We shop at Trader Joe’s.
I almost feel like I need to duck and take cover from the barrage of rotten fruit that will no doubt be thrown at me for admitting that. Why? Well, Trader Joe’s has been getting some rough press amongst some of the Real Food Blogging Elite recently. I have to say I’m a little tired of all the bashing. There isn’t ONE perfect grocery store out there, yet because a grocer carries a wide selection of organic and Non-GMO foods, suddenly they’re expected to be perfect. Who came up with that rule? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a *perfect* grocery store, but until then, I’ll make due without feeling the need to pick apart the handful of companies that do provide me with the majority of the organic and Non-GMO products that I desire.
Proof that the perfect grocery store doesn’t exist…Yet
Whole Foods sells Cheerios and other non-organic and conventional (GMO based) food items and brands. They are not fully organic or GMO-Free.
Trader Joe’s won’t tell you where their private label food comes from and expects you to trust that it is GMO-Free just because they say it is.
Only 75% of all products at Earth Fare are organic. They carry conventional produce and items with GMOs.
Four of the seven grocery store chains in my area do not carry any organic items and one of those only displays a meager 4-foot end cap of organic condiments. That’s it! How is a person supposed to go organic/local/sustainable if only one grocery out of 7 chains carries organic meat, dairy and produce options? The bottom line is that no grocery store is perfect. Even the small, privately owned, organic/all-natural grocery store by my house carries products with non-organic soy.
When we lived in MN organic options were everywhere for me. And, they were close to home. I had 3 Co-ops, a hand full of farmers’ markets, Trader Joe’s (several), Whole Foods (several), and 5 other regional grocery store chains, which provided organic foods.
Here in SC I have to rely mainly on Farmers’ Markets for my organic foods and they’re not cheap- not by a long shot. I pay $11.00 for breakfast sausage links. ELEVEN DOLLARS! Organic and local food was much more affordable in MN. Organic also wasn’t new(er) to MN like it is to SC. So I shop at Trader Joe’s to save money and get fairly good quality food. Hopefully we can still be friends.
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire?
If it ends up that Trader Joe’s is lying like many other companies seem to do these days, then I’ll stop shopping there and be the first to print an update to this post. Do I like that they’re so secretive? No, I don’t. But I also am not foolish enough to believe that everything from Trader Joe’s is organic or healthy. I’m not sure who started spreading that rumor, but it’s not true. If it says ‘Organic’ on the label, then it is. If not, well, then it isn’t. What Trader Joe’s has stated is that “Trader Joe’s Products are Sourced from Non-GMO Ingredients.”
Just Read Every Label
It is critical that you realize you still have to read your labels when shopping at Trader Joe’s. Yes, it would be nice if we didn’t have to scrutinize every.single.label. Yet we do. So we pull up our big boy/girl panties and deal with it and read labels. We’re label reading Jedi’s. When you follow a Real Food, Anti-GMO lifestyle, you have to be a label Jedi. I read labels at Whole Foods, Earth Fare, my local All-Natural organic grocery store, Publix; I read labels every place I go. As time goes by I also find myself choosing fewer foods with labels. You don’t have to read as many labels if you stick to the outer perimeter of the store. There, problem solved. You’re welcome.
What We Buy at Trader Joe’s
I utilize my Trader Joe’s for their produce, dairy, meats and frozen veg and fruits, and their flowers. They have the prettiest fresh flowers at amazingly low prices. Where else can you get a pretty bouquet for $3.99? We do buy some packaged foods from Trader Joe’s, but I’m rather selective about what I’m willing to consume. TSM (The Stud Muffin) on the other hand is not as selective. I’m pleased with the progress he’s made as far as Real Food is concerned, but like many people, (Including yours truly) he still has a ways to go. Old habits die hard for some and much harder for others.
I follow the 85/15 rule of eating, and TSM follows the 65/35. He behaves 65% of the time where his diet is concerned and I behave 85% on average (and on up to 95%) of the time. For example, you’ll see I listed Olive Oil Potato Chips- A Trader Joe’s brand. It’s essential to know that just because that is listed doesn’t mean I buy it on every trip. I probably buy a bag of chips for myself once every 2 months. TSM on the other hand will buy one every other visit. We typically go to Trader Joe’s once every 2-3 weeks. When we lived in MN, I was going 2-3 times per week because I preferred to get my produce that I was using for my meals the day of or day before I needed to use it so it was super fresh, and the TJ’s was only 12 minutes from my house, so it was easy to go there more often. Just remember: Slow progress is better than no progress.
I’ve always been completely transparent and REAL and although you may not agree with everything that The Stud Muffin or I purchase from Trader Joe’s you guys said you wanted to know what I buy from the store, so I’m sharing with you. If you get Real Food Pharisee on me, I’m going to break up with you.
One final request as you go about this list. Keep in mind that what I find acceptable to eat, or what my husband finds acceptable to eat, might not jive with what you find acceptable. Guess what? That’s totally okay. If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it 100 times. Real Food IS NOT a religion. If you don’t like that I’m eating packaged guacamole, I don’t want to hear from you how that isn’t “REAL FOOD.” I don’t want nasty emails or comments regarding how you can’t believe that I buy XYZ, when I should be buying ABC and I should know better…etc. etc. What is right for me, my family, and our budget might not match what is right for yours and what works for yours and I ask that you respect that. And while I personally avoid as many packaged and processed foods as possible, sometimes I’ll eat a few chips with guacamole if TSM is sitting down eating chips and guacamole. I make it homemade more often than we buy what is pictured.
All right, let’s go through the list of foods I may purchase on any given Trip to Trader Joe’s on any given visit:
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Organic Olive Oil
- Peanut Butter Dog Treats
- Shredded Wheat Cereal
- Blueberry Goat Cheese (super yummy on toasted bagels)
- Frozen Fries (for when I don’t feel like making them myself)
- Fresh planted herbs
- Guacamole kit
- Lemon Verbena Bath Bar Soap
- Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
- Applegate lunch meats
- Applegate Hotdogs
- Organic Produce– all manner of fruits and veggies
- Grass-fed Angus Ribeye Steaks
- Trader Joe’s Ciabatta rolls (we use these for burger buns)
- Unsalted Whole Plum Tomatoes
- Fast Flavor Sticks (Sorta like Crystal Light but without the Aspartame or Ace-K and has real flavors not fake)
- Meringue Cookies (my egg-white guilty pleasure once in a while)
- Trader Joe’s raw nuts- Almonds, Pecans, Macadamia, Cashews and Walnuts are our favorites
- Trader Joe’s Organic Bread and GF Breads (actually, I see I posted two shots of the nuts and one should be bread. Oops!)
- Applewood smoked uncured bacon without nitrites and nitrates no antibiotics or hormones. If I can’t get pastured, this is the next best thing for us
- Frozen organic Mixed berries- for smoothies
- Trader Joe’s Fruit Frenzy Bars. I love these during summer months. Real raspberry, strawberry and lemon. Even has chunks of whole fruit in each layer. These are popsicles for adults.
- Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk- because sometimes a girl just wants a 7-layer bar!
- Organic Strawberries- for Milk Kefir
- Organic Garbanzo Beans (for hummus–and for the days when I don’t feel like cooking my own beans)
- Parmesan and Grana Pandano Parmesan. Swoons!
- Pineapple juice. 100% not from concentrate- Combine with coconut milk, frozen pineapple chunks, ice and blend. Ta Die For!
- Raw Milk Cheddar Cheese
- Organic Romaine Hearts
- Gruyere. My favorite brand
- The entire cheese section at Trader Joe’s. I’m in lurve!
- Organic Ground Beef 85/15
- Organic Free-Range Chicken (because I can’t afford to buy it at our Farmers’ Market)
- Variety of imported Italian meats- Yeah. These make awesome pizza and panini toppings.
- Organic Greek Plain Yogurt
- Organic Butter
- Mascarpone Cheese. It’s how Italians do cream cheese.
- Organic Heavy Whipping Cream
- Organic Whole Milk
- Fresh Mozzarella pearls
- Gorgonzola cheese wedge
- Blue Cheese crumbles
- Fresh Whole Milk Mozzarella
- Mixed Organic frozen veggies
- Fresh organic peas
- Fresh Haricot Verts
- Organic Coconut oil
- Trader Joe’s English Muffins
- Chunky Guacamole- don’t judge
- Organic Blue Corn Chips (so good)
- Dried Blueberries- for scones, granola and oatmeal and kefir
- Dried Mango
- Dried Cherries (all dried fruit is used for granola, oatmeal and kefir or in homemade trail mix)
- Another package of organic chicken- Leg Quarters
- Frenched thick cut Pork Chops
- Frozen Green beans
- Taco Seasoning Mix (Not one bad ingredient on the package)
- Organic carrots and figs
- Organic frozen blueberries- for pancakes, waffles, smoothies and kefir
- Arrabiatta Spaghetti Sauce- When I’m in a bind. This makes a good sauce doctored or un-doctored for baked pasta dishes.
- Organic Tomato Paste
- Organic Diced Tomatoes
- Organic Ketchup
- Baking Soda (I now exclusively buy Bob’s Red Mill or another organic versions of this)
- Baking Powder (I now exclusively buy Bob’s Red Mill or another organic versions of this)
- Cocoa Powder (I only buy this in a pinch)
- Shredded Sweetened Coconut – for cookies, baking and granola
- Organic Cane Sugar
- Sea Salt
- Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows (Sometimes I want a treat)
- Organic Powdered Sugar (baking)
- Organic popping corn
- Maple Syrup
- Chia Seeds
- Bourbon Vanilla
- Calcium Supplement
- Another Calcium supplement with Zinc
- Organic unsalted Peanut Butter
- Sunflower Seed oil. (Don’t buy often– trying to use non-processed/rancid oils)
Some items we SOMETIMES get on our Trip to Trader Joe’s:
- Trader Joe’s Olive Oil Potato Chips- Not Pictured
- Trader Joe’s Pop Tarts and Breakfast Fruit bars (on occasion for The Stud Muffin)– Not Pictured
- Trader Joe’s 100% pure juice not from concentrate in Pineapple, Orange, Cherry and Raspberry Cranberry (I use all but the orange to choke down my Magnesium drops- they taste horrific without some juice. I also add some Great Lakes Collagen to get in some extra protein)
- Trader Joe’s Honey Mango Shave Lotion– Not Pictured
- Trader Joe’s Melatonin 5 mcg– Not Pictured
- Trader Joe’s no fluoride toothpaste (on occasion) — Not Pictured
- Tom’s Aluminum Free Deodorant — Not Pictured
- I could get local pastured eggs at my Trader Joe’s in MN but not here in SC. 🙁
- Organic Canned Pumpkin — Not Pictured
- Organic Cream Cheese — Not Pictured
- Organic Frozen Pizza– Not Pictured
- Blueberry Frozen Scones — Not Pictured (these are a Stud Muffin favorite)
Most of our trips consist of getting only dairy, produce and meats at Trader Joe’s, but I wanted to share with you as many things as I could remember that we have bought over the last 11 months of being regular Trader Joe’s customers. I hope this post has been helpful and beneficial. I’d also like to hear what you buy at Trader Joe’s and you have to tell me– What’s your favorite thing to buy on a Trip to Trader Joe’s?
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