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I Hated Trader Joe’s—Until I Discovered These 8 Healthy Items

Cooking Light logo Cooking Light 4/23/2019 Kaylee Hammonds
a sign on the side of a building © SOPA Images/Getty Images

When I kid, I used to make fun of my mom for going to multiple grocery stores because some had better prices on things than others. From an economic standpoint, don’t you save more time (time being money!) by just getting everything in one place? When I’m grown-up, none of this bouncing from store-to-store, I thought. I am going to be efficient, I thought.

Well, I thought wrong. Things change, and I—despite my best efforts—am slowly turning into my mother. Because adult me has to, you know, pay for stuff and as a general rule, I prefer to pay less. I even started going to Costco. But even before I started making a concerted effort to be thriftier, there was one place I gave up a long time ago: Trader Joe’s.

(Stop throwing things at me, you can see from the title that it didn’t last!)

Backstory: I learned about Trader Joe’s living in NYC. “My” TJ’s was the Union Square one, AKA the busiest TJ’s location in the country (according to the store manager who used to come to the bar where I worked for well-deserved drinks). Shopping there was overwhelming. Like you couldn’t move around overwhelming. So I swore off Trader Joe’s.

But a few months ago, I was killing time at our local mall and thought I’d give TJ’s a peek. Wow. First of all, a TJ’s in Birmingham, Alabama is (duh) a lot less busy than my old store (though still stress-inducing), and second, there are killer deals on healthy staples secretly lurking in those aisles. Even despite the fact that I cannot stand going anywhere near a mall, TJ’s has become a regular part of my grocery shopping routine. Here are the items that make mall-exposure worth it.

Tempeh

© Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

At my local Publix, tempeh is $3.99. I just thought that that was how much it costs until I came across TJ’s awesome organic tempeh for $1.99. I don’t often eat meat or fish, and tempeh is my favorite, so that right there makes a trip so worth it.

Bread

a close up of a bottle © Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

I LOVE Dave’s Killer Bread. I don’t love that my local Target charges $5.99 a loaf for it. And okay, it’s not a direct 1:1 nutrition match, but TJ’s Organic Seeded Bread is darn tasty and makes a heck of an avocado toast. Plus, it’s just $3.49.

Super-firm tofu

© Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

Last year, I started seeing super-firm, pre-pressed tofu in my Publix and it changed my weeknight dinner life—but I could only find it at one store. This year, TJ’s introduced their own version, it’s always in stock, and it’s fifty cents cheaper. Win-win-win.

Whole wheat pizza dough

a plastic container of food © Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

I’m a big believer in super veggie-packed pizzas with pesto as a way to clean out the crisper. I used to buy the whole wheat fresh pizza dough from Whole Foods for $4.99 per 16 oz., but now this 16 oz., $1.19 TJ’s version is my jam.

Kombucha

a close up of a bottle © Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

So the flavor selection isn’t as huge as at a traditional grocery store, but at $2.69 vs. up to $3.99 at my local, I’ll take TJ’s tasty ‘buch.

Cauliflower rice

© Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

Sure, I know I can make my own. But since TJ’s has it at $2.49 (versus $3.99 on sale at my local Publix), I’m gonna use the extra time I save to make a cup of tea. Speaking of which…

Sleepy tea

a close up of a sign © Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

I really am becoming my mother, because I like a cup of tea to help me drift off to sleep at night. Well Rested herbal tea has a similar blend to the brand I used to drink—at $2.29 per 20 bags versus $5.55 for 16!

Lentils

a stack of flyers on a table © Kaylee Hammonds (apologies for the bad photo)

I eat a LOT of lentils. And they’re delicious. But at my local Publix, a 16-oz. bag of organic green lentils is $3.55. TJ’s has the same for just $1.69, making my lentil curry obsession just a bit more budget-friendly—just like my mom would say.

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