It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. There’s a crisp breeze, the temperature is finally out of the 80’s and 90’s and all the natives are at last able to bring out their winter wear. If you close your eyes you can smell the wood burning in the fireplace next to the sparkling lights of a Christmas tree. Actually, the smell is from the massive fires burning in multiple surrounding cities. Such is life in California.
I grabbed my carefully planned grocery list and headed to Trader Joe’s after dropping everyone off at school. My list was specific even down to the pricing. See, I am a proud advocate of Trader Joe’s, a self-proclaimed expert. My list was organized by location as I know where every item is placed. I walked in with pride, I would get out of here with each needed item and it would cost around 92.00$ before tax. I could even be out of the store in 15 minutes, there were no lines at 8:45 am.
I entered the store and my pride turned to excitement as I saw all the beautifully placed poinsettias and small cypress tress with a DIY decorating set attached. The large arrangement of holiday chocolates and goodies made me question whether I had every necessity placed on my list. I started out strong, just adding the poinsettias, as I had some wiggle room on my budget. I crossed the dairy section and that’s when I placed my phone with list into my pocket and decided I would not let that checklist determine my happiness. I don’t quite remember the details from then to checking out with a whopping 170.00$ total. I was possessed by the Trader Joe’s spirit yet AGAIN! My husband wasn’t thrilled with that excuse, instead of calling a priest he may be calling an attorney.
I decided to turn my guilt into a blog. As I assume I am not the only one to have encountered the Target or Trader Joe’s spirit. Here are some of the things I grabbed today. They are some of my favorite winter items along with my yearlong staples from TJ’s.
Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea- This one is excellent, it has so much natural sweetness. This one turns bitter fast, so a quick steep is required.
Organic Peppermint Cinnamon Herbal Tea- a great option for bed time. This one is similar but less sweet and spicier. The tea bags are super fancy and cute.
Teas are a great buy at Trader Joes, prices range from 1.99- 3.99$.
Mini Marshmallows- First off, these little babies are vegan. When I discovered most marshmallows are made with gelatin from pig fat I was grossed out. I always try to go vegan when it comes to marshmallows. These vegan minis keep the original taste’s integrity. Perfect for hot cocoa (not photo’d here- but TJ’s has an awesome instant cocoa).
Fresh Cranberries- They sell different variation cranberry sauces in the deli section, but for 3.99$. I prefer homemade, just because I like to control the sweetness level, and it’s simple! Just add about a cup of water (or sub orange juice) to one whole bag, desired sugar and reduce.
Salad Meal Prep
These three items are a great as a combo: Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing, Mandarin Oranges, & Salad Elsees.
I will prep 3 to 4 salads with one bag. Place oranges (drained) on bottom of Tupperware and lettuce on top. When ready to eat add dressing. I have seen the same concept on Pinterest. whether in mason jars or Tupperware, adding the dressing (even to the bottom) makes the salad soggy. I like these three, together they pair beautifully. It’s also makes my life less complicated when meal prepping, but there are limitless options of what you could add to this salad; edamame, ramen, wontons (just to name a few).
An easy meal GO TO MEAL
I love that they started selling this shaved beef. It is literally fail proof! I take 1 whole, sliced onion and sauté in pan with the beef. I usually add the original Soyaki sauce, but today I am switching it up to the Island Soyaki (I think the only difference is pineapple juice). Serve over rice with avocado slices and green onions.
These Teeny Tiny Avocados are a great buy at about .44 cents an avo. I can’t really tell much of a size difference from these and the regular ones.
DON’T EAT THE YELLOW PASTA
Really excited to make some holiday inspired alfredo. I think this snowflake pasta is adorable. Usually I make my own alfredo because I am not a fan of canned, but this stuff is fantastic when in a pinch for time. Another great TJ find!
Breakfast of champions
My little one loves cinnamon rolls, we enjoy the pumpkin filled ones when they come into season. We were stoked to see this wreath. We are suckers for anything seasonal/holiday-themed. These are less sweet then the canned ones, which is a plus for me.
The broccoli cheddar quiche is superb, I tend to make it and eat it throughout the day.
The Almond Croissants are a MUST TRY! I don’t always pick these up because I will eat them all, ALL OF THEM! Plus, these babies are a special treat and take a bit of preparation. The night before leave them on a baking sheet to rise and in the morning pop them in the oven and boom! The most homemade tasting frozen food I’ve ever had.
Below is a new item I was excited to try out, Hot Cocoa O’s. I’m sure this will be a hit in my house, again a bargain to comparable cereal.
Alternative Options for Kids’ Lunches
I have searched a million times for lunchbox inspo online. My boys are small still and tend to play more during school lunch than eat. I am constantly battling having to throw food away or they are starving when they get home. I try to stick to the rule of something solid or high protein, something nutritional, something to drink, something fun and a water bottle. I also don’t pack an additional snack I let them choose something out of their lunch. That may seem like not enough food, but any more than that it would be uneaten. I always consider how much time they have then subtract the time they spend socializing and realize their social life takes precedence to their hunger. It’s enough food that they are held over until after school and that is what they consider to be their lunch time. I am trying to cut back the amount of times we eat out at said “lunch time” and prepare a quick meal right before homework at home.
“SQUIRREL!” So back to the items featured in the photo. I tend to always pick up one California roll when I hit trader joes. Paired with edamame or oranges it’s a perfect light meal for my little guys. It also packs well for lunch especially in a bento box. I am such a believer in those lunchable type Tupperware. I think it’s a more exciting presentation than a bunch of zip locks crammed in the lunch box. These Complete Cookies are not exclusive to TJ’s, but I have not seen them sold in this smaller size. An example of a lunch I might pack; 1 water bottle, a horizon milk (trader joes needs to sell some sort of individual lunch milk), a complete cookie, banana, and a yogurt.
Below are some of my kids’ favorite school snacks.
They like all the “This ______ Walked into a Bar” bars. I would say the best are the seasonal cranberry, they are my personal fave.
Freezer items (say WHAT!!!!!!!!!!)
These both sell for 3.99$ at my trader joes. These go to stable snacks can last a little longer going in the freezer, warm yogurt/ cheese is not all that desirable. Grab directly from freezer into lunch bag by meal time they will be defrosted but still cold and cheese with still be firm.
A treat both you and your children can enjoy
This EVERYTHING but Bagel seasoning blend has been a huge success, its endless what you can add it to. I love edamame and so do my boys, this is one of my favorite seasoning to top it with. This is a great additional to the lunch box because it’s protein packed and filling.
Chips are a great buy from TJ’s. MOST are 1.99$, and they are still super tasty. Nacho Cheese chips taste exactly like Doritos, have you ever bought the store version and it tastes off or different? For example, TJ’s has baked cheese puffs that are obvious Cheetos copycats. They are good, but they don’t taste the same. The Nacho Cheese chips will not disappoint you or your wallet.
Same for the Corn Dippers, taste just like Fritos, but BETTER. Less expensive and less junk, you cannot beat that!
The Veggie Sticks have been a staple in our home since the boys were first starting solid food. Lot’s of stores carry them and they all taste the same to me. I buy them from TJ’s for, again, the price. Something my husband discovered (being a Mexican-American) – if you put Tapatio on the chips they taste just like chicharron. BOOM! #mindblown No for real, check it out! It’s a game changer.
There is a ton I’ve missed, but I wanted to showcase some of the stars of today’s haul. I have been changing some of my habits when it comes to shopping. I have been trying to go only once a week and alternating stores. I think I missed Trader Joe’s so much I went a bit crazy! It’s all a learning process! The amount I spent today was ridiculous and was over the amount of food I needed for one week. It is possible to shop here while on a budget. There are so many items that are a bargain in comparison to name brand versions sold at Walmart, that taste better too. That’s what is great about Trader Joe’s you never sacrifice taste for price. Yes, other items cost more than other stores would sell them as. It’s a give and take and if you understand your must haves you can make sure to grab the value items or ones you can’t live without when you shop TJ’s and alternate the following week with a different store and stock up on valued items there. (Blog to come on that topic!)