Monday, July 19, 2010

Veg at Trader Joe's

The Topic: Veg Bargains at the Beloved TJ's

The Dish: Hailing from a land where Trader Joe's was an hours-long road-trip destination, I still get giddy every time I walk into a San Francisco location. They're so bright and full of wonderful, delicious things, and people are everywhere! Okay, so the people-being-everywhere bit is kind of a hassle, but the selection of affordable veg products more than makes up for it.

For those of you who haven't had a chance to visit a TJ's, for your sake, do it. Some day soon. Here are a few of my favorite TJ things that I'm pretty much guaranteed to buy. Each costs less than $5, but I'll admit that they're purely convenience purchases—great for when I'm on a budget and want to treat myself (which is, um, all the time).

Abby's Trader Joe's Must-Haves
  1. Dark Chocolate-covered Almonds with Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar ($3.99). I barely have words to describe these. They're pretty much the most amazing snack ever, and are incredibly addictive. Sweet plus salt equals heaven, especially when it's wrapped up in dark chocolate. I try to conserve a container as long as possible, but I advise against sharing in order to make that a reality.
  2. Wheat-Free Toaster Waffles ($1.89). I don't intentionally eat a wheat-free diet (if you couldn't tell that from my white flour-filled posts), but this fluffy toaster variety is vegan, and after devouring my first box many summers ago, I've been hooked ever since.
  3. Better n' Peanut Butter ($2.99). Don't judge me, but holy crap, I'm in love with this stuff. It's certainly not the most natural of products, and many healthy eaters may not touch it, but it's liquid gold. While sporting a schtick that it's lower in calories and fat than regular peanut butter (not my concern!), it also functions as dessert in a jar. Very sweet-tasting (yet somehow low in sugar), very delicious, and perfect for spreading on a wheat-free waffle for breakfast.
  4. TJ's Mediterranean Hummus ($3.99). Hummus, you are a spectacular creation. This huge container of smooth, delicious dip is way cheaper than its similarly priced counterparts at major grocers. It still doesn't last long in my house, but it's certainly more economical than the pricier name brands—and just as amazing.
  5. Simpler Times ($2.99). It's summertime, folks, which to me seems like the perfect excuse to sit around with friends and enjoy an ice-cold beer at only 50 cents per can. If you're not a beer snob—er, aficionado—then grab a six-pack and unwind. Consider my fridge stocked.
The Final Word: Of course there are dozens of veg products I didn't get to mention. I love them all! Don't forget to grab some TJ-brand Goddess salad dressing, affordable cleaning supplies, a bottle of famous $2 Charles Shaw wine, some fresh bread—I'll stop now. Are you a TJ's fan? What's your favorite bargain?


  1. great abby, now i just want to go grocery shopping at tj's. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FIX THIS?

    consumer whore-me!

  2. The Soy Nuggets are so good and cheap! Dark Chocolate-covered Pretzels are a constant standby for me too. And the Pumpkin Seed Ciabatta Rolls! I also love the waffles you mention. Mmmm.

  3. I live in florida where apparently trader joes does not want to grace us with a store. at least not near me. not sure why orlando does not have one.

  4. The frozen quinoa duo with vegetable mélange is very yummy so are the veggie burritos and veg potstickers. They also have some really tasty cereals; and their prices on nuts, nut butters (try the almond w/sea salt), & dried fruit are great.

  5. Love, the veggie meat balls, jalapeno/cilantro hummas and vanilla Jo Jo's

  6. Just to clarify for the readers, not all of the products you name in this post are vegan (you called them "veg" so you weren't misleading, but I know a large percentage of your readership is vegan, and might be interested). The Mediterranean Hummus has a milk derivative in it. The dark chocolate covered almonds sound like a new (?) product and are not yet listed on their product guides, but all the other TJ's dark chocolate covered treats are not vegan.

    The TJ's product guides don't include listings of wine, beer, and liquor, but at the two-buck-Chuck price, I'm betting Charles Shaw wines are also not vegan (just speculation though).

    For those who are interested, the TJ's product guides (which are super helpful and also available in each store if you don't bring one with you) are available here:
    the vegan one is:
    and the vegetarian one is:

  7. They have a guide for all of their vegan goods on their website. Don't forget the peanut butter pretzels! Just so you know most of their private labeled goods (cereal, soy protein) contain vitamin d from an animal source. (I have emailed their customer service many times.)

  8. Mmmm...Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers (grilled), Sweet Potato Fries, and fat free caramel popcorn...I'm heading there tonight and my shopping list just go a whole lot longer! I have noticed that they are starting to put the V on the packaging of products which are vegan. Hopefully they will do this will all of their vegan items.

  9. The low-fat mayo is vegan! I was using it when I was pregan, so it was awesome I didn't even have to look for a new product. Plus, it's much less expensive than other vegan mayo.

    The lentil curls are amazing.

    Almond Breeze is cheaper here than anywhere else.

    Their savory baked tofu is Wildwood done under TJ's private label program—so, so tasty!

    They private labeled a lot of their artisanal breads, but the mini par-baked pugliese are made by Grace Baking and are deee-lish! I stock up and throw em straight in the freezer. I always have a mini loaf to pop in the toaster oven for fresh bread with dinner.

    Mini ice cream sandwiches are super yummy.

  10. I've TJ's Simpler Times AND hummus (though I am personally addicted to the smooth and creamy cilantro and jalapeno version) in my fridge! Yay!

  11. Hi Lauren!

    Thanks for your feedback! All of the products listed should be vegan, and the hummus I've purchased in the past didn't contain a milk derivative. I'll look into this ASAP! The almonds aren't on TJ's list, but many vegans I know have found them at their locations. As for Charles Shaw, the reds are vegan.

    Thanks for your helpful notes!

  12. I wonder if the almonds could have confectioner's glaze on them -- I know their dark Belgian chocolate covered almonds are dairy-free, but made with confectioner's glaze. (I still eat stuff like confectioner's glaze and honey, but I know others don't.) However, their Belgian dark chocolate nonpareils are listed as vegan.

  13. P.S. My favorite vegan treats from TJ's:

    Black Bean Corn Enchiladas - especially good with sliced avocado
    Ridge Cut Salt & Pepper Potato Chips - completely addictive
    Frozen Wild Boreal Blueberries - really tasty in oatmeal
    Rustico Tomato Sauce - made with red wine
    73% Super Dark Chocolate Bar with Almonds
    (made on equipment shared w. dairy) - smooth and fruity chocolate flavor

    Also, I'm just a sucker for their affordable almond butter, tempeh, nondairy milks, roasted nuts, spices, hummus and pita...Though sadly chain stores can't sell alcohol in my state.

  14. I actually drove from Toronto to Detroit to get my hands on brown rice crispie treats! I used to live in NY where there is a TJ's on every corner. Now I'm addicted to many of the foods mentioned above! I also like their trail mix, mango juice, kettle corn, hummus, banana waffles, soy creamer, soy yogurt and vegan artichoke pizza. Unfortunately, most of these items wouldn't make the 4 hour trek home!

  15. @Chris. Trader Joe's has vegan mayo? This I did not know. I'll have to make a stop there to check it out.

  16. Too many great things at Trader's to name. But, a few. . . I love their roasted eggplant hummus, their vegan burritos are great when you can't afford Amy's or just want a change. Their sourdough white bread is great. I could go on.
    One thing I wish they would veganize, that they so easily could, is their strawberry soymilk. It use to have carmine to color it pink. If they changed it I would love to know. I haven't been down there in awhile.

  17. i can't count how many items i buy there, from rice cakes to soy yogurt, from Tofurky products (my store boasts a few different kinds) to tofu, from seedy chips to TJ's own brand of vegan chocolate chip cookies, from frozen edamame to their own brand of soy "meat"balls, from TJ's own brand of soy milk to bananas that are 19 cents a piece! i could go on and on and on. i'm also a big fan of their hummus. And i'm still bummed they discontinued their eggless egg salad. Boo.

  18. the vegan Pad Thai, I am a big fan!

  19. I totally agree with Chris, those lentil curls (like a potato chip but better and not greasy) are addictive. Also, oddly, the 12-grain mini crackers are a staple I try not to be without.

    My location doesn't seem to be as vegan-friendly as those in CA.

  20. Oh, I so wish that there was a Trader Joe's where I live...the nearest one is four hours away.

  21. TJ used to carry a kind of curry-like simmer sauce that had lime, tomato, pumpkin seed, and other yummy ingredients with just the right touch of heat. I don't remember the name of it, but I wish TJ would bring it back.

  22. TJ's olive oil is great and affordable. I also love their organic whole grain pastas, chocolate soy ice cream sandwiches, cereals, green juice, tempeh, organic creamy peanut butter, three grain medley, evaporated cane juice, pizza dough, prepared tofu... I don't know what I'd do without that place.

  23. AHH...I can go on and on about TJ's!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!! Goddess dressing is AWESOME on some grilled romaine lettuce too!!! I can't list my favs because it is pretty much the entire store!!!!!!

  24. Candy Cane Joe Joes! I love 'em.

  25. In addition to many of the above items, I LOVE the vegetarian chili. Not sure how they do it, but there's no tomatoes in it. (I'm allergic.) It's good on veggie dogs, baked potatoes or in a bowl with some tortilla chips!

  26. Yikes, I guess I've always taken Trader Joe's for granted! I've always lived less than 20 minutes from one of their stores.

    While I love their products, Trader Joe's does make me cringe a little because the very premise of the store requires that most of its items come from a long way away. I can't imagine how much energy is wasted during the transportation of all of those goods. I once bought a container of vegan jelly candies and, looking at the back of the package, discovered they were made in Greece! What a long way to come to get eaten by a Californian! Also, their foods tend to be heavily packaged. I wish they'd start adding bulk sections to their stores.

    But alas, I still find myself shopping there time and again because the food is incredible! They carry veganized varieties of treats that are difficult to find elsewhere. For example, last holiday season, I was totally stoked to discover that TJ's was carrying these scrumptious vegan thin-mint chocolates with an amazingly creamy fondant filling. They were, regrettably, transported from very far away (Britain this time), but they were SO good! I've got my fingers crossed in the hope that they'll carry them again this year.