Weekends at Costco (Ok, and the Philadelphia Orchestra)

This past weekend was quite a mix of kid stuff (eternal) and a few little adventures.

On Friday, I drove downtown to meet Reena Esmail, a composer who works with both orchestras and choirs. We follow each other on social media (she’s read some of my books, and my old choir in NYC has performed some of her works…) and a few months ago she had told me that the Philadelphia Orchestra was going to be performing one of her pieces (RE|Member). She asked if I would like to use some of her tickets. Yes! Then she mentioned that she was going to be in town rehearsing with them so I asked if she wanted to meet for coffee. It was so much fun to spend an hour or so talking about classical music and choral composing and the like. It’s also fun for me to hear about how composing works as a profession (doing various commissions and residencies and the like) and then how she works on a daily basis (mornings tend to be for creative work, afternoons for interacting with the world).

I took a handful of the kids to the concert on Saturday night and heard her piece, with its haunting and lyrical oboe intro and then ending duet. The orchestra also performed a Haydn cello concerto and Beethoven’s Sixth. The kids did very well. Humorously, Wicked is currently doing a run in Philadelphia, and we had two separate theater employees helpfully inform us that Wicked was next door — I guess maybe we looked more like a Wicked audience than an orchestra audience (and in their defense, probably a lot of people wandered into the wrong place — and my kids had gone to Wicked with my husband the other night!).

Another weekend adventure: Costco. I think every person on the planet was shopping for Thanksgiving there on Saturday. My family had been building up a list of things we normally buy at Costco (Parmesan cheese, smoked salmon, gigantic vats of cream cheese, chicken breasts, chicken nuggets, peanut butter, paper towels and toilet paper, these applesauce pouches that have veggies sneakily in them…). My husband and I have been trying to spend time together on Saturday afternoons when the 3-year-old is with his weekend sitter. So, this week our hot date was to Costco. Between the two of us we managed to spend more there than we ever had before, though it is all stuff we use, which is all much cheaper on a per unit basis than it is elsewhere so…go figure. Two dozen organic eggs were $7.49, and one dozen is approximately $6 at our local store. Although I did later realize my sticker shock was partly because we bought our holiday stamps there for the Christmas cards. Between the crowds and the volume of stuff I was just massively overstimulated by the whole place.

Speaking of over-stimulated…On Sunday after church I took the 3-year-old to a birthday party at a friend’s house. This is a school friend, but he lives about 30 minutes north from us, as they moved and then the family didn’t want to pull him out of the school. So we made this long journey, and we pulled around toward his road and then…we saw it…this absolutely gigantic bouncy house in the front yard. Needless to say, my kid was in heaven for the next 2.5 hours, bouncing in there and watching a magic show and eating cake. He crashed in the car on the way home, clutching his little balloon animal (I think a dinosaur with a light saber – at least that’s how he described it).

In addition, of course, it was all the usual complement of stuff — a voice lesson and a karate Pokemon parents night out on Friday, a climbing class and a boy scout service project on Saturday, church and parkour and scouts again on Sunday…

Now on to Thanksgiving week. I’ll be making cranberry sauce to bring to my brother’s. It’s a simple concoction — boiling cranberries in apple cider, plus adding sugar to taste. What do you usually contribute if you’re not hosting?

(And…do you shop at Costco? What do you buy there?)

Photo: Still looking a little like autumn! 

16 thoughts on “Weekends at Costco (Ok, and the Philadelphia Orchestra)

  1. We’re new Costco members (I resisted for a long time, largely due to the chaos you described). But, Costco does Instacart now! For a nominal delivery cost, I resist impulse buys and don’t have to deal with the crowds.

    It’s definitely “worth it” from a cost standpoint. Things I like to buy that are particularly good deals: Pepperidge Farm bread, snacks (Goldfish, Stacy’s pita chips, pretzel crisps), toiletries (mouthwash, deodorant), chicken breasts, Kirkland brand sparkling water, salsa, hummus. I’m sure there’s more stuff I’m missing out on, but I really hate going to the store 😉

    1. @Sara – yes, Instacart would help avoid the chaos. On the other hand, browsing can be good too…I bought some excellent walnut cranberry bread that got devoured here and I might not have put it on a list! It just looked good. I guess I just need to recognize that it is overstimulating…

      1. I am not sure if it is the same everywhere, but at least in my part of NJ Instacart prices for Costco are higher than the Costco warehouse (it says so in the website). So I don’t know if it would end up being similar to a regular supermarket.

  2. Costco is so overstimulating to me! I have 3 teen boys (and a tween boy) so everyone thinks I am crazy to not be a member at Sam’s or Costco, but anytime I have tried I need to schedule a nap after. We are living overseas right now, so maybe when we return to the US I’ll try again.

    My mom is a member of Sam’s and I think she uses her phone to scan and pay for everything so she says that cuts down some of the stress. No taking it out of the cart and putting it back in and no waiting in line for the cashier.

    Here I do have a bit of a different problem in that things come in very small packages, so I end up buying 8 jars of spaghetti sauce for one meal. The big vat would be convenient.

    1. @Jessica- it is indeed convenient. And that giant vat would be like the price of three small jars, and have the volume of 8. We spend a lot at Costco every time but the unit prices are incredible. It’s all about avoiding impulse/unnecessary purchases…and that is hard. I make both a to-buy list and a DO NOT BUY list, as we already have a reserve of three giant ketchup bottles, so we don’t need 6.

  3. I’m a regular costco shopper but like Sara, I highly recommend the Instacart version. I ended up spending sooo much more money if I shopped in person (mostly wine lol) so I just keep a tab open on my phone and add things as we run out. Once we get over ~$100 I hit order and it’s at my doorstep in like 3 hours. Brilliant! the nominal fee is so worth the time savings and the reduction in impulse buys. I buy PB, toilet paper, paper towels, all our oils (avocado, coconut, olive), ground bison, organic chicken thighs, eggs, Dave’s killer bread (such a better price!), often popsicles or some treat for the kids.

    1. @Kat – here in PA liquor has to be sold on dedicated registers (I guess so you can maintain the fiction that it’s a separate store?) which is a big improvement from when it couldn’t be sold at all at grocery stores (about 5 years ago). You still can’t buy more than 12 units though (2 six packs). All this means we weren’t buying wine at Costco! Then it would have been even more expensive…

    1. @Geralis – oh my goodness yes. We could have gone out for a very fancy dinner with wine and paid the sitter for less than what we spent. But then we wouldn’t have 2 dozen cheap eggs!

  4. This is a timely post as my first instacart delivery of Costco arrived this afternoon! We also get the applesauce pouches with the veggies. Other favorites are there Himalayan sea salt, huge bag of chips, tortilla strip chips, mini muffins of course, huge packages of ground beef, the sparkling water someone else mentioned, protein bars, protein shakes, the famous chicken street tacos (prepared section) and more… ! Today’s total was about $250…not so bad I suppose.

  5. Also, apologies for the second comment but my son asked to go see a Christmas performance by a choir and I have no idea where to start or how to find this! Do I look at church websites? Would love any tips you or others have!

    1. @Lori C – fun! Yes, you can look at church websites, because a lot of the larger churches have choirs and they will all do Christmas themed shows. You can also just google choirs in my area and see what local community choirs come up. Then go to their websites and see when they’re advertising their upcoming performances. And finally, if you have any major concert halls near you check their schedule — sometimes multiple choirs will perform, say, The Messiah over the course of the Christmas season in these venues.

  6. We ended up with a Costco membership because our trusted mechanic told us he couldn’t beat their tire prices, and that’s worked out well for us.

    Now we also have a list of things we buy at Costco, and I so appreciate the feeling of being DONE. Of having all the paper towels and hand soap and chicken breast we could possibly use … for at least a few weeks.

    Thanks for the reminder to get stamps!

  7. Also a Costco shopper here, but we went Instacart for all groceries when the pandemic started and honestly if I never set foot in a grocery store of any kind ever again as long as I live that will suit me just fine (well, honestly part of my current policy is that any retail establishment that plays music is a place I will avoid if I can — and I usually can! I think Costco actually passes the music test, but still, I’d way rather (in effect) pay for someone else to shop there for me than go there myself.) Also Costco isn’t in my town but in the town 30-minutes over where I work, so I have to drive to work and then find time to go to Costco and possibly arrange to keep the food cold while it sits in my car afterward if I go back to the office, so just … no.

    But also very early on I established a policy that I will never, ever go to Costco on a weekend. Indeed, I won’t even order from Costco via Instacart on a weekend (I am not kidding), because I just find the whole experience so unpleasant (and don’t want to subject others to it on my behalf either).

    But! There’s an assortment of things that are a good value for even my household-of-3 from Costco, so we shop there. Hmmm. Steaks, bone-in chicken thighs, cooked or raw bacon, eggs, olive oil, butter, blueberries (fresh in or near season, or frozen), Kirkland yogurt, large boxes of cereal, peppers, TP, paper towels, various frozen veggies, seltzer water, some cheeses. I love their pumpkin pie, and — what a value! Oh, and Ghiardelli brownie mix, chocolate chips, flour, vitamins, and I like to keep their spanakopita on hand as a quick appetizer for guests or potlucks (yes, I am happy to serve Kirkland spanakopita in either of those settings). I have to be careful because I am tempted to buy things like large quantities of crackers, etc., and then (again, household of 3 here) often they go stale. And most of these are not “urgent” items, so I can indeed avoid shopping there on weekends without much planning required.

    1. @Alexicographer – yeah, our Costco is also like a 20 minute drive from our house so we don’t go there very often. Then when we do we feel like we have to get all the things. I try to be judicious (no, we don’t need all the things and we’ll still have to go to the grocery store in 2 days anyway…) but this weekend clearly not.

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