Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Best of Trader Joe's, According to Biscuit

As a baller on a budget, I have been making weekly trips to Trader Joe's to gather provisions for our home cooking adventures. This is notable, because both grocery shopping and budgeting are new to me, since I traveled on an expense account for four years. So, why Trader Joe’s and not the Andronico’s on the corner? Trader Joe’s is about ¼ the price. I walk out with 4 large bags of groceries and a carrier of wine for $100, which would get me one bag of goods (and no wine) at the corner store. I love Andronico’s, but I can’t afford it right now. Boo.

Due to my frequent visits, I have discovered some awesome products that I wasn’t aware of before, and I wanted to share this stuff with you. Some of them are in-house branded, and some is name brand but half the price I’ve seen in other stores. It’s cheap, good, and you should pick some up on your next Trader Joe’s run.

  1. Epicuro Wines:  My current financial situation has not stopped me from enjoying my weekly ritual of red wine paired with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Bridezillas, and New Girl (formerly: Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, Four Weddings). If you aren’t watching any of these shows, you definitely should be. BH is by far the best Real Housewives franchise, and the New Girl is surprisingly awesome (titular character’s dream guy is “Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. And I could be girl Jack Lemmon!”). Trader Joe’s carries about 4 varieties of wines from Epicuro, which are a whopping $4.99 each. I like the one with the blue label (Nero D’Avola) and the one with the gold label (Salice Salentino Riserva) the best. For the record I had to google this wine to figure out the varietal names – I cannot pronounce them and I certainly don’t remember them. They probably won’t win any awards, but they are super drinkable and delicious, and some of the best I’ve found for that price. They also don’t give me headaches like some non-California red wines (anyone know why this happens with a lot of Spanish and Italian wines?). I’m not a wine snob, so if you are maybe you won’t like them, I don’t know, but if you’re looking for some cheap, palatable wine, try these out! 
  2. Sugar Pumpkins: These are super seasonal (and possibly regional?), but at TJ’s they are about ½ the price per pound I saw at my local store. I bought one Sunday and I’m going to make this to share with my friend the Cheese Weasel this week. Mmm, cheesy pumpkin. 
  3. Fage Yogurt: The plain is perfect for a high protein sour cream substitute. The mini cups with fruit are the perfect throw in your bag breakfast. It may all be in my head, but since I started eating this instead of egg whites for breakfast, I swear my stomach has completely deflated. You can get fage anywhere, but aside from Target, this is the best price I’ve found at about 1.49 per cup. I can’t remember what the big container of plain cost, but I’m sure that was cheap too. 
  4. Paneer/Chicken Tikka Masala Frozen Meals: I am obsessed with Indian food. Obviously I prefer awesome takeout or Indian buffet from Naan n Curry, but these frozen meals are damn tasty and they solve two problems for me. First, at about $3 a pop, I get a fairly satisfying meal for about $9 less than I’d spend on takeout. Second, whenever I get takeout, I am so excited that I lose all self control, which, combined with my extreme goal-orientation, results in my eating the entire family sized portion. Proud member of the clean plate club fo’ life. Eating until I’m extremely uncomfortable is good for neither my waistline nor my self esteem. I am a vegetarian so I stick to the paneer, but I’m also recommending the chicken variety, as it got thumbs up from my extremely picky BF. 
  5. Raspberry & Vanilla Cream Bars: TJ’s seems to have portion control down to a science. These are about 60 calories, apparently they are gluten free, and they taste like that awesome 50/50 ice cream we had as kids. 
  6. Mixed Berry Fiberful bars: I love me some fiber. I feel like it’s the forgotten eat-healthy ingredient. I also used to do weight watchers, and these are 0 points. Yeah, you can taste the 6 grams of fiber crammed in, but they are really good for that 2 pm – 7 pm stretch in which somehow business people are meant to survive without food. So this is more a "sub $1 snack that will make you feel full, and you can also keep it in your purse!" recommendation. Stick to the mixed berry flavor, though. The other ones are kind of gross. 
  7.  Fire Roasted Corn: This is the only frozen corn I use and I always have it in my freezer. It’s perfect for chili, enchiladas, and really any recipe that would include corn. I’m not a frozen corn on the side kind of a lady, so I haven’t eaten this on its own, but it adds good flavor to my veggie dishes. 
  8. Vegetarian Chorizo: I’ve mentioned before that TJ’s soyrizo is superior to other supermarket brands. We made awesome soyrizo-potato tacos and the best batch of veggie chili yet with the stuff.It’s crumbly and has an amazing (slightly tangy, slightly spicy), not at all soy based flavor. And it’s 1.99. Now each shopping trip, I pick up at least 2 packages. Carnivorous BF gobbles up everything I make with this stuff. 
  9. TJ’s Salsa Especial: I’m learning fun things while Google searching innocuous TJ’s products. There’s a whole blog about “what’s good at Trader Joe’s” (linked extensively above). And Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial has its own dedicated Facebook page. So apparently I’m not alone in liking this stuff? Obviously the best salsa is homemade or found at Tres Hermanas in Sacramento, CA, but we don’t always have the time, and when I’m looking for something to pour over eggs or top my soyrizo-potato tacos, this stuff is really good. And compared to the price of the fresh salsa at the corner store, it’s a steal. 
  10. Alvarado Street Bakery Bread: If you’ve ever been on a diet you know the stuff. They have a variety called “Essential Flax Seed Bread” that has only 50 calories per slice, and I’ve had a loaf of the stuff in my fridge at all times for the past 4 years. This is another one that you can find at any large grocer, but I have priced it at 4.99 and 3.99 at local store and safeway, and it’s only 2.99 at Trader Joe’s. So buy it there.

Bonus link! Some wine guy named Jason has a top ten list of TJ's wines. I wrote a few down on a post it note so I can pick them up this weekend!


  1. Weasel is sooo excited for this! Also TJ's has the best price on Luna bars, honey infused goat cheese is awesome!, the cayenne spicy almonds, the hummus is the creamiest (jalapeno is my fav) and the carmel covered with choclate and salt is too die for...

  2. Oh! I totes forgot the honey chevre. SO GOOD. I thought about just putting "Cheese section" as number one. Also, they have this new dark chocolate bar that's filled with caramel and and covered in salt. That might need it's own post. SO GOOD!