(note: please excuse any typos and grammatical errors. i do my best proofreading after I press "publish")
I. LOVE. COSTCO.
(yes, these kids are really mine biologically! And sorry my eyebrows are cray - I'd just gotten them micro-bladed and was trying to hide them under a cap)
I really don’t know how we do it as a family of just two adults and two kids two and under, but it’s literally our primary grocery store. We buy the bulk (no pun intended) of our foods there, and get a few things here and there as needed from other grocery stores if Costco doesn’t happen to have them (or if I simply can’t justify a 20 pound bag of potatoes, even if it’s $2.99). Any sundries that I need and Costco doesn’t have, I can easily get from Amazon. I. LOVE. AMAZON. If you're not a Prime Member, you need to be. But that's another article for another day.
Ok, so let's just get right to it. Here's what I buy at Costco.
I'll start with the extra special Costco finds.
Kirkland Signature Protein Bars - Basically, these are Costco's answer to Quest Bars, but at a WAY better value. 12 Quest bars are $21.24 on Amazon, but you get 20 for $17.99 at Costco. The macros are almost identical, the taste is really close (if not better), and they're made with whey protein and not cheap soy protein. This one is a winner.
Rotisserie Chicken Breast Meat - You GUYS, this was the greatest find ever, and so few people know about it. You know those scrumptious ass rotisserie chickens Costco sells for like $4.99???? Well, I guess in some bizzaro-third-dimension-land they don't sell all of the chicken that they make. So what do they do with the chicken that they don't sell? Well, it gets processed, vacuum packaged, and stocked back onto the Costco shelves!
You get 14 servings of 3oz of juicy chicken breast, and each serving has 22g of protein and just 2.5g of fat!!!
So, basically you get 22g of high quality protein for about $0.86. I mean...come on. It's not going to ever get better than this.
I use this chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches, add to green salads, throw in soups, put in quesadillas, break up and use like shredded chicken - the options are truly endless.
Ok, so these are the two items that are exclusive to Costco. Here are the rest that you'll find at other stores, but never at the Costco value.
The first items to always go in our cart are fresh meats and produce. See all this right here? Free range, organic chicken breast at only $5.99 a pound. By the way, if it wasn't obvious to you, Costco takes the guess work out of shopping for you by designating all their organic food items with green price label. Sweet!! We usually grab 1-2 of these plus the same brand in chicken thighs. Half get grilled up and put in the fridge for me to meal prep with or just have easily accessible for lunches during the week, and the rest go into the freezer for the next week. And this isn't just a technique for SAHMs folks. When I worked in a high rise office building that required me to wear suits, I still meal prepped and brought my food to store in the company fridge! Here's me with my insulated travel cooler, complete with protein shaker bottle in the side!
Ground organic beef. I love keeping this on hand in our freezer. It thaws really easily, and can quickly be thrown into some sauce with vegetables for a quick pasta dish, a protein-packed meatloaf, stuffed bell peppers, hamburgers, vegetable beef soup, and whatever else people use ground beef for!
These wild caught Alaskan Salmon Burgers cook right from frozen in a pan within 10 minutes. They're packed with protein and Omega-3s, and they are great on their own or in a sandwich/burger. I find these to be a great alternative to processed chicken nuggets - I can quickly pan fry this and then chop it up into the perfect toddler-sized finger foods. My kiddo loves these!
I wish I could say that I never eat packaged foods, but with my schedule and my priorities, I just am not able or willing to make everything from scratch.
These all-natural chicken meatballs are another go-to that I depend on when I haven't had a chance to prepare a meal. Three meatballs are only 130 calories and offer 11 grams of protein, so I'll usually eat two servings for a snack, in a sandwich, or with a size of veggies. They taste so good, too!
In addition to the protein value, one of the benefits to eating fish is the Omega-3s found in the fish's oils and fats. Supplement companies know this too, so they get these oils from fish processors to encapsulate and sell as vitamins. So then what are you left with? Tuna that is stripped of these beneficial oils and that are instead packed in either water or a vegetable oil.
Wild Planet not only pack their tuna in natural juices, but they also practice a hugely sustainable method of fishing that minimizes the threat to dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine life. This canned tuna is "line or trill" caught. This method of fishing, plus the fact that it's packed in its own oil and juices is what you want to look for in a canned tuna brand. This find is a huge score for Costco shoppers!
You guys!! THIS!!! B - A - C - O - N!!!!
I overlooked this bacon for a long time because it is not super-labeled as nitrate-free, but if you look at the packaging, in subtle writing it in fact says that it is nitrate and sulfate free! JACKPOT!!! Not only that, but this bacon is super thick cut and comes in a pack of three. It's perfect to bake in the oven for breakfast or to eat on sandwiches. If you like bacon, it's going to be harder to get better than this!
Ya'll! Costco's organic game has been ON-POINT. Why go to Whole Paycheck when you can get a jumbo size of organic fruits and veggies here for CHEAP! Here are my favorite things:
The green beans are delicious steamed, roasted, or even chopped up raw in salads for a nice crunch. Sometimes we can convince Wes that they're green french fries. He doesn't always buy it.
Mushrooms are one of the vegetables that are most susceptible to pesticides. Pesticides leach into the ground and sit there and build up. Even though mushrooms aren't directly sprayed, they grow underground in the sprayed dirt. Even though they're on the clean 15 list, I only buy organic for this reason.
Bananas are one of those "safe" fruits that are okay to buy inorganic, because you peel away the rind and the inside should be free from pesticides reach. However, we go ahead and buy the organic ones to support organic farmers. It's only $1.99...can't go wrong.
I make a mean creamy, cheesey, low fat, high protein broccoli soup that is so good! I'll be sure to share this recipe as soon as possible.
I've got to add that finding organic corn is a HUGE deal. HUGE!! Picture me in a Pretty Woman getup walking away with these in my hand - sashaying with new confidence and glee at my taking. Corn is one of the most GMO vegetables in existence, and the fact that you can now find it at Costco is a BFD!!!
We also get a lot of frozen produce. It's a FANTASTIC way to keep getting organic summer fruits year round. Here are our favorites.
Oh, okay, well first I should say that this next one is technically not a frozen item. We buy this in the fresh produce area. However, we keep it in the freezer because the leaves freeze PERFECTLY and go great right into our protein shakes and smoothies as a way to get in leafy greens, Vitamin A, and antioxidants. You can't even taste it!
These frozen berries go into our protein shakes and also serve as a "dessert" for our kiddo. We've done a pretty decent job of keeping him from candy, cakes, and ice cream. Let's hope that it sticks.
Oh, did I say my first stop is meats and produce? Okay, oopsies I fibbed a little. The wine section gets me everytime UGH. Pay no attention to the corner of my cart. It's holiday season and these are for OTHER people...maybe. Maybe if I turn my picture sideways, it won't be as noticeable. Ah, who am I kidding? Don't forget that alcohol is a macronutrient in itself. One gram of alcohol has 7 calories, so don't count it the same as a carb!
Anyway, egg whites are great for a quick breakfast, and since these are pasteurized, you can add them right into your protein shake for an added protein boost. You can't taste it at all, but it will make your shake a great consistency. I love it and got the idea from a bartender in LA that used eggs whites to create a cocktail. Dammit!! Busted again with booze!! But if you want a booze free option, I will add in a half cup to full cup of this to a whole egg for breakfast, use it as a binding agent in ground meat recipes, and make breakfast egg muffins with it.
Have you ever heard about bodybuilders buying human breast milk on the black market (shit goes for $2 an ounce!) because if it's post-workout value? Well, 2% chocolate milk has a pretty close macro profile, and I consider it to be the perfect post-workout supplement, as long as you're dairy tolerant. We always keep these on hand for after our workouts.
Ok, so this one isn't organic, but there isn't a cottage cheese other than Knudsens that I can swallow. Considering that this is a high protein source that is also slow digesting (casein protein), this is an excellent night time snack. I eat it with fruit, with sriracha and chips, or tossed in with a salad. It's not your best option out there, but it's one of many, MANY areas that we're not perfect.
My kid was cow's milk protein intolerant for over 16 months of his life, so he didn't get introduced to milk and still doesn't have a taste for it. He now tolerates dairy pretty well, so we have no qualms about letting him have it. I want him to get ample calcium, so cheese is a great option for us. Plus, low fat string cheese is a great snack option for you macro counters out there. Especially if you wrap some nitrate-free deli meat around it.
Speaking of, I forgot to snap a picture of the deli meat that we usually get. I'll update this post once I get the chance. But we opt for Columbus brand, low-sodium and nitrate free turkey slices.
This bread is KILLER! Organic and higher in protein than most, plus it actually tastes good. They have a variety of types, and I just grab whatever happens to be the flavor of the week. We have yet to be disappointed.
THIS. Kodiak Cakes has a huge cult following. It's packed with protein without being supplemented, and it's super easy to use...1 cup mix, plus 1 cup milk/water, and one egg. Easy peasy. The greatest part is that it tastes really good. We love using this to make pancakes or waffles, and I'll make a few extra to keep in the fridge and grab for a quick and filling breakfast. There are people out there in Instagram land who dedicate their time to inviting recipes for this mix. Find them and get some delicious hacks!
I usually look for the raw organic almonds, but there's been a shortage of them lately. I think because of the water crisis here in California. Since these aren't one of the dirty dozen and the shell of the almond is thick and creates a barrier from pesticides, I'm okay with buying the inorganic version of these. Almonds are great for a snack on the go, or for an easy way to fill your fat macros for the day while also getting a little bit of protein.
I love this stock for making soups of any kind. It's quick, has a long shelf-life, comes from organic chicken, and make soups and sauces so much more flavorful. You'll be seeing this again when I post my creamy soup recipe soon.
It used to be said that only meat could serve as a complete protein, then they discovered that quinoa is a perfect protein source, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot manufacture on their own. While quinoa is not as high as meats are in protein content, it is a great addition to your plate as a grain source and something that should be included in every vegetarian's diet.
I don't love giving my kid too many processed foods, but when he sees me eating my protein bars, he wants one too. My protein bars have a little too much protein for his little kidneys to handle, so I give him one of these. Lots of fiber, it's organic, and is low(ish) in sugars, so I'm okay with it.
We love kombucha here. We don't drink sodas anymore, so this satisfies our craving for carbonation. If you haven't had kombucha before, it's a fermented tea drink that is loaded with naturally occurring probiotics and B vitamins. It's great for gut flora and your immune system. I usually make my own Kombucha, but it's literally a three week process, and we end up drinking it all within a week, so we keep these on hand while we're waiting for my batch to process.
These were a new addition to Costco - I could tell because (1) I'd never seen them before and (2) they were stacked next to the outdoor furniture and holiday decorations - so random. I didn't happen to pick any up because I prefer the next item on this list, but I wanted to show it to those of you who may need an organic meal option on the go. I may pick these up for our next planned trip so that I can make a quick meal for my toddler that I actually know he'll eat.
Mac N Cheese, because well, Toddlers, right? Now that consumers are paying more attention to their health and toxins in our food, a lot of light has been shed on artificial cheeses and toxic food coloring, like Red #40, so many healthier options have become available for the next generation. I used to have to go to health food stores to get Annie's organic mac, but now Costco has it too!!! Andit was discounted this particular day. WINNING!
My oldest kid is SKIN-NY. Super skinny. He literally has a size 6 month waist...and he's 2 years and 3 months old. He's SKINNEEEEEEE. My husband was in the 2 percentile of weight growing up, so we know it's a genetic thing. Even though he's in the 90th percentile for height and doctors are not worried at all about his weight, I can't help but want to try to fatten him up. So, I never give him plain water. But I also don't want to give him sugary juices, so I give him coconut water. It's pretty high in calories for having "water" in the name. He loves it and he gets an extra 60 calories per serving than he would drinking plain water, so I'm happy about it. It's funny, because he'll spit out water from a restaurant and give a look like WTF is this??? This is not WATER. Anyway, I like this harmless harvest brand because they practice fair trade. If you've ever read about the coffee, palm oil, cacao, and coconut trade around the world, then you'll understand why this is important.
Organic brown rice. Brown rice has a lot of benefits over white rice, including added fiber and being lower on the glycemic index. But I want to warn you about this particular item...transfer the rice to a glass dish before microwaving. You never want to heat your foods in plastic, even supposed BPA free ones. BPA has been linked to many types of cancers, and heat causes it to leach from plastic and into your water, food, and whatever is contained in it.
We love this organic pasta, and best of all, my toddler does too! They cook in 11 minutes or less to the perfect al dente. Costo usually has an organic pasta sauce that we pick up, too. The sauce, plus these noodles, plus the organic ground beef, and the organic mushrooms, and oila! Perfect easy dinner when I might have ordered take-out instead.
Everyone should be taking fish oil. Everyone. Even my toddler takes fish oil (this brand). I prefer Nordic Naturals because it's third party tested for purity, but if that is a little out of your budget, then this Kirkland one is a great alternative. Read this for why you should be taking fish oil supplements.
This is my favorite protein powder. I used to use a grass fed whey protein powder, but when it was discovered that my first son had a milk protein intolerance, I had to give up all dairy for the year that I nursed him. I tried Orgain and loved it. I had already been keeping a couple vegan protein powders in the mix, but this one tasted the best, left me the least gassy, and it has a MUCH better price point. After I was done breastfeeding, I went ahead and stuck with this one through my second pregnancy and now only use this one, too. The hubby has a whey protein shake Monday through Friday, so he also likes to change it up on the weekends and use this one. Vegan protein powders tend to be a bit higher in carbs than whey protein powders, but it's nominal.
It's worth mentioning these protein bars again. They're just like Quest bars, but taste a bit better in my opinion, and are MUCH cheaper.
That does it! A few extras made it into the cart...some OJ, pomegrante juice, and mochi ice cream. Hey, I'm a nutritionist, I'm not perfect!