Saturday, May 15, 2010

Passionate About Trader Joe's

In April, due to my enthusiasm for the venue, I had the honor of preparing several recipes and a brief presentation on Trader Joe's for my church's monthly "Test Kitchen." In fact, it is possible to do ALL of your grocery shopping exclusively at Trader Joe's...I've done it! If you've always wondered what, exactly, Trader Joe's has to offer and whether or not it is a grocery store that is worth your while, read on! However, nothing can prepare you better for your first trip to TJ's than this video by Carl's Fine Films, If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe's.

What Trader Joe's IS:
  • Basic: Trader Joe's has all the basics and much more while keeping that small, "local" grocery store feel even though they move more products per square foot than stores like Home Depot!

  • Gourmet: Trader Joe's carries both basic products as well as many varieties of gourmet oils, breads, wines, cheeses, meats, etc.

  • Affordable: Trader Joe's purchases items in bulk from suppliers worldwide and then re-labels or packages the item with the Trader Joe's logo. Without having to pay for brand name labels, Trader Joe's is able to offer excellent price, with some of the lowest around on items like yogurt, cereal, frozen fruit, eggs, nuts, etc.). Don't forget their fresh cut flowers and potted herbs and plants at AMAZING prices!

  • Quality: Trader Joe's carries quality items that sell. If an item does not "move" off the floor, it is discontinued. If a customer tries an item and does not like it, or the item shows signs of spoilage, the item can be returned for a full refund.

  • Delicious: Trader Joe's products are delicious! If you don't believe me, stop by the booth in the back for a free-sample.

  • Unique: Trader Joe's offers many unique gourmet foods as well as a colorful assortment of ethnic foods (i.e. Thai, Italian, Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, etc.).

  • Preservative-free: Trader Joes' products are preservative-free, giving you greater peace of mind while shopping. I save lots of time when I don't have to check every label as I'm tossing items into my cart.

  • Non-GMO: Trader Joe's items come from suppliers that do not use genetically modified ingredients.

  • Green: Trader Joe's promotes and sells vegan, vegetarian, cage-free, hormone-free, dolphin-safe, and sustainable products. They also carry Kosher and gluten-free products.

  • Friendly: Trader Joe's employees are friendly and helpful in answering questions or locating items for their customers. They will also schedule fieldtrips for school children! :)

  • Fast: Small store, lots of great items to choose from equals a potential one-stop grocery store to meet your needs. They've also got a fresh deli and frozen food section with many ready-made foods for busy lifestyles.

  • Informative: If you're looking for more information, take a look at the TJs Guides on the Trader Joe's website!

Trader Joe's is NOT:

  • Costco: You won't find bulk/wholesale/warehouse style at Trader Joe's. However, I find that if I buy bulk, I my family eats bulk, so we prefer the smaller packages to large ones.

  • Consistent: Due to their high-quality standards, each product must "stand on its own" to pay its way to stay on Trader Joe's shelves, resulting on the discontinuation of approximately 10-15 products per week. However, they do introduce 10-15 new products each week...gotta check that NEW products shelf or read the Fearless Flier to find out what they are!

For more about Trader Joe's as a highly-successful business, read The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon by Len Lewis.

Cookbooks: I've tried recipes from both of these cookbooks. I highly recommend them.


Janine's Chili Cornbread Casserole

  • 1 box Trader Joes cornbread mix

  • 2 cans chili (regular or vegetarian)

  • 1 can black beans (drained)

  • 1 bag Fritos corn chips (optional)

  • 2 cups grated cheese (optional)

  • 1 4oz can sliced olives


  1. Start with 1 box Trader Joes cornbread mix.

  2. Mix according to directions on the box, pour in a lightly greased 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

  3. While the cornbread is baking, stir together:
    2 cans chili
    1 can black beans (drained)

  4. Pour above mixture over cornbread and bake for another 15 minutes

  5. Finally, sprinkle the following on top and heat for 5 minutes:
    1 Fritos corn chips
    2 cups grated cheese
    1 4oz can sliced olives

  6. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve w/ guacamole!

Peanutty Sesame Noodles (Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's p.55)

  • 8oz spaghetti noodles (for gluten-free, use the brown rice spagetti noodles)

  • Easy Peanutty Sauce (recipe below)

  • 1 C shredded carrot

  • 1/2 C peeled and sliced cucumber

  • 2 green onions chopped

  • 1/4 C roasted peanuts, crushed


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain.

  2. Pour Easy Peanutty Sauce over noodles and toss until noodles are evenly coated. Add carrots and cucumber. Toss gently.

  3. Top with green onions and crushed peanuts.

Easy Peanutty Sauce

  • 1/4 C Trader Ming's Soyaki or Veri Veri Teriyaki

  • 1/4 C Creamy Salted Peanut Butter

  • 2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil

  • 1/4 C water
  1. Whisk Soyaki, peanut butter, and sesame oil until blended.

  2. Add water and mix well.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Hands-off cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup (Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's p.64)

  • 1 C dry Tortellini with Pesto or Mixed Cheese Filling

  • 2 pre-cooked Mushroom Asiago Gourmet Chicken Sausages, cut into 1/2-inch slices (or other variety)

  • 1 14.5oz can Organic Fire Roasted Whole Tomatoes, including juices, or regular canned tomatoes

  • 1 28oz can Rich Onion Soup (or vegetable stock)

  • 2 C water

  • 2 C frozen Greens with Envy, or other greens such as frozen spinach or green beans

  • Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Mix tomatoes (including juices), onion soup, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil.

  2. Add tortellini, sausage, and greens. When mixture comes to a boil again, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 17 minutes.

  3. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Hands-off cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

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