12 Trader Joe’s Staples You Need to Buy

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!


Friday Favorites (2)

Hello beautiful people, let’s get into some of my favorite things over this past week shall we?

First of all I just wanted to say the biggest congratulations to my wicked handsome, smart and thoughtful boyfriend for graduating at the top of his lineman program yesterday. I couldn’t be more proud of all of his hard work if I tried and I can’t wait to find out where this next chapter takes us!



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Now let’s talk “beauty”. As a completely obsessive Trader Joe’s shopper (there will be many a blog posts about this in the future- I literally have more tips and recs for TJ’s than probably anything else in my life) I love looking at their health & beauty section.

I once flew with a senior mama who told me the best thing I can do for myself is find some tea tree oil and a good hand cream. Tea tree oil to dab on your heels when you get to the hotel room because we have to wear heels and walk all over airports day in and day out.  The hand cream because airplanes are so dry, we wash our hands so often and the soap is the least moisturizing thing ever.

Senior Mama = “experienced” flight attendant, often has been flying “since before you were born” and potentially once shared a jumpseat with Jesus. They have a lot of opinions and rarely wear the uniform correctly however most are amazing and should be protected at all costs.

Insert Trader Joe’s Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream here. THIS STUFF IS AMAZING! It feels like you’re wearing L’Occtane but for a fraction of the price, I think it’s $4.99 in stores? There is no strong smell to it which I also like because I can’t handle my hands smelling like a baked good or something out of the produce section. I don’t have to re-apply every five seconds like with some hand creams but it also doesn’t leave my hands feeling greasy. This shit is legit, I swear. I probably own 5 tubes of it to keep in different bags, lunch box, my car etc. I even used to give it away to new flight attendants because I just knew they’d love it as much as I do (it’s TSA friendly).


Another TJ’s beauty section find was this Nourish Antioxidant Facial Serum. I bought it three weeks ago when I got to Boise and realized I left my Vitamin C serum in Denver but didn’t want to go out and spend the hella bucks on a new one. At $9.99 I was very willing to take the loss on this and almost kind of assumed it would be a bust but I am so happy to report I was very wrong. I love how gentle and velvety it feels on my skin and so far I haven’t found it to be greasy or heavy at all. I put it on after I’ve cleansed and toned in the morning and right before I use my beloved GlowScreen tinted sunscreen. I have read reviews that it really helped with people with dark spots. So yeah if you’re in the market to try out a serum but don’t have the budget for some of the higher end products I’d suggest trying this as a start!


And now for the Target beauty section because well it’s probably the only other place I’ve been besides the Trader Joe’s in 3 months. I honestly can’t remember where I found out about this Winky Lux Uni-Brow brow pencil but I am so glad I did. I have really jacked up eyebrows from years of over-plucking and taking a field hockey ball to the eye my junior year (screw you, St. Johnsbury). One section of my eyebrow literally just never grew back in which means I have to draw it in quite a bit. Finding a pencil that looks natural but doesn’t run when I sweat or it rains has been a real mission so I’m wildly impressed with this Winky Lux one because it just doesn’t move! I actively part my hair to cover the shitty eyebrow (and didn’t do a great job of filling them in before I took this photo but still you can see it’s a good “natural” color).


Seriously the quality of this brow pencil is the best I’ve used by far plus I love when brow pencils have the spooley tip to brush on the opposite end. If you have really light eyebrows this pencil may not be for you as it is a “universal shade” but I think otherwise it’s a pretty well matched color for most people. I believe it’s $16 so it’s not exactly cheap but compared to the likes of Anastasia and Urban Decay being closer to the $30 mark I think it’s a steal. I will say if $16 is still too high for your budget the NYX Micro-Brow pencil is my favorite in the less than $10 range. You can find Winky Lux at Ulta and in a limited line now at Target.


I finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I’m not completely fine with talking about it yet. I wish I could re-read it again for the first time and get to experience it all over again. I loved this book so much! Eleanor’s story, her (unbeknownst to her) witty outlook on life, her trauma and the heartwarming way she begins to deal with it, ah I just loved it so. Please read it, just do yourselves a favor and read it.

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OH and if you want to be friends on GoodReads you just let me know because that site is so fun for experienced and newbie (like myself) book nerds alike.

“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid is the story of a black woman being wrongly accused of kidnapping a child while babysitting and has been on my list to read ever since my teacher sister told me about it. This week I ordered it from Semicolon Bookstore, a Black Owned Bookstore in Chicago that I found from this list of Black Owned Bookstores that do online orders I shared from Monday’s post.


This week in podcasts I caught up on a few episodes of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard which if you are a pop-culture lover like I you should absolutely give a listen. I had no idea how funny Rob Lowe was and Allison Brie what a freaking sweetheart she is! I just saw today that he did an episode with Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Anti-Racist which I immediately downloaded. I’ve been hoping to read How to Be an Anti-Racist but it’s been out of stock in a lot of places so I look forward to listening and learning from that episode.

Moving on to things my favorite thing I baked this week were these 2-ingredient bagels that have been allllllll the rage lately. Bagels are my favorite food, ever so the thought of being able to easily make a few was just plain heaven to me. I followed this “recipe” in quotations because honestly you barely need a recipe it’s that simple! They came out great! The texture on the inside is a little more biscuity than a true bagel but I attribute that to the yogurt being the only other ingredient.

Now to the important part, I switched up the Trader Joe’s Everything But The Seasoning for Teeny Tiny Spice Company’s Montreal Seasoning which is my absolute favorite Montreal Seasoning! My favorite bagel shop in Vermont, Myer’s Bagels does a Montreal Spice bagel that was essentially my breakfast every day for 2 years when I worked in an office building. I have been desperate to “recreate” them and let me just say if you like a more savory bagel you will not be disappointed! Honestly, I’ll probably talk about these bagels again- I’ll shout it from rooftops until everyone knows how delicious a Montreal Spice bagel from Myers Bagels is. Sponsor me! Send me bagels!

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Shout out to the man in Boise Co-Op for telling me about Fort George Brewing out of Astoria, Oregon because Fields of Green may just be my favorite juicy, hazy and hoppy IPA I’ve tried in months! I’m talking THE BEST! I would plan a trip to Astoria, Oregon specifically just to go to Fort George Brewing. Naturally it’s sold only in the PNW and in limited batches because of course I couldn’t just have access to it always alas if you find yourself around these parts and are a fellow hop-head I highly recommend it! I used to try to hide the fact that I was a Vermont beer snob but I don’t even try anymore, it’s so much better than the rest of the country and then I find a Fields of Green and I gain some hope. To my roommate Jessica, if you’re reading this- I’ll be bringing some back to Denver for you to try.


Okay folks, I think that is all for today’s Friday Favorites. I would just like it to be known I’ve been listening to angsty 90’s music while writing this entire blog post and it’s been amazing.

Now I’m off to plan a road trip back to Denver, any suggestions?

Love, Kari