What I Buy at Costco

Saturday Mar 7 | BY |
| Comments (31)

I must admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Costco.

I get all excited when it’s time to go on a shopping spree at Costco. But I also dread it: the traffic, the mass of people, and carrying boxes of food up the two flights of stairs that lead to my apartment.

So I make it an event! I try not to go alone, and of course, when there’s less traffic.

I don’t shop exclusively at Costco like some people do. But there are a few key items that I buy there that are so convenient that they’ve become true staples in my kitchen.

As everyone knows, Costco can be great for the few healthy foods they sell, and bad for the many unhealthy foods you can get there in bulk!

Is there a more dangerous idea than buying two oversized bags of Doritos when you’re not planning to host a party? However cheap they are, you’ll eat more because… you have more.

So let’s go through some of my Costco staples and finds, and how I use them.

Produce Section

Tomatoes

I buy some of the Costco tomatoes because:

– The price is right
– I think fresh tomatoes are essential. Canned ones just don’t taste the same.

I will mostly buy these tomatoes when the local farmer’s market doesn’t sell any decent tomatoes at a good price. However, the sweet tomatoes are great, and I use them on a regular basis!

Sweet Potatoes

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I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes, and they’re often at a good price there. Two bags will go in my shopping cart!

Baby Spinach

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The baby spinach at Costco, often organic, is a staple for many people. It is for me too! I don’t buy my other greens (like kale, chard) there because they don’t sell them.

I do buy other vegetables occasionally there as well.

One treat are the large Portobello mushroom caps, which you can grill and use as a burger! Try it!

I generally don’t buy most of my fruits at Costco, but I do get some items when it makes sense such as:

  • Boxes of oranges
  • Bags of organic apples
  • Fresh berries
  • Lemons and limes (although I tend to buy those more often at a nearby market)
  •  Other fruits they occasionally have, such as boxes of Pomegranates

I don’t like the avocados at Costco! I get those at an Italian market that gets the best quality.

Frozen Section

This is where things get interesting.

I never used to think much of frozen fruits and vegetables. But now, I use them a lot simply because they are very convenient, and they help me accomplish two goals:

– Eat more berries year round
– Eat more vegetables in general!

Berry Mix

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I love this organic berry mix containing cherries.

In fact, My morning breakfast consists of the following all winter long:

  • 1 cup of frozen berries
  • Hot oatmeal poured on top
  • Fresh kiwi or other fruit
  • 2 TBS flax seeds, ground
  • A few walnuts
  • If I feel fancy, a diced kumquat!

The hot oatmeal “thaws” the berries, so it’s very convenient to make. I never get tired of this winter breakfast.

Wild Blueberries

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I will alternate with wild blueberries, another favorite!

Frozen Vegetables

IMG_5198I have started buying some frozen vegetables at Costco. I used to laugh at the concept of frozen vegetables! But now it’s no laughing matter since it gets me to eat even more vegetables.

Although fresh vegetables taste better, you sometimes need the convenience of frozen ones.

Here’s a super simple stir fry that I make regularly:

In a pan, at medium heat, without oil, stir fry:

  • Several cups of frozen vegetable mix
  • Add: frozen corn, frozen peas
  • 2-3 diced fresh tomatoes
  • Your favorite spice mix (you can experiment with many different flavors)
  • Cooked beans
  • Seasonings to taste

It takes about 10 minutes to cook and is a delicious stir-fry that can go over brown rice or quinoa, or delicious as it is. You can add diced avocado or a tahini sauce to it. I like it with some Sriracha sauce! You don’t thaw the vegetables first. Cover with a lid.

Frozen Broccoli

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I also enjoy this product, which contains individual packs of broccoli florets. It’s good to have it around when you need your greens for the day. You can also add it to soups.

Dry Section

The Organic No-Salt Seasoning

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This is a product that I like. It’s an essential addition to soups. To it, you can add other more specific seasonings like curry mixes, turmeric, etc.

Mrs. Dash

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Another great seasoning used more on top of food rather than during cooking. I’ve been using it for probably 20 years and to have it in a larger size is great.

Tabasco

Yes, I do use a little Tabasco on occasion! Most people think it’s very salty, but in fact, in contains very little salt (in the quantities that we typically use). It’s got only three ingredients: peppers, vinegar, and salt.

Quinoa, Rice, Etc.

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I bought this huge bag of quinoa at Costco. Will last me a year!

Sprouted Dry Lentils

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This is a curious product that I found recently. The lentils are sprouted and then dried. Sprouting beans and lentils make them easier to digest and more nutritious. I tried it and thought it was an excellent product. However, it needs more cooking and less water than as described on the label!

Nuts

I do buy my walnuts and almonds at Costco.

The Rest of My Shopping

I prefer to get most of my produce from a local market, which imports some of the best fruits and vegetables I have ever tasted. I use Costco for some staples. As for organic, I will buy many organic products, but for reasons I have explained before, I prefer to focus on the composition of my diet (the foods I actually eat) rather than solely focus on the issue of organic food.

Share any tips for Costco on a healthy diet below

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

31 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Hi Fredric ~

    I shop at Costco too and was surprised at some things you buy and some things I buy that you don’t.

    Some of my favorites are frozen organic cherries, frozen organic green beans, frozen organic peas…these are always in my freezer. I buy organic coconut oil there because it’s half the price as anywhere else.

    Some things you are buying that I wouldn’t recommend…

    Italian tomatoes in BPA-lined cans. I personally don’t care if they are the best tomatoes for pasta sauce. I choose the least toxic foods first and then make something delicious.

    Your crackers contain soy and have a lot of carbs.

    You didn’t make a point about buying organic vegetables, so it looks like you are not. Yet Costco has many to choose from. Also no mention of organic on your fresh produce.

    Organic is so important!

    Debra 🙂

  2. Dorothy says:

    Why are you buying corn?? I understand it is all GMO stuff now and not good for your gut!!!

  3. Patricia says:

    Debra Lynn,
    I agree with you on him not mentioning buying organic. I buy a lot of what you do at my Costco. But I know now from moving to a new state that things are different in regions and I think it has a lot to do with what’s being sought out for a certain area. I didn’t realize what I was leaving behind in Santa Cruz CA and now am in Washington state. While there are still many of the same items, not as many organic choices. I also buy avocados since they are a good price and if you use them regularly as I do, they are worth it.

    I think Frederic is shopping in Canada. I wasn’t even aware of Costco being in Canada.. but of course it is! There might not be as many items or different brands than what’s here.

    I also stopped using tomatoes from a can long ago. I’m curious to hear his response. Thank you for bringing it up.

    • I added a note about organic. Basically, I focus more on the overall composition of my diet (the food that I’m eating) as opposed to what I consider to be details, such as organic. This comes from my belief in the “80-20” principle: that a few things really do make a huge difference. In my view, buying everything organic is not one of those critical factors. That being said, I do buy organic but not exclusively organic. As for the canned tomatoes, I also prefer BPA-free products, but because I don’t eat canned products on a regular basis, I don’t worry too much about this particular product. I may use canned tomatoes only once a month or so.

  4. Diane Adams says:

    Thanks for the added comments and tips. Since there is no Costco within 70+ miles of here, I will keep store-related tips for another phase of life. However, I’ve never considered using frozen produce, so will consider that.

    Noticed the comment re. a low fat diet on your bio. Have you and the readers heard/read about how the conclusions from studies about results of high/low fat diets were vastly flawed? Also outstandingly opposite from today’s commonly held beliefs are understanding of high and low cholesterol. As so often happens, many got on the train of a movement without studying the research and acquainting themselves with the truth. Understandably, it’s impossible to study in detail everything in life, even if the research is available, but some are more important than others. I think you will be vastly interested in this one!

    See Dr. Joseph Mercola’s latest online explanations and history on the topic.

  5. Sus says:

    If one does not buy organic, it is a safe bet the food is GMO and that can never be health.

  6. PAMI says:

    I would say 95% of my diet is organic whole foods plant based. I do shop at Costco and get what they have fresh or frozen that is organic. I would never buy a non organic potato given the retardants they now spray on them. I have been plant based raw / not raw for at least 15 years. I could never get my migraine cure, but, have not figured them out. MSG and all the 30-40 names for it. (google the list) Any thing other then whole foods that has to to with free glutimates, I no longer eat, and if I stay true I do not get a migraine. So, some of the spices I have had to give up are in the above list.
    Your Partner in wellness,

    PAMI

    • PAMI says:

      should have checked my typos before posting. LOL I have NOW figured out my migraines. MSG

    • Gee Joy says:

      For Pami…read the book medical Medium by Anthony William if you want to learn what your migraines really are and how to rid yourself of them forever. This is for real.

  7. Nadia Harper says:

    I don’t shop at Costco often but the last couple of times I was there I found raw organic sprouted pumpkin seeds – a fairly big bag at a reasonable price. I was very nicely surprised to find this and now look for it whenever I am there.

    • Helen says:

      I have also been buying the sprouted pumpkin seeds at Costco in Austin, TX recently. Really surprised to find them, but also won’t be surprised if they go away (if there’s not enough demand). I’ve seen that happen with a number of particularly good and healthy products. I’ve even known a ND who says that Costco has put a lot of small companies out of business, but not for the reasons you think.

      They start with a great product. Costco signs a deal with them, and the small company invests heavily to be able to produce huge quantities of product in order to satisfy the contract. But then it doesn’t sell as much as they think. Costco cancels the deal and the small business is not prepared to move that much product, then they go out of business.

      Moral of the story: When you find a great new (healthy) product at Costco, consider stocking up or at least purchasing regularly to support the folks who provide these types of great products!

  8. Gen says:

    Aren’t Artic Gardens frozen vegetables from China? Ugh! I think we have different products at Costco in Canada than you have in the U.S. We have very few organic products in our Costco. I do buy their organic chickens though, and some of the produce even though it is not organic.

    • The products are probably very different from country to country, even from store to store. The Arctic Vegetables I get are grown in Canada — even near Montreal, so I feel safe about them. I also avoid produce from China.
      PS: I’m also in Canada.

  9. Paulette says:

    Really??? As a raw fan, I would have thought you would not eat all those processed foods and seasonings you recommend from Costco.
    I just returned from a trip to Costco and the fruits and veggies I buy there are always organic. Now they have stopped carrying the Organic Almond butter we like in our smoothies. So I will have to go elsewhere. They do still have almond butter, but not organic.

    Be sure to look at expiration or “use by” dates on produce, but their produce if it is organic is a good deal.
    I buy avocados there, too. Even if you have to toss one or two that don’t ripen, their organic avocados are yummy and much cheaper than the market and even at the green market, they can be bad inside (at $2.00 a piece Yikes)

    Thanks for your encouragement, but please get the junk out of your shopping cart! (Mrs. Dash???…please)

    Be healthy, everyone. P.

  10. Deane Alban says:

    It looks like Costco is good place to buy olive oil. A few years ago, the University of California found that 69% of all store-bought extra virgin olive oil purchased in California failed to meet extra virgin olive oil standards. Costco’s Kirkland olive oil was one of the few brands that met their standards. You can see which brands passed and which ones failed here: http://bebrainfit.com/olive-oil-brain-food/

  11. Sudarshan says:

    This is an interesting yet useful article for people who are health conscious and buy at Costco. Tabasco sauce, doesn’t it contain lots of questionable preservatives? So, does Sriracha sauce. I love the taste of these sauces, but whenever i use them suddenly my tongues feel rough and scratchy indicating it is sucking B12 from my body. For vegans, especially these kind of sauces are difficult to get one with out preservative. The basic ingredients are good but the preservatives are what make them vulnerable.

    Also, almonds at Costco are pasteurized and have to be pasteurized according to FDA and State guidelines. I rather buy almonds from Farmers market from small farmers who are eligible to sell un-pasteurized almonds which can be sprouted for enzymatic benefits and also to make almond milk which tastes way better than one made from Costco almonds.

  12. tia says:

    COSTCO ?
    I only buy toilet paper there 🙂

  13. Ashanne says:

    I’ve looked into Costco’s walnuts and almonds before and found that they are all grown in California…do you have any concerns over the ecological footprint of the nut industry in CA? I am only just learning about the water requirements and the needs for CA to bring in water form elsewhere and don’t know how the nuts fit into this. Also, almonds in CA have to be pasteurized before sale, rendering them not truly raw as it kills their enzymes in the process. Any thoughts on this?

    • I’m not worried about then pasteurization of almonds. However, you bring up a good point with the water requirement in CA. I would think that growing nuts doesn’t compare to meat production in terms of water use, but I could be wrong. Would be interesting to see data on this. Nuts are not a big part of my diet. I’m much more picky about the quality of fresh fruit that I buy, because I eat more of them.

  14. IH says:

    We go for the same reasons than you to Costco here in Ottawa. I like and dread it for the same reasons than you do. I hate the “shopping experience”. Growing up in Europe there were no stores like that. Aldi was a very small equivalent of Costco. (I say this because I know you have traveled a lot in Europe) Prices were great, bad shopping experience though. I remember when I had my first shopping experience in Canada.I was overwhelmed when I set food into Independent Groceries. It was way too big. However, I have learned to appreciate places like Costco for what they offer. I agree that you make very good deals on some of the food items. However, I’m surprised about the spinach. I know that in other stores in the winter here in Canada the boxed salads are often soggy and I have said good buy to those a long time ago. I often ended up throwing out half of it. I also don’t think that there is that much nutrition anymore in fresh green leafs if they have been shipped all the way from California. So what do I do? In the winter I rely on getting some of the collard greens and kale from the health food store and other stores. They purchase them locally and prices are good and the food is more fresh. I also eat more fermented foods and if I really want a fresh salad I sprout. Plus we get an organic veggie box delivered at the door each week. Will check the sweet potatoes though next time I go in.

    • I will buy the spinach when it’s fresh. But I think many people missed one point in my article: I only shop at Costco perhaps once a month. I get the vast majority of my produce from a local market. I use Costco only for a few staples and convenience items that I like to keep around. I buy kale and collards at the Jean-Talon market in Montreal nearly every 3 days!

  15. Danny T says:

    So much judgmental attitude in a lot of these comments. Its no wonder so many people don’t bother trying to eat better. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and different things are going to work for different people.

    • Dana says:

      Thanks, Danny T…I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t tell others what they should or shouldn’t eat, and I hate it when food ‘nazis’ say their way is the ONLY WAY…which it isn’t.

  16. suzanne says:

    I used to buy all my organic frozen fruit at Costco. Till I started reading the tiny print in black on the back of the package. They say grown in Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Portugal, etc. I don’t trust “organic” from these assorted foreign countries or the farming processes they use (gleaned from research on Google). The front of the packages (at least here on the West Coast of USA) lead one to believe they were grown at a lovely, family farm nearby. Very deceptive.
    Occasionally, Costco carries frozen blueberries or strawberries that are organic and USA farmed. My husband and I do a little dance when we get that lucky. Frederic, how do you feel about produce coming from other countries (organic or not)?

    • Oziel says:

      I´ve got to say, I´m from Mexico, and what bums me out is that most of our organic produce is exported because of it´s high quality and the low demand on our country, so it´s kind of offensive for you to say that it may be untrustful to buy other countries organic produce, when i wish we could get more of it, but we can´t because it´s all shipped to you folks. Just sayin. Blessings.

  17. tammy says:

    Barely any of your choices are organic. Hmm… Quite frankly, I’m bummed and shocked. I’ve decided to not receive any more of your emails.

  18. Darlena says:

    Costco almonds are processed with PPO according to Costco. I would not purchase them!

  19. justin says:

    I’m really surprised to see most of the items above are not organic. That doesn’t seem like a good option no matter what the cost. Also Mrs. Dash? Seriously? The last time I saw that it had MSG written all over it. How do you justify ingesting so many chemicals?

    • Mrs. Dash is a mild seasoning which doesn’t contain MSG. Let’s keep some perspective! Ingredients: onion, spices (black pepper, parsley, celery seed, basil, bay marjoram, oregano, savory, thyme, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, mustard, rosemary), garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato, lemon juice powder, citric acid, oil of lemon

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