Guilty. I am having an affair. But who could blame me? He surprises me with fresh new things, anticipates my needs, is always there for me, has a wicked sense of humor, feeds the “many moods of Megan” – even my kids love him. My husband doesn’t mind though, because his name is Trader Joe.

I know I am not alone. I have to share him with women and men across the country. There is a not-so-secret society of TJ’s fanatics at work, on the playground, riding public transport, updating or tweeting their status, blogging, eating at the corner bar and swarming at school pick up. Word of mouth is so strong that recommending a TJ’s product to a friend or colleague who claims they’ve not tried it is sickeningly satisfying. Go ahead and try to deny it – I can FEEL your nose growing Pinocchio style.

Numerous bloggers and sites have explored the TJ’s topic from every angle – fan clubs, product reviews, copycat recipes, value – what to buy and what to skip, how to shop TJ’s on a budget; the list goes on, and on and ON.  And, there are nearly 20 cookbooks dedicated exclusively to mastering the use of TJ’s products.

For me, the TJ’s shopping experience is enjoyable for my kids, the products are the source of numerous shortcuts and solutions for my family and the wine, cheese and dark chocolate make me a better parent (no, human being). So, I’m in, for better or for worse.

shopping at TJs

Items most frequently found in my cart (alongside the aforementioned wine, cheese and chocolate) and how I use them:

One dish dinner dazzler – lightly sauté your favorite fresh (or frozen) veggies, add to the skillet TJ’s: frozen meatballs (we do the turkey) and a simmer sauce (we love the Thai Yellow Curry or Indian Curry). Serve with frozen Brown Rice, Confetti Rice or Naan. The light heat pairs well with mango – use fresh or try the frozen Mango Chunks (thaw with a brief zap in the microwave). You will hear a guaranteed “more mango!”

dinner dazlers 2

A few of my favorite TJ dinner dazzlers.

Lazy dinner superheroes – Gyoza with Gyoza Dipping Sauce + veggie or salad; Lentil Vegetable Soup + grilled cheese.

My lazy dinner superheros

My lazy dinner superheroes.

My secret weapon – salad dressing. Generally lower in fat and calories than other kid-pleasing butter or cheese toppings, I bathe dinner in it more than I bathe my kids. TJ’s Cilantro Salad Dressing is perfect for drizzling on fish tacos and adding flavor to any fare.  Veggies tossed in balsamic vinaigrette or light ranch and stir fry made with any sesame/ginger soy-based dressing are popular at my house.

TJ salad dressings

TJ salad dressings help to jazz up meals and snacks.

Dip baby dip come on now dip baby dip (to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right… 1, 2, 3, 4, let me see your Tootsie roll) – Sorry. Flashback.  TJ’s dips are delish with pita chips, superb as sandwich spreads and divine dolloped on a baked potato.  Current cravings: Reduced Guilt Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt dip* and White Bean Basil Hummus. For a double-yum-but-quick fruit dip, try blending TJ’s honey variety of Greek yogurt with peanut butter.

Dip baby dip!

Dip baby dip!

You’re nuts if you don’t stock your pantry with these – Great value and great variety.  In addition to the staples – like Unsalted Dry Toasted Slivered Almonds to use for everything from salad to baking to trail mix – the adult obsession at my house: Marcona Almonds with Rosemary; kid obsession: Sesame Honey Almonds.

TJ nuts

TJ nuts = great value + great variety.

For amber waves of grain – Just looking at his grain wall gives me pleasure that’s hard to describe. So much to explore – always something new to try…  We stock up on the Whole Wheat Cous Cous, Tri-Color Quinoa and Israeli Cous Cous, often.

A few newer kid snacks – Crunchy Black & White Rice Rolls and Crispy Jeju Mandarin Orange slices have received two thumbs up from my girls. See other TJ’s snack staples in my previous post.

TJ kid faves

My girls are head over heels for these TJ snacks.

I’d love to add your favorites to my next TJ’s shopping list. Share via comment.

*Want to make it? Try this copycat recipe and great read.

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  • Elizabeth

    Here is a sample I recently had at TJs:

    ASIAN VEGGIE SALAD (healthy and very good):

    6 oz Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette
    1 12oz bag broccoli slaw
    3-4 green onions, chopped
    4 oz Blister Peanuts, chopped

    and if desired…
    1 cup shelled edamame
    1 bunch cilantro, chopped

    Toss together and chill.

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