Costco has been killing it in recent years with their house brand, Kirkland. According to Business Insider, 25 percent of their total sales (excluding gas) come from private-label items. That’s a total of $39 billion dollars in 2018, Costco reports in their annual report. And the Costco consumer is a savvy buyer, so we know that means that there is quality in them there hills. No longer something to buy when you feel like saving a few bucks, Kirkland products are well known for their quality and value, and many shoppers are picking Costco products out of preference, not just out of frugality.
Many of these Kirkland goods are made by the very same manufacturers that make the name-brand items that have risen to the tops of their arenas. This means that the excellence you might expect from some brands is very much present in the Kirkland version. Sometimes the manufacturer is easy to discern, sometimes it’s a little more don’t-ask-don’t-tell, but suffice it to say that when you choose Kirkland, you’re often still getting a top-of-the-line item, just not paying extra for the brand name. (But hey! Kirkland is now a respected name in its own right.)
Here are some of the Costco-brand products I often have in my cart, and according to sales, so might you!
1. Balsamic Vinegar
Slightly amusing story here. My older son Jack has always been a balsamic vinegar nut. As in, he dresses his salads with balsamic and often leaves it at that. One time when my kids were little, we were at a salad bar in Florida, and Jack and I were dousing our plates with their balsamic and chatting away about how delicious it was. I asked the manager what the brand was and she came out with a huge bottle of Kirkland balsamic vinegar, and we were loyal fans for life. It’s made in Modena, Italy, home of true balsamic, and the price compared to other balsamic vinegars is terrific: $10.99 for 33.8 ounces (a very big bottle that lasts forever, unless Jack is in your house). We love it in:
- Classic Vinaigrette (aka Salad Dressing)
- Scallop and Pancetta Kebabs with Balsamic Glaze
- Radicchio and Endive Crostini with Aged Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze
- Spicy Braised Radicchio and Red Cabbage with Citrus
2. Olive Oil
I use around a liter of olive oil a week in my daily cooking and recipe development, and if I don’t have a jug or two for backup, I feel a little wobbly—it’s that important of an ingredient to me. Kirkland makes a stellar olive oil, and more than a few professional chefs use it—it’s not diluted with any other oils, and is one of the few to pass both U.S. and international standards for high-quality olive oil. And boy, is the price great: $16.99 for 2 liters. You can buy it in bigger amounts as well for even more savings, if you use copious amounts in your kitchen like I do. Stock up, and try it out when you’re making Parmesan-roasted broccoli, spicy lemon shrimp over rice, or Greek roasted chicken thighs.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is always high on the list of recommended Costco products because it’s excellent in quality and downright cheap, especially compared to what you might pay for pure maple syrup in a regular supermarket. At Costco you’ll pay $13.19 for a 33.8-ounce jug of organic Grade A pure maple syrup (39 cents per ounce!). We love maple syrup on pancakes, French toast, and spoonbread.
Surprised? Kirkland makes some terrific high-end ingredients, and the pricier an ingredient is, the bigger the savings ounce for ounce (usually). A gram of saffron can easily run around $20 elsewhere, so if it’s an ingredient that makes its way into your cooking, have at it! Here 1 gram is $11.89—plus, it’s organic and from Spain, home to some of the best saffron in the world.
Many of us have made the switch to cage-free eggs, and once again, Kirkland to the rescue. If you are an egg-loving family or a big baker, then their 24-pack of 2-dozen cage-free eggs are just $3.49! And if you want to go organic, 2-dozen extra-large brown eggs are a steal at $5.99. Well worth making room for in the fridge to make deviled eggs, frittatas, and more.
Consumer reports rated Kirkland bacon number one in their bacon comparison, giving it their only “excellent” rating. They said it crisped up nicely, had great balanced meat and salt flavors, with a hint of wood smoke and sweetness. Sounds pretty good to me. You can get thin-sliced ($12.99 for four 1-pound packages) or thick-cut ($10.99 for two 1.5-pound packages), perfect for lardons. And remember: Bacon freezes really well.
A couple of things about butter: Yes, sometimes “better” butter (meaning that with a higher fat content and usually a higher price tag) is where you might be heading, particularly if you're using it straight up smeared on bread. But for everyday butter—butter you use to bake with, for instance—the stick butter you can find at your everyday supermarket is just fine. It clocks in at around 80 percent milk fat, whereas the pricier European butters get up to 83 or 84 percent. Costco butter is of very high quality and sold at a compelling price: $10.99 for FOUR pounds, each pound packaged in regular 1/2-cup sticks (and again, don’t forget—you can freeze butter!). I don't know about you, but I'll be whipping up these fudgy one-pot brownies and chocolate–peanut butter squares.
Kirkland’s Signature Organic Quinoa gets consistently high marks, and if you are a quinoa family, then you should grab one of their big bags. It boasts lots of fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants... (If you're a quinoa person, then you already know this.) But what's most exciting is the fact that this 4.5-pound bag costs just below 14 cents per ounce. Another leading brand retails at 26 ounces for $13, which comes out to about 50 cents per ounce. Big difference! And if you need a refresher course, here’s how to make perfect quinoa on the stove.
9. Virginia Peanuts
All of the Kirkland nuts at Costco have avid fans—but peanuts are my addiction, and I cannot resist the oversized Virginia-style ones. The Costco tin weighs in at a hefty 40 ounces (dangerous), and they are perfectly salted, fresh, and crunchy, ideal for snacking or for using in recipes both savory and sweet. (Salty peanuts in sweet treats? Heaven.) And, uh, it costs $6.69! As opposed to $23.29 for a 32-ounce comparable tin on Amazon. Crunch.
Most of us never think about peppercorns...that is, until our pepper mills are empty. And then we’re like, “WOW, are peppercorns pricy!” To the tune of $4 or $5 for a small jar. At Costco, you can get a 14.1-ounce jar for $4.99. Do yourself a favor and buy one—it should fill your pepper mill many, many times.