Sandra Lee's Favorite Things to Buy at Costco & Sam's Club

After a nine-year break from TV, Sandra Lee, the queen of semi-homemade, is back in a big way. The lifestyle expert, philanthropist and author of 25 cookbooks was recently announced as an ambassador of QVC's Age of Possiblity platform, which celebrates women over 50, and returned to the small screen as the host and executive producer of Dinner Budget Showdown on ROKU.

On the show, which premiered in early May, big-name chefs—Carla Hall and Joe Sasto, for example—make a cheffy dish and then the home cook contestants have to make their version of the dish without breaking the bank. Lee mentors the home cooks, and the winner gets free groceries for year.

"Competition shows are riveting because there's so much drama and excitement, but you don't really take away a lot other than entertainment value," says Lee. "So we wanted to create something that had all of the how-tos and the hacks and the information as well as the competitive nature. We also wanted to go high and grocery store, home, cook, mid-level and budget-friendly. So putting all of those elements into one huge show is a real feat, and that's what this is. Plus the emotional strengths, the emotional heartstrings that you learn from the competitors and what their lives are like and what they've been through and who they are is really incredible."

As you might imagine, Lee isn't just eager to share tips and tricks on TV. Dispensing that helpful info is part of her DNA, which was evident when we sat down with her to chat about Dinner Budget Showdown and all the other things she's up to these days. As we talked, one of her favorite places to shop, club stores like Sam's Club and Costco (she's a member of both), came up. Her tips were so great that we wanted to share them with you so you too can max out your warehouse store runs.

Related: 50 Things to Always Buy at Costco

Sandra Lee's Top Costco & Sam's Club Shopping Tips

Yeah, it's worth it. Some people worry that the membership fee might not be worth it in the long run, but Lee says that the guaranteed savings is definitely worthwhile. "The reason why I love the club stores is they have a ceiling on what they can charge and what their margins can be," she says. "They must give you the discount. That's the whole point of the facility."

Divide and conquer. Meats and other proteins can add up quickly at the grocery store, so they're a great thing to grab at Costco or Sam's Club. To make sure you don't waste anything, when you get home from shopping separate the proteins into portions and stick them in the freezer.

Bulk up your pantry. Costco and Sam's Club are also prime spots for picking up pantry staples. Lee likes to grab canned beans and big bags of rice when she's there to make sure she always has them on hand.

Be choosy about your produce. When it comes to picking up produce at a club store, Lee usually leans into things that last. "I like to buy things that have longevity in your refrigerator like potatoes and root vegetables," she says.

Don't forget the dairy. "I do love that they also have great dairy products," says Lee. Big tubs of yogurt and blocks of cheese are cheaper at a club store and will also last for a while in the fridge.

Go beyond the groceries. Another reason Lee loves shopping at Costco and Sam's Club is that they have pretty much everything. "If it's Christmas time, they have wrapping paper, they have gifts, they have everything you need, and that's also discounted. If you need electronics, it's there. If you need clothing, it's there. Kids stuff, it's there. Especially for back to school. It's fantastic," she says.

Up next: I Just Got a Sam's Club Membership. These are the 25 Things I Bought on My First Trip.