Trader Joe’s. Another epidemic in my life. New York, I love you. Duane Reade, I love you too. Whole Foods, my heart is forever yours. But these three absurd loves in my life do not concord well with my little leather wallet.

(Please note—Bronx bodegas are truly a God-send, and the adventures encapsulated in their corner storefronts are deserving of its own chapter in my life’s memoir, but I’ll save that narrative for a later date). So again, I’ll repeat: Trader Joe’s.

How it so effortlessly collaborates my dedication to both creative gluttony and economic frugality, I’ll never know. It’s Santa’s toyshop for me, I could/do wander for hours.

trader joe's

Photo by Taylor Michie

Last Thursday I was on a mission. After a long day of classes, rehearsals and appointments in the city, my TJ-craving was at an overwhelming level.

So, I stomped my Stuart’s up the avenue, growing increasingly impatient with tourist-laced crowds (tourists? in the Upper West side???) and biting winds that slowed down everyone’s general pace. I finally reached the Promised Land and my “I’m a New Yorker I Have A Chip On My Shoulder Get Out of My Way” aggressiveness decreased a few decibels. I was determined to be successful.

(Note – success meaning my 5 crucial items would be in stock & purchased, and I wouldn’t have to bark at an overly-chipper employee if part one were to fail….. It was Thursday, okay? It had been a long week, okay?)

Lucky for you, I was successful. This list functions as an abbreviated but inclusive go-to Trader Joe’s stock up. You, too, can successfully conquer Trader Joe’s like a pro (me, I’m the pro in this scenario). This is my best survey of sweet and salty, clever and classic:

1. “Spinach & Artichoke Greek Yogurt Dip”

trader joe's

Photo by Taylor Michie

A part of the “Reduced Guilt” line, this tub of green goodness goes unopposed. Serve hot or cold, eat with carrots, pita chips or a spoon, it’s one of my favorites. Half the fat/cals of regular spinach dips, and who doesn’t love greek yogurt?? $3.99 for 16-oz.

2. “Original Savory Thins” Crackers

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These actually pair perfectly with the first item. These gluten-free gems will always be near and dear to my heart – how else do you think my younger sister and I played “church” and “practiced for First Communion” without them? While dress-up-appropriate snacks may not be your motive, their bite-sized seasame-salty bliss should be enough.

Here’s some more fun math for you: 37 crackers = 100 calories, bag has 5 servings, bag is $2.69. Done, done, done.

3. TJ’s “Spicy Chai Latte Mix”

trader joe's

Photo by Taylor Michie

If your beverage agenda seeks to to be quick, sweet and always enjoyable, this is for you. Blend with hot milk, rather than water, for a creamier indulgence, or splash a little ice for a convenient lil ICED LATTE WITH AUTUMN NOTES AND CINNAMON CREATIVITY.

This recommendation should be taken seriously, coming from a “coffee is its own necessary food group” kind of gal. 10 oz tin/$3.49.

4. TJ’s “Cranberry Maple Nut” Granola

trader joe's

Photo by Taylor Michie

Resealable pouch. Gluten free. Clusters of berry-goodness. Yes, I’ll sprinkle this in yogurt and love every second of it, but my favorite is to nibble on it straight outta the bag. $7.00/bag.
May seem like a rather generic final suggestion, but…

5. TJ’s own frozen Edamame

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I LOVE EDAMAME. Throw some (or all) of the bag in boiling water and some salt, and boom, a five minute snack (Take note, my fellow college chefs!). Both shelled and unshelled, they’re good on salads, with your Seamless order of sushi or solo. 12 oz bag/$1.69 – are you kidding!??!

You’re probably shocked that Spectaculoos cookie butter (and its corresponding cookies, truffles and ice cream) was not on this list, but I figured the phenomena surrounding that dynamite little jar has already taken the food scene by storm, I should stay true to my own TJ staples.

Happy Shopping, my friends. Also: Trader Joes always has free samples.And everyone loves free samples. Just be prepared to engage in your “survival of the fittest-move-outta-my-way-I-want-a-sample-cup” mode. I’m already proud.

Stay hungry.



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