Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How to Bulk-Prep 2 Weeks of Costco Meals in 3 Hours

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

There’s no denying how much we love Costco. (And nope, we’re not paid to say this!) But while we enjoy debating our favorite things to buy and answering your most pressing questions (how is the wine so cheap? What time should I go to get the best free samples?) the real reason we love the warehouse giant is the fact that we can grocery shop in bulk and get more food for less money.

In this Power Hour I’ll share my plan for preparing two weeks’ worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for two adults and two kids, using only Costco ingredients. This Power Hour takes three hours (plus an extra 30 minutes to store and stash ingredient extras), but you’ll be well-prepared for the next two weeks of eating. Follow along for my bulk shopping and family meal planning tips.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Grocery shopping in bulk lends itself to a larger-scale meal plan than you’ve seen in other Power Hour plans. When I shop at Costco, I put in the time upfront, planning and prepping two weeks of meals at once.

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Breakfast for me, my husband, and two preschoolers (10 days).
  • Lunch: Lunch for me and my husband (10 days).
  • Dinner: Dinner for me, my husband, and two preschoolers (10 days).
  • Nutritional Goals: We don’t have any food restrictions. The primary goal of this plan is to create a strategy for buying food in bulk to feed a family of four for two weeks.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

My Meal Plan

Breakfasts

Lunches

  • Mix-and-match wraps and kale-quinoa bowls: On some days, we start with organic quinoa and kale from the freezer section and top with a combination of browned sausage, chicken, mushrooms, bell pepper, veggie slaw mix, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and cheese. Other days we stuff those same ingredients into tortillas.
  • Leftover frittata
  • Quesadilla with mushrooms, bell pepper, and cheddar
  • Nachos with cheddar, bell pepper, mushrooms, avocado, and salsa

Dinners

  • Rotisserie chicken, roasted Dijon potatoes, veggie slaw: You can’t shop at Costco without buying their famous $5 rotisserie chicken. Serve with roasted baby potatoes and veggie slaw mix.
  • Sausage, pepper, and mozzarella frittata: Using this recipe as a guide, I fill the frittata with bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, sausage, and mozzarella.
  • Cheesy tortellini pasta bake: I substitute tortellini for ravioli and double the sauce so I can skip the parboiling. I divide the pasta bake between two 8×8-inch baking dishes, then refrigerate one and freeze the other for week two.
  • 30-minute sheet pan potatoes and chicken sausage: I’ve picked up a saddle-pack of mild Italian sausage this week (instead of the chicken and apple sausage the recipe calls for), so that’s what goes on the sheet pan.
  • Tomato soup and grlled cheese: I heat up Harry’s Organic creamy tomato basil soup from the refrigerated section and build grilled cheeses with cheddar and a baguette (adding cherry tomatoes for the grown-ups).
  • Fried potatoes and sausage skillet
  • Pesto chicken and potato salad: I toss parboiled potatoes with pre-grilled chicken strips, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella.
  • Skillet chilaquiles with eggs and avocado: I omit the chipotle because it’s too spicy for my kids.
  • French bread pesto chicken pizza

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Four people for breakfast and dinner, two for lunch
  • Prep Time: About 3 hours (plus 30 minutes to divide and store extra ingredients)
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required: Moderate (dinner elements are prepped, requiring some cooking to bring dinner together)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Patty Catalano)

My Shopping List

These are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. The bunches, packs, and jars are “Costco-sized,” and therefore larger than what you’d find in a regular grocery store. I also relied on items already in my pantry or fridge, including olive oil, cooking spray, salt and pepper, heavy cream, and Dijon.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

I set aside three hours to prep two weeks of family-friendly breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. But I also had 30 minutes to spare after my prep was done, so I divided leftover sausage, cheese, and chicken into meal-sized portions, vacuum sealed them, and then froze them. (If time allows, I recommend you do the same.)

A few words on shopping and storage: I find that Costco’s avocados are usually a great deal, but often rock hard. Set them on the counter to ripen, then refrigerate, where you’ll get at least another week of storage. My Costco doesn’t sell shredded cheddar, so I buy it in a block and shred it by hand.

After par-cooking the potatoes, roasting the mushrooms and bell peppers, and browning the sausage, I freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan before transferring to a container for longer storage. This locks in the browned and roasted flavors while extending the shelf life, and leaves room for flexibility in case I need to adjust my meal plan. Freezing on the tray prevents them from freezing into a solid block, so I can reach into the bags to grab as many pieces as I need for lunch and dinner prep. Thawed par-cooked potatoes give off extra liquid, but you won’t notice this once they crisp on the stovetop or in the oven.

1. Parboil potatoes: Rinse potatoes; transfer to a large stockpot. Cover with cool water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain, then spread onto a sheet pan to cool. Once cooled, cube a few for breakfast burritos, then divide the rest into 4 (1- to 1 1/2-pound) portions using zip-top bags or food storage containers. Refrigerate two and freeze two.

2. Roast mushrooms and bell peppers: Combine quartered mushrooms, a clove of minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper on a sheet pan and toss to combine. Toss a sliced orange bell pepper with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread onto a second sheet pan. Roast mushrooms and peppers at 425°F until browned, 10 to 20 minutes. Chop two red bell peppers, reserving some for the frittata and breakfast burritos, and freeze the rest for week 2’s Monday dinner. Reserve half the mushrooms for the pasta bake. Freeze remaining roasted mushrooms and bell pepper slices on parchment-lined sheet pan before transferring to a zip-top bag or food-storage container for freezer storage.

3. Break down rotisserie chicken: I find it easier to separate the meat from a rotisserie chicken when it’s still warm from the store (or microwaved for a minute or two). Separate the leg and thigh, then slice the breast portions off. Refrigerate those portions for week 1’s Monday dinner. Pull the rest of the meat off the carcass (if there’s not enough, use some of the pre-grilled chicken strips) and toss with pesto, cherry tomatoes, and some veggie slaw for Monday’s lunch.

4. Prep sausage: Remove the casing from 2 1/2 pounds (about 10 links or 1/2 of a Costco saddle pack) of sausage. Brown in a large cast iron skillet (you may need to do this in multiple batches). Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned sausage to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Reserve about 1 cup for the frittata and freeze the rest. Once frozen, transfer to a zip-top bag or food storage container for freezer storage. Do not wash the cast iron skillet.

5. Scramble eggs for burritos: You’ll scramble 20 eggs to make 16 breakfast burritos. My nonstick pan can handle 8 eggs at a time, so it’ll take a couple of batches. Heat the pan over medium and spray with nonstick spray (you can use butter or oil if you prefer). Pour in well-beaten eggs and add a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir occasionally until almost cooked and transfer to a bowl to cool.

6. Shred cheese: Shred half the block of cheddar for chilaquiles, breakfast burritos, and grilled cheese.

7. Bake frittata: Bake the frittata in the same cast iron pan used for browning the sausage. Using this recipe as a guide, add the reserved browned sausage and bell pepper, a few cloves of minced garlic, and cubed mozzarella cheese. Once baked and cooled, slice and refrigerate in an oven-safe container.

8. Assemble breakfast burritos: Making 16 breakfast burritos is easy if you set up an assembly line. Tear 16 pieces of foil, set aside the same number of tortillas, and have the scrambled eggs, salsa, cubed parboiled potatoes, red bell pepper, and shredded cheddar close by. Add the cheese to the center of the tortilla; top with eggs, potatoes, and bell pepper, and a spoonful of salsa; and fold up the burrito and wrap in the foil. Refrigerate half and freeze the rest. Transfer from the freezer to refrigerator next Sunday to thaw.

9. Assemble grilled cheese: While the shredded cheddar is front and center, pile some onto a quartered baguette, then slice lengthwise. Tuck a few halved cherry tomatoes into two of the sandwiches. Wrap all of the sandwiches in plastic wrap or place in a food storage container and refrigerate.

10. Assemble pasta bakes: I’m streamlining and dividing this recipe to feed my family on two different nights. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 (24-ounce) jar of marinara sauce with 1 (24-ounce) package refrigerated tortellini and half the reserved mushrooms in a large mixing bowl. Transfer half to an 8×8-inch baking dish; top with mozzarella. Top with remaining tortellini mixture and more mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining marinara, tortellini, and reserved mushrooms. Cover with foil, refrigerate one dish, and freeze the other.

11. Assemble French bread pizzas: Slice the remaining baguette in half crosswise, then lengthwise, so that you have four pieces of bread. Spread pesto onto the cut side of the bread. Top with halved cherry tomatoes and shredded mozzarella. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

12. Assemble smoothie packs: I follow this recipe for the proportions. Pre-measuring the fruit means I’m more likely to make morning smoothies, but if you’re OK with measuring in the morning feel free to skip this step.

(Image credit: Patty Catalano)
(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Two Weeks of Costco Meals with Minimal Weeknight Cooking

Breakfast: Breakfasts alternate between the burritos, triple berry and banana smoothies, and maple Greek yogurt with granola. Heat foil-wrapped burritos in a toaster oven, or unwrap and warm in the microwave. For smoothies, blend 1 pack of pre-measured fruit, a scoop of Greek yogurt and some water in a blender for 2 servings.

Lunch: Lunches are built using extra ingredients from dinner prep and planned leftovers. I’ll use tortillas for wraps and quesadillas, tortilla chips for nachos, and frozen quinoa-kale mix for grain bowls. Toppings include rotisserie chicken (plain and mixed with pesto), pre-grilled chicken strips, browned sausage, cherry tomatoes, vegetable slaw mix, roasted mushrooms and bell peppers, avocado, lime wedges, Greek yogurt, and shredded cheddar and mozzarella. All of the elements are prepped and ready so they’re easy to mix and match for lunch.

Dinner: Follow this game plan for dinners during week 1.

  • Monday | Rotisserie Chicken, Roasted Dijon Potatoes, Veggie Slaw: Toss parboiled potatoes with Dijon and roast at 425°F until crisp. Mix a few handfuls of slaw in a bowl with the packaged dressing or your favorite from the fridge. Serve with rotisserie chicken. Save leftover chicken for lunches.
  • Tuesday | Frittata: I heat half the slices in a 350°F oven until warm. Save the remaining half for Wednesday’s lunch.
  • Wednesday | Cheesy Tortellini Pasta Bake: This casserole is ready for the oven. It may take a few extra minutes to heat since it has been refrigerated. I’ll take it out of the oven when the sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.
  • Thursday | 30-Minute Sheet Pan Potatoes and Chicken Sausage: The potatoes are parboiled and sausage prepped, so this comes together quickly.
  • Friday | Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: I arrange the prepped sandwiches on a sheet pan and cover with foil. Bake in a 350°F oven until the bread warms and cheese melts. Meanwhile, heat a container of tomato basil soup on the stove.

Note: Week 2 begins with no grocery shopping or meal prep because it’s already done!

  • Monday | Fried Potatoes and Sausage Skillet: On Monday morning, transfer the remaining parboiled potatoes, diced red bell pepper, and 1-pound browned sausage from the freezer to the fridge to thaw. When it’s time to cook, I slice the potatoes in half and cook them in a skillet until the cut side browns, about 5 minutes. (You may need to do this in 2 batches). Remove half of the browned potatoes to a storage container for tomorrow night’s dinner. Add the sausage, minced garlic, and bell pepper to the skillet and continue with step 3 of the recipe, cooking until the sausage and bell peppers are hot.
  • Tuesday | Pesto Chicken and Potato Salad: Combine the browned potatoes from Monday, pre-grilled chicken strips, and several tablespoons of Kirkland Signature pesto. Spoon into bowls and top with halved cherry tomatoes and cubed mozzarella. Transfer the Cheesy Tortellini Pasta Bake from the freezer to the fridge to thaw for Wednesday’s dinner.
  • Wednesday| Cheesy Tortellini Pasta Bake: Same as last week, this meal goes into a preheated oven and cooks until the sauce bubbles and cheese melts.
  • Thursday | Skillet Chilaquiles with Eggs and Avocado: Crushed tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, and eggs are all these skillet-style nachos need. I top them with avocados that ripened on the counter and now wait for me in the fridge.
  • Friday | French Bread Pesto Chicken Pizzas: There’s no need to thaw these freezer-prepped pizzas. Bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted.

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If you have a Costco card burning a hole in your pocket, but haven’t been sure about how to supersize your meal plan to accommodate bulk buying, I hope this plan gives you the encouragement and tools to be successful. I’d love to hear what Costco products you rely on for meal prep.

(We also have more Power Hour Meal Prep plans for all kinds of cooks and eaters! Check out all the plans we have so far.)

Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.