Trader Joes 101

As a college student, especially as a girl who has never learned to cook properly before college, one of the biggest challenges for me came when I tried to eat well, healthy and on time.

According to a non-profit organization specializing in health, a healthy eating habit involves eating three meals a day (duh), consuming plenty of vegetables and fruits, sitting down to eat, giving enough time to digest and opting for healthy carbs, such as whole wheat or grains.

In between classes, meetings, internships and jobs, however, I have absolutely no time to manage all of the recommended eating tips.

By no means do I count calories and worry about gaining a half a pound. I love ribs, steaks and fried dough balls. I probably won’t hesitate to chow down a Big Mac. But when I have a chance to cook for myself and eat healthy withOUT paying an arm and a leg for “fresh” “organic” ingredients, I will.

Luckily, upon moving to Boston, I discovered a little store called Trader Joes.

For all of you Texans (or southerners) reading this, Trader Joes reminds me a lot of Sprouts (in Plano, TX) or a cheap version of Central Market. All in all, cheap, organic options available, fun and delicious.

Since I, in a way, graduated from dormitories and dining plans, I have done most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joes. Unlike what many people believe, I do NOT spend more than how much I would spend at Shaw’s, and the quality of fresh ingredients is so much higher.

Moreover, they always have witty signs, offer great samples and have the nicest people working there.

To be honest, I tend to buy too much every time I go to Trader Joes. As a food lover, apparently I just have no self-control when it comes to buying delicious goodies, but since I don’t ever regret any of my purchases, I’m still in the clear, right?

Among the 50+ items I always buy, here are some of my favorites.

Sparkling [Clementine, Blood Orange, Lemonade] Juice: If you love no-pulp juice, you’ll definitely love this. Only about $3, this sparkling juice, which comes in various flavors, can add a classy touch to your dinner table.

Hash Browns: One of my guilty pleasures, especially extremely early in the morning, is McDonald’s hash browns. I love breakfast and cannot function without any sustenance in the morning, so stocking up on fried potato goodness at only $1.50 from Trader Joes allows me to make my own hash browns with scrambled eggs.

Charles Shaw Wine: Well… $2.99 per bottle. Enough said. Despite the price, Pinot Grigio delivers the crisp, refreshing taste.

Salmon Filet: One of the main reasons why college students eat significantly more amount of chicken than fish or steak is probably the price. On our low weekly income, it’s simply too difficult to buy t-bone steaks or fresh fish. At Trader Joes, however, you can buy frozen salmon filet for only around $7 per pound. Bring two filet home, glaze them with lemon juice and brown sugar, bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven. Easy and affordable!

Mochi: Honestly, I don’t know how to describe a Mochi, except to say something like ice cream, but a whole lot better, and I love mango the best.

Chicken Chili: Spice up your nachos. A 2-pound bag of tortilla chips + Fresh salsa + Sour creme + Chicken chili + Shredded cheese = AMAZING NACHO GOODNESS. All from Trader Joes!

(This is the best I can do… What I buy comes in a can)

Chicken Dumplings: Craving dumplings but too lazy to pay a visit to a Chinese restaurant or simply don’t want to pay delivery fee? Never fear, Trader Joes offers many many dumplings in a bag that you can fry or boil in water.

If I do not stop now, I probably never will and list every single item sold at Trader Joes. On the other hand, I really would like everyone to know about these as well: Ciabatta rolls, Corn & Chile salsa, Fresh Tomato salsa, homemade sushi, lobster ravioli and Shell Mac & Cheese.

Delicious. Cheap. Fun.

One last thing… I ❤ Trader Joes Cookbook from Urban Outfitters. Every single ingredient required for each recipe in the book comes from… how did you guess? Trader Joes!

Now, off to look for excuses for another trip to my favorite grocery store!

6 thoughts on “Trader Joes 101

  1. Saeyoung says:

    haha You and I have some serious Trader Joe’s love.. I just posted about TJ’s too on my tumblr, but in a slightly less..loveable way. Irony.. that same night I wrote the post… i went to TJ’s. lol

  2. cherie says:

    hi yoojin–
    what a great post! i too love trader joe’s–in fact, i wrote the book (the i love trader joe’s cookbook). my son, who took the photos, had just graduated from college at the time it was published, and he pointed out that it was great for college and post-college cooks, as well as “the mommies”, as he had envisioned the book’s audience. he and his pals have been cooking from it a lot this year, and i’m glad you have enjoyed it as well! i’ve got a new one coming out in november 2010–the i love trader joe’s party cookbook–with themes such as mardi gras, girls’ night in and st. patrick’s day. urban outfitters will be carrying it, too, so i hope you’ll enjoy it as well!

    • yoojin812 says:

      cherie, thanks for the comment! i’m definitely checking out your new book when it comes out! it sounds fantastic. my friends and i refer to “i love trader joes” A LOT so thanks for writing that book!

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