Photo: Laura Wright
Canada’s newly released food guide recommends we eat lots of fruits, veggies and plant-based proteins. As the creator of The First Mess blog and cookbook, I already eat a 100 percent plant-based diet and I develop recipes for a living. Whether I’m cooking up a vegan dinner party for friends or testing a lasagna recipe for the fifth time, I tend to go though a lot of produce, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, pantry staples — and some prepared foods, too.
Costco is a haven of savings for the naturally plant-based items I’m always turning to. Here are my top plant-based picks from Costco.
The items and prices listed in the gallery below were sourced from the Costco in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Raw cashews are a staple of plant-based cuisine because they blend effortlessly into creamy sauces and dressings (they’re amazing for Caesar salad). They fill in for dairy well, but they can be so expensive at grocery and bulk stores, usually more than $30 per kilo. Costco has a one-kilogram bag by Yupik for $17.99 that is a steal by comparison. Other nuts, seeds and trendy ingredients, like hemp hearts and chia seeds, are sold in similarly well-priced large format bags.
Large jars of Kirkland Signature (Costco’s in-house label) natural almond and peanut butter are absurdly well-priced. The almond butter ($11.49 for 765 grams) alone is cheaper than a jar a third of its size at any grocery or health food store. These are quick sources of protein, perfect for stirring into cookie or energy bar batters or for making a savoury stir fry sauce with ginger, lime, and garlic.
High quality oils shine in salad dressings, pesto, on roasted vegetables, in simple sautés and in vegan baked goods as a butter replacement. My go-to oil is Chosen Foods Avocado Oil because it has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point that can withstand high-heat cooking (like roasting). Costco sells a one-liter bottle of it for $14.99, which is essentially double the quantity for the same price at most major grocery stores. You can find deals for organic olive oil and coconut oil, too.
I like to cook beans from their dried state, but I also enjoy having canned beans at the ready in case I forget to pre-soak and simmer a batch for 45 minutes. Maybe you can relate? Beans are a key protein source in a plant-based diet that can be cooked up dozens of ways. Costco sells eight-packs of organic chickpeas and black beans by Sprague Foods, a Canadian cannery, for a little over a dollar per can.
Along with beans and legumes, whole grains make an appearance in my meals every single day. They’re filling, loaded with fibre and protein, and they taste great. Giant bags of brown basmati rice (4.5 kg) and quinoa (2 kg) are priced more competitively than at any bulk store I’ve been to and you can even get fancy blends of various heirloom rice and wild rice (my Costco sells a blend by Floating Leaf for $8.99, 1.5 kg).
I love making my own nut milks, but sometimes convenience rules the day. If multiple members of your household make smoothies or eat cereal every day, it makes sense to buy almond milk in bulk. Costco sells a three-pack of So Nice Organic Almond Milk for $11.59. This brand is carrageenan-free and is fortified with Vitamins B12 and D3. There are also shelf-stable tetra packs of Kirkland Signature Almond Milk and Soy Milk available.
Vacuum-sealed packages of pre-boiled and peeled beets from Love Beets are sold in one-kilogram packages near the produce section for $6.99. Beets are one of my favourite cold-weather staples, but they can be a pain to prepare when life gets busy. These are ready to go into a gorgeous beet salad, sliced into a sandwich, or diced and sprinkled on to a hearty grain bowl right out of the package.
I always have hearty and filling loaves of Silver Hills Sprouted Multigrain Bread in my freezer at the ready. The conveniently pre-sliced loaves come in a two-pack for $7.99.
When I first went fully plant-based, smoothies were my go-to breakfast because I could fill them with greens, nut butter, and ingredients like protein powders and chia seeds. They left me satisfied and I could mask the flavour and texture of any weird powders with frozen fruit. Costco’s selection of frozen fruit is huge and the prices are great. The Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend ($11.49 for 2 kg) and Nature’s Touch Frozen Mangoes ($11.99 for 2 kg) are my two favourites.
My go-to “I don’t feel like cooking” meal is a seared or baked frozen veggie burger patty over a big salad with lots of raw and roasted vegetables, nuts and seeds, and a great dressing. My favourite brand of veggie burgers is Dr. Praeger’s because they’re filled with simple ingredients I can pronounce and they taste really good. Costco sells Dr. Praeger’s classic Organic California Style Veggie Burgers in a 12 pack for $15.99. These are also naturally gluten-free!
Hummus finds its way into so many of my meals. Slathered on a veggie burger or sandwich, dolloped on top of a grain bowl, thinned out with lemon juice and spices for a delicious salad dressing, or simply scooped onto a plate with crackers (Costco has a ton of these by the way) and raw vegetables as a light lunch. Costco sells Fontaine Santé’s classic hummus in a two-pack ($6.99) as well as their Humm! line of topped hummus for a special price during a monthly in-store event (the Roasted Jalapeño one is amazing).
Costco has an amazing selection of naturally vegan snacks. Some of my favourites include: Healthy Crunch Say Cheeze! Kale Chips ($9.99), the Larabar variety pack with 20 bars for ($17.99), 24-pack of Made Good Soft Baked Mini Cookies ($11.49), and a big bag of Prana’s dark chocolate-studded Kilimanjaro Trail Mix ($12.99).
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