Costco and the Art of Vacuum Packing

Jessica Harlan by Jessica Harlan | June 21st, 2007 | No Comments
topic: Green Living, Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating, Healthy Home

“Quick! Give me something to vacuum pack!” said Chip with an urgency that didn’t exactly befit the situation.

We’d just come home from Costco, and we’d decided that now was as good at time as ever to break out the vacuum sealer that we’d gotten for our wedding more than a year ago and had yet to use.

I was actually quite pleased with how our trip to Costco went. We get easily overwhelmed there, with the cavernous setting and the enormous quantities that you have to buy. We usually spend much of our time laughing and marveling at the jumbo-sized tins and jars, and then leave with ideas in our head for what we can get next time, but with nothing in our cart.

But after many trips looking longingly at the fresh meats, this time we took the plunge and actually bought some. Flank steak, which is fast becoming my favorite cut of meat because it’s tender but extremely lean, cost us only $20.97 for three pounds. After we were done with the vacuum sealer, we had 4 nicely portioned meals for two.

What I was really in search of, though, was organic and otherwise wholesome food. I feel like I spend a fortune on fair-trade or organic coffee, yogurt, and free-range chicken. I wasn’t expecting to find much, but I was pleasantly surprised.

We found our beloved Stonyfield Farms yogurts, a pack containing a dozen were $8.99 (that’s $0.75 apiece). The drawback? The packages only have Blueberry and Strawberry flavors. Chip’s not a fan of Strawberry, so we opted not to buy the case. As we found out, they weren’t such a bargain anyway… our local Publix sells Stonyfield Farms for only 4 cents more… and we don’t have to limit ourselves to only two flavors.

In the coffee aisle, there were several organic options, though none were brands I’d ever heard of. Still, I ended up buying a 3-pound bag of certified organic, shade-grown Arabica coffee beans for $11.99-the same price I pay for one pound of equally eco-conscious coffee at Whole Foods.

A one-pound pack of organic baby spinach seemed a bargain at $3.59. I love to have this on hand for salads, sandwich fillings or a quick sautéed side dish.

Our biggest score, however, was on organic milk. A package of three half-gallons was $8.49 (that’s $2.83 apiece), far less than what I pay at Whole Foods or even Publix. We were concerned at first about being able to drink a gallon and a half of milk before it goes bad (after all, you can’t vacuum-pack milk, much to Chip’s chagrin), but the milk is ultra-pasteurized, so I have until late May to finish it.

By the way, we still made time to mock the industrial-sized packages with our best Nicolas Cage as “Tiny Elvis” impressions-”Look at that thing, man… that thing is hu-u-uge!” After all, who needs a five-pound tub of Toll-House cookie dough?

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