And no, it's not just the Three Buck Chuck, I promise.
TJ's is a bit of a trek for me, so when I visit I stock up on certain essentials. Here's what I buy whenever I'm in the area!
I've seen butter creeping up on $4/lb at other grocery stores, but Trader Joe's keeps the cost of their store-brand pretty low! At least three of the unsalted packs make it into my cart as I pass by the dairy aisle.
Another item that you can get anywhere but is such a great value at TJ's--their whole roasting chickens. Roast one of these on a Sunday and have a lovely dinner, pull the extra meat off for tacos, enchiladas, or chicken salad, and throw the bones in a crock pot with some aromatics and make a delicious broth. For a few bucks more you can even get an organic chicken.
Yes, I can find olive oil on the cheap just about anywhere. But this olive oil is QUALITY. I use it for cooking or in salad dressing and the flavor just cannot be beat. Italian olive oil in your average grocery store just can't compare.
Shelf stable whipping cream is a godsend. DOES THIS EXIST ANYWHERE ELSE? If it does, I cannot find it to save my life. And it definitely saves my life on the regular when I'm cooking. I keep at least six of these in my pantry, and one in the fridge. It whips up okay if chilled for long enough, but its real value is in adding rich creaminess to sauces, soups, and baked goods. I hate letting cream go bad, so the fact that this lasts for months on the shelf is a lifesaver.
They have the basic spices for a solid price and excellent quality, but pay close attention to the seasonal stock: I've found truffle salt for less than $5, and a variety of special salts, smoked herbs, and dry rubs, depending on the month.
I had never heard of bacon jerky before. But it is a magical, wonderful thing. And it's Sweet Sriracha which is... omg just try it. I stock up all the time because you never know when a magical product will be discontinued at TJ's!
Alternative flours are low priced at Trader Joe's. Sadly the almond meal has steadily increased in price over the years, but it's still the cheapest I've found. I love the coarse texture of this one, it makes a great breading for meat and veggies!
Can't quite master the macaron? It's okay, TJ's selection of frozen desserts offers not one, but TWO varieties of macaron! I love the fruit flavored ones. A few minutes on the countertop and they're just perfect.
The rest of their frozen food section ain't too shabby either! From hors d'ovres to fresh-frozen veggies, you can make a full meal in this aisle alone.
Their snacks are slightly better for you than average (natural ingredients, no GMOs, etc) AND they're way more inventive! I love this bacon cheddar popcorn and eat it by the handful. Again, the price is right, too. I can pay upwards of $4 for a similar item at most grocery stores.
Their "impulse buys" at the register are classy AF. No second-rate sugar treats and gum here, it's all quality. I love the cookie butter bar and the green tea mints!
And, finally, my old college friend Charles Shaw. Three Buck Chuck may have brought me into Trader Joe's long ago, but the quality, value, and creativity kept me there. I look forward to my monthly trips to this magical place!