Dec 4, 2009

A Few Affordable Faves from Trader Joe's

I'm just back from a trip to my all-time favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's or TJ's.  I know some of you are die-hard fans already and know that store inside and out, but for those of you not yet converted, hopefully this post will help you see the light.  Not only is TJ's known for carrying products with high-quality, unprocessed ingredients, but Consumer Reports ranked Trader Joe's near the top of their list for lowest prices compared with all other nation-wide grocery store chains, including Costco and Walmart.

Frozen foods is definitely one area where TJ's excels.  Their frozen vegetables are the best we've tried.  Besides veggies, they have quite a few frozen products to save you time and energy in the kitchen.  A couple of my favorites are the Party Size Mini Meatballs ($3.69) and the Sweet Potato Frites ($2.29).  The meatballs are the perfect size to use as appetizers but also taste great on a sub or paired with pasta and your favorite sauce.  They're seasoned perfectly, unlike other frozen meatballs I've tried that are like little salt bombs.

My kids will not eat sweet potatoes or yams in any way, shape, or form...unless they look and taste like french fries.  As a dietitian, I'm all for getting veggies into your kids any way you can, but especially the brightly colored ones.  Just pop TJ's Sweet Potato Frites in the oven and you've got a side dish that your kids will love, even while their getting their daily dose of vitamin A.

 (Sorry about the poor photo quality...not much natural light in my kitchen.)

TJ's Puttanesca Sauce is not your ordinary jarred tomato sauce.  This stuff is just bursting with intense flavors from tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and basil.  My husband is a bit of a pasta sauce snob, and we usually make our own, but he couldn't stop raving about this sauce the first time I served it.  Throwing a meal together with this stuff couldn't be easier.  Pasta, Puttanesca, salad, done.  Oh, and some crusty bread from TJ's bakery department would be nice too.

If you are a chocolate or coffee lover and you like the tartness of real yogurt, you have to try TJ's Coffeehaus line of european style yogurt ($0.99/5.3oz cup).  They carry two flavors, coffee and chocolate.  I'm not a coffee drinker but I adore the chocolate flavor.  The color reminds me of a chocolate frosty from Wendy's (another fave) but the texture is silky smooth.  With every spoonful you'll taste a perfect balance between tart, sweet, and rich chocolate flavors, with some added chocolate goodness on the bottom that you can stir in.  And with 25% of the daily value for calcium and only 130 calories per container, it's an indulgence I can feel good about.

Speaking of indulgence, TJ's carries a variety of high quality Belgium chocolate in one pound bars called Pound Plus ($3.99).  They break easily into one-ounce squares and are perfect for cooking and baking, but I also like to snack on a square or two of the dark chocolate after dinner.  YUM!!!

I'll just mention one more find exclusive for the holidays.  Mini Gingerbread Men cookies with white fudge icing in a festive green one pound box ($2.99) make a great addition to any gift basket or a perfect snack on Christmas Eve, and then you can leave a few out for you-know-who.  They have a strong ginger flavor without being too spicy and have just the right amount of icing on each crunchy little cookie.  Pair them with a glass of cold milk and good luck stopping at just one five.

Even if you don't have a Trader Joe's around the corner from you, it's worth taking a drive to one every once in a while to stock up on some high quality, very affordable products that you just won't find anywhere else.  You'll be glad you did.  I'm planning on posting a few faves from TJ's every once in a while so consider this the first of many.   And please let me know what some of your favorite TJ products are.  That place is like a treasure chest.  You never know what you're going to find until you dig around for awhile.


Nikki Cupcake said...

yay trader joes!

(i like live there!)

the only thing about trader joe's is they have a "different" kind of product but it's still good

there's an awesome cookbook you should check out.... i can remember the exact name but i believe it's called cooking with trader joe

(btw: following you from MBC!)

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