One of the great things about living here in the Triangle is the selection of grocery stores. We seriously have about every option out there and now we are even getting a Costco and Wegmans! I am one of those weirdos who enjoys grocery shopping (usually) but my all-time favorite grocery store is Trader Joe’s. To say that I am a little obsessed would probably be an overstatement, but I could talk about my TJ’s love for hours if someone would let me. When my mom was getting a Trader Joe’s in Buffalo I put together a list of stuff she needed to buy so I thought it would be fun to share part of my list here as well.
One of the best things about Trader Joe’s is that you don’t have that much selection for each product. While that might sound limiting, it makes shopping a whole lot easier. Almost everything that I have tried at TJ’s is delicious and while there are a few items that we haven’t loved, those are pretty few and far between. Plus, there is always something new to try (and they mark stuff that is new so you can find it) which makes the shopping experience there even more fun. They are extremely thoughtful about what they put in their foods so you won’t find added chemicals or ingredients which makes for easier shopping, too – am I right, Marianne?? They will let you try anything in the store – all you need to do is ask!
Also, I wouldn’t be giving you the full picture on TJ’s if I didn’t tell you about prices and organics. While there are some exceptions Trader Joe’s business model allows them to offer you great prices on their items and I find this is definitely the case with their organic products. Again, exceptions exist, but I generally find that this is the case.
The store itself is never very big and because it is pretty popular it can get quite busy. I always try to shop first thing in the morning, so I am out of there before the mad rush that seems to start around 10 on any given day. They have wide aisles so it is still pretty easy to navigate even when things get crazy! My biggest pet peave at a grocery store are those displays in the middle of the aisle that makes it impossible to get through when there is more than one cart in the aisle – which is always!!
So without further ado, here is my list. This is in no particular order and I could probably have about 100 items on here so maybe I will add to this list and keep it up top? Hey, and feel free to add your favorite items in the comments if I have missed anything. I love to hear about new things to try!
- This one is a family favorite. When I serve Mandarin Chicken and their Gyoza Chicken Potstickers for dinner my kids go crazy….seriously. Jim and I love this meal, too, but my girls love this and there usually isn’t anything left. I serve this with their frozen edamame or broccoli. They also have a delicious sauce called Gyoza Sauce which we love, too! Ok, so I think I put five items in there but who cares:-).
- Kalamata Olive Oil I bought this originally upon the recommendation of one of the workers (which is a great way to find new things to buy) and I love this olive oil. It has a great flavor and has been called out as their best EVOO product available. I also buy their regular olive oil (at a great price) and use it in most of my cooking. TJ’s is definitely a great place to buy olive oils so give these two a try!
- Kosher Dill Pickles – So there are conventional pickles from the grocery store (think Vlassic or Claussen) and then there are TJ’s Kosher Dill Pickles. These pickles are soo good and they taste like a really good pickle you would make at home (if you knew how to make really good pickles…) My nephew loves these so much he asked Grandma to get him some for Christmas – and so she did! If you are a pickle lover give these at try!
- 100% Whole Grain White Wheat Bread – When you walk into the store one of the first areas you will hit (next to their fresh flowers) is their bread selection – which I think is amazing. I like to try different items, but the one loaf I always buy and always go back to is their white wheat bread. While it isn’t quite soft a squishy like a white bread it is a lot less heavy than your typical whole wheat loaf. I love this bread toasted with a little peanut butter. You will notice with TJ’s bread that it doesn’t’ last as long as conventional grocery store bread and that is because it doesn’t have a lot of preservatives in it. So when I get home from the store I throw the bread in the freezer and then when I want a slice I just pull it out and pop it in the toaster. Delicious! Their sourdough loaf is also really good and I think that is a customer favorite.
- Double Cream Brie – I also think TJ’s has a fabulous cheese selection and you can’t beat their prices on good quality cheese. My daughter Ella loves Brie so I always have some of this in the fridge for a snack (along with some crackers and fruit.) They have some fancier types of Brie but I think this is a good option if you have a 12 year old Brie lover in your house. FYI, TJ’s “triscuits” are really good, too.
- Belgian Chocolate – this is another area where you really can’t go wrong as they have a wonderful chocolate selection from baking chocolate to snacking bars and chocolate peanut butter cups. However their Belgian Chocolate is divine and a lot less expensive than you can get at other stores. US made chocolate just isn’t as good as European chocolates. Period…and this stuff is the real deal.
- I generally will bake my own stuff, but if I am going to make something from a box there is a good chance it will be from Trader Joe’s. Their boxed mixes are honestly as good as if you made them at home…not kidding! I have tried a lot of their boxed mixes but my favorite so far has been their Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix. Plus their ingredients list is easy to read which makes me feel like I truly am baking from scratch – with a little help from my friends….I made this on our mountain trip last year and people loved it. Their sweet cornbread mix is yummy, too! I also have heard that their chocolate cake mix is great.
- If you are a hummus fan, you need to try their Mediterranean Hummus. It is super creamy and it is topped with pine nuts and herbs. So far it is my favorite and I know this is a customer favorite as well! I also really like thieir cilantro jalapeno hummus. Don’t think you can go wrong in this product category either!
- Vegetable Masala Burgers -So this is a nice Vegetarian option, however I will caution you that vegetarian burger it is not in my book. Still delicious and with a little hummus slapped on top (which is how I like them.) you do get some good protein. They have a spicy, Indian flavor with some chopped veggies mixed in and a potato base. I just fry these in some OO and then spread some hummus and TJ’s Sriracha on top and call it lunch!
- Triple Ginger Snaps – if you are a fan of Ginger these cookies are the bomb. The base is a crispy gingersnap but it also has chewy pieces of crystallized, fresh and ground ginger. Not for the faint of heart when it comes to ginger but if you are a fan try these out. Generally, again I have found that all of their baked goods are scrumptious and priced just right.
- Apples – I read different reviews on TJ’s produce as some say since it isn’t always local here on the east coast it isn’t as good, but generally I am very confident buying produce from them. I love their apples and try to wait for my next trip to buy them if I can. They have a nice selection or organic and non at very good prices. You will notice that some of their apples are smaller, but I think that makes for a better, less wasteful snack for the kids. During apple season they have bags upon bags of apples so the selection gets even better then! I don’t think you can beat their prices either! While you are in the produce section make sure you get some bananas, grapefruit, avocados, bagged spinach and sugar snap peas.
- Organic Potatoes – Ok, so one more stop in the produce section takes me to their potatoes. This is another item I try to wait until I get to TJ’s to buy. I almost always get organic potatoes now and I think they are on the “dirty” list for organic foods to buy. However, for some very annoying reason I have found that this is an area conventional grocery stores have totally dropped the ball!! TJ’s has an awesome selection of Russet, Yukon Gold, Red and Sweet organic potatoes for very good prices. Think you can only buy them in the bags but we tend to go through potatoes pretty quickly so that isn’t a problem for us.
- 21 Seasoning Salute – I also try to buy whatever spices I can at TJ’s because their prices are great and they seem to be very good quality. The selection is a little bit limited but you can get the basics here for sure. You get a good sized jar and most of them are about 1.99. You can also get a very good selection of sea salts and spice blends. For a good all purpose blend, we love their 21 Seasoning Salute and I use this on anything where I need a good seasoning mix beyond salt and pepper. Think roasted veggies and meats.
- Marinara Sauce – When Jim and I did Whole 30 we realized how much stuff has added sugar in it. However, one of TJ’s Marinara sauces does not have sugar (the green can) so I think that is what I have been buying ever since. They have two options and they are both very good. We use this stuff on pizzas, as a pasta sauce or even as a tomato base for soups or stews. Really good product in my opinion and I think both large cans are only 1.79 so again – great prices, too! I have heard that their jarred organic marinara is really good, too. Another tomato product I like to buy is their tube of tomato paste. Super cheap and much better than opening a whole can if you just need a little paste.
- French Macarons – I have never made macarons at home but I have heard they can be finicky. When TJ’s sells a box of 12 for 4.99 my interest in making them myself goes out the window. These are delicious and honestly right up there in quality with ones you can buy in a bakery. They sell them in the frozen section and I won’t lie and tell you haven’t eaten these straight from the freezer and enjoyed every last bite.
- Pop Up Sponges – TJ’s also has some really good non-food products that I really encourage you to check out. They have a great inexpensive line of skincare products and some nice soaps that are usually free of things like parabens and dyes. One of the items I really like (and another good buy) are their pop up sponges. These sponges come compressed in little thin strips and when you wet them they “grow” into big sponges that are very good quality. Once you feel them you will realize that the quality is nothing like the little ones you buy at the supermarket. Williams Sonoma carries similar sponges for $16.95 and the ones at TJ’s are only 7.95 for 12. These babies will last you forever and they do a great job cleaning because they are really thick and super absorbent. The Kitchn wrote a review on these sponges a few years ago so give it a read if you are curious. Bonus, they are made from natural vegetable cellulose so a much greener option than other sponges.
Wow, that was hard to narrow it down to just 16 items! I tried really hard to hit all of the major areas for some diversity and in doing so there are so many products I didn’t even list. These are all great ones though and this can get you started. I know I didn’t touch a whole lot on meats or alcohol but I will be very honest and tell you I don’t buy a ton of meat at TJ’s. My places to buy meat are EarthFare or the Farmer’s market, but I will save that for another post….or maybe that is a Marianne post:-). Also, I don’t usually buy my alcohol there because I often shop at 8am on Sundays and like the good Christian state that North Carolina is, we don’t buy alcohol before heading to church…ha!