8 Groceries to Buy at Costco When You're Broke

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.


  • Buy and store cupboard staples in bulk so that you can make low-cost meals at home.
  • Rice, pasta, and oats can fill you up, and work in a number of recipes.
  • Use tuna, eggs, beans, and frozen vegetables to build healthy meals.

Cutting costs doesn't have to mean sacrificing healthy eating.

It isn't easy to look at your bank balance and wonder how you're going to put food on the table in the coming weeks. But as spiraling costs have put ever more pressure on family budgets, that's a situation that many American households find themselves in.

One way to stretch out your food money is to stock up on low-cost groceries that form the basis of healthy meals. The idea is to have basic ingredients on hand that will feed the family without needing to make a meal plan. Any money you can save on groceries could give you slightly more in your bank account to cover other essentials like rent and utility bills.

Keep these eight items in your cupboard

Every household is different, but as a general rule, the best items to buy when you're down to your last few dollars will be long-lasting, easy to cook, and relatively nutritious. That means looking for low-cost ways to get protein and vitamins as well as bulking out meals with carbohydrates. Here's a look at some good options you can pick up at your local Costco.

  1. Rice and pasta: A 20 lb bag of basmati rice will go a surprisingly long way, and works as a base for stir fries, curries, and other dishes. Rather than buying boxed macaroni and cheese, buy pasta in bulk and make your own sauces at home.
  2. Eggs: Even with the recent avian flu that's pushed up the prices of eggs and chicken, eggs are a good and affordable way to get protein into your diet. They are super versatile, and can make a good meat substitute in almost any meal.
  3. Canned tuna: Fish is another good source of low-cost protein and other nutrients. Canned tuna keeps for a long time, so it's worth buying in bulk. You can eat it with pasta or rice, use it in a salad, or put it in sandwiches.
  4. Beans: Dried beans are an extremely good value, but they can be a hassle because you often need to soak them for hours before you cook them. Costco has good deals on canned beans, which are another inexpensive source of nutrients.
  5. Oats: This affordable superfood is more versatile than you might guess. Soak them overnight with milk and jam for a quick and healthy breakfast, make your own granola at a fraction of the price of a store brand, or plump them for old-fashioned oatmeal in the winter.
  6. Frozen vegetables: The freezer is your friend when it comes to saving money. Not only is frozen produce often cheaper, but you can get the nutritional benefits of vegetables without frequent trips to go to the store.
  7. Seasonal vegetables: Look for deals on fresh vegetables that are in season, whatever that may be. Sometimes it's more cost effective to buy fresh and freeze things at home than to jump straight for the freezer aisle.
  8. Costco hot dogs and rotisserie chicken: I've saved this one for last as you can't live off $1.50 hot dog combos and it's generally better to avoid pre-cooked food if you're struggling for cash. However, Costco has said it won't raise the price of its signature dogs and chicken, no matter how bad inflation gets. It may cost less to buy a store-cooked rotisserie chicken than to get a whole uncooked one and prepare it at home.

Depending on what your budget is, consider whether the $60 annual membership fee is actually worth paying. You might be able to find ways to shop at Costco even if you aren't a member. Plus, there are other low-cost grocery stores that don't charge an annual fee. Look at how much you save each month versus how much your membership costs and consider whether that cash would buy you more food elsewhere.

Stretching your food budget at Costco

One of the big attractions of shopping at Costco is that you can get great deals by buying in bulk. The trick is to make sure you use everything you buy before it goes bad, so opt for dried, canned, and frozen goods where possible.

Several cash back apps also work with Costco purchases, so you can at least get rewards for the money you spend. Watch out for Costco's monthly instant savings coupons -- you can use its monthly booklet to plan out meals that make the most of whatever's on discount. Be aware that SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards at Costco warehouses but not for online purchases.

Of course, SNAP benefits only go so far, and it could be that you're down to your last dollars and don't know where the next meal is coming from. If so, organizations like the United Way (dial 211) can connect you with nearby resources. You might also look online for soup kitchens and food pantries. The foods above can help you eke out your food budget a little further, but if it isn't enough, don't be afraid to ask for outside help.

Alert: our top-rated cash back card now has 0% intro APR until 2025

This credit card is not just good – it’s so exceptional that our experts use it personally. It features a lengthy 0% intro APR period, a cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee! Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Our Research Expert

Related Articles

View All Articles Learn More Link Arrow