This post is by blog team member, Amy. Check out our team page to learn more about her!
First of all, allow me to just be honest and admit that I do not love to grocery shop. As a matter of fact, it’s really quite the opposite. However, as a mom, wife, and health coach, my life is pretty much centered around my quest to feed my family well and keep them healthy while helping others do the same. So, careful and frequent grocery shopping is a necessity.
While my search for shopping nirvana may never pan out, I am always thrilled when I find resources that make the process just a little bit easier. And that, my friends, is why, in addition to a wealth of great grocery destinations here in Charlotte, I. Love. Costco.
So today I’m going to share Part I of a two part series on my go-to Costco shopping list for real food, which will include produce, pantry staples, frozen organic veggies and fruit, organic meat options, and a few other tidbits. But first I am going to give you my short primer on shopping at Costco.
The Deal with Costco
- First off, you have to buy a membership, which consists of a yearly fee. There are different levels, and if you find you are a frequent Costco shopper, an upgraded membership is worth the extra money, in my opinion, because it earns you cash back. You might want to go walk around with a friend who is a member before taking the plunge.
- Costco will refund your membership if you are dissatisfied for any reason.
- They also have a return policy that is very convenient. All you need is the item and your membership card.
- Costco will have varied selection depending on where you live, including their organic offerings, but they are responsive to customer demands.
- If you worry that bulk purchases are too large for your household, shop with a friend (or two) and split the goods.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it. Yes, there are always hundreds of ultra-tempting seasonal items, but if you had no plans to buy a stand-up paddle board this year, just walk away.
- While Costco tends to carry higher quality items, you still have to dissect labels and ingredient lists – as with any food store.
- Costco is known for treating both its customers and its employees very very well. That goes a long way in my book.
- Apparently you can save more money at Costco by understanding their pricing codes. Google it. It’s fascinating.
Now, onto the shopping. Part I will cover produce and pantry items including a couple real food rule benders that you might, occasionally (okay, often) find in my pantry.
Produce I Buy at Costco
I’m starting with produce because I strongly believe that phytonutrients (plants) are key to good health and a long vital life. In my home, we go heavy on this food group by eating a variety of fruits and as many veggies, including leafy greens, as we can squeeze in. And in my health coaching, I encourage clients to “crowd out” (not eliminate) other food groups with this one.
Costco has beautiful and bountiful produce. However, our local store, unlike others, does not carry a lot of organics, and while I do buy some non-organic produce items, I focus mostly on their organic salad greens. I am often freezing my extra spinach and kale for use in smoothies or to add to various sauces and other recipes. Their greens selection is especially handy when our gardens and farmers markets here are bare.
|Wholesome Garden Organic Baby Spinach||1 lb.||$4.29|
|Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix||1 lb.||$4.29|
|Taylor Farms Organic Baby Kale
This is the perfect kale for people who don’t like kale.
|Taylor Farms Organic Superfood Power Greens||1.5 lbs.||$5.29|
|Eat Smart Sweet Kale 7 Superfoods Salad Kit
I chuck the dressing and make my own.
|Bunny Love Organic Carrots||10 lbs.||$6.99|
|Organic Fuji Apples
Sadly, they’ve not had them for a while.
Pantry Items I Buy at Costco
A well stocked pantry is another key to health and vitality, and mine is full of nutrient dense ingredients that I can throw into my culinary (I’m using that term very loosely) creations. Here I’ll provide some details on several of my favorites, some of which are not yet common in mainstream kitchens.
|Tru Roots Organic Quinoa
Quinoa, a super seed, is definitely a staple in our home. It is a complete protein, and a little goes a long way. I use this gluten free star more often than rice these days. See my favorite way of preparing quinoa to always have on hand at the bottom of this post.
|Village Harvest Organic Freekeh
Freekeh, roasted green wheat, is a highly nutritious ancient grain that I use similarly to rice in dishes.
|Pedon Organic Italian Farro
Farro is the oldest grain domesticated by humans (according to its packaging). This protein and fiber rich grain is another grain that I use much like rice, and it is a favorite in soups, similar to barley.
|Carrington Farms Chia Seeds
Chia is another super seed. This tiny little gem packs a punch of fiber, protein, antioxidants, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Add it to granola, breads, muffins, yogurt, and even beverages. When it combines with liquid, it gels. So if you add it to say, mango juice, it will be a bit like drinking mango jello, but far healthier of course.
|Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts
These shelled hemp seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fat and are a great addition to salads and smoothies.
|Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Great taste. Great price. Highly rated.
|Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Pure, unrefined, and cold pressed.
|Ottovia Avocado Oil
As if I need another reason to love avocados, this oil is great for higher temperature cooking or to use in salad dressings.
|Hain Pure Foods Organic Flax Oil
This delicate oil should not be thought of as a cooking oil. I use it in salad dressing. It is another source of Omega 3s, which almost all of us need more of.
|Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock||6/32 oz.||$10.99|
|Kirkland Oven Dried Organic Roma Tomatoes||35 oz.||$8.99|
I’m not listing them individually, but they have a great selection of the spices we use often and the sizes to accommodate. Their pink Himalayan sea salt grinder holds a full pound of salt.
|Kirkland Pure Vanilla||16 oz.||$6.99|
|Kirkland Organic Peanut Butter||2/28 oz.||$10.99|
|Brad’s Organic Almond Butter||28 oz.||$13.69|
|Kirkland 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup||1 liter||$12.99|
|Nature Nate’s Raw Unfiltered Honey||40 oz.||$12.99|
|Go Raw Raw Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
One of the best snacks ever!
|Kirkland Pine Nuts||24 oz.||$25.99|
|Kirkland Walnuts||48 oz.||$18.99|
|Kirkland Cashews||2.5 lbs.||$14.99|
|Kirkland Pistachios||3 lbs.||$17.99|
|Medjool Dates||2 lbs.||$8.79|
|Sunmaid Organic Raisins||4 lbs.||$8.69|
|Made in Nature Organic Calimyrna Figs||40 oz.||$11.49|
|Mayorga 100% Organic Cuban Coffee
(In honor of my 100% Cuban mom-in-law.)
Amy’s Pantry Real Food Rule Benders
We aren’t perfect. We maintain an average of about 80-85% whole/real foods in the Taylor household. It works for us, but we always strive to do even better. The following represents some of the imperfection within my pantry.
|Dave’s Killer Organic Bread
This bread is 100% whole grain with 21 whole grains and seeds. Its rule bender is the added sugar.
|Alpine Valley Organic Multigrain Omega 3 Bread
This bread is delicious. I mean delicious. However, while it is full of whole grains, nuts, and seeds, it is not 100% whole grain.
|Tasty Bite Madras Lentils and Channa Masala
These are a go-to if we need something hearty in a rush. My kids love them. Sunflower oil is the offender on this otherwise really short whole food ingredient list.
|Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips
This whole grain and seed, gluten free tortilla is fried in refined oil.
I buy these because they are gluten free and far lower in sugar compared to almost all the other bars. The offending ingredients are glucose and soy lecithin.
So there ya go, Part I is complete (update: Part II of my Costco list is now complete as well). Don’t forget to download your free printable version of the Part I list using the button below.
And as promised, here is my method for having perfect flavor-rich quinoa at the ready. I often double this amount and freeze it in servings of two and four.
- 3 cups quinoa
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 onion yellow
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 5 cups vegetable broth organic (or chicken)
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
Rinse 3 cups of quinoa and allow time for the water to drain thoroughly.
In a large sauce pan, toast quinoa over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa makes popping sounds, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and set aside.
Saute 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 of a yellow onion in 2-3 tablespoons of avocado oil (or other) until softened.
Add the quinoa to the mixture and stir until combined.
Add 5 cups of organic vegetable or chicken stock.
Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer, cover, and cook for 13-15 minutes or until you see the little circles separating from the seeds. Salt and pepper to taste.
I typically have a bowl on hand in the fridge and freeze what is left.
We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.