Spending

What's best to buy from Costco for your holiday parties

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If you're preparing to host a festive soiree this holiday season, consider buying in bulk to help you stay within your budget.

Americans will spend an anticipated $227 on non-gift items this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation's 2019 holiday trends survey. That includes food, decorations, cards, and flowers — key elements of a party, though food, this writer would argue, is by far the most important.

Whether you're gathering friends for cocktails or hosting a traditional holiday dinner, here are some expert tips for what to buy in bulk from Costco or another warehouse club to get a great deal.

1. 'Great frozen appetizers'

"Bulk stores, like Costco, BJ's, and Sam's Club, have a lot of great frozen appetizers that can stretch to fit your guest list, but that are a few steps above chicken nuggets," says Kristin McGrath, a shopping expert at Offers.com. For flavorful, affordable, and easy-to-serve options, "try potato-filled samosas, mini-spanakopitas, and spinach and egg tartlets."

At Costco in Brooklyn, New York, a 48-ounce pack of Cuisine Adventures spanakopita triangles will run you $17.69, or 37 cents per ounce. A 35-ounce pack of Sukhi's Mini Samosas is similarly priced at just $17.79, or 51 cents per ounce.

Both frozen appetizers are "small enough to make large batches in the average oven" says McGrath. Plus, leftovers can be saved for weekday dinner or snacks. And if you want to take your appetizer offerings up a notch, add your own dipping sauces, says McGrath.

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2. Salads that make great leftovers

It doesn't hurt if your generous holiday meal lasts long after the guests have left.

"Get the biggest carton of chicken salad you can find," says McGrath. "During the party, you can add dollops of this on crackers for an appetizer, and then use leftovers for sandwiches for days afterwards."

On Instacart, Costco's 40-ounce container of Comfort Cuisine Cape Cod Chicken Salad sells for $12.19 and provides about 10 servings. You can find a similar deal at Sam's Club, where a 40-ounce container of Member's Mark Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad will set you back just $11.98, and a bulk box of Keebler Entertainment Crackers costs $6.48. Both salads can be repurposed for weekday lunches. (Prices calculated based on a Secaucus, New Jersey, ZIP code.)

3. Sheet cake

While boutique bakeries might offer unique creations, "almost nothing beats that cost per serving" of a Costco cake, says McGrath.

"Costco's bakery section offers larger-than-average helpings of cheesecake, tiramisu, and other desserts, not to mention giant packages of cookies," she says. But the true standout is the humble sheet cake, which McGrath calls "the unsung hero of [Costco's] dessert selection."

At the Costco in Brooklyn, New York, you can purchase a Kirkland signature vanilla half-sheet cake for $22.69, which provides a whopping 48 servings.

You can turn that plain cake into a holiday activity, too, says McGrath: "If you don't have time to order a customized one, get a plain one and decorate with festive sprinkles, a holiday cake topper, or poinsettias."

4. Only the booze you'll use

Alcohol is expensive, so consider going with a store brand and sticking to just one type. "Costco has Kirkland-brand alcohol, and it's a great value, compared to popular name-brands. Pretty much anything you'd need (tequila, vodka, rum) is available via the Kirkland line," says McGrath.

To save on alcohol, consider making a large batch of a signature cocktail the night before your big bash. You can purchase a 1.75 liter-bottle of of Kirkland signature blended scotch whiskey for $22.99 and whip up a "Cold Fashioned" cocktail, which combines leftover cold coffee or cold brew with whiskey and traditional holiday spices like cinnamon.

There are some things you might not want to buy in bulk. Unless you're serving pasta Alfredo to an entire village, you probably don't need a 72-pound, $899 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel from Costco, for example — though given that the cheese was recently subject to new tariffs, the $12.50-per-pound price is especially attractive.

"If $899 is in the budget and you associate with hard-core cheese fans, this cheese wheel will make your holiday soiree a party to remember," says McGrath.

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