My Favorite Brands

Butter (Salted)

Kerrygold or Amish Butter in log form

Cheese and Lunch Meats

Buy good quality; I believe Boar’s Head is all gluten-free. If you can buy imported, go for it.


Horizon Organic (the red carton with the very happy cow)


King Arthur


DeCecco or handmade (actually, the basic brand they carry at Target is pretty good too)


Nielsen-Massey or homemade

Butter (Unsalted)

Land o’ Lakes


I regularly use Ghirardelli, but the options for this category are endless and delicious. I tend to like darker chocolate, but it depends on the recipe.


Farm fresh or organic; we tend to use Eggland’s Best because the quality is always good.


Bob’s Red Mill or bulk grains


C & H. I’m not so picky on this one, but I find that it isn’t lumpy. It isn’t organic, but things like local honey or agave can often be used as a sweetener in place of sugar. I never use fake sweeteners.

Other Extracts

Nielsen-Massey makes other flavors, but if you can’t find what you need from them, at least be sure the label says “pure”, not “imitation”.

Misc Notes

HomeGoods carries lots of pasta imported from Italy, so there are lots of fun things to try. They also have sprinkles, grains, spices and lots of other good stuff!

Less processed food is almost always better.

I do have to say, I don’t always buy organic fruits and vegetables because sometimes the quality isn’t as good and they go bad quickly. But if the quality is good and the price is reasonable, I will try to go organic.

Meats – I often get organic beef and chicken, but not always. No one has an unlimited food budget, but I have a big freezer and will try to stock up on good-quality meats when they go on sale.

Fish/Seafood – Here is what I have been told about fish. If you are purchasing from a grocery store or another big store, not a fish market, frozen is often a better choice, unless it is a fish the store sells a lot. Salmon is often fresh because it sells quickly. I can’t promise it’s true, but it makes good sense.

Ask if the fish is fresh. If it has been frozen and thawed and is sitting in the case, it is better to get frozen. The person who told me about this said that much of the time, fish is now handled and even frozen on the boats to preserve freshness. Take that for what it’s worth, but ask questions about fish for the best quality.

Assumptions generally made in recipes unless otherwise specified:

  • Eggs are large and butter is unsalted.

Final Comments

My kids and their friends have some allergies and dietary restrictions, which is part of why I choose the ingredients I do, but I also find that they offer good quality and flavor. You will need to find the products that work for your family. We tend to use more high-end products, but you can certainly find sales, coupons, and mid-range brands that allow you to cook great food just as well. Also, look for seasonal items and stock up when things are on sale or when you make the big trip to the store. I think freezers are a great asset, but you need to care for the food properly, before and after freezing.