The Joy of Trader Joe’s.
My love for Trader Joe’s runs deep. The love affair started when they first carded me for the cart of wine I brought to the register. The cashier asked if I was stocking up for the month. In my head I laughed and said, “Clearly you do not know me or my friends”, but I just smiled and nodded. I am not kidding myself that the cashier thought I looked 21, but I WAS over forty, which is the new guideline for IDing alcohol buyers. I buy a lot of alcohol, so I have a lot of experience not being ID’d, so this was a refreshing change.
I am aware there are a few things not to love about Trader Joes, and anyone who has been to one knows that the parking is horrendous, and all of the cashiers are really super outgoing and genuinely friendly and will engage you in conversation about the items in your cart, your outfit, and any pets you might have. If you’re an introvert, and/or enjoy parking closer than a mile to shop, going to Trader Joe’s can be a lesson in patience. I don’t mind walking half a mile away from my parking spot, but I do mind having to make up imaginary pets to talk about, so for me to proclaim my love for Trader Joe so fervently says a lot. Now, you can easily google “best Trader Joe’s products” and you will get a nice list of things. However, this list always includes something like “Vegan Ranch Dip” or “Ginger Turmeric Drink” and so it’s easy to distrust these lists and people, and you may walk away with no desire to go to Trader Joes. I would warn against being dismissive because there are some really amazing things on the shelves. I’ve compiled a list of the absolute best things at Trader Joes that will make your life easier and more delicious
1. Trader Joe’s Cheese and Wine
Instant girls’ night in. Pick up a bottle of Old Vine Bogle Cabernet from California for your red wine drinking friends, and a bottle of Villa Sonia Pinot Grigio from Italy. The Pinot Grigio is only $5.99, rivals the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (which is just as amazing, but it is $22.00). I have never once woken up with a headache after drinking this. Whenever I’m at the store, I grab some Asiago cheese and some “Unexpected Cheddar”. Having these things on hand makes it really easy to text “Come on over. Bring nothing except yourself, and whichever kid you happen to have at home.”
2. Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa
Chocolatey heaven in a cup. Make with milk for the best results. You can also keep this on hand along with the Chocolate Peppermint Baking Loaf mix that I’m going to talk about next for an instant gift. “Oh! You brought me a present???? Wait…I have one for you TOO!” Throw these things in a gift bag for last-minute presents, or in a basket with a few Christmas hand towels for a cuter gift that looks like you put some thought into.
3. Chocolate Peppermint Baking Loaf Mix
If you’re a hopeless baker like me, this is a lifesaver. You can add chocolate chips to look like you baked it from scratch, AND the mix also doubles as a cookie mix. You know those chocolate crinkle cookies that everyone makes at Christmas, that you always either burn or fail to bake long enough so they are too gloopy? No? O.k., so maybe not YOU, but I’m sure there is somebody out there like me, and if you are that person, this mix will ensure this doesn’t happen. You just have to roll them around in powdered sugar and they’ll look like you made them from scratch.
4. Trader Joe’s Pancake Bread
I admit that I almost didn’t write about this. One of my top fears in life is that Trader Joe’s is going to discontinue this, or that a bunch of people who can shop during the week will hear about how good this is and take all of the loaves before I can get there. I wrestled with my conscience for a while and the spirit of giving won out. You can find the pancake bread by the baked goods. Whenever I go to Trader Joe’s, I hold my breath until I see it. Today, it was under some banana bread and I almost started crying, until I finally saw it. It’s so effing good. It’s like a mix between an amazingly fluffy pancake and seeing your first baby smile at you for the first time. I’m aware that those two things aren’t the same, but I’m eating some pancake bread now and I do not care about anything except this pancake bread. Whenever I tell people about it, they are confused by the combination of pancakes and bread and ask, “So do you put syrup on it, or what?” The answer is just to trust me and get yourself some. Because of my fear that it might be discontinued, I buy four loaves at a time and stockpile it in my freezer. It thaws really well, which is an added bonus to my pancake bread hoarding tendency.
5. French Vanilla Coffee and Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
When you are too poor or lazy to go to Starbucks and are trying to save some money, these two products will help you. The French Vanilla Coffee brews really well, and if you add some flavored creamer, it will give you the sugar rush you’re used to after going to Starbucks. I like iced coffee, so to make my own, I use two parts of the Cold Brew Concentrate, one part milk, and one part water. I add ice and a tablespoon of vanilla syrup. I pour it into a Starbucks thermos and then I have my own iced coffee drink that my middle school students eye enviously as I drink it in front of them.
I hope this blog post has inspired you to go to Trader Joes. It is my wish that this weekend you will be sipping some iced coffee, eating pancake bread and planning a girls’ night in with all of your new purchases.