Grocery Shopping: Trader Joe’s Edition

I shop at Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) about once a month. Today Noah had a doctor appointment up near TJ’s. Things I love about TJ’s:

  • Kid- friendly: my kids love finding Millie, a blue and yellow stuffed parrot that is hidden in the store (if they tell the cashier, they get a sucker), free samples (usually includes a “safe” drink, so it’s fun for Noah to try something new), and they have kid-sized carts.
  • GMO status: Almost everything in TJ’s is their own store brand. They have committed to not using GMOs in any of those items.
  • Affordable: Bananas at 19 cents each, uncured bacon for $2.99/lb, almond meal for $3.99/lb, and a two pound bag of non-GMO tortilla chips for $2.99 ? There’s no other store that beats those prices.

A few cautions:

  • Out-of-stock items: TJ’s does run out of stock of items. I’m not really sure why this happens. I would think they could figure it out. Maybe they’re trying to make me come back more often? 🙂 Anyways, the problem is that they disguise that they’re out! For example, they were out of almond butter and chocolate chips today. Instead of seeing an empty spot on the shelf, they simply crowd the other items into that spot. So I end up standing there for 5 minutes staring at the baking section thinking I’m losing my  mind because I can’t find the chocolate chips – only to realize they’re out of them.
  • Ingredients: It’s still important to read the ingredient labels. It’s tempting to think that since it’s Trader Joe’s, the ingredients won’t be questionable, but that’s not always the case.

So, here’s what we picked up today: IMG_0242 Almond meal: Ground almonds, often used in paleo baking or for breading meat. At $3.99/lb, I couldn’t make my own almond meal for this price. It is best kept in the freezer to avoid going rancid.

Raw sunflower seeds: TJ’s prices on seeds and nuts are terrific. I usually buy nuts there, but I didn’t need any this time. I grind sunflower seeds in a coffee grinder. I then add it to smoothies or use in baking. One note of caution: do not use sunflower seed flour in recipes involving baking soda. Your baked good will turn green. IMG_0234 Coconut Water: Your natural Pedialyte or Gatorade: an electrolyte-replacing drink with high potassium, yet none of the sugar and artificial dyes of Gatorade. We have not tried this before. I bought it to keep on hand for when Ethan gets fevers.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces: At $2.99/lb, this is the sole reason I started going to Trader Joe’s.  We love this bacon! I always buy 4-5 packs. IMG_0245 Organic Powdered Sugar: Your typical powdered sugar contains sugar blended at high speeds with corn starch to create powdered sugar. This is a problem for Noah because it contains corn. I was thrilled to see that TJ’s powdered sugar uses tapioca starch instead of corn starch. Corn is a grain, tapioca is not. While we don’t use much sugar, it’s nice to be able to frost a cupcake every once in a while. 🙂

Cocoa Powder: Simply because it’s cheap. IMG_0244 Suckers: Free of artificial food dyes! I keep some of these in my purse so if the kids are offered treats, I can easily trade Noah (or all 3 kids) a gluten-full treat for these. I’m paying $2.99 for about 30 of them. IMG_0243   Almond Milk: Unsweetened, vanilla-flavored. This is our current go-to almond milk (until I get a Vitamix and can make my own!). We use this in place of regular milk.

Light Coconut Milk: We use this in smoothies. While we prefer full-fat coconut milk, it is very expensive. This light coconut milk is simply coconut milk and water, so we’re using this until I find an affordable source of full-fat coconut milk. We do occasionally buy coconut milk in cartons like the almond milk, but we prefer the taste of canned and avoiding the additives. The cleaner Noah can eat, the better. IMG_0238   Banana Chips

Plaintain Chips: Noah’s grain-free substitute for tortilla or potato chips. He dips them in salsa or eats them plain. He LOVES these.

Sweet Potato Chips: We use these in place of tortilla chips or potato chips. Sweet potato chips can be tricky. Always check the label to make sure that they only have sweet potatoes (plus oil and salt)! Many brands use a combination of sweet potato and corn or potato, yet label them as simply “Sweet Potato Chips”. At $1.99/bag, that’s a better price than I can get at a regular grocery store. IMG_0241 This photo includes many of the above items, yet also a few new ones:

Sunflower Seed Butter: The boys cannot handle too many nuts, especially Ethan. So this is our nut-free butter. TJ’s brand does contain added sweetener. I try to avoid added sweeteners in our nut butters, but TJ’s is cheap and we love the taste of it. We’re not perfect with everything. 🙂

Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce: At $1.79, this is more money than I usually pay for store-bought pasta sauce. However, we all love the taste of this sauce. The kids have been not-so-thrilled with spaghetti squash lately – and I have a ton of them growing in the garden – so I decided to splurge on a good sauce to get them back to eating it.

Tortilla Chips: Noah does not eat these. The rest of us eat these while he eats plantain chips. While we strive to all eat the same thing, we would go broke if we all ate plantain chips ($2.99 for a tiny bag). And since gluten-free grains don’t bother the rest of us, we get these. I love that I can get a huge bag for $2.99 that is GMO-free. I did pick up some produce there, but nothing special. I generally avoid their meat, dairy, and frozen sections due to higher prices.

Now you have more information than you ever wanted.

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