• I Heart Trader Joe’s: Why and What We Buy

    by Rachel on February 2, 2012

    I heart Trader Joe’s.  Who doesn’t, really? They’re the full package if you ask me.  Here’s why they’ve stolen my heart and what favorite TJ’s products make a (smallish) dent in my grocery bill.

    Three Things I Love About TJ’s

    1 – They are a competitive, ethical corporation yet retain their small business feel.  Have you read this fascinating 2010 article from Fortune Magazine about how Trader Joe’s operates?  Genius, I tell you.  After reading this, I wanted to get a job there or at least pat myself on the back for shopping there.  You can’t help but witness the esprit de corps of the staff when shopping, as the article mentions.

    2 – They stock (mostly) healthy products I can trust and afford.  Check out their Trader Joe’s brand product pledge.

    Yep, that pledge makes this momma happy.  This doesn’t mean I give TJ’s a thumbs up on every product, but they have a much better start than your average grocery store.

    3 – Lastly, who can resist their kid-friendly atmosphere? You win the kid, you win the parent.  Mine beg to go in so they can push a kid’s cart, get free snacks, and earn a sticker at the check out line (and bug the crud out of me to get their favorite TJ foods).  Like I said, genius.

    TJ’s Product Recommendations

    My freezer club friends–Darcie and Carla– and I love Trader Joe’s so much that we operate a mini TJ’s co-op of sorts, since we don’t have one in our town.  Usually if one of us gets into the city, we feel it’s our duty to stop by the store and be the TJ’s supplier to the others.  We often swap reviews of TJ products, so I thought why not share some of our recommendations with some of my favorite blog readers?  In return, perhaps you could send some recs our way in the comments section?

    Our Family’s Favorites

    Whole Wheat English Muffins – I can never find whole grain English muffins without a ton of weird ingredients and preservatives.  These are made with real ingredients, though.  Be sure to freeze or refrigerate these, so they don’t go bad.  They have no preservatives…yeah!

    Cheese Tortellini – My kids like the refrigerated ones or the freeze-dried ones pictured below in the pasta aisle (but these are a bit higher in sodium).  As always, these are the simplest ingredients I’ve found in pre-packaged cheese tortellini.

    Whole Wheat Handmade Tortillas – I also have a hard time finding tortillas without 600 ingredients.  These are simple and healthy.  They also require refrigeration or freezing fairly quickly.

    Old Fashioned Cinnamon Graham Crackers – These are the best graham crackers ever.  I find them in the freezer aisle on one of the top shelves.

    Low Sugar Jam – It’s awesome! Our favorite is blueberry, but we like any flavor except apricot.

    TJ’s All-Natural Barbeque Sauce – Really good flavor, and we’re picky about our BBQ sauce.

    TJ’s Organic Applesauce – Just good ole pesticide-free apples and nothing else.

    Freezer Club Friend Carla

    Carla’s Family’s Favorites

    Crackers – Most of the varieties. It’s convenience food that’s still inexpensive but doesn’t have additives, MSG and hydrogenated oils.

    Organic Jelly – Grape, mostly. It has less sugar than other brands, and it’s organic, yummy and still inexpensive.

    Honey Nut Joe’s O’s – Cheaper than Cheerios with at least half the ingredients (maybe less).

    Cheese – We can’t afford to buy all organic, but I at least want to make sure my kids aren’t getting growth hormone.

    Organic Yogurt (tubs and tubes) – It’s cheaper than elsewhere. My kids love it, and unless I have coupons or there is a major sale, I just can’t buy it often unless we go to TJ’s.

    Freezer Club Friend Darcie

    Darcie’s Family Favorites

    Tator Tots

    Cereal Bars

    Organic Mini Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches

    Organic Yogurt Tubes

    Oyster Crackers

    What are some of your favorite Trader Joe’s products?

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    { 9 comments… read them below or add one }

    Martha Lewis February 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I live about a minute away from the Brentwood TJ’s in St. Louis, and I LOVE it! For all the reasons you said, the food, price, and the store feel. I feel like if I’m going to Schnucks, I’m just going grocery shopping, but if I go to TJ’s, I’m getting an experience!

    We had our own alchohol at our wedding, and for the wine, just bought several crates of their 3-buck chuck, so easy! We took what was left over back 2 months later, and they let us mix & match to get some other kinds of wine, and return what we didn’t need.

    I love their tortillas also. For those who like goat cheese, they have an herbed goat cheese log that is awesome on eggs. You just make a plain egg, put some on at the end so it softens a little, and spread it around–it tastes like you are eating a gourmet breakfast! I really love their multi-grain crackers also. They are perfect for a snack, and tasty enough to bring with a dip to a party! I’m pretty leary of most frozen meals, but their ethnic ones are really good & not too bad for you. This wouldn’t work for kids of course, but I keep their indian meals on hand in the freezer for the days when one of us need a quick lunch. The frozen naan bread is good too.

    Lastly, their Wintry Mix blend of coffee is so great! It already has some spices mixed in, so you feel like you’re getting a cozy, flavorful mug. And no joke, I’ve considered trying to get a job in their offices somewhere!

    Reply

    Lynn February 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I couldn’t resist commenting about TJ’s, my favorite grocery store, too!
    My recommendations:
    –Sweet Potato Chips: Not too salty, perfect w/ TJ’s traditional salsa. I stockpile these bad boys, just in case there is a sweet potato chip shortage some day.
    –Organic Baby Broccoli
    –Whole Wheat Spaghetti: This stuff is almost always running low or out at my TJ’s, b/c it’s so durn popular. Paired w/ their regular marinara sauce, it’s a yummy, cheap, healthy meal.
    –Raisin Rosemary Crisps: Great for a party. I can eat these pups by the fist full.
    –Organic Chamomile Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, English Breakfast Tea
    –Cage-Free Hard-Cooked Peeled Eggs (6 in a bag): I eat lunch at my desk most days and these eggs are a great convenience good. They make it easy to add some protein to a salad. Great to put on crackers, too.
    –Nuts! TJ’s nut selection is fantastic. Their roasted unsalted cashews are better than life.
    –And, if I may, their toilet paper is good…made from recycled paper…reasonably priced, of course.

    Reply

    Polly February 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Ummm, why has no one mentioned the dark-chocolate-covered-anything-and-everything they offer?
    I’m a healthy eater but I snag a package of these almost every time I go.

    Reply

    Rachel February 3, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Martha and Lynn, thanks for the great recommendations. I’m going to have to try the goat cheese on crackers, Wintry Blend coffee, and the TP. Polly, I haven’t had any of the chocolate covered treats. Have any right now you want to share with me??

    Reply

    Darcie February 3, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Dark chocolate covered raisins, Rach. Come on over and grab some! :)

    Reply

    Ashley Johnson February 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I love this post and also love TJs!
    Our favorites are:
    - Turkey meatballs – easy to heat quick and healthy protein. We eat them with spaghetti, with barbecue sauce, or plan as a snack or addition to lunch
    - Recent favorites are the freeze dried fruit, snap pea crisps, and green beans chips for healthy toddler car snacks. We’re always in need of non-refrigerated food on the go and I try to avoid just carbs.
    - Chicken and vegetable potstickers: quick and healthy lunch for mama and toddler
    - Three cheese spaghetti sauce
    - soups (especially the black bean and the roasted pepper_
    - smoked salmon (cheap at TJs!)
    - Yogurt in a tube
    - crumpets: add a little honey for a tasty treat
    - mini peanut butter cups: put them in the freezer and pull out just a couple at a time
    - trail mix! recent fav: power berries, almonds, cashews, dried cranberries…
    - we also love the whole wheat english muffins

    Reply

    Tiffany February 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I’m lucky enough to live within 3 minutes of two Trader Joes and when I started shopping there, it changed my life! With 3 kids under six, my goal is healthy and easy meals.
    - Pre-cut veggies (any & all) make dinner a snap when we are short on time because of evening events.
    - Pea shoots are delicious and make any sandwich or burger seem fancier
    - Slice cooked beets. There is no reason not to be able to get these nutrient rich foods into your diet. I keep them on hand for addition to salads. (Mix it with their seasoned feta & prepared lentils and a delicious dip appears magically).
    - Persian cucumbers are so much more snack-able than any other kind out there.
    - TJ’s spicy hummus. So good with those little cukes but only for the adults.
    - Fresh gourmet pizzas are perfect for a quick healthier pizza night. The Arugula one is fantastic!
    - TJ’s peanut butter. Best out there besides grinding your own.
    - Roasted Seaweed snack is always a hit with the toddlers at playgroup and the wasabi ones are great for adults who want a spicy snack.
    - Apple Carrot crushers are loved by every child I know, including my five year old who doesn’t normally like applesauce.

    Reply

    Rachel February 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    What interesting suggestions! I love learning from other moms. Wish I lived closer to a TJs so I could enjoy more of their fresh or frozen foods. Tiffany, I want to try the Roasted Seaweed snack, and, Ashley, I’m going to look for the smoked salmon. Thanks, gals!

    Reply

    Beth L March 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    If you like coffee, try the sugar chocolate coffee bean grinder, which can be found either in the aisle with the rest of the grinders (salt, cinnamon sugar, etc.) or I have also heard it can be found near the ice cream. It will change your life. I’ve stockpiled three of them.

    Incidentally, it can also be used on cupcake icing.

    Reply

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