There are six Trader Joe’s within 15 miles of my house. And let me tell you, I’ve been to all of them. Because I try to pop in whenever I’m in the neighborhood (this habit was way more prominent pre-COVID; my trips are a lot more planned out now). I just love the store so much.
But when I first started going, I felt incredibly overwhelmed by all of the options. My first trip, I felt like I bought way too much stuff. I wanted to try everything! Now my trips are a little bit more organized.
Maybe you are a Trader Joe’s vet or maybe you’ve never been and need some ideas on how to start. This blog is perfect for you, regardless of your Trader Joe’s status. Because today I’m going to share my 5 go-to items, the things I make to always have on hand at home. I’ll also share the ways I use them, including meal ideas!
One of the things I love the most about Trader Joe’s is how helpful and knowledgeable their employees are about their products (note: neither Lindsay nor BMTN are being paid by Trader Joe's.)
I’ve asked a million questions – especially when it comes to wine – and I always find their employees to be so kind and helpful. It makes shopping there a lot easier when you are overwhelmed; there is always someone around to help.
I also love how many specialty diets they accommodate with their products. I eat a gluten-free diet and limit my dairy and I always find delicious new items to check out that fit into those categories.
One thing I don’t love about Trader Joe’s is how much plastic they use, especially for their vegetables. While I pay attention to what I’m buying and how it is packaged, I also make sure I’m consistently recycling and/or reusing items.
My 5 Go-To Items At Trader Joe’s
Clarified Butter (Ghee)
I was introduced to ghee when I did my first Whole30. Ghee is clarified butter without the milk solids and water. It is made by heating up the butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids float to the top where they are skimmed or strained out of the ghee.
Ghee ain’t cheap. You can make it at home – although I’ve heard the process can be kind of messy – or you can pay $8 to $15 a jar at a fancy store (think Whole Foods). At Trader Joe’s? You get an 8 ounce jar for $3.99. The texture isn’t as smooth as the more expensive versions but it tastes great and melts even better. I currently have three bottles in my pantry because I’m terrified of running out.
Tip: Great melted over popcorn, used for sautéing vegetables, making eggs. I love adding a bit to my coffee in the morning for some extra healthy fats.
If you’ve been to Trader Joe’s or you follow any food blogger on Instagram, you’ve likely already heard about their Cauliflower Gnocchi. It’s a calorie watcher’s dream -- an entire bag has less than 400 calories (and eating an entire bag in one sitting is actually pretty hard because they are so filling… or so I’ve heard).
If you are unfamiliar with traditional gnocchi, think small dumpling-style pasta that is typically made with potatoes. These bad boys have a soft cauliflower taste but have a similar texture to traditional potato gnocchi -- and they have a cult following. When you find them in-store, buy a few extra bags because you never know when your Trader Joe’s will run out.
Tips: Perfect swap for pasta night – I like when my gnocchi has a little crisp on the outside so I start by steaming them with a little water (they come frozen), then frying them in a little ghee or EVOO to get some golden brown on the outside. If you don’t want to dirty an extra pan, you can throw them right in your pasta sauce and let them cook through quickly before serving.
Sweet Plantain Chips
I’m obsessed with these chips. When I cut out gluten, I lost a lot of my favorite snack foods. But these make up for those losses. They are a little sweet, super crispy and are mild enough to work with a bunch of different dips and salsas. Personally, I love to use them as a scoop on taco (bowl) night with extra guacamole and hot sauce.
Tips: Open bag. Enjoy.
This salsa is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy – mango and pineapple with red jalapeño peppers. It is always in our Taco Tuesday spreads so I have a few jars stocked in our pantry at all times. I love a lot of Trader Joe’s salsas but this one is hands down my favorite.
Tips: The perfect addition to Taco Night, this salsa would also make a killer marinade for some slow cooker shredded chicken. Open a jar when you open a bag of those plantain chips.
Vegan Ranch Dip
Full disclosure – I tried this for the first time last week and I liked it so much, I kicked another favorite off the list. That’s how much I wanted to share this with you. I’m not a ranch fan but because I’m trying to limit my dairy intake, I saw the word vegan and decided to give this a try.
This dip is smooth and creamy with hints of red wine vinegar, garlic, parsley and dill. It’s incredibly fresh and tangy; not very similar to traditional ranch at all but I’m here for it.
Tips: This would be amazing over a grilled pork chop or as a dip for chicken drummies. Use a little to up the flavor game when you sauté your favorite veggies. Tasty dairy-free dip to have in the fridge for snacking.
Coming up soon → My five favorite food finds at Costco!