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Top 10 TJ foods

Dinner Diva column by Leanne Ely

I recently received an e-mail from a listener from my show that asked for a top 10 list, of sorts, for Trader Joe’s. I recommend this store a lot for good reason. For those of you who don’t know what a Trader Joe’s store is, it’s a store that sells healthy foods (their own brands and a few brands from others) at very good prices. They don’t use distributors and buy direct, making their prices incredible. I buy most of my groceries there week after week, and they have a large faithful following of fellow TJ junkies who seemingly can’t get enough of their great deals! With a few exceptions, everything they sell is worthy of being on the shelf there and in your own pantry or fridge.

Transfats are unheard of; they have nitrite free products and a ton of organics, from dairy to produce to meat and poultry. In a nutshell (I buy my nuts there, too!), Trader Joe’s is the best. Even if you live a fair amount away from your closest one, make it an outing, take a cooler and enjoy saving a tremendous amount of money getting the best stuff you can get, anywhere.

Now … with all the pomp and circumstance I just threw on Trader Joe’s … not everyone is fortunate enough to have a TJ’s within driving distance. Never fear – this list will still work for you; you just might need to adjust it a wee bit!

Here’s a look at what’s in my pantry and freezer, courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Most of this stuff you can get anywhere.

1. Avocados. The nice Haas avocados are the best. I make delicious guacamole using red onion, chopped cilantro, a splash of lime juice, a blop of salsa and a sprinkling of sea salt. Make my own chips with corn tortillas cut into chips, sprayed with some olive oil and baked till crispy – YUM!

2. Greens. I love braised greens (steam them till bright green, then sauté in olive oil and garlic, put a lid on them and let them finish cooking after I turn off the heat). TJ’s mixed greens (they call it Trader Joseph’s and the Chard of Many Colors, lol) have different colored chards and salad savoy. It’s delicious. I can eat half a pound in one sitting!

3. Almonds. I’m a huge fan of nuts, especially raw almonds (and walnuts, too). I place 10 of them in a ramekin and munch them at my desk, lingeringly (it’s too easy to eat too many, so I measure them out). I take my time and they seem to last. TJ’s also sells a bag of measured out nuts in little bags; got those, too. One bag of these nuts is always in purse for an emergency snack!

4. Salmon. I absolutely adore grilled salmon. It’s gotta be WILD though, if you want the benefit of the omega-3 fatty acids. TJ’s carries wild Alaskan sockeye that’s to die for. I just had it for dinner tonight (with some braised greens) and I’m in love. I heat up the barby (I have a gas one), throw the frozen salmon on, skin side down, sprinkle some salmon seasoning from Paul Prudhomme (generously, I might add) and that’s it! EASY BUTTON and absolutely delicious; no planning necessary!

5. Frozen berries. I make my smoothies from TJ’s berries. I buy the wild blueberries and blackberry/raspberry mix. They’re organic and much cheaper than the grocery store, by a mile.

6. Frozen mango and pineapple. Yep, those go in the smoothies too. They add a lot of flavor, and I’m really boosting up the ol’ fruit count as well.

7. Kefir and Yogurt. Kefir is like liquid yogurt. Chocked full of probiotics, kefir helps your body balance in the gut. Remember those stories of people living to be 120 years old in Russia? Yogurt and kefir were what they credit their longevity to; that’s nothing to sneeze at! I use kefir in my smoothies and eat yogurt with a splash of vanilla and a squeeze of honey, yum!

8. Chicken breasts. The boneless skinless kind, of course. TJ’s has great prices on chicken breasts without the hormones and all that jazz, and without too much “solution” added to the flash frozen chicken, too. I think it tastes the best of all the chicken I’ve bought and the price is better, too.

9. Garlic. TJ’s has these adorable little cubes of frozen garlic. You just poke them out into your skillet and cook away! Each cube equals a clove. Talk about EASY! If you don’t have these available, you can get tubes of garlic and other herbs fresh in your produce department. These are great, too! I’ve used TJ’s cilantro and basil cubes, too.

10. Flowers. No, I don’t eat them; I just enjoy them. Why wait for a man to give you flowers when you can give yourself beautiful flowers every week? TJ’s has big bountiful bouquets of flowers for less than 10 bucks. I’m worth it and in my opinion; flowers are necessary for everyone, truly food for the soul!

That’s my list. Don’t panic if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you – use this list as a guide to get you going with some truly healthy foods, and ENJOY!


For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne’s website,, or her Saving Dinner book series (Ballantine) and her New York Times bestselling book Body Clutter (Fireside). Copyright 2008 Leanne Ely. Used by permission in this publication.

augusta free press
augusta free press