It’s been fairly gloomy here this week with lots of rain, cold, and wind. Good times. You can definitely tell that it isn’t summer anymore. Though there is a bit of sun peeping out today, with menacing dark clouds in the background though, of course. It’s weird to have May be the complete opposite, weatherwise, of what I’ve always experienced. It should be just about summer now, not winter. It’s a very odd thing.
If you’re in the US, don’t forget that Costco will be CLOSED on Monday for Memorial Day. So if that is your normal shopping day or you have some things to pick up for any barbecues in the backyard, then you’d better get over there sooner rather than later.
Spices, Spices, Spices – Today is all about buying spices at Costco. While it is true that they don’t have a huge variety like you would find in a conventional supermarket, what they do have they offer at great prices for good quality spices. When we got to Australia I picked up some spices on our first trip to Costco, because there are some things that I just can’t cook without and simply must have in my pantry, no matter how small (or borrowed) it is. I’d already checked out the prices at Woolworth’s and Coles, and after I picked my jaw up off the floor I did a little thank you to my Costco membership; I may have even kissed the card, I can’t recall. Luckily, Costco around the world seems to always offer a good selection of basic spices, things like Oregano, Basil, Garlic, Red Chilli Flakes. I will fully admit that I don’t always buy my spices at Costco, there are some that I prefer to buy from a company called Penzeys in the US (or I have my mom bring them to me when she visits). For instance, I only buy my cinnamon from Penzeys because they have a very wide variety of types and it is the best quality cinnamon I’ve ever come across. You can definitely taste the difference in something like baklava where cinnamon is a big taste element. I feel the same way about ground chili peppers (jalapeño, chipotle, ancho, etc) mostly because Penzeys has this huge variety that Costco just couldn’t stock.
However, for the basic spices that I use often and they do have available at Costco, they are my go to spice purveyor. For instance, I know I already talked about buying the salt and pepper with built in grinders at Costco. They are great, though I do agree with one comment that said it would be nice if the pepper had an adjustable grind on it. However, for the price, it’s such a good deal that I can deal with just the one grind size. If you weren’t aware, you can also get a three pack of the Kirkland Signature salt and pepper through Costco.com for $19.99. You get two kinds of salt, Himalayan pink salt and Mediterranean sea salt, along with Tellicherry black pepper. I love the Himalayan pink salt because it has a very gentle salty flavour that is great for things like salads where you don’t want to feel like your working your way through a salt lick. At Costco.co.uk you can buy the Kirkland Signature pepper (Tellicherry black pepper for £5.29) and salt (Mediterranean sea salt for £4.49) in grinders as well, much like you can in the warehouses. Unfortunately you do have to buy at least two of each when ordering online. I also found a great Cornish sea salt variety pack available at Costco.co.uk for £13.99. You get six different types of sea salt, including Cornish Sea Salt Original (in 500g and 75g sizes), Slow Roasted Garlic (55 g size), Salt & Pepper Pinch (60 g size), Caramelised Onion (55 g size), Chilli (50 g size), and Smoked (75 g size). That is a great little variety pack that would certainly give a lot of punch to your next backyard grilling session. I think I’ll have to get one of these packs when I’m pack in the UK.
Another spice that is great to buy at Costco is saffron. In the past I’ve purchased saffron at Costco for a fraction of what it would have been in a regular store; at the other stores you are paying a higher price for a lesser quality too, I’m sure. You can also find the saffron on Costco.com if you can’t find it in your local store. The saffron they have available online is “Coupe” quality (200+ colour rating), which is extremely high quality, and is tested for quality both in Spain, where it originates, and then again in the US. Right now you can buy the saffron in a 5 gram jar for $35.99 or a 14 gram jar for $79.99 at Costco.com. If you’ve ever used saffron before, you know that even though those sound like little baby amounts, you just need a few strands to get that beautiful saffron colour in a dish. I think when I had bought it in the warehouse it wasn’t even a 5 gram jar but I couldn’t believe how long it lasted and gave my Spanish and Indian dishes a little boost for a long time. If you’re interested, Costco.com has a nice bunch of information from the importer that they call Saffron 101 on the bottom of the saffron product pages. It’s a good introduction to saffron and how much to use it, how to prepare it, and how it is graded. You can also buy saffron through Costco.co.uk. Interestingly, it is packaged as Kirkland Signature brand, so that seems odd that they wouldn’t have that in the US too but maybe it is in the warehouses and not online. In any case, you can get a 1 gram jar of La Mancha Spanish Saffron for £10.99, once again you need to order two of them though. It’s a shame that they don’t give you as much information about the quality and colour rating of this saffron as the stuff on Costco.com.
I’m not sure how vanilla falls in the spice world, but I’ve also gotten that at Costco too. I’ve purchased their vanilla, when they have the non-imitation vanilla because if you bake a lot you know that this is an essential ingredient but it can be quite pricey for the real thing. But the vanilla beans are really a great buy because they are far fresher than when I get them at other stores, for the most part. Plus, they package the vanilla beans in little air tight test tube-like containers that make it easy to store your vanilla beans properly and keep them good for quite some time.
So, as I mentioned, when I got here we picked up garlic powder, red chilli flakes, basil and chopped onion. We use a lot of garlic, basil and red chilli flakes but I’ve been wanting to try the onion, so I figured I’d give that a shot as well. Mostly I really just wanted to do a price comparison for spices at Costco versus Coles or Woolworth’s because the prices seemed really out of whack when I did my initial assessment but I wanted to get all the details. The supermarkets never come out on top in this comparison, by the way. Woolworth’s really seems to be sticking it to people on their pricing which is worse than Coles for the most part. Of course, I’ve noticed that when I am actually shopping in the stores too. And the produce and stuff at Woolworth’s isn’t even that good looking but they want these inflated prices for it. I don’t know why anyone shops there.
- Kirkland Signature Granulated Garlic – The garlic is something that I always have on hand for times when I don’t have fresh garlic or feel like the granulated garlic would work better, like in soup. It’s good to use this when there will be a lot of water or moisture involved in your cooking because fresh garlic tends to lose all of its punch in water but this just re-hydrates and adds the perfect amount of garlic flavour. The price comparison between Costco and Coles is a bit shocking, I think. At Coles you get a 155 gram container of Masterfoods Garlic Powder for A$5.27, which is almost as much as you’ll pay at Costco for 3.3 times as much. Paying Coles prices would mean you’d spend A$17.34 for the 510 grams you’d find at Costco; that’s a difference of A$11.95 more than at Costco. I had to double, and triple check that because I just couldn’t believe it was that big a difference for so much less. But then I looked at Woolworth’s and they are no better. There you can buy a 135 gram container of the Woolworth’s brand of garlic powder for A$4.16, which means that you’d pay A$15.81 for the same amount that you can get at Costco for A$5.39. Yes, that is A$10.42 more than at Costco! That is insane. 510 grams for A$5.39. Item #: 624996.
- McCormick Red Chilli Flakes – The red chilli flakes are another pantry and recipe staple for us. I put a little red chilli in just about everything except pancakes and cereal. It just really enhances flavours and adds a little something to most dishes. I always use it when I’m making pasta which can use all the added flavour you can throw at it for the most part. The chilli flakes don’t seem to have the huge price difference that the garlic does, but it is still pretty significant. At Coles you can get a 30 gram bottle of the store brand chilli flakes for A$2.43, which is just 1/5 of the package size you can get at Costco. Of course, the price isn’t 1/5 of what you’ll find at Costco. At Coles you would pay A$12.56 for the Costco amount of chilli flakes, that’s a difference of A$5.17. At Woolworth’s you can get their own brand of chilli flakes in a 23 gram container for A$2.43. And to buy an amount comparable to the 155 grams that you’ll get at Costco would cost you an enormous A$16.38! That’s more than twice as much as the chilli flakes at Costco. Ridiculous! 155 grams for A$7.39. Item #: 10147.
- McCormick Basil – I use basil all the time but we have a Thai dish that we make quite often that takes a lot of basil, so thankfully we can get it at Costco for a reasonable price. Coles prices on Basil aren’t so competitive either. At Coles you get a 13 gram bottle of Coles brand basil for A$2.12. That would tally up to A$10.60 for a comparable 65 grams of basil like you will find at Costco. So that means that you’re overpaying by A$3.81 by getting your basil at Coles instead of Costco. As you might expect, Woolworth’s has even worse pricing at A$2.02 for a 10 gram jar of store brand basil. So, you’re overpaying there by a whopping A$6.34 for a comparable amount of 65 grams of basil. 65 grams for A$6.79. Item #: 10145.
- Kirkland Signature Chopped Onion – The onion would be great in soups and stews but I haven’t made a whole lot of that type of thing since we’ve been here, so I guess this will be going back to London with us. However, it is really nice and oniony in flavour. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything similar at Coles or Woolworth’s for my price comparison. So I guess Costco’s got the only onion like this that you’re likely to find here. Though, it could just be that I don’t have the right term for it here. 332 grams for A$3.79. Item #: 624998.