Ever wonder why shoppers are so passionate about this shop? I’m one of them so I’ll fill you in on all the products we love to buy at Trader Joe’s.
Once upon a lifetime, there were no Trader Joe’s stores near me. I was a Trader Joe’s fan anyway. I kept my (Trader Joe’s) freezer bag in my car, and whenever I was near a store, I popped in and stocked up on my staples. Driving through Staten Island? Stop in at Trader Joe’s. Meeting in Paramus? Stop in at Trader Joe’s. Vort in Passaic? You guessed it.
Now, I live near one, and shopping there is my most pleasant errand. Trader Joe’s stores are known for their upbeat atmosphere, friendly employees, and easily navigable size. Most of their products have short and readable ingredient lists and minimal additives. (Pro tip: organic evaporated cane juice is otherwise known as sugar, and marshmallows and candied nuts are still sweet treats, not health food. Sorry).
Healthy(ish) food in a fun store is nice, but why are people so passionate about this particular store?
Staples: Marinara sauce. Pasta. Hummus (in varieties such as roasted garlic, sriracha, and edamame). Honey wheat pretzels. Pita chips. Joe-Joe’s (OU pareve Oreos). Vegetable stock.
Joe’s Os (aka Cheerios). Frozen fruit. Trader Joe’s carries delicious well-priced versions of most basic items. That marinara sauce? $1.79 a jar. OU-certified frozen strawberries? $1.99 a bag. Vegetable stock? $1.99 a box.
Specialty items: Shabbos dessert in a frum neighborhood with a local Trader Joe’s will usually feature its pareve ice cream. It’s that good. At least a few of their spice blends have earned their spot as pantry staples including 21 Seasoning Salute (salt-free!), Lemon-Pepper Seasoning Blend (in a grinder, for maximum freshness), and Everything But the Bagel Spice. Other popular specialty items range from cold-brew coffee concentrate to creamed honey to gummies.
Trader Joe’s pizza dough (regular, whole wheat, and garlic and herb, in the refrigerator section) is fantastic. It’s a fun alternative to pizza from the store (yes, my kids get pizza often enough that it’s not exciting at all), or a way to simplify calzone or meat pizza recipes. (Note: the hechsher on the pizza dough varies by location – sometimes it’s fine, sometimes there’s no hechsher, and sometimes it’s one of the questionable ones. I’ve seen each of the above at stores in New Jersey.)
Produce: Trader Joe’s makes the basics more fun. Do you buy apples? How about trying Jazz or SweeTango varieties? If your kids like roasted small potatoes, try roasted Teeny Tiny Potatoes (yes, that’s what they’re called).
In the summer, you’ll find not only peaches and plums, but pluots and Saturn peaches. Trader Joe’s is also a reliable source for seasonal finds such as blood oranges, delicata squash, and persimmons.
Not a Health Food Store, But:
If your shopping list typically features items like nutritional yeast, coconut aminos, almond milk, and no-sugar added peanut butter, you’ll love shopping at Trader Joe’s. If you prefer organic food, you’ll find loads of items, such as pickles, mayonnaise, and canned goods. There are also many gluten-free and vegan products.
Know Before You Go:
- Hechsherim – many kosher items at Trader Joe’s carry widely known national hechsherim, such as OU or Star-K. (Often items carry a D designation, but the ingredient list and allergen warning don’t mention dairy ingredients. If you are makpid on chalav yisrael, consult your rabbi.) Other items are certified kosher by less familiar hechsherim. Come prepared with the CRC app or a list of hechsherim recommended by your rabbi.
- Trader Joe’s doesn’t run sales, so you don’t have to worry about stocking up while prices are good.
- Whether it’s pumpkin-flavored granola in the fall or BBQ rub with coffee and garlic in the summer, some popular items are seasonal. If you love it and the weather is turning – buy extra!
Zehava Kurtz lives in a small community in New York. Between her full-time job, four kids, and passions ranging from journaling to learning to cooking, she appreciates BCP as a website that gets her and her lifestyle (though she’s yet to create a tablescape, and probably never will).