It’s finally Fall (on the calendar, at least) which means …
It’s time for Trader Joe’s!
I admit, I am not as big a fan of Trader Joe’s as I once was.
When Trader Joe’s opened its first Charlotte store in 2007, it was one of the few places to find vegan products and affordable organic produce.
Since then, Charlotte has welcomed many new (to us) grocery chains – Earth Fare, Whole Foods, Publix. And grocery stores in Charlotte have become much more competitive. It’s relatively easy now to find vegan products and organics – often at a lower price point.
But Trader Joe’s is FUN!
The staff is amazing. They may be crying inside, but dang on the outside they always seem like they are having one heck of a good time! (Probably all of us in the corporate world should do a small stint at Trader Joe’s, to learn how to make our fake positive attitudes and phony smiles more believable.)
And Trader Joe’s always has creative, seasonal items – especially for Autumn and the Winter holidays. And eating seasonal food (pumpkin, pumpkin spice, winter squash, maple syrup, cranberries, apples, Halloween-themed goodies) is one way to feel more “in tune” with the season.
Especially in Charlotte, where the temperatures have only recently dropped below 90 degrees! (On October 3rd, it was a record-breaking 97 degrees, complete with hair-frizzling humidity!)
And those gorgeous colors of fall? Went hiking with my furbabies – the two-legged one and the four-legged ones – at Blowing Rock over Columbus Day weekend. There was nary a yellow or orange leaf to be found. Green, green, green … everything green.
So what does a Charlotte girl do to get in an Autumn frame of mind?
She stops by TJ’s to stock up on seasonal goodies!
I’ll be posting more detailed reviews of some of these items, but let me give you a few recommendations!
Fall Leaf Corn Tortilla Chips – These are beautiful leaf-shaped chips in autumnal shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Maybe not the best tortilla chip I’ve ever had, but again, sometimes milder is better if you’re pairing with a strong dip.
Serve these chips with a spicy salsa for a beautiful presentation.
Apples. Trader Joe’s has a phenomenal assortment of apples – both regular and organic. So break out of your Gala and Fiji rut and try a few new varieties.
Organic Sweet Potatoes. OK, non-organic sweet potatoes are actually pretty safe to eat – but if I can buy organic produce, and it’s reasonably priced, I do so. Trader Joe’s is one of the few places I can find bagged, regular-sized organic sweet potatoes. (Most loose sweet potatoes tend to be ginormous; most bagged sweet potatoes tend to be tiny.) Sweet potatoes are a mainstay during the Autumn and Winter months – there isn’t a cheaper, easier, faster, more satisfying dinner than canned beans with vidalia onion, a mess of doctored up frozen greens, a baked sweet potato, and a pan of cornbread. Here’s how to make perfect baked sweet potatoes. And here’s a few ways to top them.
Winter Squash – TJ’s has an absolutely dazzling array of winter squash. The ones you are familiar with – butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and – of course – pumpkin. But also delicata, kabocha, and others. I like that the squashes are sold by unit, not by pound, which makes it easy to keep track of your budget as you shop. For example, an acorn squash – any acorn squash, every acorn squash – is $1.49. (I’ve gotten a few nasty surprises before when buying winter squash “by the pound”.)
Halloween Joe Joe’s – These are adorable. They are basically Oreos with orange filling and six different cute pumpkin faces.
Back when I had an assigned seating spot at work (we’re all “free range” now), I’d put a box out on my desk each October.
“What are these?” a coworker would ask.
“They’re a chocolate cookie with vanilla bean filling! Like Halloween Oreos!”
“But … ” Gasping indignantly and POINTING. “You’re VEGAN!”
“Yup, sure am.”
“But … this is a chocolate cookie.”
“Yup, sure is.”
(Silence for a few moments as light slowly dawns in coworker’s omni eyes.)
“So – a vegan can eat chocolate? Can eat cookies?”
“Yup. Not all chocolate, and not all cookies, but lotsa them.”
Hesistantly – “May I try a cookie?”
Coworker squinches eyes, takes tiny hesitant bite. “Hey – this is a regular cookie!”
“Can I have another?”
Final Thoughts On Shopping At Trader Joe’s This Autumn …
- Cruise the aisles. There are plenty of other vegan-friendly Autumn products aside from the ones I picked up this trip. Harvest Chili and Minestrone Soup (both in the fresh prepared food section). Pumpkin baking mixes (bread, pancakes, cookies). Maple “butter” (whipped maple syrup).
- Read The Ingredient Label. I saw a number of items that looked interesting – Pumpkin Butter, Fall Harvest Salsa – but closer inspection showed they contained honey. (Honey seems to be in everything these days!) Typically, I’ll read the allergen listing on the label, and if that’s ok, I’ll scan through the ingredients looking for honey, gelatin, chicken broth, and other sneaky items.
- Try Early and Buy Early. Not only are these items seasonal, but popular items (like the pumpkin rolls) sell out early. If you find something you like, go back and buy a few more.