Trader Joe’s: Always in My Cart

Any Joe Schmoe could rave arbitrarily about the delectableness of Trader Joe’s cookie butter or tell you to buy the buffalo-style chicken dip. But it takes a truly dedicated fiend to dig into the aisles and cultivate a vital list of essentials the likes of which I present to you today.

Trader Joe’s: Always in My CartThere are many things I adore about Trader Joe’s. When you step through the doors, you are greeted with the vibe of a small supermarket which transports me back to my teensy-town roots. I cherish the brown paper bags they put my carefully plucked treasures in. As I browse the aisles—perhaps multiple times in a single trip—I always find something different that I’m excited to try. And while I’m down to try the newest concoction in the chip aisle, some die-hard favorites that always find their way into our cart.

Through some compelling research and hours spent in the lab, I am ready to share my findings. Tried-and-true and {mostly} kid-approved.

Finds for Moms AND Kids

  1. Almond Butter Puffs CerealTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartI cannot eat peanut butter so for me, this was truly a delightful find! I can now sit alongside my hubby and crunch away on puffy cereal that does not send me into anaphylactic shock. Additionally, this is made from rice and quinoa, and I can tell you, not one person in my household knows it except me. Bonus points, it’s also gluten-free.  
  1. Banana Chocolate Chip MuffinsTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartThere are honestly several bread and pastries that you can {and should} try at TJ’s. These little bundles of yummy have been particularly popular at my breakfast table. They have the taste of banana bread, the consistency of a muffin, but then you throw in some chocolate—and I’m the best mom ever! …for the next five minutes.
  1. Spicy Chai LatteTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartWhat goes better with a muffin than a latte? A spicy chai latte! I don’t know how many of these feisty little containers I’ve gone through, but it’s been a few. I am a huge chai fan, so this mix is right up my alley. It’s a perfect blend and I feel so fancy frothing it up in a sassy mug. If you are a matcha person, that mix is worth throwing in the cart, too.
  1. Homestyle Pancakes Honestly, the theme that is building here is that I’m terrible at breakfast. Never been a big fan. Yet minions insist they be fed every morning. These babies are gluten and dairy-free and not a person in my household knows the difference. In a minute, thirty, you can have a steaming short stack ready to go and look like the kitchen goddess you are.
  1. Hashbrowns One time these were pushed to the back, and I thought they were out. My husband almost had to intercept a full-blown meltdown. When I was a kid, my favorite thing was the hashbrowns at McDonald’s. These are so similar but like a 1/3 the grease. You can bake them with no oil at all or pop those bad boys in the air fryer. They make Saturday brunch look so much cooler.
  1. Mini Sandwich Crackers
    Trader Joe’s: Always in My CartEveryone needs a go-to snack—this is ours. I typically buy the cheese version because you know, EPI pens. But you can go PB if that’s your jam. {mom jokes!} These fit perfectly in the palm of toddlers and ride along for the zoo, park, longer than 10-minute car rides…you get the idea. The kids also like having a few thrown in their lunch boxes, too!
  1. Cruciferous Crunch CollectionTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartThere are several excellent salad combinations {and dressings} at TJ’s. I grab this mix because I have found it gives me a wide breadth of uses. I’ve added it to gyros, topped fish tacos, or just mixed it with dressings for a side salad. The cabbage gives it a nice crunch and the textures add a little something extra.
  1. Frozen PastaI’m a sucker for a bowl of pasta. Mix with some rotisserie chicken or shrimp and you have a mighty meal in about 10 minutes or less! My kiddos love alfredo and to them, that’s any pasta with a creamy sauce. With the current work-from-home situation, these also make quick lunches for me and leaves me feeling like I had a warm, tasty lunch. {versus a sandwich every day}
  1. Mac & Cheese BowlTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartI have a confession: I can’t stand pizza. The mere smell of it makes me nauseous. I know, kind of weird. But the rest of the fam of course lives for a pizza night. Most of the time, I can’t deliver. Enter pepperoni pizza mac & cheese bowl! It’s not the epitome of health, but it gets the tummies full and the cool mom points are off the charts. My husband may also have some of these stashed in his outside freezer. {1000% percent, he absolutely does.}
  1. Mandarin Orange ChickenTrader Joe’s: Always in My CartThis discovery, my lanta. These little nuggets of good graciousness. They aren’t even fried! Lay them out on a baking sheet and feel good about that. My husband eats them right off the tray. Toss them in the sauce and BAM—one tasty dish. I sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on there just to be extra. So authentic.
  1. Jasmine RiceAnd of course, throw that luscious chicken on top of some fluffy rice. These perfection pouches are ready in three minutes. I can’t even boil water that fast. I am a rice person. I love it with stroganoff, pork chops, roast, pot pie—essentially anything with a sauce it can absorb. Having these handy is slightly carb dangerous but mighty convenient.
  1. Spinach & Chive PastaI’m singling this one out here, but there are several excellent Trader Joe’s pasta options to be had. I love this flavor because it’s not overpowering and matches with just about everything from olive oil to marinara. And yes, perhaps I am telling myself that they are getting a helping of spinach with their meatballs. Roll with it.
  1. Hold the ConeThey are mini ice cream cones! I’m not sure I need to tell you too much here. Multiple flavors and about the length of my index finger. They are especially helpful on nights when I don’t want them to have a large dessert, but a little sweetness has been earned.
  1. Cookie Butter CookieYou didn’t think I’d leave cookie butter out completely, did you? Obviously, TJ’s is known for the smooth, sugary goodness that is cookie butter. But take two butter cookies, spread that nectar on them, and put it together. Bless. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a rich one. But I think you can handle it—portions are important here. {Just kidding. Life is short, eat the cookies.}

Trader Joe’s Finds Just for Mama

  1. Fresh Flowers
    When you first enter the market, the smell of fresh-cut flowers assaults your nostrils in the best possible way. I rarely make it past the tin buckets without selecting a bouquet. And the prices! Take your pick and add them to your island, table, desk—wherever! Flowers increase happy endorphins. I’m sure it’s been proven.
  1. Watermelon Face MaskThis is a *limited* item so hurry up and get to your nearest TJ’s and pick up a jar! I appreciate a good mask, but I need something that uses all of my non-waking{ish} hours to rejuvenate my skin. {or at least try} This watermelon face mask stays on all night while little magicians work away. It goes on smooth and doesn’t leave me feeling oily. Plus, it smells awesome.
  1. Wine SelectionMama needs it, amiright? There are multiple aisles from all in over in every shade. My mom and I discovered Bread & Butter, a lovely chardonnay, and several dollars less at TJ’s than other vendors. Whether you’re hosting a small get-together, or you know, it’s Thursday, they’ll have you covered. I suggest trying something brand new or maybe having a tasting with your friends. Perhaps, getting some delicious dips while you’re there!

My last Trader Joe’s pro tip is to keep your head up. Especially along the frozen aisles, there are several shelves of hidden gems from candies to crackers. You never know what you’ll discover up there!

Next time you’re at Trader Joe’s, save a girl some hashbrowns, will you? It’s important.


 

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Kirsten C. was born and raised in Texas Hill Country. After becoming a hopelessly devoted Bobcat and earning a degree in Mass Communications-Public Relations at Texas State University, she was wooed by the never-ending culinary options and vibrant street art of Houston and became a transplant. By day she is a marketing enthusiast for a downtown engineering firm, and by night, an over-the-top {and unashamed} dog mom. She and her husband William are licensed foster parents—advocating for children and families—who hope to one day grow their family through adoption. You can follow their unruly journey on their blog, Cornell Chaos. When she’s not trying a new restaurant, playing behind the lens of a Cannon, piddling in the yard, or scouring markets for hidden gems, Kirsten is often found teaching student ministry through Kingsland Baptist Church or escaping at a local coffee spot.

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