Tag Archives: Basics

Golden Gate Crystal Margarine at Costco: Product Review

Today I will be reviewing what has just got to be one of the most basic of all kitchen basics, margarine, or ‘oleo’ as the crosswords puzzles would have it. I keep both margarine and butter in the fridge; they may be interchangeable in some instances, but in many ways they are not, and both deserve their place. For the past few years I’ve been purchasing the Golden Gate Crystal Margarine from Costco.

There are a couple of things I like about this margarine. The first, and most important, is the taste. It just tastes right; it has a distinctive margarine taste that is strong without being overpowering, reminiscent of butter, but not quite. I assume here you like margarine, otherwise you’ll be disappointed.

Golden Gate Crystal Margarine at Costco, with Rubbermaid container

Golden Gate Crystal Margarine at Costco, with Rubbermaid container

Without being particularly picky, because I know we’re talking about a bunch of congealed oil here, the Crystal margarine seems relatively healthy; it contains no trans fats, no lactose (obviously), is non-hydrogenated and, in following the fad of the day, contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to all sorts of wonderful things, including increased cardio-vascular health and a betterment of your mood, of all things.

Golden Gate Crystal Margarine at Costco, opened

Golden Gate Crystal Margarine at Costco, opened

The second thing I like about Crystal Margarine is the cost effectiveness; a container or 1.36 kilograms, or 3 pounds, of margarine costs as little as $4.99, which is much less than the Becel containers at Costco, which are around 10 bucks for 2 kilos. This price comes down to about 36 cents per hundred grams, which is very acceptable.

If you shop smart, you’ll be able to find the Crystal Margarine on special at your local Costco, and really stock up. When it’s on special, it really is. Last time it was, I bought 2 containers for $2.99 each, which is just about given away, considering the following: THE CONTAINER!

Golden Gate and Rubbermaid seem to be working in lockstep on this one; each Crystal Margarine container is a wonderful, reusable genuine Rubbermaid brand tupperware-style container, which is ideal for work lunches, leftovers and a million other uses around the house; if you were hesitating between different brands of margarine, you should buy this one just because of its container, everything else notwithstanding.

Between the great taste of Golden Gate Crystal Margarine, its relative health benefits, its ridiculously low price and its really cool, reusable Rubbermaid container, switching to it should be a no-brainer. I’ve been buying this for years – and have the mountain of tupperware to prove it – and I’m going to continue, until they screw it up and change the magic recipe. I hope they don’t; I like tupperware.

Last but not least, Golden Gate is a Canadian company, despite its very Californian logo, with offices in both Ontario and Quebec. It’s great to buy local.

UPDATE – April 2016 – There is a recall affecting the Crystal Margarine sold at Costco, and possibly other places. Please visit their website or contact your local Costco for additional information.

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise at Costco: Product Review

As my until-recently expanding waistline will be happy to attest to, I’m a big fan of mayonnaise; It is the standard for a lot of my burgers, and we use it a lot in some summer dishes, such as potato and chick pea medleys, macaroni salads, fake crab and many other things. I know it’s not the best for me, but there you have it. Until recently, however, I thought that our big jars of Costco mayonnaise lasted a really long time. It was interesting to write the date I opened the last jar right on the lid so that I could finally quantify my enjoyment, so to speak. It turns out that our last jar of Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise didn’t last quite that long! Maybe we’ve been cooking more. Especially burgers.

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise

The standard by which all mayonnaise is judged is, of course, Hellmann’s. We’re talking about commercial here, not home-made. That’s a topic for another day. Now I’m not claiming to be a mayonnaise expert, although I do eat a lot of it, but as far as I can tell, and by going through a whole bunch of huge jars of mayo, is that the Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise and the Hellmann’s taste exactly the same. Same taste, same texture, same everything. Just like it came out of the same factory. Hmmm. I’m not saying it did, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had. The only difference is the price.

The current price for a 1.9 liter jar of Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise is $5.49, Canadian currency, no taxes. The going rate for a very similar jar of Hellmann’s is about $7.49 to $7.99, or $2 more. Doesn’t seem like much, but for something that costs less than $10, the difference is huge.

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise Ingredients

Like most Kirkland Signature products, the Real Mayonnaise lives up to its name and doesn’t have too much terrible or unpronounceable ingredients, which is always a relief. Not to say it’s good for you. Here are the ingredients, in order of importance:

  • Canola Oil
  • Liquid Whole Eggs and Liquid Egg Yolk
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Concentrated Lemon Juice
  • Calcium Disodium Edta
  • Citric Acid

The only thing of concern here is the Calcium Disodium EDTA, which is used to prevent air from spoiling the mayonnaise if you leave the jar open for a long time, or just keep it in the fridge for very long. It is, after all, quite a large jar. This chemical compound is quite toxic when consumed in high amounts, but there’s not much of it in the mayo. Still, something to consider.

The Verdict on Real Mayonnaise

Ok, I’ve considered it. I’m still eating the Real Mayonnaise.

Costco claims that this mayonnaise is 100% made with free range eggs, which I guess is true if they print it on the packaging, but I have a hard time imagining all those millions of chickens running around just to supply the eggs for the Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise.

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise Nutrition Facts

Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise Nutrition Facts

When it comes to nutrition, the Real Mayonnaise is about what you’d expect; 90 calories per tablespoon, which is a lot, but the main ingredients are oil and eggs, so no surprise there, and there is a relatively low amount of saturated fat, which is good. There is, however, some cholesterol, and you should look elsewhere for your proteins.

Overall, pretty good!

The last jar I bought, and which I just finished, was opened on the 4th of March of this year, 2015, and I finished it last night, June 3rd, so it lasted me exactly 91 days. The jar of mayo cost me $5.49, for a total mayonnaise cost of 6 pennies per day, more or less. Considering that I feel like I ate a lot of mayo, and never held back, I consider this a very low cost condiment and an excellent purchase. 

To be fair, even if I had bought the Hellmann’s mayonnaise, the cost for a similar period of time would only have been 8.7 pennies a day, hardly an expense to break the bank. What you really have to consider is when you buy mayonnaise anywhere else than at Costco, which is where the real expenses start piling up, as Costco is easily half the price of other retailers for this product.

What is certain is that I’m going to keep purchasing the Kirkland Signature Real Mayonnaise at Costco, so long as it tastes the same as Hellmann’s, and is cheaper. The few dollars I save there, and on countless other things, more than justify the price of my membership at Costco.

Kalas Classic Sea Salt at Costco: Product Review

Even though my wife and I shop at Costco quite a bit, and therefore buy in large quantity, we are sometimes faced with purchasing the most mundane of kitchen essentials, such as salt. I don’t remember the last time I bought salt, but it was a while ago. I had purchased the 3-pack of Windsor Table Salt, at Costco of course, but years of cooking and boiling pasta in salty water had depleted our stock.

Kalas Classic Sea Salt

Kalas Classic Sea Salt

The question I was faced with was whether to replace our Windsor Table Salt with more of the same, which is really cheap – only $2.39 for three one-kilogram boxes, or switch to the Kalas Classic Sea Salt. As you can see by the picture, and by the title of this review, I chose the Kalas.

Now, the Kalas salt is quite a bit more expensive than the Windsor; it costs $3.69 for 3 containers of 750 grams each; not only is the total price more than the Windsor, but each container is quite a bit smaller. Why the expense, then?

Well, let’s get real. It’s only about a buck fifty more for what hopefully will turn out to be a year’s worth of salt. So, you know, not the end of the world.

I also enjoy the packaging of the Kalas Classic Sea Salt more than the Windsor Table Salt. The containers are round and made of plastic, which beats hands-down Windsor’s square cardboard boxes. They are more durable, and will not leak at the seams, because, you know, it’s plastic and the seams are fused shut.

When it comes to the salt itself, I would surmise that both have the same… saltiness, for lack of a better term, but I find the Kalas tastes better, more natural if you will, while the Windsor salt has what feels as a slight chemical, bland and overly refined taste. But that could just be me.

Both salts are iodized, which is not a big deal in developed countries, where we take iodine for granted, but very important elsewhere, where iodine deficiency can lead to severe and lasting health problems.

Overall, I could certainly have been happy with buying Windsor Table Salt again, however I felt like I was due for a change, and the convenience of the packaging, coupled with the better taste of the Kalas Classic Sea Salt, convinced me that it was time for a change, even if it cost me a dollar fifty more over the course of the next year.

Kalas Classic Sea Salt (3-pack) at Costco

Kalas Classic Sea Salt (3-pack) at Costco

Of course, you could say that saving even a dollar is worth it, when you add it up with all the other dollars you save here and there – just look at my coffee example – but at some point, you just need to buy the salt you want 🙂 When it comes down to it, you’re only paying 16.4 pennies per 100 grams of salt, so you can afford it. You’re not going through kilos of this every day.

In closing, I would like to point out that the Kalas Classic Sea Salt is a product of Greece, which may help explain why it is quite affordable. It is imported in Canada by Pilaros, who import a lot of other products from Greece sold at Costco, notably the Solon Olive Oil.

Q-Tips Cotton Swabs at Costco: Product Review

Like most people, I assume, and to the delight of manufacturer Unilever, I enjoy having cotton swabs in the house. There are a million applications for them, and thanks to Costco, I can have bran-name Q-Tips Cotton Swabs in great quantity, for a low price.

Interestingly, the one thing I actually use cotton swabs most consistently is to clean my ears, and that is the only use that is directly and expressly not recommended on the package. I guess they had a lawsuit from some ‘person’ that shoved one too deep and figured it was someone else’s fault. Idiots.

Q-Tips Cotton Swabs at Costco

Q-Tips Cotton Swabs at Costco

Anyways, this package of 3 packs of 625 Q-Tips each, for a total of 1875 Q-Tips, cost $10.99. It’s not really the greatest price ever, especially since those products are on special at Costco regularly. I just couldn’t wait for the next special to buy them. We were out an my wife had me use the ‘baby-safe’ cotton swabs, which have an enormous bundle of cotton at each end (made by Johnson & Johnson). I’m sure they’re quite safe, but to clean my ears, absolutely and utterly useless.

Even at full price, the price per swab is ridiculously low: $0.059 each, or less than a penny each. Of course, these are brand-name Q-Tips and not some cheap dollar-store knock-off, so you know that they are made from 100% real cotton. The packaging even has the official ‘Cotton’ seal to prove it, as you can see on the picture above, bottom left. So there you have it.

According to said packaging, there are many uses for Q-Tips Cotton Swabs. They include:

  • Blending and applying eye shadow
  • Apply and soften lipstick
  • Remove mascara smudges
  • Touch up and remove nail polish
  • Clean your ears… oh wait: *not* clean your ears

Assuming my wife and I each use two of these a day, we should have enough Q-Tips for about 15, 16 months or so. Even though I had to pay full price for these, I consider that the convenience and quality of brand-name Q-Tips cotton swabs is worth the few extra dollars. Even so, a quick check on Amazon tells me that even at full price, these are quite a deal. Hopefully they will go on sale at Costco in the next 29 days or so, and I’ll be able to go in for a price adjustment.

Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic: Product Review

There are some things that one should always have in their kitchen, if they’re planning on cooking anything else than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Olive oil is one such obvious ingredient that you can’t be without. Onions are another, and if you like stuff that tastes good, then garlic should also be at the top of the list. I personally prefer fresh, local garlic over anything else, but there is a problem with that.

First of all, fresh local garlic is only available a few months a year here. Second, it’s is *dreadfully* expensive. Ridiculously so. So much I may never buy it again, on principle.

I therefore have to rely on what the grocery store offers, and generally speaking, it’s cheap Chinese garlic. Don’t get me wrong, it does the job, but California garlic is much tastier, and the bulbs are bigger. Better quality, overall, and it hasn’t traveled as far to get to my table. When I run out of “fresh” Chinese or California garlic, or when I’m feeling to lazy to cut and prepare it, I’m happy to fall back on Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic, available only at Costco.

Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic

Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic (item #581871 at Costco)

Now, let me get one thing straight right away: garlic that comes in a jar, even if it’s from Costco and bears the Kirkland Signature name, does *not* taste exactly like fresh garlic.

I usually would not use this type of garlic in a recipe that calls for raw, or uncooked garlic, as the taste will not be the same. The exception I make to this rule is my famous oil and garlic pasta, and I think it’s only because I’ve gotten used to the taste.

Overall, the Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic tastes very … garlicky … although it is not nearly as strong and biting as actual raw garlic, not by a long shot. If you didn’t much care about having a social life, or friends, or talking to people in person, you could eat this garlic by the spoonful, something that would prove difficult for most people with fresh raw garlic.

The ingredients in the Minced California Garlic as simple: garlic, water and citric acid, which is used as a conservation agent. This gives the garlic a citrus-like after taste, which is not unpleasant but mostly disappears when the garlic is cooked.

My favorite use for this type of garlic is to include it in cooked recipe. When I’m in a rush, and the recipe calls for a few cloves a garlic, and they’re going to cook, I usually reach for my Kirkland Signature Minced Garlic. Quick, tasty and easy. That’s the ticket.

In terms of value, Costco is practically giving this stuff away. I bought a 1.36 kilogram jar of Minced California Garlic for the price of $5.79, Canadian dollars. According to the information on the jar, 2.5 ml, or half a teaspoon of the stuff, represents 1 clove of garlic. A quick, approximate calculation, and I say approximate since the jar is labeled by weight, in kilograms, and the equivalent is in volume, in mL. Thanks to the magic of the metric system, we can calculate that there are approximately the equivalent of 544 cloves of garlic in this jar.

This is a *lot*, and if we were to buy this much garlic, fresh and from California, it would cost a heck of a lot more than $5.79.

Here is the run-down of the information you need about this product:

  • Name: Kirkland Signature Minced California Garlic
  • Available at: Costco, Amazon (more expensive)
  • Price: $5.79 (in Canada)
  • Volume: 1.36 kilograms (3 pounds or 48 ounces)
  • Price per serving (5 grams): $0.0212 (2.1 pennies)
  • Provenance: United States

I don’t think you can buy garlic for that cheap, anywhere. While this Minced California Garlic is not a 100% substitute for the real thing, it works quite well as an occasional replacement and can last over a year (in the refrigerator) once opened. I heartily recommend it to anyone.

Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Costco: Product Review

I love to cook, and no food is complete without olive oil. I exaggerate, but not much. While I don’t always use extra virgin olive oil to actually cook, I go through a ton of it in pasta, salads and other applications, so getting a great price really counts. Thanks to Costco and their unbeatable specials, I get to indulge – a lot – in my love of olive oil.

Last week I purchased one of my favorite oils (not *the* favorite, but that’s a story for another day) at Costco, with a $4 instant rebate. My 3-liter jug of Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, imported from Greece, ended up costing me a paltry $15.99 after the rebate (it was originally $19.99). These prices are all in Canadian dollars.

Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Costco

Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Costco

Overall, I’m very happy with this olive oil. On the pros side of things, the taste is powerful but not overpowering, the color is a pleasing dark green and the aroma is just enchanting, but not too strong. I never buy this oil at full price, even at Costco. It comes on special all the time, so I pay only $15.99 for 3 liters, which comes down to $5.33 per liter.

According to numerous websites, paying less than $10 per liter could be a sign that your olive oil is fake, but I trust that Costco has done its due diligence and is selling genuine olive oil. At $5.33 per liter when bought in a 3-liter container, price is a determining factor when purchasing Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil. As a point of comparison, this website sells the exact same container for $30.99, US dollars.

Now, on to the cons. There are not major, but they are present, and are mostly related to packaging and format. Just like – I think – most people, I will not transfer this oil to another container for use. I use it straight from the 3-liter jug. The mouth of the bottle is too wide and pours too freely. It is difficult to pour small quantities of oil.

This is compounded by the fact that the bottle is not rigid enough. When holding the bottle to pour oil, it is quite easy to accidentally squeeze the bottle, letting out a bunch of oil that you unfortunately cannot put back in the jug. Also, the bottle’s cap is of dubious quality and doesn’t always close properly.

These minor irritants aside, I’m quite happy to purchase Solon Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Costco. The quality is there, as always, and because you’re shopping at Costco, the quantity is there, too. This is one of the items that I know makes my Costco membership not only affordable, but a great deal.

Update – October 7th, 2015 – The Solon Olive Oil is on special again at Costco (Canada), $4 off. Time to stock up, while quantities last! The special lasts until Sunday October 11th, 2015.

Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs Product Review

Today I thought I would share with you another one of my regular Costco, Kirkland Signature purchases, namely the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs. They come in a little clear bucket with a yellow top, there are 110 pacs in the bucket, and the whole thing costs $10.89, Canadian dollars.

Because of the size of the package, I don’t have to buy this often, at most twice a year, and that’s probably an exaggeration. Like most automatic dishwasher detergent, Costco’s dishwasher pacs claim the following:

  • Grease-Fighting Power
  • Sparkling Clean, Streak-Free Dishes
  • Ease and Convenience
  • Lemon Scent
Costco's Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs (Item number 567036 in Canada)

Costco’s Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs (Item number 567036 in Canada)

What I like most about them, besides the fact that they work as advertized, is their cost: only 9.9 pennies per use. Thirty or forty cents a week to have all my dishes clean sounds pretty good to me!

Let’s be clear about one thing: this isn’t a gel-filled, swirly little pack with different colors in it; it is a no-frills, powder-filled pack that somehow manages to do the job quite well. Costco’s Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs is a product that has delivered for me very well, at a very good price over the last few years, and I would be happy to recommend it to anyone. To learn more about dishwashers and dishwasher detergents and pacs, please follow this link.

Update – October 2nd, 2015 – Despite what I had decided to do – read the comments below – I’ve decided to purchase another bucket of Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Packs. The price has gone up since I last bought them, all the way up to $12.99, but that’s still only 11.81 cents per load. Very acceptable, considering the price of the competition has gone up, too.

Kirkland Signature Create-A-Size Paper Towels Review

I love paper towels as much as the next guy, and when smaller sheets started appearing among major manufacturers, I was happy, as I understood I could use less to clean minor spills than I previously did. When Costco’s Kirkland Signature line of products started offering the ‘Create-A-Size’ paper towels, I switched to that brand right away.

Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Paper Towels

Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Paper Towels

This paper towel offers great value; it is sold – at Costco only – in packs of 12 individually wrapped rolls for $15.49 (Canadian dollars), which comes out to $1.29 per roll. I have personally purchased this latest batch on special with $3 off, which lowers the cost per roll to $1.04.

Each rolls contains 160 11″ x 7″ ‘small sheets’, in a 2-ply configuration. This means a total surface area of 85 square feet of paper towel, or so the package tells me. I’m sure they did their math correctly.

In terms of absorption, the Kirkland Signature paper towels perform admirably, at least as well as major brands. When I find really impressive is that I can take a single sheet, completely imbibe it with water – or whatever else – wring it, rinse it, wring it again and reuse it. You can’t do that with every brand, especially not the cheaper store brands of lesser stores.

The bottom line is this: this is a great paper towel, and I’m happy to use it, and I’ll gladly recommend it to friends, family and readers. What I didn’t know is that there are people out there that take their paper towels seriously. I mean *seriously*. Check out this guest post on ‘Addicted to Costco’. I’m not criticizing, and it’s probably because of these folks that I can enjoy these highly-convenient Create-a-Size paper towels. That being said, when I couldn’t get smaller sheets, I just cut or ripped them as I saw fit and it never was much of a problem, or issue. It just seems that an arbitrarily-placed perforated line should not dictate how I use the product…

Update – September 21st, 2015 – I replenished my stock of paper towels recently, not the first time since originally writing this review. The price of the Kirkland Signature Create-a-Size Paper Towels has climber to $15.99 per package. When shopping at my local Costco, I saw that the Bounty paper towels were on special – $19.99, minus $4, so the same price as the Kirkland, so I figured, they’re on special, might as well give them a try, it must be good value, right?

Wrong.

Each package of 12 rolls of Bounty paper towels contains a total of 61.2 square meters of paper towels, which might seem like a lot, but pales in comparison to Costco’s paper towels, which clock in at a staggering 95.4 square meters, or a whopping 1027 square feet per 12-roll package.

Even assuming that the Bounty is a superior product, which it’s not, I would be a fool to ignore such incredible savings. Anyone would be. And remember, that’s when the Bounty is *on special*.