Can’t chat; busy consuming delicious things.
Like so many things in life, the joys of Trader Joe’s are sweeter for having known the sad, grey world that existed in their absence. Until I was twenty-seven years old, you see, I lived in tragic ignorance of the fact that pre-marinated meat could be so delicious (and so thinly sliced!), or that crumpets could be so wonderful-tasting that they could make the casual usage of the word “crumpet” (almost) acceptable, or that drinkable four-dollar wine existed. Even in those heady days during which I first roamed the aisles alongside fellow Himalayan sea salt lovers too broke for Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s was a once-a-month special occasion, because each trip resulted in the purchase of oh, so much four-dollar wine that I was required to splurge on a $25 taxi ride home.
Now I am a suburbanite. I own a car that I call a “truck” but that most people would probably consider an SUV. There is a Trader Joe’s located 15 minutes from my house.
And now? Oh, now I know all about it. I can close my eyes and see the shelves laden with quinoa chips and dried broccoli florets in stunning – even technicolor – detail.
A friend of mine who is inexplicably relatively new to Trader Joe’s (I say “inexplicably” because she’s also a mother of two who lives in the suburbs and drives an SUV, so I’m not sure what her excuse is) recently asked me to give her a list of the things I buy every time I go to the store, and oh hi favorite topic. So here’s a rundown of my Trader Joe’s Favorites, in case you, too dream of tiny paper cups filled with shockingly delicious bean salad samples and endless quantities of (organic!) cheddar puffs.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
To me, the quality/price ratio for Trader Joe’s fruits and veggies is unbeatable, so I do most of my produce-buying there – but there are a few things I especially adore.
- Mini cucumbers. You can eat them as-is, or use to make your own Refrigerator Pickles, AHEM.
- Pre-cut butternut squash ribbons. I use these in soups, pasta sauces, whatever.
- Little Gem lettuces. They’re about half the size of traditional lettuces, and perfect for wrapping burgers or filling with bulgogi.
BREAD & BREAD-RELATED PRODUCTS
- Crumpets. These are sort of like English Muffins, but a bit sweeter and flatter. Put them in your broiler for a few minutes with a pat of butter on top and omggggg.
- Brownie Bites. For obvious reasons, like the fact that they’re brownies, but bite-sized.
- Corn & Wheat Mini-Tortillas. These are the perfect texture, the perfect size, and the perfect sweetness – we use them for quesadillas, sandwiches, fajitas, or just to eat solo as a snack.
All of it, but the pre-marinated bulgogi is my personal favorite (just grill really quickly and throw it into a leaf of Little Gem lettuce with some rice, and bam: DIY Korean BBQ.
- Frozen artichoke hearts are bizarrely hard to find in traditional supermarkets, so I stock up on these whenever I go.
- Bambino Pizzas (for kids) and Four-Cheese Pizzas (for me) – both are a step up from traditional frozen pizzas, flavor- and texture-wise, and I add homemade toppings to them (broccoli, black olives, artichoke hearts, etc) to give them a little boost.
- Everything in the Trader Ming’s section, but especially the dumplings, pot stickers, soup dumplings, and vegetable fried rice.
- Party Meatballs. Cook them in the oven, then toss them in a sauce made from half BBQ sauce and half grape jelly. Just trust me on this.
- Mochi. This is the perfect size ice cream treat for kids, and the chocolate is to die for (although my kids like the green tea a lot, too).
- Gone Bananas Chocolate-Covered Frozen Banana Slices. If you don’t love these, I don’t understand you.
- Caribbean Fruit Floes. I ate these fruity popsicles (which taste completely natural and are filled with fruit chunks) religiously when I was pregnant. I have no idea why I stopped. I need to fix this.
- Vanilla Eclairs with Chocolate Fondant. Oh my god. I cannot keep these in my freezer because bad things happen when I do.
- Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches. Ditto on these ice cream sandwiches made with two chocolate chip cookies. Best ever.
- Sweet ‘n’ Salty Popcorn Chips. I first bought these chips (which have quinoa and various other extremely healthy-sounding things in them) for my kids so that I could feel virtuous about giving them quinoa-inclusive chips, and assumed they’d be…well, gross, honestly. THEY ARE SO GOOD. They are also not especially virtuous, being as they really are quite sweet and quite salty, but whatever. Quinoa.
- White Cheddar Popcorn. This stuff is completely addictive and vastly superior to regular supermarket brands. Vastly.
- Multigrain Crackers. This sounds like the most boring thing to eat ever, but I tried one at a friend’s house and instantly became obsessed. They are a tiny bit sweet and a tiny bit salty and SO GOOD. I eat them plain, and also make homemade Lunchables for my son with them (literally just crackers, cheese cut into circles, and meat cut into circles).
- Seaweed. I do not eat seaweed, because it tastes like seaweed. My children and husband, however, love the stuff (especially the teriyaki flavor), and the Trader Joe’s seaweed comes in little pre-portioned packages, so it’s such an easy and healthy snack to throw into your purse.
- Cowboy Caviar. This is another food that I don’t personally eat, because it contains things like jalapeños and bell pepper, both of which I completely hate, but Kendrick loves it, and so I buy it. I also buy it because it’s called “Cowboy Caviar,” which is just genius.
- Dried Broccoli Florets. Give these to your kids when you are out and about and you totally become That Mom, but whatever: your kids are eating broccoli! In public!
- Dark Chocolate-Covered Honey Graham Crackers with Sea Salt. I don’t think these require any explanation. Buy them. Eat them.
- Alta Badia Mountain Cheese. This cheese is my Achilles heel; I could eat pounds and pounds of it very happily. It’s pretty mild, and a little nutty, but has this tiny bite to it that makes it completely perfect.
RANDOM OTHER STUFF
- Fresh pizza dough. We grill pizzas all summer long, and I always use this dough (which comes in multigrain as well). They also have ready-made cornbread pizza crusts, which are excellent as well (and a nice option if you’re gluten-free).
- 6-Pack Mini Yogurts. My kids obsess over these (especially the vanilla and blueberry flavors). And they’re so cute!
- And finally: the flowers. So good (not to mention so inexpensive).