet — and your waist!

Warehouse stores, such as Sam's Club, Costco and BJ's, have gotten a bad reputation when it comes to shopping for nutritious, wholesome food. I've heard various media outlets — as well as friends and family — blame these bulk food vendors for contributing to the fattening of America. They liken the large packages of food to our growing waistlines.

But I’m not sure I completely agree. I realize that there are a tremendous amount of oversized, fat- and sugar-laden foods in these stores, but warehouse stores also let you purchase some of the most nutritious food staples at budget-friendly prices. You just have to be a savvy shopper and know what you’re looking for when you walk into one of these emporiums. 
 
I'll take you on a tour of my most favorite "bulk" items, but before I do that, let me share some tricks of the trade. 
  1. Never go shopping hungry. You'll buy more than you need, and likely choose items that aren’t as nutritious.
  2. Avoid the samples! Those tempting samples look and smell delicious, but they are usually brimming with "bad" fat and more calories than you could imagine. (Another reason not to go shopping hungry!)
  3. Make a list ahead of time. And try not to deviate from it. I've made a few mistakes in my time, such as when I ended up with a bulk supply of a salad dressing that no one in my family likes.
  4. Share with your friends. Ask a friend if they would like to share any items with you, especially items that can spoil, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. I often share a large bag of carrots or bell peppers with my friends. 
Below you will find some of my favorite bulk staples. I find that hitting a warehouse store every 1-2 months is enough to keep my house stocked with healthy staples at wallet-friendly prices.

Produce

This may come as a surprise, but the produce at most warehouses is very high quality. It is fresh, delicious and so nutritious. Just make sure to only buy what your family can consume before the fruit or vegetables go bad, or choose frozen versions. Here’s what I recommend buying fresh vs. frozen:
  • Fresh: apples, berries, baby carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers and citrus fruit 
  • Frozen: broccoli florets, vegetable medleys, berries, corn on the cob and edamame

Lean protein

I’m a big believer in freezing lean protein for easy dinners during the week. My husband is always surprised by how delicious food can turn out when using frozen chicken, fish and steak. It is also a stress-free way of knowing that you'll always have something on hand to cook. Here are some of my favorite bulk protein sources: 
  • Eggs: Eggs often have a longer expiration date than you might think — often up to 6 weeks! That should give you plenty of time to consume these diet-friendly, protein-rich gems.  
  • Canned fish: Canned tuna and salmon last for months and make easy go-to lunch or dinner meals. But both can be quite pricey at a traditional grocery store. Look for tuna or salmon packed in water, as the fish packed in oil can also pack a heavy calorie punch. 
  • Chicken breasts: The large bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts are probably my favorite warehouse items. I use them for basic grilled chicken, soups, stews and stir fries. 
  • Seafood: While there are many frozen seafood varieties to choose from, I have a few staples that I am always sure to keep on hand. Some of them include frozen shrimp (I prefer them to be raw/uncooked and cleaned), frozen orange roughy and frozen cod filets. These are easy to defrost and use in super-healthy meals without paying the higher price for fresh seafood. 
  • Nuts: Unsalted nuts are a healthy addition to your diet and a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids. I especially like almonds, walnuts and pistachios. In order to make them last longer (since you should only eat them in small portions to keep calories in check) you can freeze them and just leave a few days' worth in your pantry or fridge. 

Dairy

Have you noticed that the expiration dates on milk, cheese and yogurt are much longer than they used to be? Gone are the days when milk and yogurt went bad within a week. Due to the new process of "ultra pasteurization," dairy products have a much longer shelf life. Because of this I often stock up on:
  • Organic low-fat milk 
  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt 
  • Individual wrapped cheese (Laughing Cow® wedges are a favorite, as well as string cheese)

Miscellaneous

There are oodles of other goodies that I love to buy in bulk. Here are a few: 
  • Coffee: I go for ground Dunkin’ Donuts® in both decaf and regular (I like to mix them together for "half caff"). 
  • Home goods: Coffee filters, batteries, paper products, sponges, tissues ... I could go on and on. 
  • Beans and soup: I buy cans of garbanzo beans, kidney beans and black beans. They last almost forever and are good salad toppers or soup/chili additions. I also buy canned soup, which, aside from the high sodium, can be a good quick meal for my kids or me. 
There are always new things to test out, but I try to stick with my tried and true favorites to avoid "bulk" mistakes. Please share your warehouse food shopping habits and your favorite bulk food staples below. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Thank you for signing up!

Tell us what you think!
If you'd like to comment on this article, become a member of Gaiam Life.
Click here to create your account.