Trading with Joe

If you shop at a single grocery store where you can find absolutely everything and every product your heart desires, please tell me where you live because it sounds like heaven to me.

Call me crazy, but our grocery shopping escapades requires visiting five (5) different grocery stores scattered all over town--none of which are wholesale club stores such as Costco and Sam's. At these five different stores, we can find all of the staple items, along with gourmet foods and the peculiar products we adore. If we add in our weekly visits to the farmers market and our bi-weekly visits to a food co-op, the number inches to seven stops. Seven lines to stand in, seven parking lots to endure...

Though I may have been on the cutting edge with my love of farmers markets several decades ago, I have definitely been late to get on the TJ's (Trader Joe's) bandwagon. But late or not, this California native and mostly private label grocery store has quite a few hidden gems that have made me a convert. Because this store intrinsically appeals to millennials, singles and those who don't really cook and because I fall into none of those categories, it took me a while to sleuth out the must-have products. As a "pay it forward" kind of person, I am excited to share with you ten (10) reasons to head to TJ's now.

When you walk into this smaller grocery store footprint, the fresh--and downright cheap--flowers beckon customers to "pick me, pick me." Big on color, these flowers and bouquets range from $3.99 to $9.99 and are filled with promises to brighten your surroundings and make you smile for not a lot of green.

The seasonality of cucumbers tends to get me down, but these organic Persian varieties are sure to please. Crisp and virtually seedless, these cucumbers make a great snack and if you feel like something a bit more smashing, try this recipe.
Because I have never met an avocado I didn't love, this 4-pack of organic avocados for $3.49 are reason enough to get me back to TJ's on a regular basis. Having avocados on hand means you can make guacamole on the fly, start your day with avocado toast or call half an avocado sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of lemon a perfect pick-me-up.
In a pinch, a bag of baby arugula or kale for $1.99 or snag a bag of organic for $2.49 works like a charm. No rinsing, drying or chopping required. Turn a boring bag of kale into this salad and watch it disappear.
We tend to eat a lot of salads and that requires an extra spark of creativity to keep it fresh and seasonal. Three jumbo heads of white and red Belgian endive for a mere $2.99 is a steal. For those who want to minimize the consumption of carbs, endive leaves are a great alternative to bread or crackers. And I love combining endive with apples and walnuts. If you are living it up, add blue cheese or goat cheese and you will not be disappointed.
With fall's arrival, breakfasts of oatmeal or overnight oats are not far away making this two pound bag of rolled and gluten-free oats an extremely economical choice.
I am a certified nut butter freak. This love started with natural peanut butter and then I kicked it up to almond butter, which make the best paleo chocolate chip cookies ever. When I graduated from almond butter and tasted cashew butter for the first time, I about melted. Sweet and creamy. Oh my. Half and apple with a spoonful of cashew butter makes an energizing and healthy snack. At Whole Foods, a jar of cashew butter sells for well over $10, which makes this 16-ounce jar priced at $7.99 too good of a deal to pass up.

Spindrift is a beverage we came across when we were at the National Restaurant Association show in May and we remain believers. Real fruit juice is added to sparkling water to make an undeniably delicious and refreshing drink that is free from chemicals, calories and additives. Priced at $3.99 for four cans, this may not be an everyday beverage, but one we love to keep in stock to enjoy when the moment strikes. Our favorite varieties are grapefruit, lemon and cucumber.
On the occasional weekend and always on a holiday weekend, we get fancy and celebrate with a toasted bagel (made by Against the Grain), a generous schmear of cream cheese, capers, red onion and smoked salmon. Wild smoked salmon can be tricky to find, so you can imagine our joy when we came across this package of wild smoked sockeye salmon for $5.99--which is enough for David and me and a few bites for the dogs.
If you have never had the pleasure of classic Greek feta in brine, let the games begin. This 10.5 ounce container priced at $6.49 means you will have more than enough to satisfy your cheesy needs and you can rest easy knowing it's made with sheep's milk. Crumble the feta on salads, add to grain salads or chop up some of those Persian cucumbers and make a quick snack.
I bet you are thinking I am nuts by now, which reminds me Trader Joe's is known for their assortment of packaged nuts. Raw, roasted, salted, unsalted, spiced and more, they have them all and for really good prices. Nuts are not cheap, but an 8-ounce bag of pecan halves for $4.99 is just what I need to make another batch of our favorite paleo granola.
If I have overlooked some of your favorite reasons to head to Trader Joe's, please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page or send me a tweet. As a TJ convert, I welcome your tips and tricks on finding new foods and ingredients. to explore and enjoy.

Buen provecho!
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