Costco Craze Part I: What to buy at Costco?

If you have a family, work full-time, and just can’t seem to find go to the grocery store on a regular basis, you just might find yourself buying into a Costco membership. You know, that HUGE superstore filled with bargain prices on bulk items and long waiting lines for both parking and check out? It’s become somewhat of a tradition in many Americans lives to make the bi-weekly or monthly shopping trip to the BIGGEST store around. On the bustling island of Oahu, people’s jaws will drop if you tell them you do not have a membership because the cost of living is high and savings of buying in bulk is a necessity for many.

I recently gave in and purchased a Costco membership myself. It was something I had long resisted mostly because of the ridiculous parking, long lines and crazy hoards of people, but my husband gave me the final shove last weekend so I finally I broke down and went.  I took a deep breath when we entered the parking lot and was pleasantly surprised to find parking right away which I took as a sign that it was going to be okay. I was shocked and amazed to find, not only some great deals, but also some very healthy choices! As I cruised down the aisles I ran into unexpected products like organic quinoa and fresh blueberries. My face lit up when I found grass-fed beef and pastured butter, too.

People have recently been asking me what to buy at Costco, so I thought it would be worth while to clue you all in on a few of my favorite products…

Below, you will find a list of products that I felt were generally healthy and especially helpful for busy families. Note that Costco’s selections do change, so I offered some rationale for why I chose particular products. With this information it’s possible you may be able to apply the same logic to different selections in the future. Some items are listed twice as they fit into more than one category. A big goal with my nutrition practice is to help people make BETTER choices… Here are a few ways you can do that.

Misto
Helpful Kitchen Products

  • The Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer and Dressing Shaker by Misto (a great replacement for those toxic canned vegetable sprays and perfect for making your own salad dressing)
  • Glass storage containers for the pantry, fridge or freezer by Pyrex (get rid of the plastic and replace it with glass to avoid BPA and other harmful chemicals)
  • Digital Kitchen Scale from Polder (perfect for scaling recipes and measuring odd ingredients)
  • Storage Solutions by Kitchen Binz (these are little plastic organizers for your fridge)
  • Stainless steel cookware set by Kirkland (avoid aluminum and Teflon cookware)
  • Sliding cabinet organizer (an organized kitchen is a happy and well-used kitchen)
  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner (a little bit better than the alternative)

Sausage Chicken Salad
Refrigerated Section

  • Kerrygold Butter and Cheese (this stuff is grass-fed meaning it’s high in omega-3 fats, vitamin K2 and taste)
  • Italian Butter by Ferrarini (made with fermented or cultured cream *insert wide eyes here* which gives it a more complex taste)
  • Greek Yogurt by Fage (perfect for adding to smoothies or mixing with fruit for a mid-afternoon snack)
  • Aidells All-Natural Chicken and Apple Smoked Chicken Breast
  • Organic Aidells Sweet Basil & Roasted Garlic Smoked Chicken Sausage
  • Organic Ground Beef
  • Guacamole 100 calorie snack packs by Cabo Fresh
  • Hummus Singles by Sabra
  • Edaname Hummus by Eat Well Embrace Life (uses non-GMO edamame/soy beans and I can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients)
  • Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad made with Greek Yogurt by Good Foods
  • Garlic by Christopher Ranch (a MUST for anyone who likes to cook with garlic)
  • Basil Pesto by Kirkland
  • Pre-made Hardboiled Eggs by Almark Foods (maybe not organic, but a better snack choice than potato chips!)
  • Trio of Italian Olives by Madama Oliva
  • 2 Minute Grains made with Red Spring Wheat Berries, Quinoa, Farro and Barley by Grain and Simple
  • Organic Balela – A savory mediterranean salad of chickpeas, black beans, spices and herbs by Pita Pal
  • Kimchi by Chongga (made without MSG – wish it were in glass but I will pick my battles)
  • Pre-sliced Organic Apples by So Ono (local and organic, double whammy!)
  • Organic Whole Milk by Kirkland (yes I advocate full-fat dairy when from organic sources)
  • Organic Carrot Juice
  • Perfect Bar Variety Pack by Perfect Bar (must be kept refrigerated – high in protein, non-GMO, soy free and actually pretty tasty!)

Quinoa Kale
Frozen Section

  • Organic Edamame (again, I am on the hunt for non-GMO soybeans!)
  • Organic Broccoli Florets by Organic By Nature (perfect addition to any meal)
  • Organic White Corn by Organic By Nature (most corn is GMO these days, stock up on this and you will always have the good stuff)
  • Quinoa & Kale Blend with Citrus and Black Pepper Seasoning (yum, just yum.)
  • Organic Blueberries (for those smoothies and desserts)
  • Organic Beans & Rice Burritos with Cheddar Cheese by Amy’s (great for a quick lunch at work)
  • Organic Potstickers by B!Bigo (minimal ingredients = maximum benefit)
  • Albacore Tuna Steaks (limit to 1-2 servings/week)
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon (beware that the Atlantic salmon they advertise as is actually farm raised)
  • Organic Spinach and Tomato Pizza by Amy’s (When I am in the mood for pizza, I dress this one up with more veggies!)
  • Gluten-free Mac & Cheese by Amy’s
  • Vegetable Lasagna by Amy’s

Krave Turkey Jerky
Shelf-stable

  • Organic Breakfast Bowls with Quinoa, Pearl Barley and Steel-cut Oats by Wild Veggie
  • Tazo Iced Green Tea (disclaimer: not a good choice for someone avoiding sugar, but could be a suitable replacement or step-down for the sugary soda or juice addict)
  • Gluten-Free Bread by Essential Baking Company (even if you are gluten-free you can still shop here!)
  • Organic Columbian Coffee by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (conventional coffee beans have a high rate of pesticides and herbicides so I try to keep mine organic where I can to minimize exposure)
  • Chia Plus Coconut Chia Granola by Nature’s Path (a bit high in sugar, but again, it’s about making “better” choices sometimes)
  • Organic Promise Sprouted Grains Cereal by Kashi (non-GMO and sprouted which means more digestable for some!)
  • Cooked Steelcut Oatmeal with Dried Berries and Seeds by Minsley (super short ingredients list)
  • Creamy (and dreamy) Almond Butter by Kirkland (two ingredients: roasted almonds and salt – need I say more?)
  • Honey Sunflower Butter by Wild Friends (perfect alternative for a nut allergy)
  • Organic Hawaiian Honey – Wilelaiki Blossom by Island Bees (local and raw baby!)
  • Toasted Coconut Chips by Made in Nature (perfect as a topper for the steelcut oats)
  • Organic Spices to include Oregano by McCormick
  • Sea Salt (my salt of preference!)
  • Organic Pitted Dates by Organic by Mariani (great to use in recipes for a sugar substitute as it delivers more nutrients)
  • Organic Dried Calimyrna Figs by Organic by Made in Nature (try one of these with a slab of almond butter… holy yum!)
  • Organic Salsa by Kirkland (literally only 5-6 ingredients)
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Kirkland (this is the real deal… many popular brands have been recently exposed to fraud for not being “extra-virgin”, Kirkland brand was not one of those)
  • Organic Coconut Oil by Kirkland (great sub for vegetable oil in cooking and baking)
  • Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup by Kirkland (when you need sugar reach for 100% maple syrup, raw honey or coconut sugar)
  • Chia Seeds by Nutiva (check out my recipe for Overnight Chia Breakfast Pudding)
  • Organic Quinoa by Nature’s Wild Grains (gluten-free and high in complete protein)
  • Organic Farro by Village Harvest
  • Organic Chili by Amy’s
  • Imported Sardines in Pure Olive Oil by Season Brand (sardines are a very good source of calcium, a transportable protein that’s also got healthy fats – if you can stomach them that is)
  • Organic Chicken Stock (love to make my own, but when you are in a pinch, this is not a bad alternative)
  • Qi-a Chia, Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal by Nature’s Path
  • Mott’s Organic Applesauce
  • Organic Stewed Tomatoes by Kirkland
  • Organic Pizza Crusts by Mama Mary’s (okay, so it doesn’t sound the healthiest but it’s better than Domino’s or Papa John’s and you can layer it with tons of healthy protein and veggies for a nutrient dense punch)
  • Lemon Garlic Turkey Jerky and Chili Lime Beef Jerky by Krave (no MSG, nitrates and all ingredients that I know and understand – this is a winner!)
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds with Turbinado Sugar and Sea Salt (again, better than binging on Ben and Jerry’s if you can control your portion size to 6-8 almonds at a time)
  • Trek Mix by Kirkland (great option for after-school snack for the kids)
  • Kind Bar Variety Pack (another good grab-and-go item)
  • Larabar Variety Pack (simple ingredients, good taste)
  • Brown Rice, Sesame & Flax Crackers by Harvest Stone (gluten-free alternative)
  • Sea Salt Brown Rice Crackers by Food Should Taste Good (simple ingredients)
  • Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt with Chia Bars by Kashi
  • Sweet Potato and Taro Chips by Hawaiian Chip Company (if you are going to eat chips, eat these)

Honey
Pantry Essentials

  • Organic Quinoa by Nature’s Wild Grains (gluten-free and high in complete protein)
  • Organic Farro by Village Harvest
  • Organic Stewed Tomatoes by Kirklan
  • Creamy (and dreamy) Almond Butter by Kirkland (two ingredients: roasted almonds and salt – need I say more?)
  • Chia Seeds by Nutiva
  • Mott’s Organic Applesauce
  • Organic Chicken Stock (love to make my own, but when you are in a pinch, this is not a bad alternative)
  • Honey Sunflower Butter by Wild Friends
  • Organic Hawaiian Honey – Wilelaiki Blossom by Island Bees
  • Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup by Kirkland
  • Organic Coconut Oil by Kirkland
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Kirkland

Balela Veggies
Perfect for the Potluck or Dinner in a Dash

  • Giant Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
  • Shrimp Tray with Cocktail Sauce and Lemons
  • Organic Creamy Tomato Basil Soup by Harry’s
  • Giant Veggie Trays
  • Aidells All-Natural Chicken and Apple Smoked Chicken Breast
  • Organic Aidells Sweet Basil & Roasted Garlic Smoked Chicken Sausage
  • Organic Balela – A savory mediterranean salad of chickpeas, black beans, spices and herbs by Pita Pal
  • Kimchi by Chongga (made without MSG – wish it were in glass but I will pick my battles)
  • Pre-sliced Organic Apples by So Ono (local and organic, double whammy!)
  • Pre-made Hardboiled Eggs by Almark Foods (maybe not organic, but a better snack choice than potato chips!)
  • Trio of Italian Olives by Madama Oliva
  • Organic Potstickers by B!Bigo (minimal ingredients = maximum benefit)

Other

  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, Pure Castile Soap (we use this for everything as it’s non-toxic and safe for the environment – even our dog likes it)

Oh my, and I didn’t even mention the expansive selection of fresh produce they have at Costco. You really can go crazy in the produce section. Since fresh fruits and vegetables tends to go bad more quickly than other groceries, I would encourage you to split packages with a friend or bring excess to work for your co-workers to enjoy. You’ll make more people happy that way and sharing is caring.

If you want to gather more tips about shopping at Costco and other grocery stores, I will be teaching classes on the subject at IMUA Sports, Orthopedic & Health in Honolulu, HI. Our first class on this topic is on March 14th @ 10am. Call 808-521-8170 to reserve your space as seats are limited!

Want to ask the RD more questions about Costco? Please feel free to ask your questions below and I will be sure to respond. In Part II of this post (link coming soon), I will give you some healthy recipe ideas for some of the items you can buy at Costco. Stay tuned!

In Health and Vitality,

~Beth

2 Comments

  1. Hi Beth
    Thanks so much for your list above. This helps me to shop more healthy and I safe time to read the labels. I am still learning to shop healthy in the U.S. even though I haven’t seen Costco in MD. I bet Wegman’s has most of these products.
    Miss you a lot.
    Mandala

  2. […] a membership to Costco or utilizing online resources like Thrive Market or Vitacost are all great places to save money. […]

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