Grocery Shopping Staples: Costco

While Costco isn’t a weekly run for me, it is important for us in saving money. I visit once every 4-8 weeks, depending on our needs, and try to go during the week. If you’ve been to Costco on the weekend, you understand why I avoid it like the plague. In fact, I think I’d rather have the plague. So.many.people. I suffocate from that close proximity to strangers!

I have a list in our kitchen of our Costco staples. Each time I’m about to visit, I compare that list against what we have stocked to make sure 6 days later I’m not upset for missing a key item.

I’m not including fresh produce we buy from Costco as it can change with season and availability, but needless to say, there is a handful of fresh organic produce available at Costco including spinach, baby kale, and carrots. This summer organic berries were also available for a fantastic price. It’s always worth a look.

(In case you missed it, here are our Trader Joe’s and Hy-Vee staples.)

Here are our Costco staples:

Dubliner Cheese: Since cutting dairy, we aren’t big cheese people, but I do buy a block of KerryGold’s Dubliner when I’m at Costco. Justin and I munch on this with apples and crackers. It’s a little slice of heaven! The first time I had this cheese was at Justin and my couple’s engagement party in 2006, hosted at the (now extinct) Java G’s in West Des Moines and thrown by our good friends Travis and Tiffany. I still remember my first bite and demanded T&T tell us where they found this gold mine. Travis was so excited to tell me it was actually called KERRYGold.


Toilet Paper: I mean, does this need explaining? I don’t buy the cheapest TP because that’s more like… tissue paper. Ya know, just yuck.


Organic Frozen Peas: The kids prefer peas frozen. Weird? It’s a super easy side veggie for the kids that they devour with a spoon. There is a handful of other frozen organic fruits and vegetables available including mangos and berries.


Ezekiel Bread: I saw this for the first time at my last visit. A good price if you’re a Food For Life fan! (A single loaf is normally $4.99-$5.99 at regular grocery stores.)


KerryGold Butter: This is the only butter we will use (from grass-fed Irish cows). We’ve been trying to add this to recipes that Finn eats and so far, so good… no reaction.


Raw Almonds: While I wish we could afford organic almonds, we just can’t.  They are SO expensive! Justin and Evie both love raw almonds. I use these to roast and Vitamix into almond butter. Homemade almond butter is 10 times better than store-bought if you haven’t tried it. (A real treat is to add some maple syrup to a small batch!) We’ve been making almond butter for about 6 months, and minus the “emergency” jar of Trader Joe’s salted creamy we usually have on hand, homemade with these almonds is now our go-to.  We also buy pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts from Costco.


Avocado Oil: This is the first time I have bought avocado oil from Costco (or ever, for that matter), but I keep hearing how great it is and read the Costco oil was recommended from a few bloggers I respect, so I made the leap. Haven’t used it yet, but I have a few recipes that call for it.


Organic Sugar: We’ve been buying this sugar for a few years now. I’m always worried it won’t be there when we return for another bag! Not only is this non-GMO sugar, it’s larger crystals so it’s perfect for sugar scrubs and baking. You can imagine that a 10 pound bag lasts us a LONG time!


Real Maple Syrup: Check your store-bought syrup. Most cheaper versions do not contain any real syrup, but are simply high fructose corn syrup with artificial flavors and colors. Bottles shaped like someone’s aunt? No good. And the sugar-free versions, sheer junk. This is the good (and real) stuff! (There are lots of great real maple syrups out there, this is just the best prices I’ve found.)


Coconut Oil: We use coconut oil for a variety of things including baking, cooking and skin care. You can never have enough!


Chicken Stock: I use stock in place of broth for most recipes as the flavor is so much richer. This stock doesn’t have a lot of the normal funky ingredients, is gluten-free, and comes at a great price for organic stock. If you don’t have stock on hand, this is a great back-up to have on-hand, especially for the winter months when soups and more hearty recipes call for stock or broth.


Red Pepper Soup: I usually buy one or two of these individual boxes at Trader Joe’s or Hy-Vee, but realized the price just makes sense at Costco to have through the winter. This is a great light meal for me when Justin is out of town or I’m craving something warm and cozy for a Saturday lunch. (Note: We have not fed the kids this as there is dairy on the ingredient list.)


Chia Seeds and Quinoa: We devour chia seeds in smoothies, salads and oatmeal, so good quality bulk bags are a blessing for us. Last time we bought bulk quinoa, we did not use the entire bag before the expiration date, so it might be good to split this with a friend if you are a “sometimes”-quinoa family.

IMG_0094Whole Foods staples to come.

What are your Costco staples?


Grocery Shopping Staples: Hy-Vee

Grocery shopping is always something of a chore for me.  Anyone else? Tuesday night I write out the menu for the week and our shopping needs.  Wednesday morning I head to the grocery store and power through.

Depending on my friend Jennie’s schedule, I sometimes have Evie with me. She’s adorable, but she’s a shopping terror.

Evie demands the “kids pink cart” which is the worst invention for parents as it weighs 900 pounds and has a turning radius similar to, well… there is none. She sits in the cart for 5.7 seconds before demanding to walk AND hold my hand. That means I maneuver that damn kids pink cart with my left hand, left elbow and collarbone. This of course happens while Evie tries to pick up every egg carton, samples everything in the produce aisles (as in the grapes for sale… not samples), and usually has at least one meltdown. It’s as awful as it sounds.

I know the layout of the Health Market at Hy-Vee like the back of my hand so I write my list in order of the items in the aisles. Anything to make it through alive, right?!?

I am often asked what items we get from each location (Hy-Vee, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods), so I wanted to share that with you. Today we will start with Hy-Vee. I’m not including produce in each review as that’s a given. I’m mainly sticking to “aisle” items.

While Hy-Vee (local chain) is my normal Wednesday shopping store with a monthly trip for items to the other locations, I’m finding some of the prices at Whole Foods are actually cheaper for the items we buy, as in substantially cheaper… $2 per item cheaper!  WOW!  I’m going to be reassessing my shopping and comparing lists in the next few months.

Here are our Hy-Vee staples. Our Hy-Vee offers 10% off Health Market (mainly organic) items Wednesday, hence why I shop that day. So take 10% off the shown prices for what we pay.

Almond Milk. We used to go through more milk, but the kids primarily only drink water. The almond milk is used for oatmeal or other cooking needs. Occasionally they will have a glass, but not like before. I usually have 4 1/2 gallons on hand, but lately we just finish 3.


Animal Crackers. Finn loves these things! Evie is mostly uninterested in crackers/cookies, with a few exceptions. Someone recently asked me why we spend the higher amount on “organic” snacks. It’s a good question. While most of these snacks still contain refined flour, they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup or other added “fake” ingredients. It’s a compromise.


Nick’s Sticks. When we have gone through our stash from buying them directly from the farm, I pick up a few from the grocery store. They are a little more expensive this way, but they are such a great snack… and sometimes meal!


Melina’s Salsa. This salsa is the BOMB! All real ingredients and so tasty. A pantry staple for our house.


Enjoy Life Bars. I buy these every few weeks for Finn. They are his FAVORITE snack.  He calls them “my bars.” :) Sometimes will have  good deal on them, as well.


Ezekiel Bread. This is my splurge. Because Ezekiel is sprouted and I don’t go through this quickly, I leave this in the freezer and pull out a piece when I want it. This is a quick breakfast for me some mornings with homemade super butter (almond butter).



Chicken Nuggets. Kids love nuggets, don’t they!?! Since we don’t eat fast food, these are our “fast food nuggets.”  Finn calls them “brown chicken” and gets insanely excited when I pull out the Pizza Pizzazz to make them every few weeks. I’ve seen these at Super Target for the same price, but with Hy-Vee’s 10% Health Market Wednesday, it’s a no brainer.


Eggs.  When we were first easing Finn into eating eggs, this was the one egg that didn’t make him react. They are local, they are good, and we stick with these. (We’ve since tried a few others at my parents and he’s shown no reaction.)


Pepperoni and Turkey. We love Applegate for homemade pizza Friday’s.  We occasionally make paninis on the weekends and this turkey is great for that.


Almond Butter. Although we make most of our almond butter (or buy at Trader Joe’s), these little packets are great for lunches out at the park or with friends. Justin also likes them for travel.


Olives. True story: I love olives. I honestly don’t know what’s different between the Hy-Vee brand and those at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, minus the price. I stock up when I go down this aisle. IMG_9656


Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods staples to come.

What are your standard grocery store staples?

Halloween Candy Plans

Throwback to 2010 and this was our Halloween…

Rash 2010

We ventured over to some friends so Finn could trick or treat. He had one bite-sized Twix and ^^this^^ was the result. Over the next hour he got more red and bumpy. We had our suspicious about allergies and food concerns but this really put us over the edge.

When Finn was 2 (2011), we started trick or treating a few houses in the neighborhood with his buddy Ryder.


We only went to a few houses and were able to easily pick out and move aside the candy. It wasn’t about candy at this point! He had no idea what he was doing… can’t you tell!?!

The following year (2012) got a little trickier as he was curious about everything, but the process was still very manageable.


Last Halloween, Finn and I went through the candy item by item when we got home, which we will do again. (This was also during the Red Sox World Series games!!)


We talked about why they were “safe” and “not safe” (putting each item in the respective pile) and were able to have a general discussion about healthy options and eating too much sugar… why it’s not good, what it does to our bodies, etc.

Let me get this out there: I don’t want to be the party-pooper on candy.  Do I really want my kids eating all the junk (or any junk at all)?  No.  I don’t want them eating high fructose corn syrup and enough food dye to turn them orange.   I know what it does to them, both the short- and long-term consequences, but I also know that if I hide it from them or lie to them or tell them they can never have it, it will only make them want it more.  I can’t bully my way into forcing them to make the choices I want them to make.  There’s no easy answer to this, but we’ve settled on a plan.


1. When we return home, we will individually go through Finn’s entire bag with him and put items in one of two piles: “safe” or “not safe.” As we are doing this, we will discuss the why, which I think is the most important piece for him to understand. We will also talk more about sugar, healthy choices, and treating our bodies well.

2. We will let him pick out two pieces to eat right then and there. No restrictions.

3. We will have him save 5 pieces (because he is five years old) to keep for future “special treats.” Any “safe” candy items is fair game, even if it’s one we wish he wouldn’t choose for whatever reason. It’s his candy. It’s his choice.

4. Option 1: Finn can then trade the rest of his pieces of candy in for coins. Normally we put coins in his piggy bank, but these coins will likely be quarters which he can use to buy a toy.  I believe there is a “Switch Witch” locally where you can bring candy in for coins. We might go there, too. We’ll see! Regardless, he will be part of the process of exchanging the candy for something else.  It will teach him nothing if I do it without him.

5. Option 2: (Finn gave this option 2 thumbs up after I asked him his thoughts.)  This idea comes from reader Sarah in the comments below who does “The Great Pumpkin” with her kids.  According to Sarah… The remaining candy “is left out front before bed for ‘The Great Pumpkin.’ He leaves a reward for the candy left behind.” Love this idea!!!

As he gets older, I know he will do the same thing you and I and every other child did at some point.  You know what I’m talking about! When you jam as much candy as humanly possible into your pie hole and then you seriously want to throw up all over yourself for days because you feel so sick?!? Am I right? I think we will just have to let him do that. (I actually remember opening a bag of some Tropical Skittles when I was little. They were SO disgusting, but I kept eating them. That’s the power of sugar right there…. so much so that I still remember it.)

I hear so many people say, “just let them be kids.” …. “It’s only one night.” …. “What’s a little candy going to hurt?” … “Get off your high horse.”

Here are my thoughts on that.  It would be OK if it really WAS just one night, but as every parent knows, it’s NOT just one night.  It’s one night on Halloween and it’s 3 times a week at school and it’s after soccer practice and it’s at church and it’s at the next birthday party and it’s at the bank and it’s at the grocery store and on and on and on.  Plus, it’s not just one night at Halloween.  It’s one night of collecting the candy and then weeks of mass consumption of junk.

That is not one night and every parent knows it.

What are your plans for your kids Halloween candy? I’d love other ideas.