Ann Romney's Costco list: Tips to save money at Costco

At the culmination of the political season, the candidates are using every last trick to sway public opinion. Ann Romney is being the good wife, trying to show the American public that her husband is in touch with the average American, or at least with the average American Costco shopper. She appeared on the "Rachael Ray Show" yesterday to share her Costco shopping tips and Mitt's favorite meals, and revealed how far she can stretch the Romney family's dollars.

On the show, Mrs. Romney said she can feed all five sons and their families, a total of 30 people, for $137.50, or $4.50 per person. What did she purchase on this trip to feed her large extended family? Romney focused on convenience items that she could serve without much preparation, like large bags of spinach, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, raspberries, and containers of frozen cream puffs. She's a big fan of frozen desserts, because they're ready to serve.

Ways to save money at Costco

Purchasing an executive membership is the best way for consumers to save money on their Costco purchases, says Paul Munroe, a manager at Costco in Nashua, N.H. Consumers save more across the board at Costco, he says, because the store marks up less than local grocery stores.

A new executive membership is $110 and is valid for one year. A family that spends about $110 a week, or $5,500 a year, will earn the cost of the executive membership back. The member receives a reward check at the end of the year, reflecting two percent of annual purchases. Families that don't spend that much on groceries can still take advantage of the executive membership by making one or two large purchases annually, on items like electronics.

At the end of the year, families can roll their Costco reward check over and pay for next year's renewal.

Shopping tips

* Costco "generic" brand of frozen foods may be a higher quality than your local store's generic brand. Buy both and compare.

* Hit the store with a shopping list, a plan, a pantry inventory, and general knowledge of the prices at your local grocery stores.

Before you buy at Costco

* Check the sale prices at your local grocery store first, especially on chicken and dairy products.

* Don't forget to factor in the cost of gas if there's no Costco near you.

* Locally-produced honey, eggs, beef from grass-fed cows, apples, and local produce may be even cheaper from local farm stands and farm stores.

* Fresh produce is best bought in bulk only when you have a large group to feed, as the shelf life is shorter than other foods. Berries and grapes freeze well. Other fruits like melons are best in smoothies after being frozen.