What I buy at Trader Joe’s

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.

I’d also like to make sure you know about Tattler’s BPA-Free Reusable Canning Lids. If you haven’t finished canning all your summer produce yet then now is the time! I canned some green tomato relish myself last weekend and it was super nice having the Tattler lids on hand because to be honest I have trouble keeping track of which Ball lids have been used before or not. :) If you want to give them a try be sure to use coupon code “100Days” for 5% off! And now back to Trader Joe’s products…

What I buy regularly at Trader Joe’s…

  1. 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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  2. 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!). :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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. [UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve switched to the organic wines that Trader Joe’s offers instead of “3 Buck Chuck.”]

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!

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

What non-processed foods do you like to buy at Trader Joe’s?

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  1. I buy mini avocados, delicata squash, gouda, nitrate free turkey bacon, raw almonds, raw cashews orangic coconut milk, coconut aminos, sunflower oil, haberno hot sauce, smoked salmon bacon, raw organic honey, bourbon vanilla, vegan marshmallow, organic porcorn kernels, coffee, tea.

  2. I lovvvvve the frozen grilled asparagus (nothing weird added) and the diced peppers (frozen) are inexpensive and can liven up a morning breakfast in a hurry

  3. Could you please do an updated “What I Buy at Trader Joe’s” post? It’s so helpful, and there are a lot of new items at TJs since 2012. Thanks!

  4. I always buy canned coconut milk there because it doesn’t have a ton of additives. Peanut butter: the one with peanuts and salt and nothing else. Frozen fruits and veggies are cheaper here than elsewhere that I shop. Ancient grain blend for baking and on my oatmeal. Their dried fruit is the only brand I can find without added sugar and preservatives- mangoes and apples are my favorite!

    1. Kim. I love their dried fruit as well. Target, Harris teeter and publix all sell made in nature brand and they are all straight up fruit. No preservatives or added sugar! I love their dried cranberries

      1. Kimberly Beasley

        I don’t think I’ve found that brand yet! I’ll have to look – thanks!

  5. I love the crociferous crunch salad there! I make my own dressing of ACV, olive oil, and fresh squeezed orange juice, along with cranberries to make the most perfect salad!

  6. I love the frozen artichoke hearts. There’s nothing better than not having to whittle down 10 artichokes to make dinner. They go for $3.69 here which is fantastic for 12oz. We also like the washed bagged salad selection. Not the pre-mixed ones with dressing and all, just the greens like arugula and baby spinach. They’re very convenient. I’d love to just grow some myself but I have a huge walnut tree that takes all my sun.

  7. I love that TJs has pretty much a no questions asked return policy. We’ve gotten some things that weren’t quite up to snuff, replaced, no problem. We’ve gotten some things that we just didn’t like– money back. We’ve inquired about new things– they’d open one up to try, right then!

  8. I tried finding a good bread at TJ’s but the closest thing to healthy contained either soy or canola oil. But I am going to indulge myself in their whipped topping. It is the most nutritional on the market outside of making your own nut toppings.

  9. Hi! I’m wondering what you guys think of Food For Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 pocket bread? Not sure about all of the different flours. Thanks!

  10. I buy their organic peanut butter and Ezeikel 4:9 Whole Gtain Sprouted bread. Do you think that this bread is a “real food”? I know it has more than 5 ingredients, but they are all organic grains. Curious as to your opinion on this.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi. Just be sure the peanut butter has only peanuts and maybe salt in the ingredient list and, yes, Ezekial Bread is a great choice!

  11. You have got to try their 99 cents corn tortillas. They are delicious and only have healthy 3 ingredients.

  12. Trader Joe’s has the ONLY corn oil I will buy because it is GMO Free. Their Olive Oil won a national taste test and we do love it even though that we can’t verify that it’s GMO Free.

  13. TJ’s version of Lara Bars: apple strawberry; apple mango; apple coconut; apple banana. Just those two ingredients in each bar.

  14. Since the closest one to me is three hours away & it just opened, I’ve only been one time, but what I got was great! Grilled cauliflower from the frozen section, roasted brussel sprouts, and pork belly.

  15. If you are looking for a great winery… Benzinger wines is better than organic…its biodynamic! I know my Costco carries their merlot and Cabernet.