I talk a lot on here about shopping at Trader Joe’s. That’s because so many of the ingredients I use are really expensive – unless I get them at Trader Joe’s. This is the one store that I know of that has many of the healthy, good quality ingredients that I want without requiring me to get a second mortgage to be able to buy them! For example, I save $9 – NINE DOLLARS!!! – by buying my almond meal at TJs instead of Whole Foods!
See what I’m talking about?
Trader Joe’s claims that any of their products that has the “Trader Joe” label is guaranteed to be GMO free – another reason I like shopping there. It feels safe. And none of their products have high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils. This does NOT mean that anything they sell is something good for you to eat! You still must carefully read the ingredient labels, because they still have products with sugar, vegetable oils, and other things you should stay away from. But it does mean that you’re much more likely to find products that you can eat there than at a regular grocery store.
So I thought I’d take you on a little tour of the good deals I regularly get at Trader Joe’s – things I buy there and nowhere else because of how much money it saves me. I whipped out my phone and started snapping pictures at my last trip to Trader Joe’s, getting strange looks from people around me as I did so. See the lengths I go to for you people? You’re welcome.
(By the way, I am in no way sponsored or compensated for this endorsement – I’m just passing along good shopping tips!)
1. Almond Flour. As I mentioned above, this costs $13 at Whole Foods, and $10 at my health food store for the same amount of almond flour. The almond meal at TJs is coarser than the almond flour, but it works absolutely fine in all of my recipes. And is only $3.99!
2. Real Vanilla. You have to be careful when buying something called “Pure Vanilla” at the grocery store, because a lot of times it actually has high fructose corn syrup in it. Really! The small bottle of McCormick vanilla extract at my grocery store is like $12. This 4 oz. bottle at TJs is just $4.99!
3. Real Maple Syrup. I sure hope that by now you’re not using fake syrup, right? There are no bottles of Log Cabin or Mrs. Butterworths lingering in your pantry, are there? If you use syrup at all, it has to be the real deal. Which, admittedly, is much more expensive, but it’s worth it. This is something that’s only slightly cheaper at TJs than at my grocery store, but every bit counts. It’s $18.99 at my grocery store, and $16.99 at TJs.
4. Natural Nut Butters. Natural (nothing added) peanut and almond butters are just $2.79 at TJs! They sell sunflower seed butter too, and I don’t remember for sure but I think that’s the same price too.
5. Real Olive Oil. Have you read about how you can’t trust all brands of olive oil to be real? It’s true. Many companies cut their olive oil with cheaper oils – many times vegetable oils high in Omega 6 fatty acids that you’re supposed to stay away from on this diet. They’re not required to put this on the labels, so it can be hard to know what to get. I know that Costco’s Kirkland brand oil is safe (go figure!), and so is this olive oil at Trader Joe’s. TJs California Estate olive oil is good too. I don’t know for sure about the others, but I think anything with the Trader Joe’s label is supposed to be safe. And! This big bottle is only $5.49! Great deal for a product you can trust!
6. Virgin Coconut Oil. This is such an excellent fat to use! It has all sorts of benefits, and is really healthy for you, and it can be used in all sorts of ways – from cooking to skin moisturizer! Good quality coconut oil can get pricy other places, but it’s just $5.99 for 16 oz. at TJs.
7. Medjool Dates. I use dates a lot in baking. I use them pureed in homemade “Nutella,” cakes, cobblers, and pies to substitute for some or all sugar in a recipe. I throw a few into my smoothies and magic milkshakes to sweeten them up naturally. These are indispensable to me. I used to get regular dates from my grocery store for $4.50 for 10 oz. Then I discovered that TJs has the Cadillac of dates – Medjool dates – and they charge the same price for 16 oz.! So now I pay $4.50 and get 6 extra ounces for better quality, yummier dates!
8. Organic Popping Corn. Our Sunday night tradition in our house is to have butter infused popcorn and smoothies/magic milkshakes for dinner while we watch a show together. Yes. For dinner. The kids love it. So, we go through a lot of popcorn! Not only is this popcorn affordable at $1.99, it’s also organic. Since most corn in the US is GMO, it’s very important to get organic popping corn, which can be expensive in other stores. This is the only place I buy popping corn anymore!
9. Frozen Produce. TJs has a variety of fresh-frozen, often organic produce for really great prices. Often, frozen produce is fresher than fresh produce unless you get it from a farmer’s market, because it’s frozen right after being picked. I always get their organic sweet corn (organic because of the GMO corn issue mentioned above). It’s only $1.79!! I also like their frozen green beans. They also have great prices on frozen fruit compared to the grocery store, and I always keep a supply of frozen blueberries, strawberries, and mangos on hand for my daily Super Smoothie!
10. Nuts and Seeds. TJs has great prices on nuts compared to other places. Their pistachios (which my kids love) are $6/lb – several dollars cheaper than at my grocery store. I get roasted/salted pistachios and almonds to snack on, and I get raw almonds and pepitas to soak and then use in smoothies or magic milkshakes (to add good fat and protein). Notice, though, that this pound of raw almonds at $4.99 is $1 more expensive than the almond meal above – so that should put into perspective how amazingly cheap that almond meal really is! You can’t even buy almonds and make your own almond meal for cheaper!
11. Organic Free Range Chicken. If I can find local pastured chicken meat, I buy that, but if I’m in a pinch I get this chicken from Trader Joe’s. It’s almost certainly not “free range” in the sense of chickens happily roaming a field foraging for food. But it’s better than typical factory farm chicken, and cheaper than the “organic free range” chicken at my grocery store. Their whole chickens are a great price at $2.49/lb, and their drumsticks are really cheap at $1.99/lb. Their breasts are much more expensive at $6.99/lb but I sometimes get them too.
12. Wine. I use wine a lot in cooking (not so much for drinking, since it’s highly inflammatory), and TJs always has the best prices!
13. Kerrygold Butter. Did you know that all cows in Ireland are grass-fed? This means that all cheese and butter from Ireland come from 100% grass-fed cows. This is important because butter from grass-fed cows is actually HEALTHY for you! It’s full of vitamins, healthy fatty acids, and other essential things for your health, and is far superior to butter from grain-fed cows. You can easily tell the difference just by the color – grass-fed butter is a rich orange-yellow, while grain-fed butter is very pale. Kerrygold butter from Ireland is a great source of grass-fed butter, and it’s cheaper at Trader Joe’s than anywhere else I’ve seen. At $2.99/half pound it’s still pricier than regular butter, but to me it’s completely worth it. One of the reasons I want to save money in other areas is so that I can spend more money in areas where it really matters, such as grass-fed milk and butter!
Trader Joe’s does also sell this butter which is cheaper at $4.79/lb. The sign says it’s “from cows raised in green pastures,” but I don’t know for sure if that really means the cows are completely grass-fed.
14. Fresh Produce. A lot of their produce is really affordable. Their organic strawberries are $3.99/lb – which is REALLY good for organic. (You did know that strawberries are on the “dirty dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue, right?) Their organic potatoes are a great price too. (Any food grown under the ground are things you should get organic too, since they kind of marinate in the poisons spread on the dirt.) And their bananas are 19 cents each! (no need for organic bananas. You take the peel off!) I always get a bunch of produce every time I go because it’s so stinkin’ cheap, and yet good quality.
(edit 1/1/14) 15. Coconut Sugar
Guess what Trader Joe’s started selling! The only thing they really needed to add to their shelves to make the store TRULY perfect was coconut sugar – and now they have it! And it’s about $3 cheaper than it is at Whole Food’s and my local health food store. So it’s a total deal too. Coconut sugar is fairly low on the glycemic index, meaning that it doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar, and doesn’t taste like coconut at all. It tastes somewhat closer to brown sugar, but is granulated, not sticky like brown sugar. It’s perfect in foods with other flavors – I’ve used it successfully in chocolate things like brownies and hot chocolate, molasses/ginger cookies and breads, banana bread, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, hot spiced cider, oatmeal…tons of different things. Anything that brown sugar would work in is good for this too. The only thing it wouldn’t work well in is something that doesn’t have it’s own flavor, like a sugar cookie or snickerdoodle or something like that, because the caramelly brown-sugar flavor is too strong. But this is an essential ingredient in my pantry, so I’m thrilled that TJs sells it now! (sorry about the horrible picture. I’ll try to get a better one next time I’m there.)
So, these are some of the things that I regularly buy at Trader Joe’s. I also get other things as I feel like it, but these are the things that are most regularly in my shopping cart. I honestly don’t know how I could afford most of the things I buy if it weren’t for Trader Joe’s prices. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, then – I’m sorry. If you’re ever travelling close to one, though, at least you’ll know some of the things to stock up on when you get the chance!