If there is no Trader Joe’s where you live, then let me begin with a sincere apology, not only because this post is totally irrelevant to you, but because my heart BLEEDS for you!
I LOVE Trader Joe’s and I wish everyone could shop there.
Now I will confess part of it is nostalgia: TJ’s reminds me a lot of a small town grocery store I visited often with my mom when I was a kid. Actually, Trader Joe’s’ small size is one of the things I like best about it. Sometimes I’m glad for the variety and selection available at the super-sized supermarkets, but who wants to walk four miles just to pick up a few odds and ends at the grocery store? And, honestly, I don’t always need so much selection. Sometimes all I want is a bag of frozen broccoli and I don’t want to sift through 52 different frozen vegetable blends to find it!
But the quality of the products I buy at Trader Joe’s is the real reason I’m such a fan. All TJ’s products are free of the junk you find in a lot of supermarket fare, like artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and GMOs.
So while the 25-mile distance means I don’t usually get to visit Trader Joe’s more often than once a month, there are certain items I’m looking to buy virtually every time I go. Believe me, I could make my list of favorites eternally long, because I love the fresh flowers and the produce and the cheeses and everything else, but I’m limiting myself here to my family’s absolute favorite items from TJ’s. And let me add that I try to buy something new nearly every time we go, so my favorites list just keeps growing!
But here are our family favs:
1. Speculoos Cookie Butter
If you’ve never had it, then OH MY. I’m seeing imitations pop up all over the place, but, believe me, Trader Joe’s’ is the best. The original is fabulous stuff, kind of like a gingerbread/sugar cookie in spreadable form, but there are other varieties as well. Our family has to keep a supply of ALL of them at all times. My husband’s favorite is the basic cookie butter, but my oldest daughter and I prefer the cocoa swirl. Little Man adores the cookies and cream version. Whichever variety you prefer, it’s great on bread or crackers or a mildly sweet cookie, and it is AMAZING on fresh fruit. We especially love it with bananas and strawberries and apple slices.
And just so you know, the internet is chock-full of recipes for cookie butter cookies, brownies, smoothies, and even ice cream. I want to try them ALL.
2. Pizza Dough
Every time I visit TJ’s I stock up on packages of this refrigerated dough. It’s great for pizza, (obviously,) but I actually use it most often for dinner rolls or breadsticks. It makes for a perfect quick bread, and it’s hard to beat the $1.29 price tag. The fact it is fresh dough means it has to be used quickly, usually within a day or two, but I’ve found it freezes very well, so I usually buy at least 6 or 8 packages at a time!
This is one of my more recent discoveries at Trader Joe’s. In fact, an employee told me TJ’s used to carry these wonders only during the Christmas season, but they became so popular they’re now carrying them year-round. At $6.99/6, they’re really a good deal, and perfect for nights when you’re in need of a quick meal. Served with fresh salsa or pico and cheese, they are fabulous.
And my Texas-raised husband insists these tamales are as good as the homemade ones his family used to buy from a local Latino church when they ran fundraisers.
4. Naan Bread
It was at Trader Joe’s that I first discovered this Indian flatbread, and though I’ve tried other versions from other places, none have impressed me so much as TJ’s’. Naan is delicious plain as an accompaniment to soups and stews, but my kids love it brushed with olive oil and fresh minced garlic, then topped with marinara sauce and cheese for quick and easy pizzas.
5. Speculoos Cookie Butter Chocolate Bars
Imagine all that cookie butter goodness I mentioned above blanketed in decadent dark chocolate. Oh. My. Goodness…
6. Tea Tree Oil
Hand down, this is one of my absolute favorite products from Trader Joe’s. The smell of tea tree oil, (also known as melaleuca,) is a little strong for some, but I love it and use it often as an antiseptic, in homemade cleaning supplies, and in an essential oils diffuser. I’ve tried multiple brands of tea tree oil, (including some from the pricey essential oils companies,) but Trader Joe’s’ has a distinctive smell I consider the best. And at $6.99 a bottle, it’s very, very reasonably priced and lasts me a long time.
7. Handmade Tortillas
As I found out years ago on my first visit to Texas, once you’ve had homemade tortillas, you can never look at those paper-thin sheets of flour and water most people know as “tortillas” the same way again. These from Trader Joe’s say “handmade” and I have to believe it! The only thing that could make these better is if you could get them straight from the skillet, but they’re still awfully good heated up in the oven or microwave.
8. Green Tea Mints
I have to admit, the first time I tried these, I found the flavor combination a little…strange. Sweet tea and mint never mixed in my house, but it is actually very, very good! And these mints freshen your breath without kicking you in the teeth and setting your tongue on fire. The most effective mints generally taste the worst as far as I’m concerned, but these taste great and freshen breath, too. Perfect!
And the empty box makes a great container for safety pins! (Had to add that!)
My kids will not allow me to leave Trader Joe’s without at least one tub of cookies. Our personal favorite is the oatmeal chocolate chip, but I have yet to try a cookie there I didn’t like.
10. Water crackers
Cheese and crackers is one of my favorite snacks. And I’m a little persnickety about my crackers. Water crackers are my favorite because they’re very thin and light and won’t overpower the flavor of a good cheese, but a single box will often run you over $4! Trader Joe’s sells the same thing for a mere $1.39 a box.
11. Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo
I rarely use the same shampoo two days in a row, but this one is always part of the rotation! It’s light and deep cleansing, and it really does “tingle” on your scalp. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like the smell of tea tree oil, don’t worry — it’s the peppermint and eucalyptus you smell most in this shampoo, while still being able to take advantage of the cleansing properties of tea tree oil.
I usually buy at least two jars of this every time I go to Trader Joe’s. We use it on pasta, of course, but just as often as a dip for bread and in place of pizza sauce on homemade pizza. There are other sauce varieties including alfredo, but these are the cheapest and the ones I buy and use most frequently. They’re so good; real go-to ingredients I like to have in my cupboard.