Love it or hate it, Costco has become a mainstay in major cities across the country. I LOVE Costco. I mean, I really love Costco. There are a lot of foods in my cupboards that I wouldn’t be able to afford to put there if it weren’t for Costco. If I had been able to register at Costco for my wedding, I would have. They have everything!
But shopping at Costco takes a special knack (at least if you don’t want to blow your whole paycheque it does). If you are the kind of person who doesn’t really plan ahead when it comes to meals and groceries, or you get easily distracted by shiny things…oooh, the Easter goodies are out!
Shiny things, right.
As I was saying, if you don’t really plan ahead, or you get distracted easily, or you are a notorious impulse shopper, then maybe Costco won’t be the greatest place for you to save money. But if you are reasonably organized, feed a lot of people, or are looking for some economical whole-food choices, Costco just might be your new best friend.
For those of you looking for ways to implement better, cleaner dietary choices without breaking the bank, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten favourite (AIP-friendly) Costco products. Here goes!
- Wild Pacific Salmon Fillets
This is by far and away my number one pick from Costco. You cannot beat the nutritional value of high quality wild salmon! It’s where I get a significant portion of my omega-3’s, as well as a wide variety of other vitally important micronutrients! While pricier than its Atlantic (read: farmed) counterpart, this is an excellent buy when compared to what you would pay at the health food store, or even the big chain grocery stores. Fillets (around 6 oz. each) come individually wrapped, which makes it really handy to take out just what you need and stick it anywhere in the fridge to defrost. It takes up quite a bit of room in our freezer, but is it ever tasty!
- Australian Lamb
This was a close second for me. While not as “clean” a choice as New Zealand lamb (which is guaranteed 100% pasture/grass raised), I believe Australian lamb is still a solid (and affordable) choice. Sheep and lambs raised in Australia spend the majority, if not all, of their lives on pasture and live a relatively natural life, with limited use of grain feed (used during a drought, for example), though some sources do report that up to 15% of Australian lamb is grain finished. Costco carries a limited variety of cuts, usually roasts, chops, and ribs, and that selection varies from week to week, but it is an excellent quality meat with a mild flavour. Since I don’t tolerate beef and game meats can be a little hard to come by or exorbitantly expensive, this has become a staple meat in our house and it makes a wonderful Irish Stew or Lamb Curry!
- Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
This is another big one in our family. We go through almost one full 1.6L tub per month. Coconut oil is a nutritional powerhouse with its high medium chain triglycerides and lauric acid content. Because of its high smoke point and minimal coconut flavour, we use it quite frequenly for stovetop and oven use. It’s also a favourite for tossing with freshly-steamed veggies in place of butter. Other uses include homemade beauty products and oil pulling. One tub runs you about $25 at Costco, compared with $38 at the local health food store.
- Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
With all the hulabaloo about contraband olive oil (a UC Davis study showed that up to 69% of “extra virgin olive oil” sold in the United States was doctored or adulterated in some way), it’s nice to know I have a secure and reputable supply. Kirkland Signature’s organic extra virgin olive oil is a high quality pure olive oil that passed UC Davis’s 2011 evaluation with perfect scores, passing both the chemical and taste tests for extra virgin quality with flying colours. It’s beautifully smooth with a strong, but not too peppery, finish. This is my salad dressing oil of choice and we go through quite a bit of it. It now comes in a dark plastic 2L bottle, an unfortunate change from its former dark glass 1L bottle, but you can’t beat the quality or the price of this product.
- Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Spinach and Baby Romaine
I really enjoy Earthbound salad clamshells. They’re wonderfully nutricious and a great way to get a variety of leafy greens into your diet. And they cost less than half of what they would at the local chain grocery store, so you can eat salads to your heart’s content. I have some kind of salad almost every day for lunch, so the fact that we can get these greens at Costco at such a savings makes a big difference to our grocery bill for the month! The only reason these aren’t higher on the list is because the clamshells don’t often make it to their “best before” date before going bad. They are triple washed and packed quite tightly, so the high moisture and lack of air circulation inside the container accelerates the decomposition process. We have found that taking the greens out of the clamshell and storing them in the fridge in a platic freezer bag with a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture does help to extend the storage life.
- Organic Maple Syrup
Since I’m still sorting out my honey allergy, maple syrup is my liquid sweetener of choice. This is a seasonal item at my local Costco. Produced and hand-packed in St-Robert Bellarmin, Quebec, Costco only carries it leading up to Christmas. When we see it, we stock up. It’s some of the best maple syrup I’ve had, and that’s saying something for a self-proclaimed maple-aholic! Four 750 mL bottles seems to last us the year comfortably, but in the event that it doesn’t, Costco does carry 100% pure (non-organic) maple syrup year round. Nothing better than some warm maple taffy after a fresh snow on a cold winter day! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you have my sympathies…
- Organic Roasting Chickens
The only reason these aren’t higher up on my list is because of the price. I had a hard time getting over the $30 price tag for two modestly sized roasters. Maybe it was harder for me after being used to the turkey-sized roasting chickens we raised on the farm growing up, but I did eventually get over it when I considered how much I get for that $30. I was so tired of paying for water-logged frozen breast meat. I don’t even like the white meat! One hen will usually give me and Scott 2-3 meals each. That breaks down to approximately $2.50 per serving for good quality organic chicken. Plus I still have the carcass with which to make bone broth afterwards! Who doesn’t love a Roast Hen with Glazed Root Veggies?!
These are my most favourite mollusks! Proudly labelled “Product of Canada”, I know that these scallops are grown and harvested in a responsible manner. All Canadian scallops are farmed, but because scallops eat plankton (microscopic colonies of plants and animals found in sea water), they are not subject to artificial and unnatural commercial feeds. They still eat their plankton diet as nature intended. And because scallops are extremely sensitive to toxins and contamination in their environment, the presence of scallop farming actually increases the need for protection of the aquatic environment. It’s a win-win! Additionally, scallops are an excellent source of vitamin B12, iodine, protein, phosphorus, and selenium and are also a good source of zinc, magnesium, and potassium. But they are pricey! We save these for special occaision dinners in our house, but they sure are good (and good for you!). Especially wrapped in prosciutto. Everything is better wrapped in prosciutto (or bacon!).
- Organic Calimyrna Figs
Since dried fruit is only supposed to be an occasional treat on the AIP, I savour these. They are so flavourful and delicious with the nice crunch of the seeds. Just the perfect something for when I need a sweet little snack. They also pack a nutritional punch for their size, being high in fiber, potassium, and calcium. In addition to being organic, Made in Nature, the producers of the figs, participates in the Non-GMO Project with this product and I am happy to support that. As well as being a nice snack now and then, these figs also play a starring role in making water kefir. Because they are unsulfured, they are safe to use as a mineral source for water kefir during the first ferment. They aren’t very nice to eat afterwards, but they certainly make some delicious kefir!
(Note: Since I wrote this post, Costco in Calgary has sadly discontinued this item, but they do carry organic medjool dates by the same company instead)
- Avocado Oil
This is a recent addition to my Costco shopping list. Since avocados top the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen list, this not being an organic product didn’t bother me so much, plus the oil supplier for Costco, Chosen Foods, is a participant in the Non-GMO Project. There are currently no genetically-modified species of avocados available commercially, but I like the idea of supporting a company that is actively involved in a movement against further GMO contamination of our food supply. Avocado oil is very high in vitamin E and has a crisp, clear flavour, which makes it great as an alternative to olive oil, plus it has a higher smoke point than it’s olive-based cousin making it a better choice for cooking and baking. It also contributes to a great may-no-naise! As if that wasn’t enough, avocado oil also works really well as a carrier oil for use with essential oils and as a massage oil.
There were several other products vying for a spot on this list, including Ocean’s canned salmon and pole & line tuna, Sunmaid’s organic raisins, Earthbound Organic’s broccolini, organic coconut flour, tea tree essential oil, and the list could go on. But these are my picks, the backbone of my monthly Costco trips and foundation of my nutrient dense diet.
What about you? Any Costco favourites in your pantry? Please share!