In episode 034, I interview Alexis from the Fancy Apron blog about why she loves Costco so much and what she is buying there. Get ready to hear tips on how to manage the huge packages of meat that you buy so that nothing goes to waste as well as some of her favorite recipes.
Here is the transcript from our interview with Alexis from the Fancy Apron blog.
Eric: Hey everybody. Welcome to a special episode of Eat Shop Waste Not. I'm your host, Eric Samuelson. I'm excited, today we're gonna talk about Costco and, uh, I'm a Costco lover. I love shopping there. And I'm here with another Costco lover, Alexis from the Fancy Apron. Um, so welcome to the podcast today.
Alexis: Thank you so much for having me. I do love Costco and I love talking about Costco, so this is exciting.
Eric: Okay, so today I wanted to first get into, talking about your blog. So kind of tell me, what your blog's about and maybe how you got started, and just kinda like the overall intro. Let people know who you are.
Alexis: Yeah, so my blog is, uh, fancyaproncooking.com. I got started a few years ago because family kept encouraging me to do it, um, especially around Costco ingredients. Um, I grew up in a Costco. My dad worked for Costco, so from five years old on, I was back there in the building before it was open. And when I turned 18, I started working at Costco.
So even as a young single person, I got pretty good at shopping there and then using ingredients well for even one, one young person not cooking for a whole family, and a lot of friends and family were encouraging me to put this stuff out there. Just to, just to be a good resource for other people who needed to learn how to manage those quantities also.
Eric: Yeah, that is really good. A lot of the younger people or single people that just don't have, families, yeah, it's kind of hard to, to shop there. Or attempting to buy, you know, the big bag of some kind of chocolatey treat and eat, it all yourself when it's just you.
So how about now? Do you have a bigger family now? Are you still shopping for yourself?
Alexis: Well, so we do, so now we are, um, a family of four, most of the time. Five some of the time because I do have a stepdaughter. Um, and so, the thing is, my kids are still young and small. So I'm not, even if I make a big dinner, they are only contributing a small, you know, maybe one adult size to that. Um, but it is helpful for the snack options and all of that.
But when it comes to, say, saving meat, um, or making, you know, like a good size protein, it still feels like I'm cooking for two a lot of the time.
Eric: Yeah, I noticed I now have a 14 year old, 11 year old and a 10 year old and a 4, and you definitely noticed those time goes on, that's no longer a thing anymore. It's amazed how much more, more food they eat. So, you know, it's, it's coming someday. So, you know, you'll definitely, definitely need it in the future.
Alexis: For sure.
Eric: For sure. What are some of your favorite things that you buy at Costco now? If you've gone in the last month or so, like what kind of things are you buying?
Alexis: So I live back there in the meat department. I cook a lot on my Traeger. That's where a lot of my recipes come from. So ribs, chicken, whole chickens, everything back there in the meat department, because the quality is just so incredibly good. So my game plan is that I go in, I pick a few cuts of protein, I bring it home, and then I either save it or I prep it.
For how I know I'm gonna use it. And then, um, of course I love the produce. It's good. I get my staple produce there and then usually hit up one of the regular grocery chains for the smaller stuff that I won't need. Maybe a, um, I don't always need a six pack of lettuce. Sometimes I do, but not always.
Uh, same with potatoes. If I'm gonna make a big batch of mashed potatoes, I can do that. Some produce, but it, it depends. I have to have a plan for it. I can't just impulse shop, that kind of thing. Then over in the foods section, like the dry foods, I can impulse shop there when it comes to sauces and marinades, um, that kind of thing.
Even some good side dishes, like some box side dishes. They have so much that's organic and so much that's gluten free that I can kind of count on that stuff as far as a prepared food goes, but I know it's gonna be good.
Eric: So why do you think Costco's meat quality is better than say some of the other like chain stores, like some of the more popular chain stores?
Alexis: Um, so as far as I know, they only offer, uh, choice or prime. They don't carry select, so you can take that off the table. And then because of Costco's buying power, because they're buying so much in bulk, they're able to get the best quality meat for the best price. That's the business model. Um, And they continue to lean more and more into their own products.
So they raise their own chickens. So that organic chicken that's from Costco, they're cutting out the middle man to get their members the best quality of meat at the best price by cutting out that middle man.
And that's just why it's better. Like it shocks me when I do happen to look at a grocery store meat section and see how small the chicken breasts are or the quality of meat, like to look at the marbling, they're very passionate about it and it shows.
Eric: Meat is one of those things right now, and I've heard other people say this, that a big pain point for them right now is trying to find, meat prices that have been going up in, in a lot of stores and trying to find the quality too.
Because you know, some stores you go to and try to find the cheapest chicken. And like, it's not, it's not good quality chicken at all. It's, you know, it's poor quality, it's cheap, cheaply produced and, and, doesn't taste like anything. Um, what I, what I've noticed too, noticed that Costco's done in the last couple years, dunno if you've seen this too, is on the packaging now they're advertising their chicken as being air chilled chicken. Um, which is a topic we covered earlier on the podcast. Um, and, and that is just the process that we're, instead of dumping the chicken to water to chill it, they're using air to chill it, which takes longer to do, but also produces meat that's more flavorful cuz you're not dumping it in water.
Um, so I don't know if you've noticed the quality of the chicken with the air chilled change.
Alexis: Um, I haven't noticed, but I fully believe it. Like I haven't noticed a change, but that is one of those details. That's why I trust Costco. I, I don't even question it.
Eric: What are your favorite like beef cuts to buy at Costco?
Alexis: So lately I've been a little bit obsessed with something they have back there. It's sort of a new item still. It's ultra thin, sliced New York steak. Um, it's like Shabu Shabu style. You know, It's, it's really good steak that's so thin that you could cook it in broth. it's so tender because of how it's cut.
It's partially frozen and then it's sliced to, I think a 16th of an inch on their meat slicer. And I use it for stir fry, meat skewers. Um, it's so tender. My kids will eat it. You know, protein can be a tough one to get your kids to eat because if it's too chewy, um, they don't like it. They don't wanna fight with their food.
They've got small little teeth and small mouths. So this is a great way to get a beef source of iron in them. Um, and it cooked super fast because it's so thin. So it's a really good weeknight meal if I wanna do Philly cheese steaks or uh, teriyaki bowls. On Sunday for football, I did some teriyaki skewers on my Traeger and they cook in two minutes, so that's a favorite lately.
But I also do love their tri-tip, flank steak another really good cut. If I want to do, um, anything from a, from a basic barbecue or a carne asada. And then if I wanna get pricey or I'm gonna splurge a little, I will buy a Pismo, which it's a beef tenderloin that has had the chain removed and it's just the tender piece of flavorful beef that you can buy back there, and then I stake it out at home. So I have this post on my blog for how to stake out your own Pismo and then save it into portions for your family. So I'll get about 11 to 12 steaks off of this thing, um, which is pretty good for the price. I mean, 12 filets is pretty good.
Eric: Oh, absolutely. I mean, yeah, you can't get, and that is the best way if you wanna have filet mignon and don't wanna like completely like blow your budget, you know, buying in the individual steak is so much more expensive at places. I mean, you could. It could just be an astronomical cost. So like, yeah, buying that in bulk and, and it's, it's easy to cut up.
Always say people who are kind of being introduced to buying whole cuts of meats, you know, start with something like a beef tenderloin because there's no bones in it. You just gotta slice it. Or a boneless pork loin, same thing.
You just gotta to slice up or, So it's kind of a good entry point as opposed to, you know, the starting with something that has bones in it or some of the beef tenderloins you have to like, there's skill versus you have to kind of cut off, which can be challenging to do.
So you know, they'll do that kind of thing for you. So I think those are, um, kind of a good intro thing.
Alexis: For sure.
Eric: And I also, like you talked with the kids, you know, I had definitely have trouble with my kids, especially starting out trying to eat like those proteins things and you know, we have consider, like we don't have the same teeth that they do, you know, So like, you know, if we overcook a steak or beef, they, they're gonna just be, they can't chew through it. They just can't. Um, so that's a really good, option to have something that's really thin and tender that they can actually like handle. And that isn't, too overwhelming. I mean, you wouldn't put like a giant T-bone steak in front of a child, but having like a little, little piece like that, that might be like, okay, I can, you know, manage that.
Alexis: It's, it's so gratifying to see my children eat something, um, without asking questions or complaining. That's one of those wins, you know, a couple times a week. We just need a win and. They, they come to the table less hungry. I don't know why they spend more energy and they eat less. Food is just incredible.
So finding that, and you know, they can dip it, you can sauce it, whatever it takes to get it in them. But that's one thing that my kids will eat without complaining.
Eric: That's wonderful. Yeah, you got, you gotta take those and remember, and remember those things cuz they, I have one, one kid who's who, I mean, they've all had their moments of course. Um, but, but one who's especially difficult with, um, just eating different varieties of foods. So you always have to kind of remember like what thing they're gonna eat and, and try to give that.
Um, so one of the issues I think people or concerns people have with Costco and buying is, is the, is the ginormous size. You're getting these huge packs of meat here, and sometimes that can be intimidating here. Um, so what is, what are some of your tips to kind of handle like this, the bulk of some of these things and, and do it well?
Alexis: So a couple things. First, need a plan because, If you see a cut a meat where you have one recipe, we'll multiply that out. You may not want four family size portions of something to do with, say, pulled pork like a pork butt. Um, so having a plan, a variety of recipes is good. And that is one of the things that I try to fill in.
I try to offer several, um, ways to cook, say a pork tenderloin. So that's one of my favorites. And it's an inexpensive cut. It's a four pack. It's two 2-packs, so I'll bring it home and then I have a plan for it. I will open up the whole thing. One of them I will save whole, so I can throw on the trigger.
It cooks pretty quickly. Another one I will dice up because it actually shreds pretty easily for being a lean cut of meat. So I'll use it to make either pork sandwiches or pulled pork tacos. Um, and then another one I might. Marinade in, uh, something Herby and do like some pork medallions on the grill.
So really it, it's having a little bit of a plan and then just setting up my workstation. So I'll come home, I post this on Instagram quite a bit, where I will bring home a batch of meat from Costco. I will go through and I will divide it all. And I will vacuum seal it all in my Food Saver. And there's other brands too, of other vacuum sealers you could do, you know, just a regular like zip top bag and just try to get out as much of the air as possible.
But I love the Food Saver because I can use it to save stuff in a marinade and pulse back it out. So that's, Very quickly, quick to use, uh, later when I actually want to cook. But just having a plan, dividing it up and what I know we're going to eat it in, and then saving it and getting it in the freezer so that I'm organized, helps me get through, you know, 12 filets or four pork tenderloins.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's one of those things like if you're gonna go buy and meet at Costco and have extra in that, that you need to have, you know, go there on a day, you have the time to actually, um, yeah. Prepare the meat and they're freeze stuff here, you know, you know, that was cause problem is when you're trying to like, do all that and then, Oh, I, I have all the others things to do that day.
It's like, it's try to go on a day where you, where it's like, I have time. Set the si time aside. Cause then, you know, it'll pay off later on. Of course, you know, as you're doing now, you know, have your, you know, you, you're doing your prep here and you're freezing meals and doing a marinade thing so that later on now, oh, now when it's a busier time, you could easily pull some out of the freezer.
You got a meal going and you're in great shape.
Alexis: Definitely and do double check when you're buying something out, specifically outta the meat department because there will be the sell by date. Um, and then on some cuts, the used by date. So if you have to shop one day and save it the next day, that's okay. If I mean, you know, from depending on what you have going on, if you might have two hours today to go to Costco and get through the whole place and then save what you can the next day. Maybe you buy something and you don't know what you're gonna do with it. Do research that night and then you can figure out the next day how you're gonna cut it and save it to use for later.
Eric: That's a good point. Yeah, definitely. You know, look at those dates on there to, to, you know, to say that I talk about this too a lot on my blog with, um, cause I, I actually rank really high on my blog for Costco turkeys. Um, so I always kind of, um, tell people like, yeah, you know, look at the date in the Turkey here.
It's usually you buy a fresh Turkey at Costco. Usually when they arrive they're already, like, the date out is after Thanksgiving. So it's usually not like a huge, like, big deal. So kind of here's a little preview, few guys as we, you know, head into Thanksgiving season that like something like that. Can last a while.
So there's, there's different dates, like the whole, like whole chickens, whole turkeys and things like that. The whole things tend to last longer than things that have been, you know, that have been cut up and sliced cuz they're, you know, they've been exposed to more air and things like that. So, you know, kinda keep that in mind. \
What are other kinds of smart tips for packing meat, So it's easy to thaw. If we package up a whole big chunk of thing here and then it takes forever to thaw.
I mean, you know, it's kinda like, Oh, I don't have time to thaw tonight here, so I'm gonna skip it to later on. And then it just stays in your freezers or forever. So like, what kind of like tips you have for, you know, easy thawing.
Alexis: Yes. So making sure that your protein is thin and as spread out as possible, you wanna max out surface area. Um, So like chicken for example, I butterfly almost all of my chicken into thinner cutlets for two reasons. One, because chicken can get dry pretty quickly, so I want it to cook faster. Conversely, I like to lay 'em out pretty smooth in my Food Saver bags.
So that they thought out overnight in the refrigerator versus, you know, hours in a sink full of water, which isn't the most food safety, um, signed off on plan. I know most of us do it, but this is that same thing with, um, with ribs. I freeze my ribs, so I'll open up the three pack. I'll usually prep one to make probably the next day. And then the other two, I like to lay out in one big sheet. And so my freezer is literally stocked through these like sheets of um, a freezer meat.
Eric: Keeping it like as flat as you can too. Cause that again, also, it probably also helps the storage space. You know, your freezer, I mean, you have like giant chunks of things here. Then you're kind of trying to ba you know, depending on if you have like, you know, I don't know, do you have like a chess freezer just, or just like a regular, uh, freezer.
Alexis: So we used to, it's, we don't anymore. It's just our, we got a new fridge for the kitchen. So when we took the old fridge out there to the garage. So it's not huge, but it's certainly enough, um, sometimes. Bigger isn't always better because I've lost some things. It's been like surprise at the bottom of the freezer when we did have a chest freezer, I don't know how long things had been in there.
So now I've gotten very, very good about dating my freezer bags, um, and labeling those to put in there so that I've got a good rotation. But no, it's just a regular freezer that I have, kind of like a beef compartment, a chicken compartment and a pork shelf.
Eric: I love that. Yeah, those are, those are awesome, awesome tips. Yeah, I think it's really important to, to date, you know, date that and put on there cuz you know, if you're in a hurry trail, I wanna pick up in the freezer and you look around and find someone's not date or you. I don't know what this is and just throw back in cuz you don't want to go through the time to try to figure out what it is.
So that's, that's really, really important to, um, to do that. Like, I always have like a, like a nice sharpie on hand to make sure that, that it stays on there, you know, and that we could still read it when, when, when it's time to pull it out there. Um, so, so we've talked about a lot about, um, so we've talked about pork, chicken, and beef here. Do you guys eat any fish in your house and how do you, how would you manage that if you do fish.
Alexis: So we are not seafood eaters, however, um, well, sometimes I wish I wore just for the variety and the health aspect, but I do know that Costco has some fantastic fish and they actually have a, a ton of great fish in their freezer department. Um, individual salmon filets are extremely popular. They do, um, they do quite a bit of sales in those that and the tilapia.
I know. I can't be beat, I can't speak too much more on, you know, preparing them because it's not really our jam, but they, they do a great job just like their other proteins sourcing it, um, and handling it.
Eric: They do have like, you know, the free, a good spot to go, especially if you're in, you know, a part of the country where it's. You don't have lot of seafood. Like I've known, I've been in Costcos all over the country. I think in California. Like I find more fresh stuff than I do in other parts of the country.
Like, especially like I, I went to a Costco once that was in South Dakota, so you're, you're pretty far from the ocean, so not lot good sources there. So it all depends on your store I think. I think the seafood really like. It varies more than, than, you know, some of the other things here. So you just kind of, so like the, this frozen stuff, you'll be able to find a little more consistently, um, at any, any Costco store they're at than some of the other fish.
And then something else knows the, the fish, often time it'll say like, previously frozen, so it's available, already thawed out for you. But it was, it was something that was previously frozen and so you're not necessarily getting something that has been fresh forever type of thing. Like it never got frozen.
So that's something to keep in mind.
Alexis: Yeah, and then you probably also don't wanna freeze that again cuz it's already been done once, you can't go back and forth over and over
Eric: Yeah. Yes. That is a good tip too. It's also why you want to portion your meat choices out too. You whatever your beef, chicken and pork is, cuz you want, you don't wanna like take some do, do you frost it, then put it back in the freezer and do it again cuz that's, it's not good for the quality of the meat when you, when you keep going that back and forth.
Um. Situation, so well, this has been great, Alexis. Thank you for all this, um, wonderful tips. So, um, where, where can people find you on the internet? Where, um, where should it look for you?
Alexis: Uh, so my website is fancy apron cooking.com. That's where I share all of these, uh, recipes. But then as far as socials go, uh, I'm Fancy Apron everywhere. So Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and even Pinterest. I'm not especially active on Pinterest. Instagram has my love just because I think that's where I spend the most fun.
Um, but, but yeah, that's where I am.
Eric: Awesome. Thank you so much, um, guys, to make sure to check her out here. We, we'll share some of her recipes and our show notes page, and some of the other tips that we have from Costco. So just thank you so much for coming on, chatting with me today.
Alexis: Thanks, Eric.
📚 Additional Resources
Want to learn how to cut up a whole beef tenderloin as Alexis spoke of? Check out her recipe for Traeger Filet Mignon. Scroll down till you see her instructions for the whole tenderloin. She offers a bulk breakdown for meat on her blog.
Also you'll want to check out how she does a Pork Tenderloin on her Traeger.
Here are a few more recipes from her blog that you wil love.
We have a series of guidse on our blog to help you shop for different types of meat at Costco.