First of all, allow me to just be honest and admit that I do not love to go to the grocery store. 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, healthy food, which will include produce, pantry staples, frozen organic veggies and fruit, organic meat options, and a few other tidbits. And don’t forget to print your free copy at the end of this post to take on your next visit. 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 Costco 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 food 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 food 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.
- Kirkland Signature is Costco’s in-house brand.
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 the produce section 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).
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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.
228 thoughts on “My Go-To Costco Shopping List (Part I)”
Hi there. I just use varied vinegar and oil combos. Sometimes I use a citrus or champagne vinegar that is a bit sweeter. Other times, I add a little honey and mustard.
Hi! I too love the Eat Smart Sweet Kale 7 Superfoods Salad Kit, but the dressing is full of sugar. Can you share your recipe for the homemade dressing?
Hi there. I just use varied vinegar and oil combos. Sometimes I use a citrus or champagne vinegar that is a bit sweeter. Other times, I add a little honey and mustard.
I came across this post, which I found very helpful, while I was doing some research on Costco’s product list.
I’m owner of a bakery in NY, and have always wanted to sell our product to Costco, but worry about the Costco customer not wanting to buy that product in bulk. I would love to get your thoughts on that. We sell All-Natural Pita Bread. No harmful preservatives or artificial flavors. Our mission is to always serve our customers the highest-quality pita bread ever made. But my concern is, whether the Costco consumer would buy Pita Bread in bulk.
It would be greatly appreciated to get your thoughts on that!
Thanks in advance,
Hello. I honestly do not see why not. I have no real clue, though, as to how Costco decides specifically what it will sell. Best of luck.
What does the toasting of the quinoa do? Is it noticeable if you skip that step? I’ve been making quinoa for a long time but have never toasted it before cooking before.
Hi there. I’ve cooked it both ways and prefer the flavor if I’ve toasted it first.
So, yes to Kind bars or no for you? I know they are in the rule-benders group, but I’ve seen other posts that say you don’t buy them. I go back and forth on them and recently stopped buying them….just wondering.
Hi Julie. Lisa does not buy Kind bars because they do not fully meet her criteria but I occasionally do. That’s why I listed it as a rule-bender. :)
Polar seltzer is a great Costco products. Four 6 packs of different flavored seltzer that sells for around $6.59. A great replacement for diet and regular sodas etc. I drink 3-4 a day. Has no calories and is filling when you feel a need for a snack!
Can’t find the link for printable version of Costco-Part 1.
Hi Kelly- Sorry about that, the button disappeared when we launched the new site theme last week. I’ve added a temporary link to the post so you can download the list. – Jason
Aren’t you worried about the chemical “Bud Nip” that’s sprayed on non organic onions? I really with Costco would start to carry more organic produce. Tomatoes and onions would be a great addition.
Hi Kate. While I worry about any produce that I purchase that is not organic, I worry less if they are on the Clean 15 list:http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php. But yes, I wish they would carry organic versions of all their produce.
Love your detailed list on healthy foods at Costco. Bookmarking for my Costco trips. I made a similar list on our blog, http://honeyanddates.com/2014/08/14/costco-these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things-part-1/
I am making your quinoa recipe right now. I am excited to try it! What do you usually eat it with? I am hoping to have some different options for myself for lunch since I’m trying to cut out a little bit of bread. Thanks for some wonderful recipes!
Hi Aubri. Oh my goodness, there are so many possibilities! I usually combine it with a bunch of veggies like a stir fry or a bunch of raw veggies like a pasta salad. Another favorite combo for me is sweet potatoes and fresh arugula. But really, it tastes good with so many things. It is every bit as versatile as rice. :)
Some of these prices at Costco are really not that great of a deal at all. I shop at my local grocery store, Shoprite. And the pricing is MUCH cheaper. I also shop at my super Wal-Mart and again, the pricing is way better.
Onions – 10 lbs. $5.59-6.99 (5lb bag is $1.99 at walmart)
Garlic – 2 lbs. $4.29 ($2.49 at walmart)
Bananas – 3 lbs. $1.39 (.29 cents per LB. at walmart)
Pure Vanilla – 16 oz.$6.99 ($4.99 at walmart)
Britt, are those the prices for Organic items at Wal-Mart? Because I’ve never had luck finding orgaic items there.
Just completed my first organic shopping trip at Sprouts. I did fairly well. Most everything is certified organic and fewer than 5 ingredients with the exception of the wine the gravy mix (10 ingredients)and the mushrooms (could not find any organic). However, I was so busy reading ingredients that I failed to see an expiration date and now must return one item. It was probably twice as expensive as I would normally spend, but I feel good about it.
I just joined Costco and did a walk through first just to make sure, after reading your list from top to bottom as many of those same items I buy and was paying more for at a regular grocery store.
Just wanted to say thank you, because your list helped me a great deal (both of them)! I am particularly excited about the frozen fruit. We fly through it and I really can’t believe how much cheaper it is there!
Awe Jessy, that is so sweet! You are so welcome. :) I love the quality that Costco offers for the price.
I find that whenever I buy the organic leafy greens (spinach , kale) it is full of bugs :( then I stop buying it for a while and try again…
Well, I’ve never had that issue. Perhaps I need to look a little closer. :) Though, a quick peek at my spring mix looks bug free.
Part of eating Kosher is checking vegetables for bugs. I’ve bought both the spring mix and spinach and although I cant remember for sure which one but I found a lot of tiny black bugs. So maybe check closer :) It is definitely very clean from dirt though….
Obviously there are more bugs because there are no pesticides used. Unfortunately it makes it harder for me to use because of the extra step of rewashing and checking for bugs , a very tedious job with the small pieces of spinach leaves and spring leaves, in that huge costco box.
Haya, I’ve had this same problem. In fact, it had me swearing off buying organic leafy greens as my girls won’t eat them now that they’ve seen bugs on them. :/ The killer for me is that simply washing and spinning the greens is not enough to get rid of the bugs – you literally have to look at each piece of green!! o.O
Who has time for that?
Ok, I’m trying this!
I have been changing my diet slowly and have lost 40 lbs since September of 2014.Understanding my “mindless eating” and portion control has been key to my success. I’m writing this because I give myself “free” foods and my secret to filling up is using Eat Smart Sweet Kale 7 Superfoods Salad Kit minus the dressing. I use Chachies Mango Peach Salsa as dressing along with the Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.
Sometimes I will add a few of the Kirkland Chicken Strips for protein.
Don’t forget real maple syrup. It is cheaper there unless you live in a area where they tap the trees, like Maine.
Yep, it is on the list. ;)
hey my costcI just started selling Ezekiel bread – 2 loaves for like 6.99!!! Freezer section, what is your feeling on Ezekiel bread?:)
Hi Ven. Ezekial bread is a great choice!
How long does buying items in bulk typically last? I’m sure it’s a little different for perishables, but what is your estimate for other less perishable items? Thanks :)
Hi Haigan. It completely depends on the item. If I buy a box of organic tofu, it will last me several months because I don’t use it frequently but I’ll replace other items twice a month. :)
I am really confused on whether Kirkland Cashews are real food/clean food. The ingredients list says cashews, salt, and peanut oil. Isn’t peanut oil refined? I would love some clarification on this and if these are the ones you are referring to on your Costco shopping list. Thanks!
Hi Ella. No, Costco nuts are not perfect. I do buy them but now more often look for organic nuts with no added oils. In hind sight, I should have put them on the “cheats” list.
What’s the best way to freeze the quinoa and how long does it last?
Hi Tara. Quinoa freezes so well and I always have it on hand. You can freeze it in freezer bags or any freezer safe container in whatever quantities you choose. It thaws quickly and reheats easily, as well. You can keep it in your freezer for months. :)
What ever happened to part 2?
Hi there. It was posted in November. Here is a link: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/11/21/costco-shopping-list-part-2/. :)
My question is about Costco’s Eat Smart kale Salad… I stopped buying because its not organic and I worry about the fact that Kale is in the dirty dozen and we are eating pesticides… What is your take on this?
Hi Shawn. It is a salad I buy for it’s 7-superfood ingredients. It is not organic and not perfect. I never eat the dressing. I say go with your gut and if you feel the possibility of pesticides out-weighs the nutrient benefits, put together your own version with all organic ingredients. I totally get it. ;)
Be careful when buying organic produce from Costco. I found organic honey crisp apples last fall $20 for 10 of them I think in the hard plastic containers. After researching the code and speaking with two Costco employees, it was found that these apples were not organic. They did pull the sign but I feel badly for the people who alreDy spent the money in them…
Speaking of Quinoa and Costco, my friend just introduced me to a delicious Organic frozen Quinoa & Kale with garlic, olive oil, and sea salt. It comes in a big bag with 5 separate steam pouches in it. It is SO yummy and a great quick healthy side dish to serve on a busy weeknight. Look for it near the frozen pastas I believe.
I assume meats, poultry and seafood are part two? Costco carries a wide range of organic meats and wild caught seafood. They also carry a good selection of organic frozen fruit (and veggies). The quality of their meats is awesome!! Costco makes it a whole lot easier and less expensive to eat Paleo!
Hi Cheryl. Yep, and Part II is coming your way in a couple weeks. I’ll cover all of that. :)
I am so allergic to both avocado and macadamia. Their oils are often recommended now and I’m starting to worry that one of those will be served to me without me knowing. I’ll know soon enough! Ack.
I’ve been unite impressed with our Aldi. Organic selections at prices lower than Costco.
thanks for the comment. I live in a small town, and our Costco is 30 minutes away. We are getting an Aldi closer to us very soon. Can’t wait to check out their organic section. Thanks!
Love your list! I found organic honeycrisp apples this week! Also for the second month in a row I found Organic sweet potatoes 10# bag for $9+change! Grass Fed Ground Beef 4# for $19 + change. Thank you for sharing your list and I am really looking forward to the next one!
Looks a lot like our shopping list! My oldest loves those Madras lentils and I make them for her 2/3 times a month because it’s the only beans she’ll eat lately. Also we got a discount (a few thousand dollars) on our new car purchase for being CostCo members.
Did I miss Part 2? I can’t seem to find it. LOVE part 1… thank you for taking the time to put this together!!
Hi there. It is coming in mid-November. :)
I am struggling between fantastic prices at “bulk stores” vs organic ingredients. I noticed some items on your list do not state organic, but the price is fantastic. Any helpful pointers as to how you “justify” (sorry, I don’t have a better word) non-organic items? Obviously the dirty dozen list speaks for itself. Two things I was looking at in particular are the nuts and some of the produce.
Hi Pam. I do stick pretty close to the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 list when buying produce. There is nothing on my list of produce that concerns me. Nuts are another story. I do love the price of Costco nuts and I’ve never had a bad one, but I am starting to buy a lot more organic nuts…because we are heavy nut eaters. ~Amy
Costco also carries very good quality frozen organic vegetables and fruits. I especially like the strawberries and the blueberries for smoothies. With the frozen broccoli, you get six sealed bags within the resealable bag. Perfect for whenever you need a side dish or want to add some to a soup or other dish. They just recently started carrying MANY more organic foods/products at my store outside of Atlanta. Love my Costco.
Oops. I bet this will all be covered in Part 2. :-)
It will. :)
This is a great list! When are you posting for Part 2?
Soon. Just started working on it today. :)
I have both a Costco and Sam’s Club very close to my home. I am wondering if I can replicate these items at Sam’s Club? They are very similar clubs but Sam’s Club seems to be some much more convenient and less crowded than the Costco near me.
Hi Gina. I have a pretty clear preference for the products that Costco carries as well as their business model. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a Sam’s. ~Amy
I’ve been a member if Sam’s Club for years and recently joined Costco. I can tell you hands down that Costco has exponentially more organic options than Sam’s Club. The number of organic options at Sam’s can literally be counted on one hand. After two trips to Costco I’m dumping my Sam’s club membership even though Sam’s is Costco is a 45min drive away and Sam’s is half of that.
There is another version ofdave’s killer bread called power seed or something like that and it is sweatened with fruitjuice insteadof sugar
Is this a list for the week, month..?
Hi Carlyn. It doesn’t represent a list based on any time period. It just reflects the items I am inclined to buy at Costco. Some items will last me for months as pantry staples. ;)
I really appreciate this list and I really appreciated a PDF version of this. Even for a single person, COSTCO is a great resource for alot of items that won’t go bad and can stockpile. I am already looking for the next installment.
Two quick related points, the Costco Amex is one of the best credit card deals out there for those who do not carry credit card balances month-to-month. Very quickly pays for itself via cash kickbacks and the doubling of warranties on big ticket electronics is a huge value as well. Check out the terms and see if it makes sense as part of a membership. Next, the spices absolutely can be a big money saver, but as they are packaged in industrial, restaurant quantities, just be sure it is something you use a lot or the aromatics will lose their potency over time.
For those of you that are dismayed that Costco’ s vanilla extract has corn syrup in the ingredients. Lisa has a recipe for vanilla extract. All you need is vodka and vanilla beans. I’ve been making my own for 2 years.
Yes she does! Here is the link to it: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/12/02/real-food-tips-12-homemade-holiday-gifts-that-aren%E2%80%99t-cookies/. Costco also typically sells whole vanilla beans for doing just that. ~Amy
I just checked my Costco Kirkland signature pure vanilla extract. It does not have corn syrup in it. It does have sugar though.