What I buy at Trader Joe’s

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Readers have been asking more and more what real food products to buy at Trader Joe’s, so I thought I’d just turn the discussion into a blog post! First of all, I don’t do all my shopping at Trader Joe’s (I get produce, dairy, and other items at Earth Fare and the farmers’ market), but I do go there every couple weeks for some staples that in some cases I can’t get anywhere else. Secondly, I know Trader Joe’s is touted as a health food store, but just like the rest of them they still sell a whole lot of (organic, gluten-free, vegan, multigrain, etc.) junk food! A reader asked me once if there was anywhere she could shop for food without having to scrutinize labels and just buy anything that’s available (while still avoiding processed food). To be honest the closest you are going to get to a place like that is the farmers’ market, and even then I still like to ask if they spray chemical pesticides or use synthetic fertilizers on their produce. So long story short, you pretty much always have to have your guard up…and that even includes shopping at Trader Joe’s!

Before I dive right into the products though I want to be sure to tell you about two of our sponsors. Our sponsors are what keep this site going for free so we really appreciate it when you send them some love. :) First there’s Real Salt that’s produced without additives, chemicals, or heat processing of any kind. Real Salt has a pinkish tint with flecks of color from more than 60 naturally occurring trace minerals. All salt is not created equal so you should definitely check them out.

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What I buy regularly at Trader Joe’s…

  • Trader Joe’s Whole-Wheat Pitas
    Finding decent bread products at the grocery store is no easy task. Most people have to go to a bakery or make it themselves in order to have 100% whole-grain bread made with only 5 or 6 ingredients, which is why I was so excited when I figured out that these Trader Joe’s pitas fit the bill. It’s so great to have an alternative to regular sandwich bread…because I like to switch things up every now and then!
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  • Trader Joe’s Sliced Havarti Cheese
    I like the convenience of pre-grated cheese, but not the powdery additive that’s used as an anti-caking agent to keep it from sticking together (cellulose – made from wood pulp), which is why I think pre-sliced cheese is the perfect middle-ground. It’s super quick and easy without any unwanted additives…because no matter how hard I try I cannot get my cheese slices this perfect and uniform. Plus I am learning that havarti is good on just about everything (including those pitas that I just mentioned above!). :)
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  • Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus
    It would appear that I am creating a delicious pita sandwich here with these first three items! Sure, I like to make homemade hummus, but I don’t always have time and this is the only organic version that I can easily find. They no longer carry organic hummus (to my knowledge) at Earth Fare, which is again where I do my main shopping.
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  • Coconut Oil
    I can find organic coconut oil elsewhere, but not at the TJs price of only $5.99! Now that’s a deal compared to around $10 at other stores.
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  • Yogurt
    Sometimes it can be a challenge to find yogurt that meets all my criteria…organic, whole-milk, plain, and reasonably priced! Now if yogurt is on sale at the other stores it’s the same price as the Trader Joe’s stuff, but when comparing regular prices this one is a little bit cheaper.
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  • Honey
    It may not be local honey, but once again it’s reasonably priced! I normally buy big glass jars of local honey from Earth Fare or the Farmers’ Market, but for convenience I do like to have one squeeze bottle around for when we need just a little (on oatmeal for example).
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  • Nuts and Seeds
    Speaking of cheaper…you cannot beat the price of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, etc.) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, etc.) at Trader Joe’s. BUT I will say that price sometimes comes at the cost of quality. Earlier this year I noticed a few bags of our Trader Joe’s cashews smelled and tasted funky. I tried using them anyway and they pretty much ruined our whole batch of granola. Nuts may be more expensive out of the bulk bins at Earth Fare, but at least I can do a quick quality check. I do know that Trader Joe’s does accept returns so you could still roll the dice and try to save money on their nuts and seeds…and just return them if they don’t work out.
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  • Coffee/Espresso
    I save lots of money stocking up on coffee and espresso from Trader Joe’s whenever I am there! Organic coffee can be a big ticket item elsewhere.
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  • Three Buck Chuck
    Yes, guilty as charged. We put a great deal of effort into selecting the highest quality food available and then we wash it down with cheap wine. What can I say…we are definitely not perfect! It’s not that we don’t enjoy (or want) more expensive wine it just doesn’t help the budget if you know what I mean.
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What I buy occasionally at Trader Joe’s…

  • Whole-Grain Pretzels
    There are not many 100% whole-wheat pretzel options out there. These contain corn syrup (although not much), which is definitely less than ideal, but sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. So every couple of months we’ll pick up a bag of these just to keep our school lunches interesting!
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  • Lara Bars
    These are available at quite a few places now…Target, mainstream grocery stores, all the health food stores, etc, but once again it’s hard to beat the price at Trader Joe’s. So if I am there and happen to think about it I pick some up.
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  • Ak Mak Crackers
    These are one of our favorite brands of crackers because they are both whole-grain and organic! I can buy these elsewhere, but I do sometimes get these from Trader Joe’s as well.
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  • Cheese
    It all comes back to price. Trader Joe’s has some of the best prices on cheese (which can get pretty expensive elsewhere), but to be honest their selection isn’t my first choice when it comes to taste. So depending on how the budget is stacking up at the end of the week I sometimes go for their cheese as a cheaper alternative.
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What non-processed foods do you like to buy at Trader Joe’s?

 

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444 comments to What I buy at Trader Joe’s

  • In addition to their coconut oil and organic coffee, I love to buy their organic olive oil, organic dark chocolate (yum, esp. spread with my homemade cashew butter), organic fruit (apples, pears, oranges, lemons), conventional eggplant and avocado, organic chicken tenders, organic Thompson raisins, organic steel cut oats, and their frozen wild caught sole. There’s lots to buy at TJ that are less expensive than elsewhere if you know what to buy! I alternate between TJ and Whole Foods (WF is much better for organic nuts, organic leafy greens and fresh ginger).

  • selena

    I bought the sesame seed honey cashews two days ago and I put them in a container and today when I opened them they had a funky smell to them, have they gone bad already?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Selena. I’ve bought those and they had a pretty long shelf life. But, when in doubt, return them. ~Amy

  • Their specialty cheeses are amazing, although they don’t have a USDA organic certification many of them are made by european producers and the prices are extremely reasonable. Halloumi for example is $4.99 but $12.00 at Whole Foods.

  • Lisa D

    I have been following this blog for 2 years. At first I did not think I could buy much at TJ’s ( a favorite of mine since it first arrived in my hometown back in the 90′s).
    The product choices have improved over the last 2 years and now I find I can buy most of my groceries there. While my sons still wish we bought the fig and blueberry cereal bars, I do bend and buy a GMO free WW version at Costco that they love and I can be okay with…
    Here is what I regularly purchase:
    Bagged organic spinach and mixed baby greens, Organic carrots (both colored and plain orange), bananas, organic loose fruit and veggies, organic baby broccoli, organic zucchini, Organic sweet potatoes, Applegate hotdogs, nitrate free applewood smoked bacon, nitrate free turkey and ham, Whole milk, eggs, whole milk yogurt (the organic version is too runny for my taste so for this i buy regular whole milk yogurt)Almond and peanut butter, jellies sweetened with fruit juice, coffee, one type of barbara’s cereal , Organic pasta sauce with mushrooms, organic and regular pastas and rice, easy cook farrow and barley, olive oil, organic catsup, a types of their mustards, canned organic beans for ease when I forget to take beans out of the freezer, nuts (cashew pieces for homemade Lara bars), dried mango and raisins, Frozen veggies and fruit (both organic and not), Olive oil potato ships, organic tortilla chips (no salt), salsa verde for my son who loves it, whole wheat sandwich bread sweetended with honey, WW pits, Ww pretzels, ezek cinnamon raisin bread, chocolate, beer and wine oh and dark rum…

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