CheeseI've become a weekly big box store shopper for my regular feeding-my-growing-family provisions. Now that summer is coming - and with it, summer parties! - I'm stocking up more and more. I'm a Costco member, so that's where I head for party needs. In addition to the snacks I keep on hand for impromptu playmates (giant packs of Angie's Kettle Corn, Pop Chips, Pop Corners, Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Chips, Kirkland Lavash Chips, Utz Pretzels), I like getting fresh items for cookouts. It's more convenient to buy big and more budget-friendly too. Here's a breakdown of my party picks:
For cocktails and drinks:
Vitamix Blender1. Limes: To make summer coolers like mojitos and limeade, I use lots and lots of limes. This hefty bag goes fast!
2. POM: I often associate this juice with winter drinks, but found it's great in summer cocktails too. This big bottle is an ideal quick mixer for lemonade, seltzer, and green tea.
Related: Brilliant Blender Recipes
3. Vitamix Blender: Okay, this isn't actually fresh food. And it's pricey, even at the store's discounted rate, but it's my favorite summer appliance (and one of GH's top-rated in our blender test!). It can make big batches of frozen drinks beautifully and even be used to whip up easy ice cream.
For appetizers and finger foods:
Peppers4. Crudites: Trimmed Haricots Verts, Tricolor Peppers, and Mini Cucumbers are my warm weather go-to veggies for colorful appetizer platters. For the tender green beans, simply boil them until just bright green and crisp-tender, then quickly cool down in a bowl of ice and water. Cut the cukes lengthwise in quarters for pretty spears and the peppers into rings or long slices.
Related: 14 Easy Salad Ideas
5. Good Cheese: I love the selection of fancy cheeses in the fridge case. I always buy blocks of Cabot's aged cheddar and supplement with Kerrygold Dubliner and Istara P'tit Basque. If the weather's not too hot, I also get the soft triple creme or goat cheese for spreading on crackers.
6. Nuts: I buy the raw almonds, pecans, and pistachios in bulk bags and keep them in the freezer. If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll season and roast the almonds and pecans. Otherwise, I'll set out a pretty bowl of pistachios or peanuts from the big tins of salted Virginia nuts.
For effortless meals:
Boneless Leg of Lamb8. Boneless Leg of Lamb: Even though Easter has passed, lamb remains a great options for big feasts. It's affordable and really, really tasty on the grill. Check out Susan's simple go-to recipe.
Related: Make-Ahead Dinner Recipes
9. Frozen Salmon Fillets: I rarely have time to shop for fresh fish just before a party. I love these vacuum-sealed 4-ounce salmon fillets. I thaw them in the fridge overnight and grill them with my simple spiced glaze. They taste just as fresh as fresh!
10. Chicken Thighs: A few weeks ago, I noticed Coleman's Boneless and Skinless Organic Chicken Thighs in the fridge case next to the breasts. This juicy cut of meat is amazing on the grill and, because they're boneless, cook quickly.
Related: Farm-Fresh and Fabulous Meals
Berries For dessert:
12. Berries: Big-box stores, like all markets, carry tons of prepared, frozen, and fresh desserts. For summer though, your best bet are these big flats of berries. I toss them together in pretty bowls or cups and kids gobble them right up - no whipped cream or sweet syrup necessary.
What are some of the best deals that you've found at your local big-box store? And what do you find easiest to buy in bulk. Let me know in the comments!
-By Genevieve Ko
More from Good Housekeeping: