Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Costco Meals in Less than 2 Hours
I’ve been a card-carrying Costco member since my early 20s, but I haven’t always been a great Costco shopper. Too often I’ve gone in without a list or plan and mostly left with snacks, beer, or a giant pizza. But my friend (and Kitchn contributor!) Patty recently let me in on her secret: Costco is one of the easiest places to shop for meal prep, especially when you have small kids.
This Meal Prep Power Hour covers a week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a family of four, but also leaves some handy leftovers for stocking the freezer and making life in the kitchen easier for future weeks. Here’s how I prep a week of easy family meals with help from a Costco run.
Want to prep two weeks at once? Read more here: How to Bulk-Prep 2 Weeks of Costco Meals in 3 Hours
Our family schedule is a bit erratic due to my husband’s freelance work. This impacts everything from who makes breakfast and gets the kids out the door to who is home for lunch and dinner. My meal prep goal with this Costco haul is to get as many flexible meals out of it as possible, including freezer meals we can pull out at any time, and not too many leftovers to be eaten up by me (I work from home).
Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Two breakfast options — one for the days we need something easy to grab on the way out the door and another we can pull together relatively quickly when we have more time.
- Lunch: Two lunch options — some vegetable-forward salads for me (I don’t mind eating the same thing on repeat) and something flexible enough to freeze if my husband gets called to work.
- Dinner: Brainless crowd-pleasers we know our kids will love so none of our bulk purchases go to waste.
- Nutritional Goals: Our family doesn’t have any dietary restrictions or allergies, but we’re always trying to get our kids (and ourselves) to eat more vegetables.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Four for breakfast and dinner, two for lunch (although there are plenty of extras and leftovers to pack in school lunches, too).
- Prep Time: About 1 1/2 hours
- Meals Covered: 90% — breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday plus a few extra meals, thanks to the bulk shopping and freezer.
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Easy. Less than 20 minutes of hands-on prep.
- Chipotle Chicken Salad (6 lunches)
- Leftover Easy One-Pot Chicken Taco Soup (can be frozen if not eaten)
My Shopping List
I shopped for as many bulk items as possible at Costco but I still had to do a small shop (mostly for produce) at another market to avoid waste. In addition to the list below, I recommend stocking up on coffee, butter, and lunch box snacks at Costco, too. I also relied on items already in my pantry or fridge, including olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Produce: 4 cup fresh spinach, 2 ripe medium avocados, organic spring mix, 1 medium yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic, 4 medium scallions, 1 large eggplant, 1 large sweet potato, 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, 8 ounces asparagus, 1 medium carrot, 1 (1-inch piece) fresh ginger, 2 medium red, orange, and/or yellow sweet bell peppers
- Dairy: 24 large eggs, 2 cups whole milk, 12 slices cheese (such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Swiss) 4 cups dairy or nondairy milk, 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Meat: 12 slices bacon, 2 rotisserie chickens, 4 cups hummus, 1 bag precooked refrigerated meatballs (about 30, 1-inch meatballs), 1 pound bacon
- Dry goods: 12 English muffins, 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 can black beans, 1 can corn, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame seed oil, 1 cup BBQ sauce, avocado goddess dressing
- Freezer: 6 cups frozen mixed berries, 12 frozen potstickers or 16 frozen gyoza
- Other: Tortillas chips
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
- Bake the bacon for Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches. While the oven is preheating, line a sheet pan with foil and lay out about a pound of bacon for the freezer breakfast sandwiches. Bake the bacon until crispy while you prepare the eggs for the sandwiches.
- Cook the egg for Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches. The eggs for these freezer breakfast sandwiches are a little like a crust-less quiche, so you’ll whisk them up with a little milk and then bake them on a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool while you prep the smoothies and get some other meals started, then cut the eggs into rounds and build the sandwiches later.
- Make smoothie packs for Avocado-Berry Smoothies. Since the berries are already frozen, you’ll just need to chop a few avocados and package the berries, spinach, and avocados into smoothie packs for the freezer.
- Shred the chicken for Chipotle Chicken Salad and Taco Soup. If you’re not snagging rotisserie chickens at Costco, are you even a Costco shopper? These will save you a ton of time making salads for lunch and a delicious soup for dinner. Freeze the bones for making stock in the future.
- Chop veggies for Easy One-Pot Taco Soup and get it started on the stovetop. This soup is easy enough to make on Tuesday night, but if you prep it ahead of time it tastes better and you can enjoy it for lunch on Monday or Tuesday.
- Build Chipotle Chicken Salads. This recipe idea came from a Reddit Costco thread. I couldn’t find the exact dressing suggested, but I did find a delicious alternative in an avocado goddess dressing instead.
- Roast sweet potato and eggplant for Mediterranean Hummus Bowls. With the bacon and eggs out of the oven, roast some veggies for Thursday’s hummus bowls. I used up a sweet potato and eggplant that were in my kitchen already but you could also use fresh vegetables like the peppers and cucumbers I bought for other meals at Costco.
- Build and wrap Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches. This is as simple as cutting the baked eggs into rounds or squares, stacking the eggs and bacon onto English muffins, and wrapping with foil to freeze. During the week these sandwiches will be reheated in a toaster oven or microwave to eat.
- Chop peppers for Meatball Kebabs. Since I grabbed fresh-packed meatballs (not frozen) I went ahead and threaded the meatballs and peppers onto skewers for grilling later in the week. No grill? Just roast the kebabs in a 400°F oven.
- Make stir-fry sauce for Potsticker Stir-Fry. This is a small step that means my husband can get dinner done without me if needed. In case you’re wondering about the sauce that comes with the potstickers, we generally find it too salty when cooked down in the stir-fry process.
A Week of Easy Costco Family Meals
All the planning I did to accommodate my husband’s weird work schedule ended up helping him more than me, as I ended up traveling this week for work. My family ate all the meals I prepped on Sunday with a babysitter getting meals going most days. But the real boon for me was that when I came home harried from a week away, there was an extra lasagna, potstickers, and meatballs to turn into easy dinners over the weekend, too.
Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches were eaten the most since my husband was in charge of getting both kids out the door all this week. We prefer reheating them in the toaster oven and re-wrapping them in their foil (from freezing) so that we can each take them on our various commutes. The Avocado-Berry Smoothies didn’t get eaten for breakfast, as the week was busier than anticipated, but our smart after-school sitter turned a few of these freezer packs into snacks and I was able to have one as a quick lunch after flying home on Friday.
My husband raved about these Chipotle Chicken Salads and we will absolutely be making them again in the future. That extra taco soup I planned to freeze if my husband wasn’t home for lunch ended up as weekend lunches for the whole family.
- Monday: Costco frozen lasagna and a salad kit is just the kind of miracle meal Mondays always need. Because the Costco lasagnas come in a two-pack, we had extra for the following Sunday’s dinner too.
- Tuesday: My husband ended up working late this evening and our family friends ate the Easy One-Pot Chicken Taco Soup with our kids when they were at the house to watch the kids. Their 8-year-old loved it, too.
- Wednesday: The Mediterranean Hummus Bowls were assembled by our after-school sitter, but there was so much hummus left over that I might skip Costco hummus in the future to avoid waste.
- Thursday: My husband assembled the Potsticker Stir-Fry with minimal prep, but he also had the ingenious thought to microwave a bag of frozen edamame along with the potstickers and veggies. More vegetables are always a win.
- Friday: Grilled Meatball Kebabs were my Hail Mary dinner after flying home on Friday night (and we ate the extra meatballs as sub sandwiches on Saturday night, too).
All in all, a Costco Power Hour truly saved the day when a busy week got busier than expected, and allowed friends and our babysitter to get meals on the table even when I was 2,000 miles away. The more I plan before I go to Costco, the easier (and cheaper) it is to make the most of their bulk items and get myself ahead on feeding my family. Now, if I could only say the same about cleaning the house.
We 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.