December 27th, 2012food
Update (3/14/13): Thanks very much to commenters Denise, John, and Jeremy (see comments section below) for sharing what they’ve learned by looking into this issue. In an email from Costco, Denise was told that “The organic ground beef is NOT 100% grass fed and is not labeled as such. The majority of the animals that are utilized for the program are exclusively grass fed but some of the animals are finished on organic grain. This is true and consistent throughout the US.” Check out the comments for details.
When I signed up for my Costco membership, I was thrilled to see that my local store carried 100% grass-fed ground beef at a price considerably lower than the co-op at which I usually buy meat. I recently noticed that, in the section where I had normally picked up the packages of grass-fed beef, Costco was now offering “Organic Ground Beef.” This beef is USDA Organic, with no added antibiotics or growth hormones, but nowhere on the package does it say anything about grass-fed, so I must assume that the cows are not grass-fed. (*see update below)
I contacted Costco via their website to express my disappointment and ask whether there was any possibility that the 100% grass-fed ground beef might return to stores. I received this reply:
We appreciate you taking the time to email Costco Wholesale.
Our buyers occasionally review the possibility of re-introducing products. I will forward your e-mail to them so they are aware of your interest, as we value our member’s input.
If you are a Costco member and are also interested in seeing 100% grass-fed ground beef return to stores, call or email Costco.
Does your Costco carry grass-fed ground beef? Has it, like South Seattle, switched over to “Organic”? Let me know in the comments.
While I walked around Costco, looking at the massive amounts of the foods I used to love but no longer lug into my cart, I thought about how different my diet has become over the last few years. As a child, when I would agree to eat at all, I would only eat macaroni with butter or the stuff from the blue box, and later I grew to like Top Ramen. Costco’s aisles are replete with juvenile indulgences: half an aisle offers dozens of different candy brands, including my recently-kicked addiction, Hi-Chew.
After today’s Costco visit, I swung by Uwajimaya, the amazing grocery store in Seattle’s International District, to pick up some chicken feet for making broth. Last month, I had been looking for organic chicken feet at the farmer’s market, but nobody had them. So I decided to check Uwajimaya.
I made my way to the meat section through the back of the store, and without meaning to, I acquired an armload of stuff, much of which I can’t find at my usual grocery stores: kombu (edible seaweed), $2.99/lb; wild sockeye for $8.99/lb; a bit of octopus, $18.99/lb; frozen squid, $5.49/lb.
Eventually, I found the meat counter. When I asked about chicken feet, the man behind the counter brought out a huge bin. I could have as many as I wanted. Price: $1.99/lb. I wanted a lot.
When I arrived in Seattle, I was a vegetarian. Even when I started eating paleo, I wasn’t thinking about chicken feet. They feel like little hands. They’ll make a good, gelatinous broth.
Although Costco offers competitive prices on some of my dietary staples, like canned salmon and tuna, these items are carried by Costco because of their popularity. I don’t know the first thing about how seafood pricing works, but I do know that some species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest are in decline, and the tuna population is under even more pressure. I try to eat fish almost every day if I can, because I digest the fats in fish more easily than any other animal fats, and eating fish just makes me feel all-around awesome. But drawing from populations under pressure is not only costly, but taxing upon our environment.
Looking at the massive case of frozen seafood at Uwajimaya, I realized that there is an alternative to cutting back on salmon and tuna: there are varieties in that case about which I know nothing, and many are more affordable than my favorite varieties. Squid is not as high in omega-3 fats as wild caught salmon, but it does have some, and the squid populations are not currently in danger. NOAA’s FishWatch site provides information about which populations are overfished and which are thriving. Other good choices include Pacific sardines, Atlantic sea scallops, Pacific halibut, and Atlantic herring. Check the site for more.
While I’m happy about Uwajimaya’s prices and the prospect of incorporating more sustainable seafood into my diet, what excited me most about the shopping trip was leaving the store with almost nothing I had ever bought before. I definitely didn’t know what to do with squid, octopus, or kombu, but I was going to have to figure it out, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t have any grass-fed ground beef, but I didn’t care.
I compiled a list of some potentially paleo-friendly Costco items and added a few to the list today. Visit that post to see the list.Tags: Costco, groceries, paleo
August 2nd, 2012food
When I switched to eating whole foods rather than processed ones, my grocery budget definitely swelled. Although I’ve heard people say that eating paleo doesn’t have to be expensive, I find that the switch from lunches of pancakes and dinners of Hi-chew (click the link, it’s deranged, and I can’t believe I ate so much of the crap for so long) and second pancakes to grass-fed beef and fresh vegetables brings with it a jump in the grocery bill. I’m not complaining. I think it’s to be expected, and there’s no point in pretending quality food is cheap, especially when we’re eating as much as we need to feel satisfied.
There are plenty of resources out there that discuss eating paleo/whole foods on a budget. Robb Wolf’s Paleo Diet Budget Shopping Guide is a good one. I haven’t been able to take advantage of one of the popular recommendations of buying meat in bulk and freezing it, since I don’t have a chest freezer (yet?). However, I have been able to fully realize the joys of a different bulk buying experience: Costco.
Buying the Costco membership a few months ago was kind of a gamble. Since I’d had one before, I knew that it was a great place to buy so much toilet paper that I could build a tower in my bathroom with it. I also knew that it was a bastion of the standard American diet and the brands that feed it. If you so choose, you can walk away with pounds of chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, pizza-bagel bites, mega-jarred mayo, and a big jar of Prilosec to take care of the after-effects.
I had read in Robb Wolf’s guide that Costco sells grass-fed ground beef, though, so I decided to give the place a try. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the selection. During my last visit, I took note of many of the paleo-friendly items and their prices so that if any paleo readers are on the fence about buying a membership, they can have a little more information at their disposal about whether this might be worth their while.
I recognize that some of these items may not be ideal paleo choices. Omega-3 eggs, for example, might not be as high-quality as farmers-market-fresh eggs laid by pastured hens. I haven’t used the majority of these products, so I can’t speak to their quality, except where noted. Personally, I use Costco to supplement trips to my primary grocery store, Central Co-Op; my small neighborhood grocery store; and farmer’s markets. And, of course, I fill up on gas every time I go
This is an incomplete list, but it’s a starting point to give you a sense of what’s available.
List revised 12/26/12; all items and prices from South Seattle Costco
Oberto BBQ Pork Jerky (no gluten ingredients), 2 packages, 9oz each: $12.49
Kirkland Steak Strips (jerky with no gluten ingredients), 12oz: $8.99
Larabar Variety Pack, 18 bars: $15.79
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts, 24oz can: $15.89
Kirkland Dry Roasted Almonds, 2.5lb: $8.99
Kirkland Pistachios, 48oz: $14.99
Wonderful Shelled Pistachios, 24oz: $14.99
Made in Nature Organic Black Mission Figs (no added sugar), 32oz: $7.99
S&W Organic Tomato Sauce, 12 cans, 15oz each: $7.69
S&W Organic Stewed Tomatoes, 8 cans, 14.5oz each: $7.69
S&W Organic Tomato Paste, 12 cans, 6oz each: $6.39
S&W Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes, 6lb6oz can: $2.65
Musco Family Olive Co. Pearls, Extra Lg. Pitted California Ripe Olives, 8 cans, 6oz ea: $8.45
Tabasco Sauce, 12oz: $4.95
French’s Mustard, 105oz: $3.79
Star Nonpareil Capers, 25oz: $4.99
Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard, 2pk, 16oz ea: $6.79
French’s Mustard 2pk, 30oz ea: $4.89
Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce, 2pk, 20oz ea: $6.95 (This stuff is gluten-free, unlike many brands of Worcestershire sauce, which can contain barley.)
Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomatoes, 32oz: $7.85
Kirkland organic chicken stock: 6 cartons, 32 oz each: $11.69
Kirkland minced garlic, 48oz: $3.99
McCormick’s Smoker Paprika, 8.5oz: $3.65
McCormick’s Chili Powder, 20oz: $5.25
Kirkland Crushed Red Pepper, 10oz: $3.25
Kirkland Pure Sea Salt, 30oz: $2.79
Kirkland Mediterranean Sea Salt with grinder, 13oz: $3.49 (I have this and love it. The grinder turns smoothly and I like the grind that results. It is not reusable, however.)
Kirkland Black Pepper with grinder, 6.3oz: $4.89
Kirkland Black Peppercorns, 14.1oz: $5.99
Kirkland Balsamic Vinegar, 1 liter: $10.99
Kirkland Raw Pine Nuts, 24oz: $17.79
Kirkland Pecan Halves, 2lb: $15.99
Kirkland Walnuts, 3lb: $17.99
Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1.5 liters: $9.49 (I actually use this on my salads and other foods as a finisher. The price is unreal, and since I’ve never used a truly high-quality olive oil, I don’t have anything to compare it to, flavor-wise. I’ve considered switching to something that might be higher quality because of the potential for oxidation in cheap olive oil, but I haven’t decided yet. Does anyone have more information about Costco olive oil?)
Nutiva Coconut Oil, 78oz: $21.99
MaraNatha Almond Butter, 26oz: $5.79
Kirkland House Blend Coffee, 2lb: $12.79
Seattle Mountain Coffee, Sumatra, 2.5lb: $16.29
VitaCoco Coconut Water, 6 cartons, 1 liter each: $9.99; 12 cartons, 11.2 oz each: $14.99
Kirkland Wild Sockeye – Canned – 3 cans, 6 oz each: $9.99
Wild Planet Tuna – 6 cans, 5 oz each: $15.99 (I love this stuff)
Bear & Wolf Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon – 6 cans, 6 oz each: $10.89
Kirkland Albacore (solid white) – 8 cans, 7 oz each: $13.99
Seawatch chopped sea clams – 2 cans, 51 oz each: $14.99
Trident Naturals Alaskan Salmon Burgers, 12 ct, 3lb total: $15.99
Kirkland Wild Sockeye, frozen, 3lb: $27.99 (I really like these–the fillet portions are individually vacuum packed, so a single portion is simple to pull out of the freezer and thaw for later.)
Kirkland Wild Alaskan Cod, frozen, 2lb: $15.99 (Same as above, though the cod doesn’t freeze and thaw quite as well as salmon.)
Kirkland Wild Alaskan Halibut, frozen, 2lb: $39.99
Kirkland Wild Caught Hake Loins, frozen, 2.5lb: $13.99
Kirkland Raw Sea Scallops, 8-12 ct., frozen, 2lb: $25.99
Kirkland Raw Tail-on Shrimp, deveined, frozen, 31-40/lb, 2lb: $13.79
Omega-3 eggs, 18-count: $3.79
Chicken of the Sea Real Crab Meal, 16oz: $17.99
Fresh wild halibut: $17.99
Fresh wild Pacific rockfish fillet: $5.99/lb
Fresh wild razor clams: $9.99/lb
Fresh wild sockeye: $8.99/lb
High Plains Bison NY Strip Steaks (2 to a pack): $19.99/lb
Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, 3 pack, 12oz each: $11.89
Kerrygold salted butter, 3 x 8oz: $6.99
Garlic, 3lb, $3.79
Yellow onions, 10lb, $4.49
Large lemons, 5lb, $6.49
Large avocados, 5 count: $5.99
Organic carrots, 10lb: $5.99
Kirkland Nature’s Three Berries (frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), 4lb: $11.89
There are many other fruits and vegetables available, in bulk quantities.
I have seen some paleo cookbooks at my Costco store, including:
Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook;
and Julie and Charles Mayfield’s Paleo Comfort Foods.
I have found many other items to help me in the kitchen, including Cook’s Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking; an enameled cast iron 8-quart French oven ($79.99); and a super-exciting new Hamilton Beach slow cooker that has a timer and a removable insert that can be heated on the stovetop or in the oven ($44.99).
What are your favorite products to buy at Costco?Tags: budget, Costco, groceries, paleo
January 21st, 2012food
On Tuesday, while my Indians in Cinema students fidgeted, outside our windowless room, the snow began. I don’t think the students felt the weather change in their bones or blood. I think at least half of them have smartphones. When I stepped outside, big white flakes nested in my dark hair.
The snow didn’t last long that afternoon, but everyone was talking about a big storm coming. On my way home, I stopped by Central Co-op to buy ambrosia apples, the only variety I eat. I wanted to get enough to last me a long time. The store only had five left, though, and I panicked a little, wondering whether the end of ambrosia season could be approaching. These apples are a new love of mine, and I have one every single morning with my coffee. Sometimes, I have another at night. Only ambrosia. Sorry, fuji, I don’t like you anymore. I don’t want to imagine my life without my morning ambrosia, and I don’t want to try a different kind of apple.
I bought the last five ambrosias in the Co-op bin and took the bus back down the steep hill to my neighborhood, Madison Park. This hamlet is reachable only by way of the hilly, treacherous-when-icy Madison Street or a network of narrow, winding lakeside roads. If snow comes, I’m stuck.
By the time I sliced the first apple, pictured above, school had been suspended for Wednesday. It was two in the morning and I was deep into the fifth season of Dexter. As though I was in college again, I was celebrating my freedom by staying up late and watching TV, though I was working on residency and grant applications while I watched. The more Dexter I watched, the more protective I became of my Wusthof chef’s knife, working on the apple in a late-night delirium, photographing it, imposing an order.
Lately, I’ve worked to control the elements of my work life and writing life, which is also a work life, just not one that pays yet. I’ve been reading for the teaching part of my job and reading for pleasure, which is sometimes the same as reading for teaching, sometimes more like reading to educate myself as a writer. I’ve been working on lectures, working on grant applications. I’ve been applying for residencies, a conference. I’ve been sending pieces to literary magazines. More than ever, I’ve been feeling the weight of the work writers are expected to do before we see the payoff, and feeling the sense of accomplishment of it, too. I love working on behalf of myself and my writing. And I’ve been working my office job, advising and teaching college students, which is great work with great people. But no matter how much I love all the things I do, it’s hard to do everything. Time just doesn’t work like that. I also need sleep time and social time, both of which regularly become the first to escape.
I went to bed late, looking forward to my morning apple and coffee.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up ready to work, and ready for my apple and coffee. I wanted to, in a single day, read all the books I needed to preview in order to craft my spring syllabus. But that just wasn’t going to be possible. In one day, I cannot read the 1,914 pages I wanted to peruse at that point. But I can read most of a book in a day. And I did. I sat on my couch, watching snow fall on the other side of the window, and read Cree writer Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen, a novel full of snow. My clenched-fist core relaxed as I fell for the novel. This snow day had afforded me the little bit of time I needed to catch up, just a little, and cut me off from the obligations I had out there in the rest of the world. I had no choice but to do the thing I wanted to do the most: turn inward.
But I did leave, briefly. My friend (and upstairs neighbor) Glenda and I walked around the neighborhood, chatting, avoiding dogs, admiring homes, and stretching our legs. We turned around at the “Welcome to Madison Park” sign, and then I got back home, back to the business of knocking down, one by one, the things that are in the way of my writing.
On Thursday morning, I woke up to a still-white world. The University’s closure for the day had been announced the night before. More time—not writing time, which would have been the greatest way to spend two snow days, not trapped in my apartment but, instead, not required to leave it. I should mention that I bought several pounds of meat at the Co-op and made excellent meatballs, which, along with some turkey, I’ve been pairing with the leftover brussels sprouts and broccoli in the fridge to tide me over. Understand: In Madison Park, there are plenty of places to eat, and there’s a grocery store, all of which I can easily walk to, even when it’s snowing. But if I’m allowed to use snow as my excuse, I do not have to leave the apartment. I value this. I pretend I’m trapped.
I couldn’t wait until morning to have the next apple. Thursday night, I was, as they say in the old books I sometimes teach, heavy-hearted. I had only read one and a half books during the Snowpocalypse, and it looked like the snow was ending. I didn’t know whether we would be returning to work in the morning, but I suspected it, and I still needed more time alone. I ate my apple while working on my lecture on Disney’s Pocahontas for Indians in Cinema. After finishing my lecture notes on an article, and looking back on the book and a half (the half being the first part of The Grass Dancer by Susan Power) I’d read, I didn’t feel so bad. Things were getting into order. My miniature residency was helping. Now, I just needed more of this: more time, more organizing.
I love my Wusthof knife, but not for the same reason Dexter, the lovable serial killer, loves his knives, and while I watched more Dexter before drifting off to bed on Thursday, I knew I was a completely different kind of social misfit: the kind who likes other people, and doesn’t want to hurt them, doesn’t have anything against them, but just needs time apart from most of the world because there is so much to get done.
Friday, it turned out, was a day without school. Facebook is littered with comments from stir-crazy people stuck at home, sick of snow. I feel like the only person in Seattle who is not. This week, I’ve realized that I can stand lots of time by myself, in my pajamas, working. My friend who lives upstairs would meet me for welcome coffee and walk breaks, but otherwise, I loved the long stretches of intense focus. I began to feel like a social misfit, happy in my warm apartment, watching my Facebook news feed fill with lamentations of friends desperate to escape their homes. In the end, I decided to call it being a writer, that label that makes weirdness acceptable. I didn’t need much human contact, fun, distraction, or food. I don’t need much hope of an end point. I don’t need sunshine.
But when the apples run out, I do need more apples.
I put my snow boots on and trudged down to the grocery store where, sure enough, I found some ambrosia apples. I hadn’t just eaten the last five in existence. There were plenty for the taking. I bought three to start with. No need to be greedy.
The snow days were nice, but I know I need to get back to reality: the office, class, the commute. Reality, too, is nice, but now I’m thinking of how much nicer it might be if I built in some breaks. The next time I take one, I want it to be planned, and I want it to be devoted to writing. My game plan, then, is to take care of all the things in the way. Conditions will never be truly clear, but if I replicate the snow days in tiny pieces here and there, maybe I can get the roadblocks out of the way and start clearing the way for writing. Once I get back into the practice, I know that scattered feeling will go away in no time.Tags: apples, groceries