Trader Joe’s Evangelism

TJoes, as it is known in my house, is not so much a grocery store as it is a cult. Everyone I know who patronizes it for their weekly shop has incredibly strong, incredibly diverse ideas of what to buy and what to skip. Last week, sitting in my friend Todd’s kitchen, he read the short list of ingredients on the label of Trader Joe’s Instant Chocolate pudding with Joel-Osteenesque awe. It’s almost impossible to have a conversation with my friend Rory without her bringing up their thick-cut, French-toast-perfect Texas Toast. Like the inventory at TJoes itself, my list of must-buys is constantly evolving. As of this weekend in March, it goes something like…

Whole Wheat Hot Dog Rolls A small measure of redemption when you’re slapping a Hebrew National between the bread and calling it dinner. They have hamburger buns, too.

Pomegranate Seeds My six-year-old will eat a bowl of these for dessert. I don’t know how exactly I got this lucky, but I know enough by now not to ask questions.

Bags of Organic Chicken Breasts Whenever people tell me how prohibitively expensive it is to buy organic meat, I point them in the direction of the Trader Joe’s meat dept. At first glance, the price tag looks high, but at $7.50 a pound, only about $1.50 more than non-organic chicken breasts. My favorite feature is that each cutlet is individually wrapped so you can pull one or two out at a time for thawing — and you don’t even ick up your hands.

Chocolate Dipped Bananas You can almost call one of these pops a nutritious snack, unless your kid eats only the chocolate casing and leaves the banana like my six-year-old.

Spicy Black Bean Dip and Chips Naturally fat-free — it has kicked my cheese-and-cracker before dinner habit. Well, “kicked” is overstating it. But it’s as tempting an option. (Also a major VIP on the snack circuit.)

All Natural Peanut Butter (Lightly Salted) I was a Skippy devotee and so were my kids until about five years ago when I realized the amount of peanut butter (read: corn syrup) we consumed in one week was not something to be proud of. It was relatively painless to transition the house to this one which actually tastes like peanuts. Once you eat it regularly enough, he sugar-laden lot will be impossible to eat.

Charmingly Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies It’s ridiculous that they call these cookies. It is basically a box of barely cooked dough. Which happens to be exactly how I love my oatmeal raisins. They are also bite size, which makes them good for lunches and small-potato bribes (i.e. I’ll give you a cookie if you take out the dog?)

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Great list! Would love to see this every week because while I love TJs I know that sometimes I buy items that are big misses, but then sometimes I find treasures — like their buffalo chicken pizza. I’ll keep an eye out for the above recommended next time I go!

After Words

TJs also has nitrite/nitrate free hot dogs. I put those on the TJ hotdog buns and don’t feel guilty. Also, their organic ketchup–a must for the young hot dog eaters in my house–is made without corn syrup.


that’s good to know — I’ve never seen them there before, but will be on the lookout! Thanks afterwords!


do you freeze the chicken breasts? i’ve always been on the lookout at tj’s for organic frozen breasts… also, will most certainly be trying those bananas soon…


sal- yes! and they are wrapped individually in little bags so it’s easy to pluck out one at a time and thaw.


Chocolate-dipped bananas are my warm-weather obsession! Can’t wait to pick up a box (or two) of these.

papa doc

very important to know if the TJ peanut butter comes in chunky; in our house, creamy is for losers

kristin v.O.

Jenny, I love your blog. I feel compelled to add my own TJoe’s favorites: ribs (the small ones with the orange label); pita chips (a million times better than Stacy’s, which I find too thick); strawberry and blueberry yogurt in the small container, NOT lowfat; and frozen mac and cheese, which my sons eat by the dozen. I buy so many on each trip that it is almost embarrassing.


Our skippy peanutbutter doesn’t have any corn syrup in it. Just sugar. Although it DOES have partially hydrogenated oils in it. 🙁 It has 3g sugar/serving (2Ts) – what does your TJ’s version have? And does TJ’s have any partially hydrogenated oils in it?
Thanks! – E


E: This is what the ingredient list says: Organic Dry Roasted Unblanched Valencia Peanuts, Salt. How great is that? Two ingredients. What does Skippy ingred list say?

Maryanne Duncan

Skippy makes a Natural one now. It has a dark brown lid. The ingredients are roasted peanuts, sugar ( 3 grams per serving) palm oil and salt. It still has sugar, and I don’t know how healthy palm oil is. Our Trader Joe’s is about 45 minutes away. I am hoping they open a store closer to us soon. Thanks for your list of favorites. Maryanne


my tj’s favorites:
organic unsweetened applesauce
almond butter with flax seeds
belgian chocolate pudding
dried mango
dried pineapple
dried apple rings
spicy tortilla chips with flax seeds
corn puffs
banana chips
frozen berry blend
frozen mango chunks
unsweetened soymilk
nonfat organic yogurt….
I could go on forever 🙂


I found my way here via Raising Foodies and am so glad I did. This post is *genius.* The very best thing about Trader Joe’s is that every person thinks there is a different very best thing about it, and 4 out of 5 of them, I’ve never tried. This post is an awesome compendium. Thanks.
(For us, it’s the pancake mix, pineapple salsa, Joe’s Os and Joe Joe’s, freeze-dried strawberries, multi-seed soy crackers, and oh, my, the Alcase tart. Yum.)


Another one who just found you too – I love your blog almost as much as I love Trader Joe’s! Love the wine, multigrain tortilla chips, great salsas, hummus, refried beans, Joe’s O’s (my son’s breakfast every single morning), fig bars, gnocchi….I could go on & on. And now I’ve just talked myself into walking over there tomorrow to get protein powder for my smoothies! Looking forward to browsing and staying up to date.


Oooh — my list is long. It goes something like this: TJ’s reserve pinot noir ($6.99/bottle in CA), caribbean fruit flow bars (frozen popsicles made with tropical fruit juices and flecks of coconut), orange chicken (frozen), crunchy breaded tilapia filets (frozen) — my kids call this, with relish, “crunchy fish,” french vanilla ice cream (I swear they must add drugs to it, it tastes so good!), blueberry cereal bars, organic probiotic nonfat yogurt in french vanilla and strawberry, peanut butter, organic superfruit jam, mini mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches, organic frozen pizzas (a godsend for my family!), frozen wild mushroom and truffle flatbread, organic coffee, dried montmorency cherries (yum)…

I will definitely try the pomegranate seeds (and maybe even the chocolate covered bananas) on my kids!