Hunting and Gathering at Costco
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] (See comments for more information: there is reason for concern about the quality of this oil; Kirkland Toscana may be the only Costco olive oil of reliable quality. -02/06/14)
Nutiva Coconut Oil, 78oz: $21.99
MaraNatha Almond Butter, 26oz: $5.79
Kirkland Clover Honey, 5lb: $12.79
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 * Note: Check salmon burgers for ingredients: May have changed and may not be to your liking.
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:
Diane Sanfilippo's great new book Practical Paleo, which I recently reviewed;
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?