If phrenology was real and applied to the heart, there would be a decent-size chunk of the part of mine that beats faster for food labeled “Trader Joe’s.” While TJ’s fan base is comprised of old people, young people, in-betweens who tote along very young people… the store appeals specifically to basics through:
- seasonal products (they sold German spice cookies, Pfeffernusse, this year at xmas time and I was so excited because my family makes them every year. TJ’s were completely different but delicious)
- random novelty items that you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere (everything bagel seasoning, blueberry flax meal – RIP)
- extensive freezer and fridge prepared meals (all the Indian food)
- flavors from all over the place (harissa, umami paste, stroopwafels)
- mix-&-match six packs + Charles Shaw (relevant)
I did my first grocery shopping for myself in college at Trader Joe’s, and it was the perfect match for my sometimes-really healthy, other times mac n cheese and onion bagels lifestyle at the time (and by the way, those onion bagels are amazing). Though I’ve been shopping at the co-op more and more, I feel the least I can do is to pay my respects to TJ’s by sharing some of my lesser-known favorites.
I’M SORRY BUT TRADER JOES HAS THE BEST (national grocery store chain selection of) CHEESE OF ALL TIME. I don’t know what you’re into, but if it is some kind of cheese and you value either money or convenience, you should buy it here. The unexpected cheddar is my favorite. I love cheddar and I love parm and this cheese is both plus those delectable crunchy protein crystal things minus a hindersome rind. My other favorites are the cheddar-gruyere blend, the Toscano syrah-soaked cheese, all the chevre, and the FRENCH brie (different from and better than triple cream brie). I discovered last week over a Dnd cheese plate that the Cotswold double gloucester with chive and onion + apple is also amazing, as is the aforementioned brie + toasted peasant bread.
- Canned dolmas. That’s right, these are stuffed grapeleaves, packed in olive oil, in a can, and they are delicious.
- Flaxseed veggie tortilla chips (the ones that are three colors… I think spinach, beet, and carrot?) They are more flavorful and nutritious than normal tortilla chips. You can eat them by themselves or dipped in something and a pleasant side effect is that after this you will (maybe) be less compelled to overeat on bottomless restaurant tortilla chips because you will be so underwhelmed flavor-wise. Also, the sweet potato tortilla chips in the orange and blue bag are good.
- After those, it’s an easy transition to the full-blown world of veg snacks, and I seriously love the tahini kale chips. Honorable mentions to broccoli crisps, seaweed sheet-things, and snap pea and black bean crisps.
- For crackers, it is either the Everything crackers or the simple, Pita bite crackers (which are sort of like Nothing crackers).
- Both kinds of plantain chips (sweet n not).
- and the chocolate covered peanut butter-filled pretzels (evil).
The cauliflower kale ditalini is a sort of adult mac n cheese option surreptitiously hidden in a tub in the fridge section and so good. I also think it is more worthy of the “reduced-guilt” moniker than its freezer-aisle relative, because of the vegetables. I am continually trying to get into hummus because it is convenient healthy protein and often just can’t stomach it, but the eggplant hummus is bananas. I use the coconut water with aloe for smoothies, plus the pineapple juice (the one that comes in a flat of four cans. Do not drink the whole can at once unless you’re trying to get diabetes. I save the rest in a mason jar to avoid botulism or whatever tf it is that happens when you keep open cans in the fridge). The 10-minute farro (grain aisle) is good and has a recipe on the package for a hearty, easy, weeknight dinner that incorporates another favorite: any of the sausages. After using TJ’s chocolate chips it’s painful to return to Nestle. Plus, the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the package is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (and I’ve tried at least 10… which is not that many but it’s a good recipe alright). And finally,
TZATZIKI DIP + GARLIC NAAN *drops mic*