Favorite Things, Food, Humor, Nonsense

I’m Not Doing Trader Joe Correctly

I hope that doesn’t make a bunch of new people want to read my blog. To be clear, I’m not “doing” Joe.

But for real, I’m doing something wrong at Trader Joes.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to buy there.

I do have a few favorites (keep reading to find out what they are), but when I walk into a Trader Joes, it feels like the first time I’ve left the bunker in 15 years.

Image result for kimmy schmidt bunker years"
Courtesy Netflix

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong at Trader Joes, or is that just me? Like, they must know that I’m not a “regular” or that I don’t know how to cook quinoa or use organic laundry detergent.

I don’t think I fit their demographic.

But it’s so much fun to shop there!

It doesn’t even feel like grocery shopping!

My Aldi doesn’t have a nautical bell that they ring when they need to open another register, and the always-grumpy employees at my local Walmart don’t wear tropical shirts or ask me what I’m going to make with my new Madagascar vanilla and navel oranges like the folks at Trader Joes do!

Then I started to think about how I would explain Trader Joe’s to someone who had never been there.

Trader Joe’s Store Map
Map of Trader Joes locations/ courtesy Red Lion Data

At the time this post was written, Trader Joe’s wasn’t in Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, North or South Dakota.

So how would I explain a Trader Joes to someone from South Dakota?

It’s similar to a high-end convenience store?

This is exactly why no one ever asks me for help with their blog bio.

So, if you Google “what to buy at Trader Joes,” three pages of blogs, websites, guides, and tutorials about what to buy and what not to buy at Trader Joes will come up.

Well, I stopped at three pages.

That’s just one page.

Got it. Thanks.

Then I stumbled upon an article on Apartment Therapy about Trader Joe’s Most Loved Products, According to Superfans.

Well if the “superfans” say so, it must be true!

Not one damn grocery item on the list.

If you don’t want to read the article, I’ll give you some spoilers. When mentioning grocery store items is deemed a spoiler, you know you’re becoming old.

Here are some of my favorite things to buy at Trader Joes.

An honest list from a someone who has nothing to gain monetarily by sharing this with you.

Candles. Ish

Trader Joes Limited Edition Cedar Balsam Candle
Courtesy of …..Amazon?

They are selling this scent on Amazon for $14. I am quite sure it wasn’t even close to that price at Trader Joes. Way sleazy, Bezos.

I’m not always a fan of the candles at Trader Joes. I once bought a Honeycrisp Apple scented candle there and it smelled so strongly that I had to give it away to get it the hell out of my house.

But my dear friend Melanie gave me the Cedar Balsam scent as a hostess gift, and it was divine. The ideal pine scent that doesn’t smell like a car air freshener.

Of which you can also buy on Amazon

Forest Fresh Magic Tree/Little Tree Car/Home/Van Air Freshener 5 Pk
Courtesy of Amazon

Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken (4 Pack)

Mandarin Orange Chicken

By the way, that photo up there is, yet again, Amazon. Who is selling a four-pack of this for $79. Grrr.

But I must admit that Trader Joe’s Mandarin orange chicken is delicious and our go-to frozen meal from TJ’s. It’s simple to make, not authentic, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Close-Up Photography of Wine Glasses

Blue Fin Riesling

I haven’t had a drink since the week before Christmas, and I feel fantastic. But when I do drink wine, one of my favorites is the Blue Fin brand from Trader Joe’s.

It gets you drunk quickly, it doesn’t usually give you a headache, and it’s only five bucks.

Rose Water Facial Toner

I bought two of these for my daughters’ Christmas stockings and later discovered that they had both already been using and enjoying rose water facial toner. Anna must have introduced Ella to it since she started wearing makeup this year. One of the many advantages of having an older sister.

They both love this, it’s very affordable, and if used properly will last a long time.

Shallow Focus Photography of Bananas


Although according to Business Insider, you should skip their produce section altogether because most of it is near its expiration. Which might be why the bananas are so cheap?

Selective Focus Photography of White and Red Tulip Flowers


Hands down favorite part of Trader Joes. Their flowers are relatively inexpensive and they have unusual varieties.

They also have really affordable house plants there as well.

Fun seasonal items

I love the trivet in the above photo. I got it at Trader Joe’s over the holidays and usually use it in the kitchen, but it’s currently being used to protect a table from the heat of a metal candle.

Trader Joe’s has a lot more than just chicken and flowers. Wool dryer balls, felt ball garlands, seasonal scented lotions, and more.  Christmas is probably the best time to find these goodies.

But get them early in the season, and definitely before the influencers start sharing them, or they’ll be gone.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I’ve been buying this for years and it never disappoints. I remember when my friend Melissa and I both had toddlers and would go to Trader Joe’s to grab “expensive” food for playdates so we could pretend we were wealthy. We’d eat our dip with tortilla chips and feel like royalty.  This is why Trader Joe’s is so good. ❤️

Image result for trader joe's cowboy caviar"
Courtesy of Pinterest

Cowboy Caviar

I could have eaten that entire jar in one sitting.

A couple of things I don’t really like that others love:

Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter 8 Oz. (00501309)
Courtesy Amazon

I do not “get” the body butter. I tried it once and it felt like using coconut oil.

The baking kind, not the tanning kind.

Image result for trader joe's everything but the bagel seasoning"
Courtesy Pop Sugar

Everything but the bagel seasoning.  I don’t like sesame seeds, so this isn’t up my alley.

Tell me every single thing you swear by at Trader Joes. 

42 thoughts on “I’m Not Doing Trader Joe Correctly”

  1. First of all I agree with you about how annoying it is to be asked by the cashier what I’m planning to make with the foods I’m buying at Trader Joe’s. None of your business, darling.

    We don’t live conveniently near a Trader Joe’s so I only go in about once a year. I’m immediately pegged as someone who does not belong but I do like their Everything Snack Crackers that are like Wheat Thins and their Spicy, Smoky Peach Salsa so I put up with the attitude. Yearly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We don’t live too conveniently either. The closest one is a solid 20-30 minutes with traffic and I know that sounds so suburban of me. But it isn’t as convenient as the five-minute walk to the Walmart or Meijer that we have.

      Spicy smoky peach salsa sounds INCREDIBLE. Is that seasonal or do that have that all of the time?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have the same drive time situation as you do. I can get to Kroger in a heartbeat but TJ is a far piece away. I think the peach salsa is year round. It’s in a jar, not fresh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, the peach salsa is fantastic! So is the Bloody Mary salsa, but I don’t think they carry that one all the time. I bought SIX jars last time it was in stock!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Many moons ago, I had Trader Joe envy because we didn’t have one in our uppity town. When I would visit my Mom in the ATL area, she always made sure we went to her TJ’s for some food, wine (2 buck chuck!) and flowers. I was in LOVE with the place. I can’t remember exactly what we bought each time, but I just loved the atmosphere.
    Several years ago we finally got a TJ in our hood-about 25 minutes from my house. I went a few times, but it wasn’t the same for me. Part of the problem is the parking lot and the fact that every flipping snow-bird is trying to get in and out to purchase their cheap wine and clog up the damn place with their snow-birdness. Lord knows they can afford to go to Total Wine!
    So, I don’t go. I feel like I’d like to try it again after seeing your post, but that trip will have to wait until winter is over and I can get in the parking lot.
    “You know you’re getting old when providing information about grocery store items is considered a spoiler.” –you kill me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t like the bagel seasoning either; too oniony for me. We don’t have TJ near us so I haven’t shopped one in years but I felt much like you do… wandering around knowing others looked at me and knew I didn’t belong. I remember loving their hummus and some “fancy” tri colored tortilla chips.. I always got sucked into buying something chocolatey and peanut butter filled because in my head organic chocolate= healthy for my body! I keep meaning to visit the one nearest us (an hour away) and stock up on a few items to try.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. TJ’s used to be awesome. Now, I practically go nuclear every time I’m in there. They used to do raffles (we won $85 worth of groceries from there once) but not anymore. They used to let you open things to sample at the drop of a hat…not anymore. (I literally looked at a PB&J candy bar there at the checkout once and wrinkled my nose. The cashier was like “let’s see if it’s as gross as you’re thinking” and opened it up. It was as gross as I thought.) Their employees are more concerned with chatting with each other and poppin’ a squat six at a time in the middle of the aisle whether there’s a full store or not. Definitely not what it used to be.

    As far as our must haves…

    Sweet potato gnocchi. It’s like the best comfort food ever and doesn’t remotely taste like sweet potatoes. (At least not to me) but it’s still AMAZING.)

    We like the char sui bao but if you’ve got a Wow Bao near you, those are better. WAY better but we don’t have one so…b-o-o h-o-o.

    If you like dark chocolate, their 72% Pound Plus bar is the BEST stuff out there. Not bitter, slightly fruity finish and no matter how hard we’ve tried, we can’t find any place that has anything remotely close to it. We have two squares every night to erase the coldness of the world.

    Wait for the pumpkin body butter in late September/early October. That stuff goes like Cabbage Patch Kids in the early 80’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sad! Is it because it’s becoming more popular? It feels like a family owned corner store at certain locations. None of those locations are near me. 😂

      I love these suggestions! I have heard about the sweet potato gnocchi and this confirms it. ❤️


  5. I love TJs : quinoa, brown rice, dried fruits, almond butter, peanut butter, chocolates, Mandarin Orange Chicken, flowers, plants, gyoza, I heard their frozen Indian food is yummy. Oh, and the Japanese fried rice.
    I don’t like TJs: body butter, produce, chips, bagel seasoning and the rest are just meh

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We have many TJ’s in Portland, but I hardly ever go there. Terrible parking at one, too far away at another. But I did find myself in one recently, and I will say that their flowers were amazing for the price. I could not with their produce: Everything wrapped in plastic! That alone will keep me away, unless I’m happening by and want some flowers. And wine–I like their wine selection and prices there, too. In general, I’m struggling with grocery stores these days. It’s either crap produce (but affordable) or good stuff (but not affordable). Don’t get me started…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Trader Joe’s is now working on eliminating as much plastic as they can from their produce. Read a news story about it a few months ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t usually do grocery stores – unless it’s for baking supplies or wine. That being said, we finally got a TJ in town (about 20 minutes from us) and the two times my husband and I have gone, the only thing I’ve been interested in was the flowers. I keep meaning to stop by there before heading home from town for fresh flowers but never remember to actually do so. The Husband didn’t seem impressed at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you only do grocery stores for those two items. I feel like we would get along swimmingly. 😂

      I also love the pine wreaths and boughs at Christmas. They are so much cheaper there than anywhere else around here.


  8. You don’t want my entire list of what I buy there? 😉 OK, let’s see what I can think of off the top of my head at ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORES EVER. Seriously, I’m obsessed. I follow most of the Trader Joe’s pages on FB and IG, too. I should be the Official Trader Joe’s Representative. Alrighty, here we go…

    The flowers – as soon as you walk in the door. Best ones ever and sooo cheap! Lots of different flavors of hummus. Hmm, have to disagree about the produce. It’s pretty darn good, for the most part. Some of their organic stuff does spoil quickly, but that’s more likely because it doesn’t have a ton of pesticides on it. Thus said, I don’t buy their bagged organic salad greens because they do indeed spoil before we can finish the bag. I buy those elsewhere.

    Love their organic Breakfast Blend coffee beans. The variety and quality of their nuts. Love that seasoning mix that you don’t like, but I love all kinds of seeds. Ooh, the sea salt chocolate almonds are a great treat. Their chocolate chips are the bomb. Much better than Nestles. Their BBQ sauce, ketchup, pickles and relish are the best because they don’t contain any high fructose corn syrup – which all commercial brands do. Quinoa. (Easier to make than rice and high in protein!) Check out their unique cheese selections. Peanut-butter filled no-salt pretzels. Bottled enchilada sauce. Spekuloos cookies and all their biscotti, but especially the chocolate dipped almond one.

    Yes, that frozen orange chicken is great in a pinch. So is the Penne Arrabiata. Throw in some of their garlic chicken sausages and you have a great, quick meal. The mini beef hotdogs wrapped in dough are a delicious party appetizer. Gone in a few seconds. Sweet potato gnocchi. Asparagus risotto. Just be aware that a lot of their frozen foods have a LOT of sodium in them, like any other grocery store frozen food items. I’ve passed on a lot of their frozen stuff because of this.

    If you want a real treat, you must try their frozen chocolate croissants! I swear, when you bake them (they rise overnight at room temp), they look and taste just like a chocolate croissant from a French bakery. I couldn’t believe it when I first baked and tasted these.

    I actually like that lotion that you said doesn’t smell like anything, lol! Not my favorite, but will do in a pinch. It smells like coconut to me. I also like their brand of toothpaste.

    I have totally taken over your blog post, yikes! Now I have to go back and see what everyone else talked about. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS – I just realized you also said your coconut body butter was crumbly. Mine are never like that. Totally smooth like a heavier lotion. And yes, smells lightly of coconut. It sounds like maybe you got an old or a “bad” one. Did you know they will take anything back, no questions asked? Even if things are opened and tried/opened. You don’t even have to have a receipt. Fantastic customer service!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t know this! That’s good to know. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t loving it as much as everybody is.
        I mean, it’s not far off base that it’s me. 😂



      I feel like you need to be a brand ambassador for them.

      I’m always seeing how you find the best things at Trader Joe’s on your Instagram.

      Omg Melanie! We should live blog a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s!!! Are you in??


      1. Live blog shopping trip? Sure, if you’ll do the videoing! 🙂 Or even if we just did a shopping trip and took pics and then blogged about it…I’m all in! Let’s make a date for when I get back from CA?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Trader Joe’s packaging reminds me of those fake food containers you buy at the dollar store to stock your kids’play kitchen.

    I’ve never been to TJ’s. Our closest one is 40 minutes away and I just can’t. If I ever make it out I will def be using your list to guide me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kari!!!! Such a useful post. Love it. I have never admitted to anyone that I ‘don’t get’ the fascination with Trader Joe’s. Sorry Melanie. When I first learned I had celiac everyone was like ‘oh just go to TJ!’ I was like FOR WHAT? But I said it in a whisper to myself in order not to embarrass myself. See? I think I went in there and bought a GF pumpkin pancake mix once that was good but seasonal. Other than that I don’t know what to buy. The one near me is not all that close and not near any of my dancing/basketball drop offs. Freakishly for my birthday one of Coach’s long time patients gave me (yeah that’s right- he is her PT and I am just the friendly wife and still with the gitfts. She is so very sweet!) a $50 TJ gift card. Such a generous gift and now when I finally haul my butt there, I will know what to buy. Anyone out there buy GF products specifically? I have discovered quinoa over the last couple of years so maybe I can go stock up on that. It surely is not cheap.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t been brave enough to go inside a Trader Joe’s yet. I feel a little too out of place going to Publix. It’s wonderful (the bakery omg), but in a more upscale area, and it’s pretty obvious that I’m not of the upscale variety. I barely meet Harris Teeter’s cutoff lol

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oooooh! I kind of love this list because I have been into a Trader Joe’s ONCE (just once) with a friend and I was so overwhelmed and I haven’t braved it again. I’m scared they’ll know I don’t belong. The nearest one to me is about 1 1/2 hours away (though we do have an Aldi which I love) but I know plenty of people who make a habit to go at least once a month.I keep saying I’m going to make the trip. Maybe next week…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Overwhelmed is such a good way to describe going into a Trader Joe’s. Which is ironic since their stores are typically small!

      I keep a list in my phone of must have items so on the rare occasions that I go, I have ideas. The comments here have so many good ideas too. ❤️


  13. Until this post I never realized how our Trader Joe bag carries only one food item- cookie butter.

    Wine, flowers, tea tree shampoo/conditioner, spa shampoo, bars of soap and toothpaste.

    Now I’m going to keep an eye out for the trivets.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Because of the no gluten (for me) I’ve never been able to try it. Nevertheless, my husband won’t pass it by. It always lands in our cart.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. New here, and I love it already. AR does have 1 TJ’s now! It’s been open about 5 months and is only a few minutes from my job. I’d been to TJ’s in other states, and have loved it for years!
    Listen, the boxed creamy tomato soup is super tasty. I also like the pretzel chips.
    That orange chicken is so good! I also really like the frozen chicken fried rice.
    I despise blue cheese salad dressing, but a family friend LOVES their version as his favorite commercially available option.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love tomato soup, so I’ll have to check that out!

      I don’t like blue cheese either but I’ve heard most of their dressings are really good.

      Welcome to my blog, it’s good to have you here!


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