When most people mention Trader Joe’s and especially if you live in a city that is having one open soon or just opened, eyes sparkle, tails wag (if we had them) and toes start tapping.
My hometown outside of Philadelphia had a TJ open over 14 years ago right on the main street, but I had left the area already and only frequented the niche grocery market when I came to visit. I had only popped into a few other ones over the years on travels, so I really did not become a frequent shopper until TJ’s came to Tampa in March 2013.
Three years later I am still amused at the cult following and excitement over mostly highly processed foods but I have succumbed to the TJ’s fervor and frequent the store once a week BUT for vastly different products than you would think.
Here is a comparison of 5 reader favorites from the website, The Kitchn, and me:
(here is link to all 17 products mentioned in the article)
1. Cookie Butter- ok- I have replaced the nutella with this #1 TJ product in The Whole Meal’s Nutella Banana Bread Muffins and they were pretty yummy but it was the first time I ever purchased it.
Me: Raw Almond Butter- At only $6.99 a jar I had to try it and have not turned back to my old brand that was almost double the price (on sale!).
2.Nuts- esp. Thai Chili Lime Cashews- have not tried them but they do seem a great choice to have if you are having guests over and need a quick nibble to go with that chilled white wine.
update: TJ’s has got really good trail mixes some of which come wrapped in individual packets, perfect for stashing in a gym bag or lunch box. To see my favorite ones click here.
Me: Raw Cheese- esp. the NY Sharp Cheddar- I’d rather serve chunks of this tart, full in the mouth, slightly sweet cheese at less than 1/2 the price of any raw cheese I can get at Whole Foods. It’s also the prefect tie-you-over-til-dinner snack or shredded in eggs, burritos, salads and full of calcium and enzymes that our digestive system can process unlike pasteurized cheeses.
3. Dried Fruit (especially the apricots)- I like the idea of sulfite-free dried apricots and I will come here if I need them, but i’d rather eat the fresh apricot.
Me: Fresh and Frozen Fruit- Every week I buy my avocados, lemons, limes, organic apples (if they have them), bananas, organic strawberries, watermelon, and whatever seasonal fruit is in season and look good. Some have complained about the perishability of TJ produce, but I have no complaints. TJ’s frozen cubed mango can’t be beat! I’ll never buy Dole’s again. Ditto for the frozen pineapple tidbits.
4. Chocolate, the Baking Sort- since I am not much of a baker this was not on my radar, but with the holidays coming up, this is a good tip to have.
Update: I love TJ’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar (85% Cocao). It’s the best tasting super high cocao content bar I have had (and I have tried alot!). It’s great for baking as well.
Me: 100% Grass Fed Ground Beef- Since I am more a cook rather than a baker, I really love the 100% grass fed ground beef. It comes fresh in a 1-pound pack and I always have a pack (or two) in my freezer. If we are going to eat red meat, I only buy grass fed and TJ makes it economical ($6.99/lb) for a high quality ground beef (I’ll save why I only buy grass fed beef for another blog post;) Also try the 4-pack of Buffalo Burgers in the frozen section. $9.99 is a great buy for the convenience of pre-formed into patties- again buffalo are free roaming so no conventional grain fed to these bad boys.
5. Hummus- I know- it’s pretty good at TJ’s, especially the Edamame Hummus, but since I can whip up a pretty good lemon-garlic hummus in my food processor in less than 5 minutes I don’t really buy premade hummus.
Me: Fresh Veggies- My youngest swears TJ’s butter lettuce salad is the best, both daughters jump for joy when they see a new package of fresh shelled edamame pods to snack on, i am addicted to the bag of Cruciferious Crunch Collection where I can whip up my Kale Coleslaw with Poppyseed Dressing in no time, always have organic cucumbers to add to my Watermelon Healer, and how can you beat shredded Brussel spouts! Saute up with TJ’s precooked nitrate free bacon (another staple!) and you have a really flavorful side dish in 5 minutes.
As you can see, most of my TJ Favs are one ingredient items, which are rarely discussed on message boards or articles of the many favorite products at this fast growing grocery chain. Having said that, however, I do have processed products (already named the precooked bacon) that are always in my house: Low Calorie Pink Lemonade, Gone Bananas Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas, the $.99 5.3 ounce nonfat Greek yogurts, Roasted Plaintain Chips and the Guiltless Potato Chips. TJ’s also carries GTS Kombuchas, Quest and Kind Bars, and Kerrygold grassfed butter. The grocer carries a decent selection of wines and beer with knowledgeable staff always ready to make recommendations.
The more I think about it the more I realize as each week goes by I find NEW favorite products- all well price and decent quality. The nation’s obsession may not be so crazy after all.
What are your favorite Trader Joe products?