Why hello there friendly people! Welcome to the first of what I’m sure will be many Trader Joe’s specific posts. I feel like TJ’s is one of those places you either worship or could do entirely without and I am 100% on the worship team. When I was based in San Francisco my budget was tight, I’m talking 3/4 of my paycheck going to rent tight. Add in the fact that I spent the majority of my time in airports and hotels where meal prices were so heavily marked up I had to get really creative with how I budgeted for food.
Insert Trader Joe’s to save the day here. Getting creative with meal prepping and TJ’s prices meant I could pretend like I wasn’t on a ramen budget even though I definitely was. My roommates would pick on me for how much I loved Trade Joe’s but when you are literally in a position that you can only buy green bell peppers because they were the cheapest of the colors by a few cents, you really come to love a place that lets you stretch a dollar. Maybe one day I’ll get more into a budgeted meal plan if that’s something of interest to anyone- I know it took me a long time to research how to live on such a tight budget.
Today however I want to share my Trader Joe’s staples. The following items are all favorites of mine whether you are on a tight budget or just looking to add a few delicious items to your cart the next time you walk in. These are the things that if you ever come over you can guarantee I have on hand! Some are cult classics and you may have heard of a few but let me tell you honestly you could never go wrong with the list I’m about to give you.
First up we have the Bambino Pizza Formaggio ($2.99) which in my humble opinion are the greatest mini pizza in the game. Not better than pizza rolls because that would be too good to be true but these are legit to keep in the freezer. These are my go to when I don’t want to cook. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll throw some prosciutto & arugula with a drizzle of balsamic but more often than not I just sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and a call it a delicious day! The pepperoni option is fine it’s just kind of meh, if I were you I’d just add your own pepperoni to these ones.
Pro Tip: cook for 2 minutes longer than it says to if you love a nice and crunchy crust.
Next is the Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Smoked Salmon ($5.49) this was definitely not a part of budget life but now that I’m out of that it’s absolutely always in my fridge. I actually do not like Everything But the Bagel Seasoning in general, I bought it once and never bought it again so I was surprised to discover how much I love this smoked salmon. One of our go to breakfasts in this house is a toasted slice of Dave’s Killer Bread, whipped cream cheese (whipped over regular cream cheese no question) and a slice of this EBTB lox! Makes for a great addition to any at home brunch spread!
You may not have heard of the Honey Pale Ale Mustard ($1.99) but if you like honey mustard at all do yourself a favor and pick this up. If you’re a psycho like me you’ve bought a few jars because you’re scared they’ll stop selling it. It’s a perfect blend of sweet & spicy that makes for a kick ass condiment or alone as a dip. Might I recommend it on a toasted sandwich with turkey, cheddar & apple slices! You will thank me later on that combo.
A top 3 easily, Zhoug Sauce ($2.99) is something I’ve probably have already mentioned how much I love already. I think I first heard about Zhoug from Jess Key’s blog and man am I glad I pulled the trigger on it. It’s kind of like a spicy chimichurri/pesto sauce that works great alone if you like the heat but also tastes delicious mixed with hummus. WE PUT THIS SHIT ON EVERYTHING and often have multiple tubs of it in the fridge at a time. I love dipping pita, veggies or even using it as a marinade for chicken.
Moving on to the dessert, Hold the Cone Mini Ice Cream Cones ($2.99) are a great little sweet treat! I particularly love the chocolate chip ones but every flavor I’ve had is great. I’m looking forward to the peppermint ones this winter season but my TJ’s doesn’t have them yet. Also, no judgement if the one turns into 3- live your life people.
Speaking of mini foods that I love, the Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas ($3.99) are freaking delicious! These are so easy to make and have so much flavor. If you are hosting in the near future make a couple of boxes and I guarantee there won’t be any leftover! The chicken are better than the potato ones FYI.
Pro Tip: Dip the samosas in TJ’s Sweet Chili Sauce ($1.49) which is a GAME CHANGER. The Sweet Chili Sauce is my favorite for the samosas but also as a dip for air-fried chicken nuggets and any type of spring rolls. Really the possibilities are endless with it! We have multiple bottles in the pantry don’t act like you’re not impressed when you do try it.
Up next, Oven-Baked Cheese Bites ($2.99) which I am embarrassed to admit you can find me eating virtually every single night since I’ve found them. I’m not sure if you’ve hopped on to the cheese whisps trend- I feel like people either love it or hate it but if you do love cheese whisps you will LOVE the TJ’s version. Add them to a salad for a crouton-like crispy crunch or just eat the whole bag in a single sitting if you’re a monster like me. I would recommend the original flavor I have pictured, the Black Summer Truffle version are pretty gross IMO.
I could get lost in the cheese aisle of any store and Trader Joe’s is no different. While I love so many of their cheeses (Unexpected Cheddar is a real treat) the Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper ($4-5) is one I will never create a cheese board without. It is the perfect blend of creamy & sharp like a parmesan and with the black pepper “crust” added gives it a great kick. Huge favorite!
If you’re grabbing some cheese you definitely need these Pita Bite Crackers ($2.99) while you’re at it. I love these crackers so much! Flavorful but a good strong vessel to add pretty much whatever topping you’d like to it! You could add any kind of cheese to it but I’d recommend a whipped goat cheese & jam of sorts. Spinach & artichoke dip would be an excellent option or even hummus & Zhoug.
Ah now this one I know you know of, a real darling of the frozen section- the Cauliflower Gnocchi ($2.69) I actually think all of the frozen gnocchi versions are great but this one is my favorite. DO NOT COOK IT LIKE THE PACKAGE SAYS my favorite is to roast it though I’ve not done the air fryer method so I’ll report back when I do. My favorite staple meal for the gnocchi is to add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes (you can get a small bag of them in the pasta aisle and they are already dried/julienned for you) and asparagus.
Speaking of pesto the Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto ($3.79) is fantastic! I love to use it in the recipe I mentioned above but it’s also great as a topping for turkey burgers, slather it on to each side of a piece of bread and make a pesto & cheddar grilled cheese sandwich or even as the base for a naan bread pizza.
While my budget may have adjusted I’m still very much a meal planner, I never go to the store without a list but my favorite thing to do every week is add a new to me item. In fact I grabbed a few pictured below that I can’t wait to try this week! That truffle salami seems like it’ll be a real star for charcuterie boards this holiday season. I promise to report back!
I know I’m not the first to share Trade Joe’s lists but everyone’s staples are so different I can only hope I’ve inspired you to add at least one of my favorites to your cart!
What are some of your Trader Joe’s favorites?
Cheers Beautiful People!