Purely Elizabeth Peanut Butter bar

I picked up a box of 12 Purely Elizabeth peanut butter bars at a Bay Area Grocery Outlet last week. They are marketed as Whole Food Nut + Seed Bars, and the ingredient list verifies this: peanuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower kernels are the top three ingredients and they also contain hemp and chia seeds and almond meal. They are sweetened using coconut sugar and also include coconut in the form of flakes and raw coconut oil. An intriguing ingredient is reishi extract – I was interested to see this because medicinal mushrooms are on my mind these days and I had bought a reishi mushroom supplement recently. Almost all of the ingredients are organic.

Buying them by the box directly from Purely Elizabeth, they work out at $2.29 each, while the Grocery Outlet was selling them for $0.50 each.

Purely Elizabeth Peanut Butter bar - image of front and back of product packaging showing ingredients and nutrition facts.

About Purely Elizabeth

I have to admit that I wasn’t really aware of the company until I saw its products at the Grocery Outlet. Purely Elizabeth was founded in Boulder, Colorado, by Elizabeth Stein, who wanted to apply her background in integrative nutrition. This rings true to me as nutritional content does seem to be the main driving force of the products. The company is now over 10 years old and, besides the energy bars, has become popular for its granola, oatmeal, and baking mixes (pancakes, waffles, bread, muffins). I also spotted Purely Elizabeth superfood oatmeal (cranberry & pumpkin seed) at the Grocery Outlet last week.

There are so many bars available these days and yet many of them fall short nutritionally and/or ethically. For example, Kind bars (also available at the Grocery Outlet) are popular because of their image as healthy and kind. However, I evaluated Kind Snacks on the Green Stars Project and rated the company 2/5 Green Stars for a failure to source sustainable ingredients and for a lack of transparency. I’ll get to the ethical rating for Purely Elizabeth in a moment.

Purely Elizabeth bars – would I buy them again?

Totally! I intend to pick these up again on my next trip to the Grocery Outlet. Because of lockdown I’ve found it handy to have some kind of bars around and I could eat Purely Elizabeth bars regularly. I also want to get seeds into my diet as much as possible – seeds are, after all, a complete plant in one tiny package, containing a lot of minerals like zinc that many of us are deficient in.

First impression was that they were very dry but once I got over that, they grew on me, as many healthier foods tend to. Their dryness actually makes them perfect for carrying around since they weigh so little yet contain 230 calories of mainly seeds and nuts – think of them like lembas bread 😉 Their lightness and high energy content makes them pretty much ideal for hiking. I also like snacks that are a little salty, so these fit the bill there – but they are not too salty, with each bar delivering only 6% of your recommended daily sodium. The balance of nutrients is good, with 7 g protein, 3 g fiber and 7 g total sugars (5 g of which is added coconut sugar) per 40 g bar.

Purely Elizabeth Peanut Butter bar - the image shows the bar itself, with the wrapper in the background.

Ethical rating for Purely Elizabeth Peanut Butter bar

I do try to avoid packaging as much as possible, so I sometimes make my own bars from ingredients that I’ve bought in bulk. But right now, because of lockdown, most bulk sections are closed and I would have to buy ingredients in individual packages. At some point I’ll write a post about another whole food bar (Liv Bar) that comes in compostable packaging. Meanwhile, here’s my review of Purely Elizabeth bars:

Overall, I think that Purely Elizabeth bars deserve 4.5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • It’s a certified vegan product.
  • Almost all of the ingredients are organic.
  • Purely Elizabeth (PE) is a woman-owned business.
  • It’s also a certified B Corporation (although their score isn’t high; the company just about qualifies).
  • PE has donated to food banks and local schools.
  • Low-glycemic, nutrient rich foods have many social benefits and also environmental benefits.  
  • The company accepted funding from General Mills in 2017 so it’ll be interesting to see if PE maintains its ethical standards (General Mills rates poorly). I hope they do but I noticed that PE used to be a member of 1% for the Planet but it looks like this has been dropped now. Also, the Mission and Values page on PE’s website is also no longer available.
  • Room for improvement: a compostable wrapper. Also, it’s about time that the company started reporting on corporate responsibility (carbon footprint, etc.).

Summary scores (out of 5) for Purely Elizabeth peanut butter bars:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe 🙂

Beyond Sausage at the Grocery Outlet

Visiting the Grocery Outlet in October, I was most excited to find Beyond Meat sausages on sale in their freezer – the Sweet Italian flavor of Beyond Sausage, which was new to me. I’ve tried their Hot Italian and their Brat Original sausages and the latter have become a regular buy for me – semi-regular, as they’re usually priced a little over $9 at Whole Foods. So, seeing the new flavor of Beyond Sausage at the Grocery Outlet for $3.49, I bought eight packs – just enough to fill the remaining space in my freezer! I don’t normally buy such large quantities of anything but its lockdown (the excuse for everything, ha ha) and it’s nice to have a change of pace from avocado toast for lunch.

Is Beyond Sausage still available at the Grocery Outlet?

First off, I don’t know if you’re going to be lucky enough to find the Beyond Sausages at your Grocery Outlet now that it’s November. But there’s a reasonable chance as this isn’t the first time that I’ve found Beyond Meat products in one of my local Bay Area (California) stores. Previously I found meatballs from Beyond Meat at the Alameda store, if my fuzzy lockdown brain recalls correctly. This blog is just getting started so I’m a little behind schedule for now, but I’m hoping in future to post reviews of products very soon after I find them. The Grocery Outlet isn’t like a regular store – popular products will sometimes sell out over a few weeks. But don’t despair – they often return!

A package of Beyond Meat Sweet Italian sausages, labeled as Beyond Sausage, available at the Grocery Outlet.

How to cook Beyond Sausage (Sweet Italian)

Since I had so many sausages to experiment with, I discovered a few things to improve them. At first I wasn’t enjoying the Sweet Italian sausages as much as the Original Brat that I normally buy. They tasted too charred on the outside, too undone on the inside and a little too sweet overall. Three things helped to make them a lot better:

  1. Cook them at a lower temperature than you would expect. Beyond Meat sausages are made with coconut oil, which has a lower smoke point than most other oils. So, the key thing is to cook them on a medium heat – if your kitchen smells smoky (or of charred food) after you’ve finished cooking then the cooking temperature was probably too high. I cook mine for about 8-10 minutes in a non-stick pan coated with a very small amount of olive oil, flipping them once, which brings me to the next point.
  2. Split the sausages down the middle before cooking. This may sound wrong as the sausages have a casing to keep them intact (it’s made from alginate, which comes from seaweed) and I didn’t need to split the Original Brat sausages that I normally eat. But when I cooked the Sweet Italian sausages whole, the inside of the sausage seemed a little undercooked to me and I didn’t like the pinkish color. So now I split them down the middle, lengthwise (don’t worry, they won’t fall apart!) and cook them on the round (casing) side first and then flip them to cook the open flat side.
  3. Eat these with fixings like lettuce and tomato. Because of their slight sweetness, the sausages work much better when you pair them with any of the typical fixings like lettuce, tomato, or avocado. Typically, I toast a little bread (whole-wheat walnut or sourdough work well), butter it (optional!) and then stack lettuce, tomato, salt and pepper and half a sausage (split down the middle before cooking). Because they contain a fair amount of fat it’s really good to pair them with healthy veggies, both for taste and health 🙂
An open-faced sandwich composed of avocado, lettuce, tomato, and half a sausage from Beyond Meat on sourdough bread. The Beyond Sausage was purchased at the Grocery Outlet.
I need to work on my photography!

Now that I’ve discovered a good way to cook and eat these, I’m super-happy that I have 5 more packs in the freezer! They aren’t quite as good as the Original Brat, in my opinion, but they’re pretty close – and at around one-third of the Whole Foods price, I’m totally sold on them. Now let’s take a look at how they rate ethically….

Ethical rating for Beyond Sausage (Sweet Italian)

I’ve previously written about the sustainability of Beyond Meat on The Green Stars Project, so please take a look at that post for more information, including detail on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of peas versus other protein such as meat. As you probably know, the main ingredient of Beyond Meat products such as Beyond Sausage is pea protein, usually followed by coconut oil and sunflower oil.

Overall, I think that Beyond Sausage deserves 4.5 Green Stars (out of 5) for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • It’s a vegan product that avoids hardship to animals
  • Life-cycle assessments show that peas are far more sustainable than meat
  • A 2018 Oxford University study looked at various metrics such as carbon and pollution footprints and land use. Peas (and other legumes) scored really well on all fronts.
  • Legumes generally require far less fertilizer as these plants can fix their own nitrogen
  • Packaging for Beyond Sausage is impressive – a cardboard tray (which I can recycle as the sausage casing prevents them from staining the cardboard) and a thin film with a label.
  • Room for improvement: I’d like to see Beyond Meat use organic sunflower oil, as almost all conventional sunflower crops are treated with neonics, insecticides that harm bees.
  • I’d also like to see corporate sustainability reporting from Beyond Meat and more information on ingredient sourcing. Especially now that it’s a huge public company.

I had been debating whether to do Green Stars ratings only in whole units, or to allow half-stars also. In my original post on Beyond Meat, I awarded the sausages 5/5 Green Stars. Now, I’m thinking that it’s useful to be able to score in half-star increments as it allows more nuance – in this case I’m dropping half a Green Star as a way of telling Beyond Meat that I’d like them to use organic sunflower oil in their products and to publish more information on sustainability (e.g., a CSR report).

Overall, though, I think Beyond Sausage is one of the most ethical meat substitutes around.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Beyond Sausage Sweet Italian:

  • 4 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe and don’t panic 🙂

Grocery Outlet Wine Sale, Nov 4-10, 2020

The Grocery Outlet wine sale runs from November 4-10, 2020. The Grocery Outlet is becoming well known for wine deals and prices are reduced a further 20% for all wines during the sale. One of the fun things about shopping at the Grocery Outlet is finding new things, since the stock is constantly changing. And this is especially true for wine because you really won’t know what you’ve found until you get home and try it 🙂

About half of my shopping time at the Grocery Outlet is usually spent in the wine aisle – and it’s always fun. Weighing up options like a risky $60 bottle of wine that’s reduced to $15 versus a $6 bottle that looks just as promising (but only reduced from $12). Of course, I rely on some research (Vivino is a good source of user-generated ratings for wine) but for some reason I never seem to get good phone reception in my local Grocery Outlet. Are stores made out of some special cellular-signal-blocking material to foil people from researching wine too much?! In this crazy year of ridiculous conspiracy theories I almost feel that I should point out that I was joking there.

But there’s a general sense of excitement about the wine at Grocery Outlet and I think it comes down to the unpredictability of the outcome. Many of the wines are good, some are dull, and a few turn out to be incredible (for the price). Then, if you discover (sitting at home, later on) that your $15 bottle of wine would have been a good buy even at $60 there’s also a second part to the adventure: Is the wine still at the store?! Because, of course, it may have taken you one or two weeks to get around to trying the wine and by then many others may have also discovered it.

The Grocery Outlet Wine Sale will be November 4-10, 2020. The image is a ad from the Grocery Outlet announcing an extra 20% off wine during the sale.
The Grocery Outlet Wine Sale will be November 4-10, 2020

Grocery Outlet Wine Sale – Recommendations?

Of course, the thrill of finding a good wine is amplified (and it’s hard to find amplified thrills during lockdown) if you can also go back and buy it during the Grocery Outlet wine sale – your $15 find is now $12, meaning you can buy four and cellar three of them. And by cellaring, I mean store in a wine box on the floor of your closet.

For finding leads on good wine, I recommend the WordPress blog, The magical world of wines from Grocery Outlet (aka, GrossOutWine) – The page titled What’s New?,  is a pretty active comment thread on wine finds.

So, last week I bought these two wines, knowing that the sale is about to start:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon from Experience, Napa, 2016. $15 at the Grocery Outlet, normally $25. This wine is rated 4.0 out of 5 by users on Vivino, which is pretty good. I find that most wines that score 3.8 or higher on Vivino are worth trying if the price is reasonable.
  2. Barbera reserve from Sunce, Clear Lake, 2017 (St. Olof Vineyard). $10. This wine is limited – only 9 barrels were made. The 2018 vintage is listed at $34 on Sunce’s website.

I’m about to try them and will post comments below once I do.

Grocery Outlet wine sale. The image shows two wines purchased before the sale: Sunce barbera 2017 and Experience cabernet sauvignon, 2016.
I just noticed after taking this photo that the two labels bring together the sun and the moon!

Ethical ratings for wine?

Since the point of this site is to find ethical bargains, I’m going to try to get into the ethical side a little bit in future posts. Several of the wineries that I’ve been to around Napa & Sonoma have talked about their sustainability in some form. For example, check out Napa’s Honig winery for their sustainability stories on birds, bees, solar panels and sniffer dogs! They also offer an Eco Tour, which will hopefully resume post-lockdown.

Finding information on some wineries will be a bit tricky, so I expect that determining ethical ratings for wine will a bit more challenging than for food products. It has been a tough year for Napa and Sonoma though – along with having to deal with the pandemic and crazy president like the rest of us, they’ve also endured some of the worst fires in state history. So there are good reasons to support these wineries by buying wine from these regions. Of course, wine is very important for us, too, when dealing with the pandemic, wildfires, and crazy president. Cheers!


Welcome to the site for discovering ethical bargains at the Grocery Outlet!

You may be wondering why on earth I’ve started a site on such a specific topic.

Good question! Well, hopefully it’ll become apparent over time but here are a few reasons:

  • The Grocery Outlet is becoming popular as a fun store for shopping for bargains.
  • Store inventory changes fast so there’s always something new to discover.
  • Stores feature products by newer brands, many of which are actually pretty ethical.
  • Our current Covid-19 pandemic is hurting many people, economically, so it’s important to show that we can find ethical products on a budget.

The idea came to me during the summer after I wrote an ethical review of the Grocery Outlet on my ethical consumerism site, the Green Stars Project.

The blog will highlight products that I purchased at the Grocery Outlet and take a look at how they rate ethically, that is for social and environmental impact.

A few important things to point out:

  • Like it’s sister site, The Green Stars Project, this is a non-profit blog and project.
  • That means that I won’t be doing any sponsored posts on this site.
  • Nor will I be looking for any kind of sponsorship from the Grocery Outlet.
  • Being impartial is central to the goal of assigning ethical ratings to products.

One of the goals here is to start a culture where we really start to think about the impact of the items we buy and the companies we support. If this year has taught us anything it’s that our social and environmental issues need to become front and center in our lives.

How ethical is the Grocery Outlet?

This post is going to be a short version of a post that I published earlier in 2020 on the Green Stars Project: Ethical review of the Grocery Outlet.

What exactly is an ethical review? Well, it’s basically a review of a product or business in which the rating is for social and environmental impact.

Normally we rate products for price and quality and this is usually summed up as a rating somewhere between 1 and 5 gold stars.

The goal of the Green Stars Project and the posts on this site is to include the rating for price and quality as normal, but also to include a rating for social and environmental impact, summed up as a rating somewhere between 1 and 5 green stars.

Perhaps the best way to explain it is by example. So here’s my Green Stars review of the Grocery Outlet store as a whole:

Grocery Outlet – ethical review

Overall, I think that the Grocery Outlet deserves 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • Stocking food that would otherwise be in danger of being tossed out because of packaging changes, overstock, imperfections, or looming expiration dates, is part of the solution to the huge problem of food waste.
  • Stores have been trending towards stocking more plant-based and organic food.
  • The Grocery Outlet stocks a good number of brands that rate well ethically, making them available to low-income people that may otherwise have trouble affording them.
  • A good number of these brands are also smaller, local companies.
  • On Glassdoor you can get a feel for how happy employees are at the Grocery Outlet. The average rating for Grocery Outlet is decent at 3.4 out of 5 but the stores are independently owned so experiences vary. For example, an employee at a San Francisco store mentions good benefits including full health insurance, while employees at another store seem to receive minimum wage and no benefits. So it’ll vary from store to store.
  • They have an annual Independence from Hunger campaign that raises funds or food donations for local shelters and food banks.

So there you have it. A score of 4/5 is decent. There’s room for improvement but it’s better than average, in my opinion. The rest of this site will be dedicated to individual products that I purchased at the Grocery Outlet. The goal here is to eventually start seeing your opinions too!

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 30 percent of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming. –  Washington Post.