What’s this “traditional” foodie business? Well…we’ll talk about that more in-depth in a week or so. But traditional food has to do with sourcing the highest quality organics, pastured meats, and using specific cooking practices to increase the nutrient density of the food, like making bone broths and sourdough. That might be a “duh” moment for you, or it might sound like total gibberish. The point is, we’re after making simple food even more nourishing.
The thing about all this is that it kind of sounds hard. And expensive. In fact, when I asked the other day what the hardest thing about a “natural” life is, many people said — the food! — affording it, finding time to make it, sourcing it, or even knowing what is healthy!
I get it. I do. At some points, I have spent far, far too much time finding just the right sources for foods, re-evaluating every few months, creating long lists of meal ideas and meal plans, and so on.
When Costco started offering a lot more organic options — and they offer even more now than they did a year ago — it made my life a lot easier. I could, if I wanted to, just shop there. Instead, I choose to buy my eggs, meat, and milk from local farms, but they do offer organic options for those. I also fill in home goods and items that Costco doesn’t carry or only carries in giant sizes (but that I don’t want in giant sizes) from other stores. But quite a lot of what I buy now is from Costco.
Recently Costco started to put green price signs on all organic items, so it’s very easy to tell at a glance which items are organic. All I need to know after that is if the ingredients list is clean, if it’s a pre-made item. Typically I stick to single-ingredient organic items or at least low-ingredient items.
But on to the important part. What do I typically buy at Costco? And what do I do with it?
What a Traditional Foodie Buys at Costco
There are a few things, because I am a traditional foodie, that I do not buy at Costco. For example, they carry canned organic beans. I believe it is important to properly soak beans before cooking them, and no company does this when they are going to can them. So I skip those. But for others, they might be a good fit!
I also do not buy the organic meat, eggs, or milk — most of the time. In a pinch, I do buy organic meat and eggs, if I can’t get to the farm. They offer organic chicken (whole, breasts, thighs) and ground beef. If I can’t get my raw farm milk, though, I do without.
I usually do not buy canned tomatoes, because I prefer to can my own. They offer sauce, diced, paste and possibly some other varieties. But this, too, is a good option for those who do not can. Some traditional foodies do not eat any canned foods…but let’s be realistic here and say that we all need a break sometimes, right? And canned whole foods are a huge step up from, say, a microwave dinner.
Anyway! I got sidetracked. I wanted you to know about those good organic options that I typically do not buy, in case they are something that appeals to you. But what do I buy?
- Coconut oil*
- Maple syrup*
- Cane sugar*
- Romaine lettuce*
- Kerrygold butter
- Romano cheese (raw)
- Extra sharp cheddar (Tillamook)
- Medium cheddar (Tillamook)
- Guacamole* (I don’t like it and I am never going to make my own — but my boys like it. The individual 2 oz. cups are worth it to me)
- Bacon, uncured*
- String cheese*
- Broccoli, frozen*
- Peas, frozen*
- Strawberries, frozen*
- Blueberries, frozen*
- Raspberries, frozen*
- Mixed berries, frozen*
- Mangoes, frozen*
- Raw honey* (I prefer to buy locally when possible though)
- Brown rice*
- Quinoa* (I don’t buy often but a lot of others do)
- Wild-caught salmon (canned)
- Wild-caught tuna (canned)
- Almond butter (also not frequent for me)
- Blackstrap molasses*
- Dried bananas*
- Dried blueberries*
- Pasta* (they have both wheat and GF versions, as well as a black bean variety)
- Applesauce cups*
- Dried apple rings
- Olive oil*
- Avocado oil
There are a bunch of other organic pre-made foods, like soups, iced tea, mac’n’cheese, and various snack foods. I usually do not buy these, but they are there.
I really wish they had organic potatoes. Really wish. Maybe some do, but mine does not.
The even more important part — what do I do with it all?
What I Do with the Food
So, for real, what do I do with it?
I’m all about quick and easy. I only like to cook if I am alone and have lots of time. To me, it’s relaxing. I do not, however, find cooking relaxing if I am surrounded by a bunch of little people who want to “help” or who are yelling “bowl! fork! eat!” constantly. Unless my husband is home to keep them out of my way (not often), I try to keep things as quick and easy as possible. Everything I’ll list here comes together in 10 – 15 minutes, typically. The soups will take a bit longer but not a lot of active prep time.
I use the frozen fruit to make smoothies. Typically, I like to pair the mixed berries with the mango because the mango sweetens it naturally without using any form of sugar. I have also used a small amount of maple syrup with the mixed berries to sweeten. I usually use water as the base, and add hemp oil. Sometimes I use yogurt or kefir as the base. Or, we mix it up and do a “slushie” with fresh lemon or lime juice, strawberries, and a bit of cane sugar or honey (plus water and ice). This is one of the kids’ favorite treats.
These are frequent evening treats. We mix some milk with whole frozen strawberries, a very small amount of maple syrup or honey, and ice if needed (often it’s not because the strawberries are frozen). This can be done with blueberries, raspberries, mixed berries, etc.
Sometimes I mix milk with pecans, cocoa powder, maple syrup, a little vanilla extract, and ice. This is a milkshake too. Notice that neither of these requires any ice cream, and are very low sugar (and no refined sugar). This makes them very easy to whip up in 5 minutes and relatively healthy too. You could toss in a raw egg yolk or two to boost nutrient density but I would only recommend that if you have eggs from a local farmer you trust.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
My kids eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. Sometimes I make pecan butter and they will have it with apple slices. Most often they just eat apples or bananas. They also like to munch on the frozen fruit — no need to thaw.
Carrots are a very popular snack here. Often they are served plain, sometimes with guacamole for dipping. If I need a quick side dish for dinner, it is going to be carrots and guac. (Adults will eat steamed broccoli or peas, and sometimes the kids do too.)
Cheese is incredibly popular here as a snack. We slice up any of the cheeses we buy as a snack. Often times it is plain; sometimes I buy whole wheat crackers at Whole Foods (“Triscuit” style with no soybean oil) and we’ll have that. Cheese and crackers with fresh fruit or smoothie is a completely viable breakfast or lunch option.
I like to make freshly-pressed juices. My favorite is kale-apple-lemon-ginger. Costco does carry a number of bagged greens mixes — spinach, power blend, and others (varies by location). Sometimes I buy these. Othertimes I juice the carrots along with apples, lemon, and ginger. Sometimes I throw in fresh or frozen berries. The little boys and I all really like any sort of fresh juices. My juicer only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to do it, including clean up.
I use the applesauce cups, seaweed, and even croutons for snacks when we are on the go. It makes homeschool coop days so much easier.
Taco salad is the most common “salad” here. which we make with brown rice (Costco does carry organic corn chips, but we don’t eat corn). Caesar salad is popular with everyone as well — the little boys like anchovies a lot! My daughter enjoy a salad that is greens, cheese, and croutons (hold the dressing). Sometimes we toss some salmon or tuna on top of the salads.
The big bags of veggies lend themselves well to soups. I make homemade chicken stock and use it as a base, sometimes along with tomato sauce, and toss in whatever veggies I have on hand, plus leftover chicken or beef. Sometimes we add rice, or make it spicy. If it’s just me and the boys, we will make cheesy broccoli or potato soup. Most of us like soup and it’s pretty easy and frugal meal. I often add grated cheese on top. Although this takes a little while to cook, it doesn’t take a lot of prep time or babysitting.
Soaked Pancakes, Muffins
I buy flour from another local store (white whole wheat) or I buy whole wheat berries and grind them myself (takes only a couple minutes). I mix this with butter, maple syrup, molasses (sometimes), milk and spices (cocoa powder or cinnamon). After it sits overnight I add baking soda, salt, and eggs. It gets fried as pancakes or baked as muffins. I usually make a double batch — which is a lot for my family, 3 – 4 dozen muffins! — and it will last us a couple of days. This is actually pretty easy.
Frankly, most of our meals — at least breakfasts and lunches — are these. I do cook more for dinners, making roast chicken, meatloaf, chicken parmesan, etc. for those. But I keep the earlier meals very simple.
Where do you shop and what are your favorite quick meals?