Real Food 101: Top Ten Staples We Buy at Trader Joe’s

When Darren and I moved to Scottsdale, AZ back in 2006, we immediately became huge fans of Trader Joe’s. When we moved to California, our love affair grew even deeper after realizing we had five stores (!) within a three-mile radius.

Then, in 2010, we moved back home to Kansas City and realized that the closest Trader Joe’s was a whopping four hours away in St. Louis. Bummer. Luckily, my dad regularly traveled their for business, so we took advantage and would send him with a shopping list. We couldn’t get the frozen goodies or anything that would spoil, but we were still able to stock up on our favorite staples.

A year or so ago, that all changed. Kansas City now has two Trader Joe’s. Whenever I mention how much I love shopping there, people either enthusiastically agree, or start to grumble because they find the experience overwhelming. Today, with New Year’s resolutions in full swing, and more Americans than ever realizing the healing benefits of switching to real food, I want to share the top ten staples we try to always buy at Trader Joe’s.

In no particular order, these are a few of my favorite things…

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

(Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)



1. Organic Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce…this is our go-to prepared sauce for simple weeknight spaghetti, Popeye Manicotti, Chicken Parmesan Soup (recipe coming soon), and more!


2. Organic Dill Pickles…have you ever read the labels on most pickle jars? Every single brand at our local grocery store contains high fructose corn syrup and petroleum dervived food dyes. Yuck! Plus, these ones taste great and are shelf stable for over a year.

Trader Joe's Organic Ketchup

3. Organic Ketchup…same as pickles. I like to avoid the high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified beet sugar found in most supermarket brands.

Trader Joe's Organic Mayonnaise

4. Organic Mayonnaise…According to my best friend (who is currently pregnant with twins!!!), this is the only healthy mayo that actually tastes like the processed brand we all know and love. Enough said.

Trader Joe's Salsa Verde

5. Salsa Verde…There are a lot of good green salsas out there, but this is our family’s favorite for price and flavor. There are also no yucky preservatives!

Trader Joe's Organic Corn Chips

6. Organic Yellow Corn Chips…unless labeled “USDA Organic” or “Non-GMO Certified”, corn chips are probably made from genetically modified corn. Buying the Trader Joe’s brand are also not much more expensive than the regular ones!

Trader Joe's Wild Rice

7. Orange Juice…technically this is not a staple, but I had to include it because it is such a great value. Just $1.99/carton!!! When purchasing 100% real orange juice, it is unnecessary to upgrade to organic. Oranges are almost always on the EWG’s Clean 15 list.

Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend

8. Harvest Grains Blend…Israeli Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans, and Red Quinoa. When cooked in chicken broth, this makes a comforting and nutritious pilaf to serve under chicken or fish. LOVE!

Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Couscous

9. Whole Wheat Couscous…100% whole wheat and it comes together in just five minutes.This is one of our favorite ways to prepare it.

Trader Joe's Organic Chicken Broth

10. Organic Free Range Chicken Broth…Whenever possible, I like to use homemade chicken broth in our cooking. It is such a healing food! However, on days that my supply is empty or I forgot to pull some out of the freezer, this is a great alternative to have on hand. Plus, $1.99 a quart is a great price!

Well, there you go. Thse are ten of the Trader Joe’s staples we try to keep on hand at all times. They offer a ton of convenience, help heal our bodies, and are a great way to stay within our budget. Hopefully this list will help you stay strong with your real food resolutions and give you a place to start on your next visit!

What do you think? Do you have a favorite product from Trader Joe’s?

If you are one of the many people that find grocery shopping overwhelming, or you need help transitioning your family to real food, I would love to help! I regularly lead grocery shopping tours, do one-on-one or small group nutrition consultations, and lead real food lunch-and-learns for organizations large and small. Email for prices and more information.

Disclosure: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Healthnut Foodie will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and allows us to help spread the message of real food and living well.

Truestar Health


  1. ps— Yes, I felt slightly odd taking pictures of all my favorites at Trader Joe’s…BUT, I did it for you!!!

    • And thank you for that! Actually, I have a few Trader Joe’s products as Favorites on my blog πŸ™‚ So it’s nice to know that somebody else appreciates this store as much as I do!

  2. Katie – I take pictures there all the time without feeling bad! They have such awesome packaging/displays they are just asking for an instagram!

    The cous cous is one of our favorites too! Haven’t tried the pickles or mayo – but now I feel like I need to.

    Our go-to chip is the Black Bean & Quinoa version & for salsa the chipotle salsa they have. Have you tried their pizza dough (whole wheat)? I love to make my own – but if I don’t have time & want to have pizza that week their dough works great.

    • Thanks for not making me feel so silly. πŸ™‚ I have never tried the black bean & quinoa chips, but I need a gluten-free option for a conference I’m working at this weekend so I may give those a try! Yes, I have tried their pizza dough and think it is a great back up. I usually have a ball in the freezer for pizza craving emergencies.

  3. Love the list, thanks! I always get overwhelmed by the amazing chocolate and never end up with the healthy dinner items. I will add chocolate to this list and head there soon.

    • Oh don’t get me wrong…we also buy the dye-free, hfcs-free lollipops, chocolate, and an impulse buy (or two) every time. Just trying to help people find the best deals on the basics!

  4. We LOVE Trader Joes ketchup! My kids are now “ketchup snobs” because of it! I recently found out it has its own Facebook page!

  5. Organic Whole Milk – My two year old drinks a TON of it.
    I also love their greek yogurt and we get the plain organic yogurt and mix it with fruit for the baby.
    Frozen Mango
    Most of the produce, especially the large bags of organic apples and pears.
    The organic meats
    Organic bread
    I should probably stop. I could go on forever.

  6. I really like their coconut oil, and the price is one of the better ones I’ve seen!

  7. LOVE the salsa verde! I made up the following recipe for enchiladas verde, and now we eat it frequently. Hope you like it too!

    1/2 cup dried black beans, cooked (or 1 can black beans)
    2 cups baked and mashed sweet potatoes
    1 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    6 whole wheat flour tortillas (from Trader Joe’s!)
    1 jar Trader Joe’s salsa verde
    1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

    Mix together black beans, sweet potatoes, cumin, and cinnamon. Fill tortillas with mixture, and place in a 9×13 pan. Pour salsa verde over the top and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is bubbly and browned to your liking. Enjoy!

    • That’s funny! I actually have a recipe for Black Bean and Pumpkin Enchiladas that I developed for my third book! This one is somewhat similar except we do a red sauce. Excited to try your version! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Christine says:

    Oh where to start? We love TJ’s! Yogurt sticks, hummus, gorgonzola crackers, salt & pepper chips, crescent rolls, cinnamon rolls, green juice, blue corn chips, maple syrup (great price!), mandarin chicken is a great, quick frozen meal, frozen mango chunks, banana/vanilla yogurt, and their cereal bars- that’s my go to list almost every other week! OH and I could not be more addicted to the sea salt and turbinado sugar dark-chocolate covered nuts- RIDICULOUS!!

    • oh my! I have never tried the sea salt and sugared chocolate nuts but I am a SUCKER for the sweet-salty combo! Just added it to my dry-erase board for our next trip. I do love the crescent rolls as a special treat as well! And the maple syrup. And the… etc, etc, etc…

  9. True story about the mayo. Katie- thank you for doing this as I am often overwhelmed when I go there. (I must have been one of the people you mentioned above πŸ˜‰ )

  10. Since TJ’s is my primary grocery store, I could add quite a bit to this list, but Candy Cane Decaffinated Green Tea would be at the top! Have you tried it? Sooooo yummy. Also Kefir, Applesauce Squeezers (perfect for lunch boxes), nitrate-free turkey bacon, organic eggs, all of their organic produce (it’s cheaper than other grocery stores’ conventional!!), GF oatmeal, GF granola, and coconut milk come to mind. This is a great post because I usually have blinders on when I’m there…I know what I need so I’m in and out. I don’t have a lot of time to paruse the isles. I’m there at least once a week so I’m always surprised when I see something they’ve carried for a long time that I didn’t know about. They have so many amazing products that I miss!
    P.S. Their Chocolate covered Chips (not chocolate chips, but chocolate covered potato chips)are to die for!

    • Angela — Yes, the chocolate covered chips are rediculous!I miss having TJ’s so close as we did in LA. Your post on FB made me cry. Loved our days with our little sweet babies. πŸ™‚

  11. Christi403 says:

    I always buy the red sauces and I also love the organic brown rice pastas. My daughter loves the raw cheddar. I also get juices there for our kombucha. So many favorites!

  12. Just wrote the marinara, ketchup and cous cous on my list. Seems I’m always finding something there I forget to look for. πŸ™‚ quick question though…last time I checked the chips they had the “bad” oils listed on the ingredients. Am I missing something? I SOOOO need a new chip so my husband will stop badgering me to make them. LOL

    • Anna — Just checked my label. You are right! They do contain vegetable oils, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. However, because it is ORGANIC vegetable oil, we don’t have to worry about gmo’s. Because we don’t eat TONS of them, and because my hubby prefers them over the other organic brands, I’m keeping them for now. Thank YOU though for bringing it to my attention!

  13. Katie – Thanks for this post! I have only been shopping at TJs for about 6 months and really enjoy it. The staples really help someone like me!

  14. PS – I love their pineapple slices, frozen spinach lasagna, frozen vegetable lasagna, vanilla coconut milk, organic tri-color peppers, organic romaine, and I am a sucker for trying any of their fun cookies!

  15. Sergio Styles says:

    A friend who returns home occasionally will give me a care package from Trader Joe’s. I love it. The closest one is 2.5 hrs. away. Unfortunately she doesn’t visit often enough. I love the Harvest Grain Blend. How much is it? I can order through Amazon, seems exceptionally expensive.

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  18. OMG, I feel like you are my best friend! Everything on your list (except the chicken stock, I usually make my own), and some other things, is what ends up in my cart! Thank you so much for your blog! I just read the one about Costco, and loved it! Thank you πŸ™‚ Do you have Aldi in your neighborhood (it;s a popular store in Germany)? I think Aldi owns Trader Joes, so you can find some pretty good stuff there, like organic foods, good German Chocolate, etc, and it’s cheap!. They have a lot of bad stuff too, but it’s so much fun to shop there!

  19. I bought Trader Joe’s Real Mayonaise because it was made with canola oil and whole eggs lemon juice. They just recently changed supplies and now the first ingredient is Soybean Oil. The label is the same on the 32 ounce bottle but the ingredients have really changed.


  1. […] since I posted my list of top staples we buy at Trader Joe’s, I’ve received quite a few requests that I do the same thing for the other stores we frequent […]

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