Trader Joe’s has been a mainstay in my grocery-shopping experience since I was a teenager—and, except for my years in Northern Arizona, I have always had one nearby (and when I didn’t, I made a pilgrimage, every second or third week, to stock up on provisions, packing produce and perishables on ice to make the 2+ hour drive home.)
I am so comfortable with the store, in fact, that I can easily spot an item not offered in one store, but mixed in to the offerings at another. (No seaweed snacks back in Minnesota this last summer, but they did have more beef offerings.)
And on the occasion that my husband needs to pick up our weekly purchases, I close my eyes and make my list of items based on where he’ll be in one of the 2 or 3 local stores he will be shopping on my behalf.
I still rhapsodize about products that have been discontinued, many years ago—the Spicy Bean Soup from Germany, or the clarified butter that made my need to shop at multiple stores a little less necessary.
Certainly, my allegiance is clear. However, all is not perfect—it is a store bent on offering convenience, very fair pricing and meeting a slightly-left-of-center taste demographic that sometimes hangs a little too close to the middle-road for my preferences.
So, often regular salt rather than sea salt will be used as an ingredient. Or torula yeast will be used as a flavor enhancer in a snack food. Or soybean or canola oil might be included in a dressing, sauce or dip, rather than olive oil. There are different infarctions, and many would consider them minor. However, for me, they won’t find their place in my shopping cart.
Therefore, dependent on how seriously you read labels, you may find that many of the prepared foods will not meet your standards. Not to worry, however—just take the time to look over the ingredients and decide if what is listed is a good fit for you.
From meeting the needs of those concerned with wheat allergies, to offering ingredients for simple, healthy recipes, Trader Joe’s has many options.
So, what do I buy? Hands’ down, Trader Joe’s has some of the best pricing and highest quality of organic produce from any retail grocery outfit. It is always my preference to support all the local farmers in the area, but out of season (meaning, the height of summer here in the Sonoran Desert), there needs to be a Plan-B. And, it is nice to fill in some of the blanks of what is offered in our CSA program.
So, when I do shop Trader’s for produce, I love the 4-pack of organic avocadoes, the organic micro-greens, the different organic fruits available in season, packages of different varieties of organic lettuce, the organic onions, garlic, and the bags of organic sweet potatoes…I usually find that at least 2/3 of my purchases are of produce alone.
And I also love the organic, free-range eggs for when I’m unable to get mine locally. The organic, unsalted butter is a great price, and comes in handy for when I run out of ghee—I just melt a few sticks down for my own homemade clarified butter. In the refrigerated section, I also like the carrageenan-free, unsweetened vanilla almond milk—wonderful as a base for the kids’ superfood shakes.
When I’ve not made any cheese or goat yogurt , it’s wonderful to get some raw gruyere, or Dutch goat gouda, or goat brie from the store’s selection—and what a price! These products are not organic, but they are rBST-free—a compromise in quality on each over making them at home with organic, raw milks, but sometimes I simply run out of time to do all that I would like.
The store also offers great pricing on organic hamburger, free-range and/or organic chicken, nitrate- and nitrite-free and antibiotic-free turkey bacon. There are many other meat selections—again, just read the labels closely to make sure it’s something you are happy to consume.
I also love both of their organic, extra-virgin olive oils—they make a wonderful handmade dressing with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and fresh herbs. They are also carrying organic coconut oil these days. And from their herb and spice offerings, I am totally enamored with their smoked sea salt, the South African smoke herb blend, and the vanilla extract in bourbon.
We also use many of the organic, frozen foods, too—broccoli, spinach, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries—they’re all great to have on hand, and they are excellent quality.
And I love many of Trader Joe’s eco-friendly cleaning supplies, especially both varieties of their dish soaps–each cleans well, using a plant-based surfactant, and they are scented with essential oils, rather than chemical perfumes. I also like their Next to Godliness surface cleaner when I’m traveling and away from my homemade cleaners. And who can argue with recycled toilet paper and paper towels, especially at the price offered at Trader Joe’s?
Finally, if you’re in the mood for a little wine, they even have differentvarieties made with organic grapes—and, again, at a ridiculously-low price. I love the Trader Joe’s Chardonnay—wonderful to drink, and a great addition to chicken stock.
So, these are but a few of the ways that I have loved Trader Joe’s and encourage everyone I know to take some time and explore one when they have an opportunity. For taking care, naturally, their stores are a wonderful asset in doing so without too much of a dent in the pocketbook.
Just read the labels and enjoy your finds!