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My Thursday Thing: Trader Joe's for the Win!

Yeah yeah, I know I know. It's Saturday again. Which makes this more like My Saturday Some(thing). Life I tell ya. Regardless, I'm coming strong again this week with some helpful shopping and cooking tips. About 20 years ago, I was living in Arlington, Mass. One day, I stumbled on this funky looking grocery store with weird newspaper-looking flyers. I had a look around and found some pretty cool items I couldn't find in the local Stop 'n Shop and from that day forward, my love for this grocery chain has grown leaps and bounds.

My Trader Joe's in Raleigh, NC

Why do I love Trader Joe's so much? Simple. They have a great selection of common and not-so-common groceries, the employees are super friendly and helpful, and all of the Trader Joe's-branded products contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, are sourced from non-GMO ingredients and are labelled for the top 8 allergens. And even with all that, they are still extremely reasonably priced! For more on Trader Joe's product info, check out their FAQ.

For today's post, aside from proclaiming my love for Trader Joe's, here's my personal Top 10 items shopping list of things to look for with some suggestions for what to do with them. Of course, in fairness, I could have a Top 100, but no one would read that! Note, prices and selection may vary by store.

10) Chicken Stock (Low Sodium)

Chicken Stock

There are lots of different boxed chicken stocks out there, but this one is Organic AND Low Sodium and only $1.99/box. At just 90mg per 1 cup, it's about the lowest you'll find so you can season as you like which is so much healthier for you and won't have that punch-you-in-the-mouth saltiness. Use it to make sauces and gravies, or simmer a few boxes with some chicken bones and vegis for a delicious soup. Add some cream and tomato sauce to that soup and you've got a hearty tomato soup.

9) Ground Turkey

Ground Turkey

There's nothing really special about ground turkey by itself. But it's way healthier than eating ground beef (not that we don't eat beef, but we try to do it no more than once a week) and at $2.79/pound it's a steal. It's not the organic version and it's the highest fat content of the choices, but it's still all-natural and low-fat. And to be honest, you need a little fat in turkey or it gets dry real fast. It's great for burgers. Just mix in a little milk to keep it moist and don't overcook it. You can also use it for tacos, meatballs or mixed in with pasta and tomato sauce.

8) Minced Garlic

Minced Garlic

Fresh garlic is always best, but when you're in a rush and still want that great taste of garlic, there's nothing wrong with a shortcut. This minced garlic keeps for months in the fridge and has a nice roasted aroma and flavor. Toss a teaspoon in with your rice or favorite pasta dish, or in with your overnight marinade for chicken or steak.

7) Spinach Tortellini

Spinach Tortellini

My kids love pasta, but they aren't the best when it comes to eating their vegis. Then, one day I found these Spinach Tortellini in the refrigerated section. Perfect! They're $2.29 for a 9-ounce package which is enough for 2 people and they can stay in the fridge or be frozen. From the fridge they take just 2 minutes to cook, just 3 if they're frozen. That makes for a quick lunch or dinner. Just toss with your favorite sauce or even just some butter and parmesan cheese. If you have a little more time, grill up a chicken breast and toss it in.

6) Corn & Wheat Tortillas

Corn & Wheat Tortillas

When it comes to tacos, I don't play favorites. I like corn and flour equally. Which is why I love the Corn & Wheat Tortillas because they're a mix of BOTH! These tortillas have that great corn flavor but with the firmer texture of a flour tortilla. They're great for any kind of tacos, and make for a great breakfast taco.

5) Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

In the display with the packaged cold cuts you'll find three varieties of pre-made pizza dough: plain, whole wheat and garlic & herb. I prefer the plain variety. Just let it rest on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes and you're ready to start making homemade pizza. Top with your favorite sauce, meats, vegis and cheese and then just stick it in the oven. If you've got a pizza stone, 500 degrees for about 6-8 minutes and you're all done. If not, just use a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Or just toss it straight on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side for some homemade bread.

4) Pasta


For just $0.99, you can find bags and bags of all sorts of past shapes and sizes. And there's just as good if not better than any pasta you'll pay $2.99 for a bag or box. Just let your imagine run wild: spaghetti Bolognese, penne Alfredo, pesto fusilli. You can't go wrong with these noodles!

3) Frozen Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl

Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese

I try to cook all my meals, but sometimes when it comes to lunch at work I just need something quick to grab from the freezer. Unfortunately, most frozen meals are just too small for a full lunch. I gave this Pepperoni Pizza Max & Cheese a try one day, and now I can't seem to keep my kids from stealing it for their school lunches. It's plenty to eat, tastes great and is ready in just about 5 minutes.

2) Blondie Bar Baking Mix

Blondie Bar Baking Mix

Y'all know I love to bake. But sometimes there's just no time and my cravings (and my kids' cravings) are calling. That's when I break out this blondie bar mix. In just a few minutes, we're enjoying a warm and delicious dessert. For an added treat, melt some chocolate and pour over the top when they've cooled slightly. Or, bake in muffin tins for individual blondie bars and top with a scoop of ice cream. And unlike some of the other boxed baking mixes at Trader Joe's, these are nut-free!

1) Miso Ginger Broth + Pork Gyoza Potstickers + Baby Spinach

For my #1 pick, it's a 3-for-1. The Trader Joe's Miso Ginger Broth is delicious on its own, but add some dumplings and spinach and you've got a hearty Asian soup. Just bring the soup to a low boil, then add in a half dozen of Trader Joe's Pork (or Chicken) Gyoza Potstickers and simmer for 2 minutes. Then drop in a handful of Trader Joe's Baby Spinach and give it a stir. That's it. In just minutes, a great soup using three great products.

If you don't know where the closest Trader Joe's is to you and you are now dying to check one out, use their store finder. When you get there, take a pic and post it to Facebook and Instagram and use the hashtag #hecancook_traderjoes!

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