Trader Joe’s is a bastion of yummy, healthy, affordable food amongst a sea of Whole Paycheck health food stores and less than appetizing cheap-o markets (a la Ron Swanson’s go-to “Food n Stuff”). They mostly sell their own store brand, but luckily the label is generally awesome and, according to their website, totally GMO free –so it’ll save you a lot of hemming, hawing, and researching trying to find the best brand. So much of their food is both high quality and low price, and we’re here to tell you which deals are best. However there are also a few products that, while maybe not the cheapest around, are so darn tasty they warrant a mention as well. Keep reading for our recommendations.
Trader Joe’s has a huge array of breads –from yummy rustic loafs, to whole grain pitas. Prices are good, especially considering it’s way tastier than the boring old sliced white bread you’d get for similar prices at other grocery stores. Best of all, all of their breads are preservative free, and while that does mean you have to eat it faster, it’s a small price for purer food.
1. They have tons of cheese.
2. A lot of their cheese is cellulose free. (What’s cellulose, you ask? Oh, it’s just this stuff dairy brands like to put in their sliced and shredded cheese to keep it from clumping. Oh yeah, and it’s made from wood pulp. Wood pulp, you guys. Wood. Pulp.)
3. Their specialty cheese selection is not only substantial, but it’s very reasonably priced. Yay, TJ cheese!
Joe has a wide selection of olive oils, not to mention coconut oil, sesame oil, and a number of other oils. And it’s all super cheap compared to other grocery stores. They also have amazing prices on balsamic vinegar.
TJs has a wide selection of pasta, and it’s all very cheap. But not only can you choose between fettuccine, farfalle, and rigatoni, they also have a wide selection of gluten-free options. And not just you’re run of the mill gluten-free stuff, but corn pasta, quinoa pasta, and polenta. Yum. And though gluten-less goodies tend to be more pricey than their gluten-full counterparts, TJ’s wins again when it comes to cheaper prices.
Certainly one of the best things about Trader Joe’s is the store itself. The staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly (probably due to the fact the TJs pays their employees really well). And they have a great return policy, you can quite literally return anything. Oh, and did you know you can ask one of those super helpful employees to let you try any product before you buy it.
Trader Joe’s has a huge selection of really nice chocolate bars. Not only that, but it’s almost all fair trade and organic (meaning it’s free of that fake sugar chemical stuff). It’s not a cheap purchase or anything, but for good chocolate it’s definitely worth it.
Ok, this one is totally subjective, but I had to mention them because DAMN they are so good. Way, way better than Oreos, and I like Oreos. Seriously, I could eat a whole box of these in one sitting if I didn’t stop myself.
They have a really cool selection of frozen meals, so if you’re not the cook-from-scratch type, or too you’re too busy, or maybe you just want some really yummy meals, check out their frozen aisle. Now these definitely aren’t cheap, so you might not want to fill your whole cart with them. But they’re a great splurge. And, while we’re on the topic of frozen things, TJs selection of frozen fruits, veggies, and seafood are also great, but cheap too.
Like their cheese section, Trader Joe’s also has a wonderful variety of meats. It’s all sustainably raised, which is great for a lot of reasons. However, that means it’s definitely not as cheap as other stores.
Cookie butter is awesome. ‘Nuff said.
What are you favorite Trader Joe’s purchases? Let us know what your go-to items are in the comments below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go inhale a solid dozen or so Joe Joes.
Lauren is a New York based actor/singer/writer. She is a graduate of the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University as well as the College of the Holy Cross. She’s a fan of beer, pasta, and academic establishments with unnecessarily long titles. Find her on stage, or online– she’s there often.