I love Trader Joe’s. It became my primary grocery store during the 2003 grocery store strike, when I was reluctant to cross the picket lines at the mainstream markets. They don’t have sales, and most of the items in the store are their own brand (though they do carry some name brands, like Laughing Cow, and they will take manufacturer’s coupons on those). One of the things TJ’s is known for is their exceptional prices on wine, but what I love most is their low every day price and wide availability of organic produce, and organic/hormone and antibiotic-free dairy and meat. They frequently have a better selection of organic produce than Whole Foods (although WF always has a better selection of meat). Here are some of the Trader Joe’s products I buy regularly:
Lobster Ravioli – You’ll find these in the refrigerated pasta section and they’re our family’s favorite of the prepared pastas there. I serve these with a quick pink sauce.
Beef hot dogs – These are high in fat but they’re nitrate-free, so these are my first-choice franks. (I tried serving the nitrate-free turkey hot dogs but Alex, who loves the beef dogs, rejected them.)
Organic, sulfite-free Thompson raisins – Since foreign grapes are on the list of produce that retains a high amount of pesticides, I figure it’s best to go with organic raisins. I particularly like these because they don’t contain any sulfites (I have a hard time breathing when I consume some).
Party-size frozen meatballs – These little meatballs are about one inch in diameter, making them perfect for little hands. They’re a little on the greasy side, but that gives them a lot of flavor and Tyler loves them with ketchup.
Parmesan reggiano cheese – TJ’s sells these in vacuum packed wedges. This cheese is of such high quality that I’m not allowed to serve the pre-grated Parmesan cheese anymore. It really doesn’t take long to grate the cheese on a microplane, and the fluffy snowflake-like bits are well worth it.
Handmade whole wheat tortillas – These are a little thicker than Mission brand tortillas, but I prefer them because they have fewer ingredients. They do have a fairly short expiration date, so poke around on the shelf to find the freshest packages. (They freeze pretty well.)
Organic cheese sandwich crackers – Surprisingly, these are pretty comparable, nutritionally, to Wheat Thins. The boys love them.
Cereal bars – The boys like strawberry, blueberry and apple. They eat about half of the fig bars before handing them back to me. I like these bars because Tyler doesn’t react to them. (He gets a bit of a rash from Kashi cereal bars.)
Chocolate Decadence cereal – The name sounds absurd but it’s pretty accurate. I love this cereal, but I didn’t see it on the shelf this past weekend. Hopefully they haven’t stopped selling it. (TJ’s is known to stop production on some products rather quickly – I hope that’s not what happened here!)
Ultimate Vanilla Wafers – One of these cookies serves as an occasional “dessert” for the boys, and they’re very tasty. I particularly like that they don’t contain hydrogenated oil (unlike Nilla brand cookies, last time I checked).
Note: If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you have my condolences. I would suggest contacting them and urging them to open a store in your neighborhood – your neighbors will thank you!
Kitchen essential: I love my microplane grater.
Previously: More quick product reviews