Trader Joe’s is the fucking BEST! Like, sorry all other grocery stores, you just aren’t as good. Yes, I still love Whole Foods and Sprouts, but how can you beat TJ’s prices and the unique items they carry that no one else does?
My love affair with Trader Joe’s dates back to 2014, when I first stepped foot in a store. So many bloggers I followed just raved about TJ’s but I never lived even remotely close to a store until the first one came to Colorado in early 2014, and even then, it was more than an hour’s drive away in Denver. This was shortly after I graduated college and was living at home while looking for my first post-grad job, and my mom and I decided to make the trek up there one day a few weeks before I moved to Tulsa. I remember a couple things I bought there: dried persimmon (so good) and some amazing tofu veggie burgers (that they no longer sell). The store and parking lot were a madhouse but I felt something special that day.
It would be nearly 2 years before I went to Trader Joe’s again, because Tulsa didn’t get a store until shortly after I moved to Tucson, where I was delighted to discover not one, not two, not three, but FOUR TJ’s in the city! But my mom supplied my addiction in the meantime by sending me TJ’s products every few months, like their kale chips and sweet & spicy pecans.
When I moved to Phoenix last year, I was disappointed that the closest TJ’s was about 25 minutes away in Mesa, whereas in Tucson, I was within 10-15 minutes of 3 stores. But this longer drive didn’t stop me from going there nearly every weekend for groceries. Thankfully, a new TJ’s just opened about 10 minutes away from me, so the love is still going strong.
I gotta say, TJ’s has really stepped up their game when it comes to offering vegan products. They’re always coming up with new things and many of them are plant-based. I’ve found so many things there that I’m obsessed with, but here are the 10 things I can’t live without, in no particular order.
1) Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
This is the HG of seasonings. Whoever came up with this is a genius, because it’s so simple but so good. It really elevates everything you put it on. I use it in cooking, on raw veggies, and even on plain popcorn. If they ever stop making this IDK what I’ll do.
2) Frozen Cauliflower Rice
Honestly, I’ve loved every cauli-based product I’ve tried from TJ’s, but the frozen cauliflower rice is a game-changer because of how easy it is to cook up into something delicious. It keeps forever, so you can stash a bunch in the freezer for stir-frys, burrito bowls and more.
3) Medjool Dates
I don’t know what it is, but the dates at TJ’s are softer than any other I’ve bought. Plus they’re cheaper ($4.99 I think for a good-sized container) than at Sprouts or Whole Foods. I recently started storing them in the fridge (per the instructions on the package) and it makes them even gooier.
I go through a package weekly to make my protein balls (recipe coming soon) and just to dip in nut butter.
4) Creamy Cashew Butter
Does it make me a bad vegan if I say I don’t like almond butter? I mean, it’s okay but it’s never gonna be my nut butter of choice, which is probably fine because a jar usually costs upwards of $10! Give me some peanut butter (as long as the only ingredients are peanuts and salt) and I’m a happy girl. But give me some cashew butter and I’m in heaven.
TJ’s cashew butter reminds me of cookies, but not in an overpowering way. It has a subtle sweetness that’s complemented by the slight salty flavor. While I usually prefer crunchy PB, I really love the smooth texture of this CB.
5) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Trader Joe’s makes the damn. best. chocolate. chips. Not even kidding. It can be hard to find chocolate chips that are A) vegan and B) affordable but TJ’s slays the game. The ingredients are simple (cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), they aren’t too sweet or too bitter, they are just the perfect size and a 12 ounce bag costs $1.99. Honestly, I eat a handful of them straight up almost every day #noshame.
6) Roasted & Salted Peanuts and Dry Roasted & Salted Macadamia Nuts
TJ’s also excels at offering quality nuts at a bargain price. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I just love their nuts and trail mixes. My go-tos are the roasted & salted peanuts (not too salty) and the dry roasted & salted macadamia nuts. No weird ingredients here and the prices are right. I mean yeah, the macadamia nuts are like $9.99 for a 10 ounce bag, but have you seen how much they cost at any other store? Yikes!
7) Just Mango Slices Unsweetened & Unsulfured
Dried fruit game on point! TJ’s has the best selection of dried fruits, including many you don’t see too often (like the aforementioned persimmons). I’m partial to the unsweetened mango slices. Dried fruit definitely does NOT need any added sugar, this stuff is already nature’s candy! These mango slices are always so soft, so fresh and so flavorful.
8) Gochujang Chop Salad Kit
Some people complain about TJ’s produce but I honestly don’t think it’s that bad. I’m a fan of their cruciferous crunch greens blend, which I cook a lot with, but lately I’ve been feeling the raw veggies more. This is a fairly new addition to Trader Joe’s and I hope it sticks around for awhile.
This is one of their few salad kits that’s vegan but mostly it’s just delicious. If you love Asian salads, you’ll love this. The crunch from the lettuce, the tangy dressing and the added seeds and rice crisps for texture make this salad a winner. I always like to add in some peanuts and sliced jalapenos for extra flavor.
9) Velamints White Gum
This technically isn’t Trader Joe’s brand but I’ve never seen it at any other store so it counts.
I chew at least one piece of gum a day to keep my mouth busy but I don’t got time for gum that lasts for like 5 minutes tops. I need my gum to last 45 minutes to an hour. This gum delivers. It packs a powerful minty punch because it’s actually gum sandwiched between mints, which is the coolest thing ever (literally). Plus it doesn’t have any weird ingredients like most gum does.
10) Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage
The name is hella long, but it’s worth it for an almond milk that’s this good and cheap. Plant milks can be kind of expensive, and I usually prefer to go for the shelf-stable containers because they are smaller (I don’t go through a whole gallon or whatever of almond milk in a week) and I can stash some in the pantry for months.
I always always always opt for unsweetened almond milks and I love when brands offer an unsweetened vanilla option because it adds just a hint of sweetness. TJ’s makes a good, creamy almond milk that’s definitely on par with the pricier brands.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at Trader Joe’s?