Since I grew up in what Chicagoans refer to as the boondocks of "downstate" Illinois, I was deprived for most of my life of the staple amenities that my suburb-raised friends always took for granted. This includes outlet malls, Caribou Coffee, IKEA, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's. How did I survive? I don't even know.
Luckily I now live in Chicago and am consumeristically saved. I do love Caribou, IKEA, and Trader Joe's. Whole Foods is tempting, but a bit too Lululemony for me, especially after living in Oregon where they have genuine health food stores and co-ops that are lower middle class accessible.
Trader Joe's actually reminds me of a cross between a co-op and a small European grocery store, and it's definitely a fun place to buy specialty food items for decent prices. I'll go to TJ's every two or three weeks to supplement our regular grocery haul. Here are some of the things I buy every single time!
- Chocolate yogurt. SO GOOD. They also have mocha, which is also good. It feels like eating dessert but is healthy(er)!
- European Style Plain Yogurt. I am phasing out of my Greek yogurt obsession and am loving this thinner and smoother textured kind. There aren't any weird additives like gelatin and it tastes delicious, even without the added sugar!
- Any kind of hummus. They have awesome flavors, but I usually stick with the basic garlic.
- Multigrain Pita Bite Crackers. These are crunchy and delicious with hummus or goat cheese!
- (Not pictured) Goat Cheese...the spreadable kind is extremely inexpensive here, and the one with honey is delicious.
- Bread of any kind. I love the "take and bake" mini ciabatta rolls, and will keep them in the freezer and bake them one at a time to go with a salad for lunch. I also love the Golden Hearth Healthy Multi-Grain bread for sandwich bread. It's baked in Chicago so it might be a regional item.
- Wine, of course! I think TJ's wine and beer selection is the best part of the store (and I am SO sorry if you live in PA or other states with weird alcohol laws). "3 buck Chuck" aka Charles Shaw is legendary, but obviously not the best quality. The only varieties I really like are the Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz (pictured above). Other good wines I've tried and liked for around $6 or less are Black Mountain Pinot Noir, La Ferme Julien White Blend, and Archeo Nero D'Avola. AVOID the Blue Fin Pinot Noir, the price really is too good to be true. The tricky thing about wine is that price does not always indicate quality, so you just have to drink around to see for yourself!
- Inexpensive flowers are another great thing about Trader Joe's! These are alstroemerias, and they are the best cheap flower to buy anywhere because they will last for at least two weeks. The ones in this picture look kind of smashed and sad, but once they sucked up some water the blooms opened up and this bouquet lasted for 3 weeks before falling apart! (Yeah, I've been meaning to write this post for a while).
- Mandarin Orange Chicken (frozen)
- Chili Lime Chicken Burgers (frozen)
- Mini Stroopwafels (cookies)
- Goddess Dressing (same as Annie's but cheaper)
- Chocolate. Any kind.
- Nuts/Trail Mix
- Alcohol-Free Vanilla
- Orange Blossom Honey French Liquid Soap (Ben is obsessed and so am I)