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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Food matters: Hits and misses at Costco, Trader Joe's, ShopRite, Jerry's and more

HITS FROM ICELAND: The Costco Wholesale warehouse in the Teterboro Landing shopping center off Route 46 is a reliable source for fresh, wild-caught fillets of cod, haddock and flounder from Iceland for $7.99 and $8.99 a pound. The Cod & Vegetable Medley, above, also includes pesto, Greek yogurt and plum tomatoes from Costco.
UGLY FISH WITH TEXTURE OF LOBSTER: This week, Costco surprised members with trays of fresh, wild Monkfish fillets caught in the United States ($9.99 a pound). When cooked, monkfish's meaty white flesh has the texture of lobster. 


Editor's note: A 12-ounce box of Ronzoni's Super Greens -- a thin spaghetti made with five greens -- was reduced to $1.99 from the normal price of $2.49 at ShopRite, not $1.59, as I reported earlier. I've also added a link on how to find clearance items at Costco.


A Top 10 or even a Top 20 list wouldn't begin to describe all the great food and non-food items Costco Wholesale members find in those enormous warehouses.

So, I think of shopping at Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market and other food stores in terms of hits and misses.

Most -- but not all -- of the hits at Costco are sold under the house label, Kirkland Signature, which usually stands for added value.

For example, Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, Organic Quinoa, Organic Salsa and Organic Chicken Drumsticks all equaled or exceeded the quality of the national brands that preceded them, and were initially offered at a lower price.

30-MINUTE MONKFISH: A pan of Costco's Monkfish is ready in 20 minutes to 25 minutes after you assemble all the ingredients and place the pan in a pre-heated, 400-degree oven: Fresh organic spinach, serving portions of skinless-and-boneless fillet, Campari tomato, pitted black olives, capers, grated cheese, fresh lemon juice, red pepper, and fresh mint and oregano, below.

Private-label wine

In northern New Jersey, only the Wayne warehouse carries Kirkland Signature wines -- including French Champagne, California Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja Reserva and Malbec -- and they are a bargain compared to other brands.

In fact, you have to toast Costco for providing high-quality organic and conventional ingredients for families who prepare most of their meals at home.

Other Costco products that could make the list of hits are available in packages that are too large for singles and couples, and that even small families struggle to use before they spoil.

They include 10-pound bags of organic carrots or conventional sweet potates, 5.5- to 6-pound trays of apples and pears, 4-pound containers of grapes and 3-pound bags of peeled California garlic.

Costco's prices fluctuate, but members receive instant coupons in the mail that lower already low prices for many items.

And the no-fee Costco Anywhere Visa Card from Citi offers cash rebates on purchases in the warehouse,
and at gas stations, restaurants and other stores so you get your yearly membership fee back two or three times over.

A BIG MISS AT COSTCO: The wildly popular Kirkland Signature Seasoned  Rotisserie Chicken for $4.99 flies off the shelves, but the 3-pound birds are raised on harmful human antibiotics and contain added salt and sugar. See: Better for your dog then you
LOWER PRICE THAN IN 2005: A 1-pound package of pre-washed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix -- one of the best salads in the world -- was only $3.69 on Tuesday, compared to $3.99 in 2005. Wholesome Gardens is sold alongside or instead of Earthbound Farm for the same price, but it is only recently that radicchio appeared in that organic spring mix, below.

INCOMPARABLE: A 2-pound package of greenhouse-grown Campari Tomatoes was $3.99 on Tuesday.
SAY CHEESE: Jarlsberg Lite Swiss Cheese is one of the few reduced-fat cheeses available at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro. I add this cheese to omelets or roll it up with wild smoked salmon and spring mix, dipped in Dijon mustard, for a bread-less snack (2 pounds for $7.99).
FROM ALASKA: The taste and color of Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoke Sockeye Salmon puts smoked farmed salmons to shame, and at $16.99 for two half-pound pouches of sliced sockeye, you won't find a lower price at any other store.
GREEK TO ME: Kirkland Signature non-fat Greek Yogurt adds creaminess without the cholesterol to cooked fish or omelets, and the thick yogurt makes a great snack spread on a plate with dried and fresh herbs, and extra-virgin olive oil, below. Two 32-ounce containers were $5.99.
NOW CAGE FREE: Cartons of Kirkland Signature Cage-Free Egg Whites freeze beautifully (six 16-ounce cartons were $8.99 or about $1.50 each).
WITH FRESH GARDEN HERBS: My omelet on Wednesday morning included a slice of Jarlsberg Lite Swiss Cheese, smoked wild salmon and organic salsa, all from Costco. Another big hit for egg fans are Kirkland Signature Organic Eggs (2 dozen for $5.99), below.

TURKISH GROUND: Colombian Supremo Beans can be turned into a fine Turkish grind in the Teterboro warehouse and at the Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack, at do-it-yourself coffee mills. You can borrow a scissor to open the bag, and all 3 pounds will just fit into the single grinder in Hackensack (about $5.20 a pound).
SODIUM FREE: A 3-pound bag of raw, sodium-free U.S. almonds was $12.49. I roast all 3 pounds at home in a 275-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes, then dust them with Kirkland Signature Ground Saigon Cinnamon, below. They're a great after-dinner snack.
FROM VIETNAM: A 10.7-ounce container of Ground Saigon Cinnamon was $2.59 this week.
21 SEASONINGS: We'd have a hard time preparing meals at home, if we didn't have Kirkland Signature Organic No-Salt Seasoning -- 21 spices or other ingredients from around the world.
ORANGE PEEL, CUMIN AND MORE: A 14.5-ounce container of Organic No-Salt Seasoning was $7.99 last week.
NO ADDED SUGAR: Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce is one of the few Classico sauces without added sugar. Three 32-ounce jars were $7.99 at Costco or about $2.50 a jar. Costco also carries Victoria Marinara, another sauce without added sugar.
DRESS FOR LESS: Kirkland Signature spread-collar and button-down shirts are 100% cotton for only $17.99 each, above and below.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD: Another great non-food item are the Michelin tires available at Costco's Tire Center, including the Michelin Defenders we bought for our 2010 Toyota Prius (90,000 mile tread-life warranty). Coupons for $70 off four tires and $60 off installation are common, and periodic tire rotations are included.
DETAILS: Costco Wholesale, 2 Teterboro Landing Drive, Teterboro; 201-596-7001. Open 7 days, call for hours. Closed Memorial Day. Costco gas station is open to non-members. 
SWEET ON TRADER JOE'S? Both 28-ounce cans of Trader Joe's Marinara Sauce and Tuscano Marinara Sauce are marked low fat, but the can on the right contains added sugar ($1.99 each).  
NEW HOT DOG: Trader Joe's has added a new uncured beef hot dog, this one made with organic, grass-fed beef. Both are antibiotic and hormone free. For $5.99, you get 12 ounces of organic hot dogs or 16 ounces of the regular hot dogs.
SMALLER THAN PARAMUS: The older Trader Joe's in Westwood  (20 Irvington St.)  is even smaller than the cramped Paramus store (404 Route 17 north).

GREEN PASTA: Ronzoni is calling thin spaghetti enriched with spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley and kale "Super Greens." A 12-ounce box was on sale for $1.99 on May 5 at the ShopRite in Englewood. I dressed the tasty pasta with Trader Joe's Marinara, sardines, anchovies, red wine and dried Italian herbs. The green spaghetti has about the same calories and carbs as the organic whole wheat pasta I've been eating for several years, including the Luigi Vitelli-brand that was on sale for 99 cents a pound at the Paramus ShopRite, below.

MISPLACED STRAWBERRIES: The ShopRite at Forest Avenue and Route 4 east in Paramus is the most disorganized supermarket I've shopped in. On May 9, the store mixed packages of organic strawberries (on sale for $4.49 a pound) with conventional strawberries (on sale for $1.99). Only the blue label was the tip-off. The store gave me $2 off the package of organic strawberries I inadvertently brought to the register.
JERRY'S LEFTOVERS: Spicy chicken wings, pasta with seafood and vegetables from one of the Meals To Go available at Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, below. I've often praised the restaurant-quality takeout for $7.99, reduced to $5.99 after 4 p.m. But Jerry's recently told a local food editor the Meals To Go are actually made up of leftovers.
FROM REFRIGERATED CASE TO TAKE-OUT CONTAINER: Jerry's staff makes up the Meals To Go from whatever prepared food sold by the pound is left over at night, above and below. How many days the food is kept in the refrigerated case before it becomes a Meal To Go is anyone's guess.
MODEST BUT FILLING DINNERS: Meals To Go are complete dinners with fish, beef, pork or chicken, plus pasta and vegetables or salad.
POACHED COD: In a covered pot, I poached skinless fillets of Icelandic cod from Costco Wholesale for about 10 minutes in a 16-ounce jar of 365 Everyday Value Peach & Mango Salsa from Whole Foods Market in Paramus ($2.99), with added sliced onions, garlic, pitted black olives and fresh lemon juice.
SWEET SURPRISE: This salsa may be the only one from Whole Foods with added sugar, and I found it a little too sweet.
BOTTLES OF RED: Whole Foods Market at the Bergen Town Center on Forest Avenue in Paramus offers a small selection of red wine for $3.99 to $6.99 a bottle, including Carmenere from Chile, above, described as "slightly sweet with notes of chocolate, toffee and creamy mint." 
ORGANIC WINE: A Rossello from Italy was $7.99. Whole Foods gives you a 10% discount on every 6 bottles of wine you purchase.

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