A new Trader Joe’s store recently opened a few blocks from Foodtrainers. I headed over a few weeks ago to scope it out. The check-out line snaked around the store and it was very crowded. I walked around a little and left. To be honest, I have never grasped just what makes people rave about Trader Joes. I asked Melissa, aka Market Melissa, to fill me in.

What’s the Trader Joe’s craze about? I don’t always get it, is it price? Prepared food? Help!
One great thing about Trader Joe’s is that they have standardized pricing, which means that just because you live in a city you won’t pay more than at a store in the suburbs. Also, most of their products are Trader Joe’s brand, which helps keep the prices down. You can also find many single serve, portion-controlled foods and pre-cut fresh veggies and fruit. Some may argue this produces extra waste due to packaging; on the other hand it can be great for those who are busy and looking for shortcuts. Frozen food is abundant at Trader Joe’s and some are great finds (but many are loaded with sodium so always remember to read the food label and skip anything that contains more than 500mg of sodium per serving). Speaking of servings, many contain 2-3 servings per package, another important fact not to overlook when shopping.

What are your top Traders’ items? Clients like the single server brown rice, how’s that?
Below you will find some of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s. While there are many more than make this list, I tried to give you the MVPs that always seem to make my own weekly shopping list. As far as the brown rice goes, TJ offers a frozen organic brown rice – ingredients are: brown rice. Plastic single serve bags can be great, just empty the contents in a microwave safe bowl and cook it that way, rather than in the plastic pouch it comes in.

1. Trader Joe’s Lite Kettle Corn – individual sized bags. Perfect combination of sweet and salty offering up a generous portion for only 110 calories plus 3g fiber.

2. Trader Joe’s just a handful of almonds – portion controlled bags of almonds. Great for the on the go and the snacker who can’t be left alone with a full bag of nuts.

3. Trader Joe’s edamame hummus – For a different spin on traditional hummus.

4. Trader Joe’s Super Seeded Tortilla Chips (made with organic flax, chia and hemp seeds) – Everyone needs a go to tortilla chip, why not get some nutrients while you’re at it?

5. Trader Joe’s Organic Split Pea soup – While I always like recommending making your own, a prepared one is always good to have on hand and this one is delicious.

6. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds – Sometimes I just need a taste of something sweet. 2-3 of these does the trick.

7. Trader Joe’s Frozen Steal Cut Oatmeal – In a hurry in the morning? Pop this in the microwave in the morning and you get a serving of oats sweetened with just a bit of maple syrup and brown sugar. Not bad for 150 calories.

8. Trader Joe’s Almond Butter – Great alternative to peanut butter and cheaper than other brands I have seen.

9. Trader Joe’s Organic High Protein Tofu – Great to add to salads or over Quinoa for a quick meal.

10. Trader Joe’s whole wheat pretzels – You won’t usually find pretzels on my clients’ food sheets, but these stood out to me due to their 100% whole wheat flour content and therefore fiber. If you have a pretzel craving, these would be the ones to choose.

11. Trader Joe’s High Fiber cereal

12. Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Cranberry Bran muffins – For 100 calories and 14g of fiber this can really get your system “going” if you know what I mean.

13. Trader Joe’s grilled chicken ready to heat and eat. Balsamic vinegar and rosemary or lemon pepper are both good choices.

14. Trader Joe’s steamed lentils – ready to eat warm or cold as a side dish or on top of salad.

15. Trader Joe’s black bean and roasted corn salsa – delicious topping to grilled chicken or fish.

16. Trader Joe’s ready to eat shelled edamame – there is a little salt added, which may be why they are so good. I like adding them to salads or mixing them into quinoa.

Great list, it seems as though there are a lot of snacks. If you were getting a day’s worth of Trader Joe’s food what would your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks be?

Breakfast: TJ’s steel cut oatmeal

Snack: Organic Fuji apple

Lunch: TJ’s has many prepared salads – the southwest one is my favorites, but I suggest swapping out the dressing that they provide with olive oil and lemon juice.

Snack: One package of just a handful of almonds.

Dinner: Balsamic vinegar and rosemary chicken breast (ready to hear and eat) with a side dish of TJ’s steamed lentils.

Thank you  Melissa. You mentioned a few items I now want to try. If you’d like to contact Melissa O’shea, here email is Melissa@Foodtrainers.net. Melissa leads our Market Foodtraining tours at various NYC markets.
Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? If so, what are your MVP’s?


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