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Find my updated 2015 guide, plus a printable shopping list, here!
For years I heard amazing stories from friends about a magical store called “Costco.” About 6 months ago, I finally decided to check out the wonder myself. Let me tell you, I was skeptical, extremely skeptical. Having previous experiences with Sam’s Club, I fully expected to find aisle upon aisle of junk food.
I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was impressed at the amount of real food I found. Real food I was already buying at my local health food store, but in bulk and at fabulous bulk prices.
I was so impressed I bought a membership. The $55 a year it cost to be a member was completely worth it.
I drank the Kool-Aid, or in real food lingo, the green juice.
After a few shopping trips, I got talked into upgrading to the $110 a year “Executive Membership” which pays 2% back on every shopping trip (there are a couple of exclusions) at the end of the year. I am well on my way to getting my membership for free with the amount I will be getting back.
Before I share all the great finds I buy at Costco, let me tell you that there is a lot of junk sold at Costco. There are the usual suspects: candy, chips, and cookies. There are also lots of glorified food-like products. You know the stuff with a million and one health claims (and ingredients) found in packages labeled “organic” and “natural” that will last for years without rotting.
I love Costco and am happy to have a resource that stocks real food in bulk, but just because it comes from Costco does not mean it is good.
As a real foodie you must always be skeptical, question and read ingredients!
What do I buy at Costco?
Here are the items I regularly purchase from Costco. Each Costco is a little different in what they stock and pricing can vary. They also stock some items seasonally and often rotate products.
Wild Planet Tuna: This brand of Tuna is one of the few I feel good about feeding my family. This tuna is pole-caught and contains only wild tuna and sea salt. I used to pay $4.99 a can at my health food store. At Costco I pay $15 for 5 cans. A significant savings.
Organic Tomato Paste: I use a can of tomato paste weekly to make homemade spaghetti/pizza sauce. At only $6 for 12 cans, I can happily make as much sauce as my heart desires. You can also find organic diced tomatoes, however, I do not recommend them. They may be organic, but they also contain ingredients other than tomatoes which are questionable.
Organic Salsa: Each year a local farm discounts their tomatoes $1/ 5 gallon bucket. Of course, like mad people our family loads up with hundreds of pounds! A few hundred pounds of tomatoes = days and days of endless canning. Last year I had just given birth to our second child. Between a two year old and a new baby, canning just was not going to happen. This also meant we did not have rows of homemade salsa lining the pantry. While it is not anywhere near as good as my homemade salsa (I know, I am biased) it does the job. I pay around $8 for a pack of 2 big jars.
Organic Pure Maple Syrup: I usually purchase a gallon of pure maple syrup from either the farmer we buy our meat from or my food co-op, however, there are times when I run out. Running out of maple syrup could pose a serious problem in this house. What’s Banana-Walnut French Toast without maple syrup? Costco to the rescue. $14 for 1 liter of Grade A pure maple syrup is a great deal compared to $25 at my health food store.
Raw Nuts: Nuts have always been one of my biggest expenses. Raw nuts are plain old expensive. Costco makes raw nuts affordable. They offer big bags of unsalted, raw cashews, walnuts, almonds, and pecans. I use nuts for everything from granola to homemade Lara Bars to just snacking.
Mary’s Gone Crackers: Okay, yes these are crackers in a box with an extended shelf life. So yes, they are processed. They are also one of the cleanest crackers I can find on the market. Ak Mack and Mary Gone Crackers are the only two crackers you will find stocked in my pantry. Here are the ingredients: Organic Short Grain Brown Rice, Organic Whole Quinoa, Organic Brown Flax Seeds, Organic Brown Sesame Seeds, Filtered Water, Sea Salt, Organic Wheat-Free Tamari (Water, Whole Organic Soybeans, Salt, Organic Alcohol). I pay $6 for a large box containing two bags full of crackers.
Wyman Organic Wild Blueberries and Cascadian Farms Organic Mixed Berries: I try to stock our freezer as much as possible with local seasonal produce including blueberries, but somehow everything gets consumed before the next picking season begins. Costco sells huge bags of frozen berries, blueberries and mixed berries, which means I can afford to restock. I pay around $11 for a huge bag of berries.
Kerrygold Grass Fed Butter and Dubliner Cheese: Here the real reason I joined Costco. Our family goes through a lot of butter. I practically wet my pants (which is totally acceptable with two kids, one being potty-“trained” and the other one in diapers) when I found Kerrygold boxes with 3 bars of butter tucked inside for only $6. A few months later all of those boxes went missing. I, of course, panicked. When I inquired, after calming down, where my precious butter went I was informed my Costco location only carries it seasonally which means I stock up when it is in. Even when I can not find butter I can always find 2lb blocks of Kerrygold Dubliner cheese for only $12!
Update: My Costco now sells Kerrygold Butter year round. Hooray!
Organic, Cold Pressed, Unrefined Coconut Oil: I always have coconut oil stocked in our pantry. I usually buy coconut oil a gallon at a time from Wilderness Family Naturals, but just like Maple Syrup and frozen berries, I sometimes run out. Costco sells 54oz jars of coconut oil for $16, an amazing price. Bring on the granola bars.
Other items I purchase at Costco: Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil from Italy, big bags of organic brown rice and quinoa, pure coconut water (great in the summer), dried figs and dried fruit (check the ingredients), pure vanilla extract, medjool dates, and spices.
Costco also sells many other organic foods such as fruits and veggies, beef, chicken, broths, milk, eggs, and their own brand of butter. I know others who purchase these items, however, I choose to find other sources through my local food co-op and a farm who supplies our meat.
Are you a member of Costco? What are your favorite buys?