What I Buy At Trader Joe’s

September 20, 2012

Today is my baby sister’s birthday. She thinks she’s really old now.

Sis, you will always be younger than me. Does that make you feel better :) ?

She’s the best. Here we are making stuff:

And eating stuff (Mom, what were we eating?):

That was twenty-something years ago (if the wallpaper didn’t give it away)!

My sister lives in Texas. A few days ago, she sent me this text: “We finally got a Trader Joe’s! I need a list of things to try there.”

Cole, if you were here I’d bake you a fluffy layer cake with buttercream frosting. Since you’re 1500 miles away, I made you this list instead. Happy Birthday!

I’m still THIS happy you were born:

Click below for the list

Some gals are into buying shoes, makeup, home stuff and clothes. I enjoy all of that too, but my absolute favorite kind of shopping is grocery shopping. I LOVE grocery shopping. My husband (D) does not understand. At all. I do a big chunk of our grocery buying at Trader Joe’s and we are lucky to have several locations in the city now. TJ’s is constantly introducing new products, which is great; The downside of this is that other products have to be pulled in order to make room for the new stuff. Therefore, know that your new favorite product may potentially vanish one day. The list below contains the things I buy over and over again. Many of the items on this list have stuck around  TJ’s shelves for years. I haven’t included seasonal items. In no particular order:

Vacuum Fried Banana Chips

These things are amazing. S0000 much better than regular banana chips. It’s really hard for me not to polish off the bag in one day. You can find them by the dried/freeze dried fruits (all of which are a great deal). Other favorites are the freeze dried grapes and the vacuum fried pineapple chips.

Peeled and Cut Butternut Squash

I don’t buy a lot of produce at TJ’s and I almost never purchase pre-cut produce because I can save so much money by preparing it myself. However, this is an exception. I love butternut squash but sometimes I feel too lazy, don’t have time, or feel that it’s a dangerous operation (those things are hard). It would probably help if I had decent knives, but until then…this stuff is great. Heads up: it goes bad really quickly (sometimes within a day or two of purchasing), so plan accordingly.

Tuscan Pane

I rarely eat white bread but I buy this more than any other kind because it’s D’s favorite. He refers to it as “that goood bread.” It’s chewy with crisp edges and can turn a plain old sandwich into something awesome (especially when grilled/George Foreman-ed).

Mac ‘n Cheese

This is another item that I purchase specifically for D. There’s always at least one box of this stuff in our freezer. It’s 360 calories per serving and there are two servings per box (which he eats by himself in one sitting). He says he needs a lot of carbs since he’s training for a marathon. Sometimes I’ll have a bite or two but that’s it. I will never be training for a marathon. If he didn’t request it every week or so, this wouldn’t be on my list (although it is tasty). FYI: They make a reduced fat version but D says it’s not as good.

Garlic Flavored Olive Oil

I have a big bottle of regular olive oil in my kitchen but I reach for this most often. I think it’s a great deal at 3.99 a bottle (8.5 ounces).

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle

I’ve been buying this stuff for years and I’ll be bummed if it ever goes away. Boil and drain this pasta and then toss it with some olive oil, lemon juice and fresh parmesan (and if you’re feeling extra fancy- a little creme fraiche) and you’ve got an instant dinner.

Fat Free Frozen Greek Yogurt

This is a somewhat new product. As you may know, I’m a little obsessed with tangy frozen yogurt. Sometimes I pay a lot for it at a yogurt shop, sometimes I make it, and now I have the option of keeping it in my freezer at all times for 3.99 a carton (32 oz).

Greek Style Nonfat Plain Yogurt

I eat this yogurt with granola, in smoothies, and with fruit on top. I also use it in place of sour cream. Greek yogurt tends to be expensive and this is priced competitively.

Chicken Broth Concentrate

Each little packet is filled with a gravy-like concentrate that you mix with a cup of hot water. Are they as good as the real thing? Nah, but I keep them around because you never know when you’ll need chicken broth…and when you have little to no cupboard space, these definitely come in handy.

Fresh Tortellini and Ravioli

These come in several different flavors and I generally like them all. They are super affordable and make the easiest, fastest dinners. You just boil each package for a few minutes and then add sauce, olive oil, cheese, veggies, etc. The tortellinis are great in pasta salads.

Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

I love the petite size and chewy texture of these tortillas. They’re perfect for a snack sized wrap or quesadillas. Each one is a mere 45 calories.

Spice Grinders

My spice rack is quickly becoming dominated by TJ’s spices. They’re a steal–particularly the ones that come in grinder containers. I’ve paid three times as much for similar products. My newest (totally unnecessary yet completely useful) purchases were the cinnamon-sugar grinder (cinnamon-sugar toast!) and a sugar, chocolate & coffee bean one that I will use on everything that seems appropriate.

Boxed Rice

So lazy, right? I mean, how hard is it to make rice? Especially when you own a rice cooker (and I do). But this stuff is so great when you need to eat rice right now. It comes in frozen baggies and you pop them in the microwave for 3 minutes. There are several varieties but the one pictured (rice medley) is my favorite.

Frozen Fruit

Great prices. I mostly buy these in the summer for smoothies.

Speculoos Cookie Butter

This is literally hiding in the back of a cabinet so that I don’t sit down and eat it all in one sitting. It’s a spread made of gingerbread cookies and it’s crazy-delicious.

Pineapple Salsa

A jar of this salsa lives in our fridge at all times.

Honey Roasted Almonds

TJ’s has the best prices on nuts, period. I buy all of my nuts for cooking, baking and snacking there. These sweet, crunchy almonds are my new favorite. They’re great on yogurt, salads and oatmeal but my favorite way to eat them is straight out of the bag.

Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats

I love the texture of steel cut oats but I don’t love how long they take to cook. Enter: Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats. I eat a lot of this when it’s cold outside.

Cheese

I buy most of my cheeses at Trader Joe’s, but this freshly shaved blend is the staple that sits in the fridge at all times. It’s inexpensive, flavorful and versatile.

Balsamic Glaze

This stuff is great because it has multiple uses. You can use it as a marinade, drizzle it onto meats and veggies or use it in desserts. Strawberries+ whipped cream+ this= awesome. You can make your own glaze by reducing balsamic vinegar into a syrup but this is much more convenient.

Non-food items:

Enrich Face Moisturizer w/ spf 15: I’ve tried everything from super high-end brands to DIY kitchen concoctions and this is the only face moisturizer I’ve ever repurchased (I’m probably on my 10th bottle). I put this on my face every day. My ornery skin likes it. It does leave your face a little shiny but not greasy. Does that make sense?

Orange Air Therapy (Room Freshener): This is a great product (as long as you like the smell of oranges). It’s all natural. It works. I have a stinky french bulldog, you know.

Things I don’t have pictures of–because I can’t have them in my apartment– because I have no self control:

Fleur de sel caramels

Kettle Corn

Chocolate covered toffee brittle with pistachios

Ice Cream (especially the Joe’s O’s/cookies and cream w/peppermint in the winter)

This is not a comprehensive list, but these are definitely the first things that came to mind. I love finding and trying new products and hearing about products that other people like. What do you like to buy at Trader Joe’s? Please share!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

D September 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

Love all of these things. And the lady who buys them.

One major omission here: salted peanut butter pretzels. Stupid good/addicting.

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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Nicole September 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Our love of grocery shopping must be hereditary! Thanks for the suggestions, sis!

Reply

Brian September 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

It is indeed in the blood! I just brought your mom to her first Trader Joe’s experience here in Des Moines. She left with lots of new goodies. Great post. Welcome back!

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Kayla September 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

I like the chocolate almond spread! It’s like nutella but with almonds instead of hazelnuts. It’s hiding in the back of my cupboard so I don’t over indulge!
And I like the individual bags of kettle corn- instant portion control!
And their liquid egg whites are cheaper than anywhere I’ve found.
The tea tree oil body wash is fantastic too, I ship it to my mom in NC because they don’t have a Trader Joes just yet, theirs opens in December.
And the 5 layer fiesta dip (in the refrigerated section). It doesn’t last more than a day in my house. Sooo good!

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M.E. September 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Thanks! All of this sounds wonderful.

Reply

dieta September 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I love to stir a spoonful of nut butter into my oatmeal – keeps me full for hours, especially if I’ve taken the time to make steel cut oats the night before.If I’m feeling decadent I’ll also throw a few chocolate chips in there, too, but I often just opt for nut butter with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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