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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395 comments to What I buy at Trader Joe’s

  • Stephanie

    We buy all of our green smoothie stuff there. Frozen organic fruit, organic spinach (best price I can find), coconut oil, and organic bananas. I also regularly buy nuts, cheese, organic milk (best price and not ultra pasteurized), coconut milk, organic beans, organic broccoli, yogurt, and their vanilla ice cream is some of the best I’ve had! Oh, and organic mustard and ketchup when I think about it.

  • Shannon

    I love the flourless sprouted wheat berry bread.

  • Stacey

    Organic frozen fruit, Organic baby spinach ($1.99!!!!), nuts, Ezekial bread, organic string cheese, organic greek yogurt

  • Alexa

    This is a great list, but I thought I would add that these foods will vary depending on the state you live in. TJ’s is a brand and a lot of their food will be the same because it’s not locally sourced (well, for me anyway. I live in mn), but the nice thing is Trader Joes DOES have local products but just re-packages these foods in TJ’s brand (i.e. bread, honey, hummus, etc).
    My point is, not everyone will be buying the exact same products because they most likely will be from a local company in the area Of the consumer. Kinda great but can be frustrating if you’re looking for something specific you have found at another trader joes in another state

  • Tina Monji

    I regularly buy my bread, organic Persian Cucumbers, organic unsweetened applesauce, organic whole wheat pasta, canned beans (my husband LOVES beans, and I love the non BPA can linings) We also like their regular potato chips. One of the things I cannot rid my husband from!

  • Kathy

    My family has gluten issues so we get TJ’s gluten free bagels and breads, corn tortillas as well as Barbara’s GF cereals. TJ’s org steelcut oatmeal, organic eggs, organic butter, most of my organic produce – fresh and frozen, nuts/seeds, organic dark chocolate (for those cravings!), organic corn chips and salsa, organic applesauce, Sunflower seed butter (my son’s peanut and nut allergies), organic quinoa, organic canned beans (w/o BPA), rice pasta, organic pasta sauce, organic olive oil, organic cheese, occasionally nitrite free hot dogs, organic hummus, org coconut oil, organic rice milk (we also have diary issues), organic yogurt and cheese (for those w/o dairy issues), nitrate free cold cuts. I find you need to look at the labels as you would at any other store.

  • Kat

    Love TJs! It’s affordable primal/paleo paradise. I buy grass-fed ground beef, uncured bacon, smoked salmon (no additives!), cans of wild salmon and tuna, smoked oysters, bananas, bags of organic frozen berries, frozen kale/spinach, bulk bags of sweet potatoes/ avocados, Kerrygold butter, honey, almond meal, and those deliciously addictive dried mangoes. If I’m cheating on paleo, their organic rice pasta is wonderful, along with their olive oil potato chips.

  • Lauren

    Do you know if the TJ’s coconut oil is unrefined or refined? I bought it but don’t see anywhere on jar that tells. Also, I’d love to hear your opinion on unrefined vs refined. Thank you in advance and keep up the great work!!!

  • Aubrey

    Even though I am thoroughly disappointed with some of the ingredients TJ’s adds in their products, I am SO thankful for some of their organic products because it saves us a ton of money! Our TJ’s staples are: organic, flash-pasteurized orange juice, organic Greek yogurt, organic 100% grass fed beef, organic butter, organic brown rice pasta, organic beans, organic quick cook brown rice, granular humus, cheese, organic frozen fruits and veggies….we like to get some of their better quality frozen foods for quick meals too! ALL at a fraction of the cost elsewhere!! :)

  • Aubrey

    Granular humus was supposed to say organic hummus…not sure how that happened hah!

  • Jessica

    Pita bread is full of gluten and isn’t natural. Whole wheat is horrible nutrition advice. I hope people reading your blog recognizes that. It’s very unnatural and misleading. Good job on the coconut oil. That’s really the best thing on this list

  • Christine

    Maybe this has been covered I didn’t read all the comments, what’s going on with ‘trader’ joes listing ingredients “incorrectly”? I still went and stocked up on our favs today . Pizza sauce, oatmeal, apple sauce, cheese sticks, cheddar/parm block, shaved parm , corn salsa, bolognese ravioli, the list goes on! Prices just can’t be beat, maybe there’s a reason … :0(
    I have yet to succumb to the allegations until a real answer is revealed.
    What do YOU think?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Christine. I think all those allegations are still up in the air. Specifically, I think it was over the use of the term “evaporated cane juice” rather than just sugar as well as claiming “no preservatives” but using tocopherol. I would always advise to look very closely at all labels. ~Amy

  • Michelle

    The steel cut oatmeal from frozen aisle is amazing!

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