So I was starting to work on my weekly What I Ate Wednesday post that will go up tomorrow, and I realized that I say Trader Joe's over and over again whenever I'm talking about food. I thought it would be appropriate to tell you a little bit about why I love this store and some of my favorite things that I find there. (By the way, this is my honest opinion and not a sponsored post!)
Trader Joe's is a smaller grocery store chain. You may not have heard of them, since they don't really advertise. The stores are pretty unique. Each one is more like a specialty shop than a giant warehouse. Their selection isn't as complete as a lot of larger stores, but everything that they offer is always super high quality. I sort of feel like they've already waded through thousands of brands and varieties of peanut butter for me so that I don't have to do it myself. Plus, they carry a much smaller percentage of junk food than any other grocery store I've come across. It's much easier to stick to my diet when I don't have an entire isle of potato chips or ice cream staring me in the face! The stuff I tend to buy here as treats is much better for you: dark chocolate, red wine, and other things that I can savor in a small amount. No glow-in-the-dark colors or go-insane-and-eat-the-whole-bag stuff here, this is very grown up food.
I would say that upwards of 90% of the stuff in each store is Trader Joe's brand. There are entire articles out there written about their mysterious suppliers. Supposedly, they make deals with a brand to package and sell their products under the Trader Joe's label. The supplier gets a lot of business, and Trader Joe's gets a quality product that they can sell at a lower price point because they don't spend lots of money on advertising or fancy labels. The prices really are incredible compared to my local super market.
My local Trader Joe's up the street had fantastic artisan bread, premade salads that are unbelievable, free samples of food every time I'm there, fun seasonal offerings, and even an ongoing game for kids who come in with their parents.
In addition to fresh produce, dairy products, free range chicken and turkey, and other healthy staples, there are some things that I always get from Trader Joe's because I can't get them anywhere else, or can but they cost more and aren't as good:
Turkey Bacon: both the original and the peppered are fantastic and sliced thick enough that I can use it in casseroles and other dishes in place of ham.
Grilled Chicken Strips: I found these in the refrigerated section with the premade salads and they are something fantastic to keep around to toss in salads and wraps. The chicken is really high quality, not gross or overly processed.
Pesto: I used to waste time making pesto that never turned out quite right. Now I "cheat" and buy the good stuff! Perfect on pasta, chicken, or a dip for sourdough.
Imported Gruyere: Trader Joe's really does have an amazing cheese selection where I can find fresh mozzarella and feta and real, cave-aged Gruyere. I'm always trying not to overdo it on the cheese, and a small amount of a really good cheese go surprisingly far and is WAY more satisfying that a whole block of some processed garbage.
Fage Yogurt: Not a Trader Joe's brand product, but I only buy it here because they have a great selection of flavors in the little cups and their large containers of plain Greek yogurt cost about half as much as the grocery store!
Balade Light Butter: Much better than any of the artificial margarines and better for you than butter! I've never seen this anywhere else, but it's quite good.
Trail Mix: My husband is a bit of a trail mix junkie. He takes a small container to work every day for his afternoon snack! TJ's has an amazing selection and none of their bags cost more that $7 for a pound. (Have you priced trail mix lately??)
Almonds: I always pick up a bag of raw almonds. I use them for cooking and for yogurt toppings, and Hubby eats them by the handful!
Coffee: I buy big containers of their Fair Trade French Roast and Fair Trade Espresso on a regular basis and grind them myself in the big red grinder they have. My kitchen smells good for days after I do this!
Tea: TJ's has amazing prices of fantastic teas. I always have the chamomile and decaf green on hand for myself and Hubby loves their peppermint.
Frozen Indian Food: I mostly avoid the frozen entrees since I prefer to cook fresh, but I do occasionally treat myself to TJ's Indian food. Hubby likes the Channa Massala (chickpeas) and I get the Paneer Tika Massala (mild cheese cubes in a spicy and sweet sauce with basmati rice). We also usually get the frozen Garlic Naan bread, but I noticed fresh Naan the last time I was there, so I think we're going to have to try that next time!
Frozen Yogurt: Their 0% frozen greek yogurt is fantastic and surprisingly good for you, at least as far as ice cream goes. However, I've never been able to find it in any flavors besides vanilla.
Charles Shaw Wine: AKA Two Buck Chuck. I admit it, although I love a glass of fine wine at a nice restaurant, I'm equally happy with a glass of the cheap stuff in my dollar store glasses. Once I run it through my wine aerator, I can't tell the difference!
What are your grocery goodies that you can't live without?