Home > Nutrition > Nutrition Monday: My New Favorite Place, Trader Joe's!

Nutrition Monday: My New Favorite Place, Trader Joe's!

April 26, 2010

Image by Petr Kratochvil, in the Public Domain

Occasionally on this blog, I’ll mention products or services, and I should make pretty clear that the makers of those products haven’t provided me with compensation of any sort.  Unless you count the enjoyment or benefit I’ve gotten from discovering the product or store itself!  And that’s definitely case with my new favorite place, Trader Joe’s.

I’ve heard friends and colleagues rave about Trader Joe’s for years, and I had successfully avoided setting foot in one until about a month ago.  I’m the type who if everyone in my world seems to be doing something, it makes it kind of not so interesting to me.  Not that I want to be different, because my alternative is shopping at the regular, old-fashioned supermarket, but more that I’m not one to get caught up in trends and more often than not, I find things that get rave reviews to almost always fall short of the hype.  So I’d drive by the Trader Joe’s stores in the city and almost purposely avoid them.

Then some of my blogger friends began tweeting and blogging about Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, and it sounded really good.  So one evening after work, I decided to drop in and pick some up.  If you haven’t been to Trader Joe’s before, their philosophy is pretty simple.  They buy direct from suppliers whenever possible, and they keep prices really low.  Their stores are small by comparison to a supermarket, with a tropical theme, and the product lineup contains very few name brands you’ll recognize, but many interesting, uncommon, and delicious products that you won’t see anywhere else.

On my quest for pumpkin butter, I found the ingredients for a wonderful oatmeal, dried cherry, and chocolate chip cookie recipe I clipped from Cooking Light magazine a while back (and the dried cherries were much cheaper than the supermarket), and a wedge of fresh parmesan that was literally half the price for the same brand I had just bought a couple of weeks earlier at the supermarket.  Unfortunately, the pumpkin butter, I learned, is a seasonal item, so I’ll have to wait for the fall for it to come back in.

I was really pleased with the value, and as a foodie, I loved the variety that Trader Joe’s offers.  I wrote a post long ago on the importance of variety when sticking with a healthy eating plan, and Trader Joe’s really helps you build variety into your diet!  Not everything there is health food, but they do offer a good many healthier products, and with a little label-reading, you’ll find lots that you can fit into a healthy eating plan.  Plus, when you are buying treats, wouldn’t you rather spend those treat calories on something really good and amazing instead of a ho-hum grocery store snack cake?

Anyway, I’m obviously a fan of the place now, and I’m sold on them as a great place to shop.  Here are a few of my favorite products if you’re in need of ideas the next time you visit your local Trader Joe’s:

  • Trader Joe’s Dried Bing Cherries (great on cereal, and CHEAP in comparison to the market)
  • Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites (Yummy, whole grain, and you can have eight for less than 150 calories!)
  • Trader Giotto’s Artichoke Ravioli (fantastic, and a little lower calorie than many filled pastas I’ve seen)
  • Trader Joe’s Ultimate Vanilla Wafers (totally different flavor than the classic stuff your mom made pie crusts with – I love those crusts, but these are better cookies if you’re craving a vanilla wafer treat)
  • Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Olive Oil (so, so good for a fairly low calorie, but filling snack)
  • Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (a wonderful, quick cooking starch dish that’s mainly Israeli couscous, but also includes orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa – I created a quick lunch or dinner recipe with this product that I really love and will share below)

What are your favorite Trader Joe’s products?  Does their variety help you stick to your healthy eating plan?

Chad’s Harvest Grain Chicken and Vegetable Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1.75 cups chicken stock (I use a low-sodium organic chicken stock in a carton)
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 6-7 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into one inch pieces
  • .5 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz. roasted chicken, torn into pieces (this is a great use for leftover roasted chicken – be sure to remove the skin)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese as garnish

Method

  • Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan/small stockpot
  • When the stock comes to a boil, add the chopped tomato and asparagus and stir
  • Immediately add the harvest grain blend, olive oil, and chicken, and stir until well combined
  • Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Remove from heat, gently toss the mixture with salt and pepper to taste, and serve in bowls as a one dish meal
  • Top with a small sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan

This recipe easily serves 3-4.

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  1. April 26, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    I’m with you I only shop at trader joes and have for years! I love their whole wheat pizza dough, pizza sauce and chicken sausage for a delicious pizza! Oh and mozzarella cheese and lots of veggies of course!

  2. Erin
    April 26, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Dude, I’m so insanely jealous and yet mad at you (haha) for avoiding Trader Joe’s. The nearest TJ’s is in Minneapolis, and while I’m not crazy enough to drive there just for pumpkin butter, I do have a major shopping list for the next time I visit family there!!!

    • April 26, 2010 at 9:40 PM

      I’m mad at myself for avoiding it for so long! Think of all the good meals I’ve missed!

  3. April 26, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    I love the recipe! YES! Chef Chad 🙂 Can we create a dish together?

    I’m loving that you dig Trader Joe’s. It’s a great place to shop, very eco-friendly, and supports a lot of smaller companies and distributors. I’ll look into the cherries, the choc. cookies and the mixed grains. I think I might just get some couscous and orzo, or maybe some risotto, haven’t decided yet.

    You should try to make some pizzas on lavash! It’s so yum.

    • April 26, 2010 at 9:48 PM

      I’ve looked for the lavash, but I haven’t found it yet. When I do, I’ll be making a Jess’ lavash pizza!

  4. kim
    April 27, 2010 at 1:11 AM

    i’m HOOKED on TJ’s. i mention them all of the time in my blog. in fact, i have staged a full fledged regular supermarket boycott – based on prices alone. I have one other boutique market that carries brand name things if I get stuck – but TJ’s is where it is at!!!
    right now i’m hooked on their 94% fat free popcorn. i have a jar of the pumpkin butter, but have yet to use it!
    i also love their cilantro jalepeno hummus…mmm.
    i do 95% of my grocery shopping there – and have cut my costs down TREMENDOUSLY.
    i was like you, all of my friends were shopping at TJ’s and I was the last to hop on the wagon, i was really put off by the fact that they dont carry name brand items, but once i discovered everything is BETTER, and/or adds so much VARIETY to my weekly food I switched over. there are tons more things they carry i am excited to try, and they are also always bringing in new stuff!

  5. Kat
    April 27, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    I love trader joe’s – such a great place. Your recipe looks great! I love the tj’s harvest grain blend.

  6. April 27, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    I’d really like to go to Trader Joe’s but haven’t found one near me — or close enough where I am willing to take the drive.

    I’ve heard so many awesome reports about it — maybe I should make the drive — may be a long one, but i’m sure it’d be worth it.

  7. April 27, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    We don’t have it here in NZ but it sounds pretty good!

  8. April 27, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    I like Trader Joes, but I’ll admit I like Whole Foods better. That said, I do have a big bag of Wasabi Peas from TJ’s on my kitchen counter that I occasionally go visit. 🙂

  9. April 27, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    I wish there was one nearby…they sound so frickin awesome.

  10. April 27, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    We don’t have it here in Canada, but I am totally salivating at all the goodies you mentioned!

  11. April 27, 2010 at 11:50 PM

    My wife is head-over-heels for TJ’s! My staple is the frozen brown rice. Brown rice that’s cooked, bagged, frozen, and can be nuked in 3 minutes. One of the few easy whole grain options. Look for the green boxes in the frozen aisle. It’s not always there, so we stock up when we see it.

  12. Dee
    September 14, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Just learned that TJs. no longer carries the whole grain choc chip. So sad!!!

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