It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s (a specialty grocery store that focuses on whole foods and fresh, healthy options). I love everything about it: the happy, laid-back atmosphere, the cheery flowers in the front, and the snappy monthly newsletter—the Fearless Flyer—that’s full of new products, recipes, and lots of cheeky humor.
In fact, it’s a somewhat desperate goal of mine to be a Fearless Flyer writer. The Trader Joe’s headquarters are less than 20 miles from me. A coincidence? I think not. The stars will align at some point and I’ll receive that phone call from Trader Joe himself any minute now …
But while I’m waiting, want to hear about some of my favorite new products? The very first Trader Joe’s (the flagship store, if you will) is located right here in Pasadena. The parking lot is tiny and full of some very savage hungry shoppers, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Moving on to the list:
I love oatmeal, and it really is the perfect breakfast: filling, full of fiber and antioxidants, and warm enough for these chilly SoCal mornings (ok, so chilly is a strong word for out here but it fits with the theme). I like steel-cut oatmeal a lot better than rolled or quick-cooking oats; it has more of a texture pop and chew instead of mush. But it takes a lot longer to cook on the stovetop. So, enter these frozen oatmeal pucks—two and a half minutes in the microwave, and 150 calories and 4 grams of fiber later, you have a perfect, hot breakfast.
(If you don’t like oatmeal, try topping it with a little peanut butter, bananas, or cream cheese. Cream cheese is my personal favorite. Stirring in cinnamon helps with the flavor too.)
2. Mexican fiesta ingredients.
Tacos are one of my favorite fast, easy dinners to make, but the microwavable Spanish rice and taco seasoning mix from El Paso both have tons of added sodium and calories (and weird ingredients and preservatives). This taco seasoning mix only contains a mix of spices and peppers. That’s it. And it tastes just as good! And by using multigrain pilaf instead of white rice, you get more fiber and protein (due to the soybeans) as opposed to just more salt. I also like to swap out corn tortillas for flour when making soft tacos—a yummy way to sneak in a little more veggie.
If you are an instant coffee hater, I totally get it—but this stuff really does taste good. I don’t mind instant coffee in general, but this tastes much richer and “fresh-brewed” to me than Folger’s. A great alternative to someone like me who only needs one cup in the morning and doesn’t live with any coffee drinkers, so there’s no need to make a whole pot. Plus, I suppose it needs to be said that I’m a total sucker for cute packaging. Doesn’t it look all tropical and fun? I thought so too.
Speaking of cute packaging … all it took was a furry animal and Christmas lights to convince me to buy this festive tea. And it tastes delicious—more vanilla than cinnamon, but still very holiday-like. (Although … now that I look at it … is that a skunk or a squirrel? Let’s say it’s a squirrel, shall we?)
(Only 47 days ‘till Christmas, in case anyone is counting. Yes, I am eight years old; why do you ask?)
5. Two-buck chuck.
Now before you say “but two-buck chuck has been around forever,” and, “It’s totally really THREE dollars,” let me assure you that: A) this is red table wine, which is a brand-new version of the infamous two-buck chuck, and B) it really is two-buck chuck in California. $1.99, to be exact. Sorry.
I tend to really like red table wine—it’s doesn’t have quite the bite of Merlot or Cab but still has that velvety red-wine feel and taste. And I may not be the most discerning of wine connoisseurs, but I think it tastes the same as any $20 bottle of wine (or close enough, anyway).
So if you have a Trader Joe’s anywhere around you, you should check out these fun finds. Did I forget to mention that it’s a cheap grocery bill and a totally fun atmosphere? And if I close my eyes and say a prayer when I drive into the parking lot, I hopefully won’t be the victim of a crazy shopping cart on the loose or be one of the three cars routinely lined up for any one parking spot … because in that situation, I will always be the third car.