The 10 Things I Can’t Live Without: Trader Joe’s

Food

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

Cauli Rice Bowl

The cauli rice makes the best base for all kinds of bowls. 

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

Cashew Butter

This cashew butter is the move.

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

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A cart full of my TJs staples, including peanuts and mac 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

Salad Kit

It’s easy eating green when you have this 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? 

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(Un)popular Opinions: Episode 1

Life

“I’m incapable of being how you want me / I do what I want.” (MISSIO, “I Do What I Want”)

We all have things we don’t like (or do) and others do (or don’t). Like for example, pineapple on pizza. People seem to be very divided about this unconventional pizza topping and it can stir up some pretty heated debates.

Today, I’m going to be sharing my (un)popular opinions on a few subjects I’ve been thinking about lately. #sorrynotsorry if you don’t agree with me!

1) Washing your hair more than 1-2x/week is overrated

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Just washed hair, but it looks almost this good a week later!

First up: let’s talk about washing your hair. I used to rely on shampooing mine at least every other day to keep it from getting all oily and nasty. Now, I wash it maybe twice a week at most (usually just once), and I gotta say, this new schedule is life changing. Ain’t nobody got time to spend 20+ minutes in the shower everyday. News flash — it’s actually better for your hair to give it a break between shampoos. Honestly, my hair is less oily now washing once a week than it was when I did it every day or every other day.

Yes, I exercise every single day  — running 4-5x/week and going for walks or hiking the other days and my hair still looks great after working out with my new routine. On days when my mane starts to look a lil greasy, I wear it in a half ponytail or hit it with some dry shampoo. Now I only spend 5 minutes at the most showering every day after exercising #win

2) I like the idea of a “beauty fridge” even though they’re bougie AF

beautyfridge

So cute, so unnecessary. Photo via Urban Outfitters.

Have y’all seen one of the newest trends in the wellness/self-care realm — the mini beauty fridge? I started seeing them pop up on social media at the end of last year and while my first reaction was an eye roll, I gotta say I’m intrigued. I get the idea behind it — many skincare products are best stored at cooler temperatures to maintain longevity and quality. Also, there’s something so refreshing about putting on a chilly face mask, especially on a hot day.

As someone who’s always striving to up my skincare game, I would love to try a mini beauty fridge. I just can’t justify spending $50-$75 or more on one when that money could get me one of the skincare products on my wishlist.

 

 

3) I don’t get why keto is embraced and veganism is scoffed at

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Yes, you can have “animal fries” on a vegan diet. Keto, not so much. These are Green’s amazing “West Coast” fries.

Keto was like, the it diet of 2018, and its popularity doesn’t appear to be dying out. So many people tout their weight loss success stories following this ultra-low carb diet that’s pretty much a cardiologist’s nightmare.

I mean, good for you if going keto has helped you lose weight or manage your type 2 diabetes. But let’s not forget that the diet was originally designed to help patients with epilepsy. And there haven’t been any studies looking at the long term effects of eating keto. Many health experts worry that eating so much fat, especially animal-based fat, could lead to heart problems.

Meanwhile, we have the vegan diet, which while not as “in your face” popular as keto is, definitely seems more sustainable (there are lots of people who have been vegan for decades). While to many, veganism seems extreme, it really isn’t when you compare it to keto or even the paleo and Whole 30 diets which were popular in years past. All you’re cutting out is animal products — meat, eggs and dairy (most also eschew honey). Almost anything can be made from the things vegans can eat — just look at this all-vegan pizzeria in Brooklyn that makes insane slices topped with everything from mac & cheese to curly fries or even this vegan lox bagel. Of course, most vegans eat a more balanced diet packed with plenty of plants to get all the nutrients they need without harming any animals or consuming copious amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Really, veganism isn’t any more extreme than keto, and because it has its roots in ethics, it’s more than just a diet — it really is a lifestyle.

4) I don’t think it’s unhealthy to get more than 8 hours of sleep

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I get my best sleep when I’m snoozing next to this girl.

So we all know we need to get enough sleep, but how much is enough? 8 hours always seems to be the magic number, with amounts less or more than that considered unhealthy. While sleep deprivation is definitely not ideal, I don’t think it’s bad to get 9 or even 10 hours of sleep, if that’s what your body needs to be healthy.

For me, 8 hours is the bare minimum that I need to function at my best. Ideally, I would like to get 9 hours of sleep each night. To achieve this, I go to bed fairly early for when I have to wake up during the week — I try to fall asleep by 10:30 p.m. at the latest to wake up by 7:45 a.m. at the latest. That’s 9 hours and 15 minutes, give or take some time in the morning because I set my first alarm for 7:15 since I know I’ll want to hit snooze (just being honest). This pretty much guarantees I’ll get at least 8 hours of sleep, if not more. On weekends, I don’t set an alarm and occasionally sleep close to 10 hours, but I never wake up feeling overtired.

I’m fortunate in that I’m usually a pretty good sleeper. I typically fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night. Even when I worked overnights a few years ago and shifted my sleep schedule to different times, I was still able to sleep at least 8 hours at a time.

I know some people can thrive on a lot less sleep than me, so more power to them, but sleep has to be a priority for me!

5) Birthday cake flavored things are better than actual birthday cake — don’t @ me

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A little of this goes a longggg way, but it’s so good.

Who doesn’t love celebrating their birthday? I mean, I guess some people dread getting older but personally, I enjoy taking some time to celebrate me once a year. Fun fact: I’ve never worked or gone to school on my birthday. Since it’s in the summer, I was always on break when I was in school and now that I’m working, I’ve taken vacation days every birthday so I can enjoy it more — and the last two years I’ve even traveled for my bday.

The birthday cake flavor just symbolizes all that’s fun about birthdays, except you can enjoy it the other 364 days of the year. I love the flavor so much that if I see something in that flavor (and it’s vegan), I gotta try it. Like Trader Joe’s birthday cake popcorn (so addicting, BTW) or NadaMoo’s birthday cake cookie dough ice cream. I also just recently ordered these Siren Snacks birthday cake protein bites that I can’t wait to devour.

When it comes to legit birthday cake though, I’m much less enthused. I prefer cupcakes over sliced cake, but sometimes cupcakes can be too sweet, ya know. That’s why birthday cake flavored foods are so great, because they have that same sweet taste without giving you a sugar headache.

What’s your take on these, erm, controversial topics?