Who is trader joe and why does he want all of my money?

By Mohini Johri

I absolutely detest cooking. So far this year my culinary exploits have included a quinoa salad, air-fried broccoli, and air-fried wings; 66% of these so-called dishes may or may not have set off the Station 9 fire alarm. It’s quite unfortunate, because I love food. I enjoy baking, but there’s just something about having spices in my hand as opposed to sugar that makes me want to lose it. 

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As if this wasn’t bad enough, Durham staple Harris Teeter continues to rip people off. Ready-made lentils? Four dollars. A honeycrisp apple? Five dollars. A bottle of wine? Try 11 dollars. The hold that the monopoly of a grocery store like Harris Teeter has on all of us is, quite frankly, blasphemous. I, too, succumbed to the trickery of Harris Teeter until I traversed into enemy territory to the holy grail that is Trader Joe’s. Electric is an understatement. As it turns out, all of your grocery needs are located approximately 15 minutes away in the land of Chapel Hill, at the only Trader Joe’s location in this vicinity. So, I give to you, the best finds from the only good thing to ever come from Chapel Hill:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Fall Items 

Trader Joe’s officially earns the title of “pumpkin spice valhalla of forever.” Anything pumpkin spice you could possibly imagine, but in pumpkin spice form, and Trader Joe’s has it. Cookie mix? Done. Coffee? Heck yeah. Cookies? Yuh. Espresso beans? You already know. Add protein pars, ravioli, pancake mix, waffle mix, bread and/or muffin mix (also gluten free for those of you who haven’t succumbed to natural selection yet), crackers, and quite possibly anything you could think of. If you want the pumpkin spice, Trader Joe’s has the pumpkin spice. Trader Joe wins. 

2. The Prosecco

Walk inside, take an immediate left, and then sharp right and you’ll find yourself in front of the sparkling wine. Your jaw will drop, because there is nothing more electric than the price; at an astounding $4.99, you can get a sparkling mango, peach, or grapefruit wine that will have you and your bank account jumping for joy. If you’re not in the mood for something sparkling, the wine section is your oyster. Red, white, pink, pink and sparkling, white and dry - there is no combination untouched. And if you’re confused, the cashiers are both kind and knowledgeable - they might even be so aghast at your choice of wine that they explain the error of your ways and what you should get instead. They may even go as far as simultaneously making fun of you for going to Duke, a school that lost to UNC in the final four. But it’s fine because the wine is actually incredible and UNC choked in the NCAA championship!

3. Cookie Butter Ice Cream

This ice cream is a problemmm. My family might actually be addicted; if there is one thing that’s consistent in my life, it’s that I can always go home and expect a tub of cookie butter ice cream in the freezer. It’s also massive; the price to volume ratio goes crazy. It’s the ratio of cookie butter to ice cream for me; I like my ice cream very heterogeneously distributed with ~things~ in it, and Trader Joe’s does not skimp on how much they put in. Call them Fibonacci because Trader Joe’s has the new golden ratio.

4. The Frozen Chicken Tikka Masala and More 

 I am not exaggerating when I say the tikka masala is the reason that I’m still standing. At only $4 per dish, it only takes seven minutes in the microwave to be ready to eat for dinner. The frozen food doesn’t just stop at tikka masala; there’s chana masala, lamb vindaloo, vegetable biryani, and chicken curry to satisfy all your Indian food cravings. The best part is, they’re all $4. These foods can also get creative - where else could you possibly find spicy pumpkin samosas? Truly you can’t go wrong. I love you Tandoor, but your inflation-ridden tikka masala just can’t compete. 

5. Trader Joe’s World’s Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs 

I could easily finish the entire bag in the amount of time it takes me to get home, aka 15 minutes. The bag is massive and filled with these little white cheddar corn puffs, but size does not matter (here) - the rate of consumption would be the same regardless. These little puffs are light and airy –  they melt in your mouth. They aren’t even overwhelmingly cheesy, which I appreciate. To be more specific, it doesn’t make you feel like you just drank queso after you eat them. What’s more? They are also available in sour cream and onion flavor, which I can’t vouch for because the white cheddar has a hold on me like Kim Cates has on my bank account, but I’m sure they’re excellent. 

6. Ghost pepper salsa 

Usually when a place advertises something as spicy, skeptical is an understatement for how I feel. A hot spice level usually means barely grazing moderate, and mild simply doesn’t deserve the title of salsa. But this ghost pepper salsa, oh brother, it is spicy. Even I, a self-appointed certified spice master, can only get through approximately 10 tortilla chips with this salsa before I have to tap out and save for another day. It is absolutely fantastic - if you’re looking for a spicy snack or trying to add a little kick to your burrito, this is the salsa for you. 

  

7. Apple cider donuts 

There is nothing that screams fall more than an apple cider donut. Cakey on the inside and sprinkled generously with cinnamon and sugar on the outside, it is the ideal consistency for a fall dessert. Pair it with a cup of coffee and you have the sustenance to get you through the day. At six donuts per box, they’ll run out in your household quickly, but good thing you’re only 15 minutes away from the greatest place on Earth to replenish your stores. 

8. Chocolate mint stars

I should’ve included this in a “Trader Joe’s: Christmas edition” article, but they are too good not to put on the official list. The little chocolate mint stars are drops of happiness in the form of dark chocolate dipped shortbread, and covered in sprinkles. There is nothing more Christmas than the chocolate mint stars. Their only downside is that they are in high demand - if you think you can walk into Trader Joe’s in early December and grab yourself a box for the holidays, you are sorely mistaken. You must purchase them as soon as you put your Christmas tree up on November 1st, which is objectively the start of the Christmas season. I will not be taking any rebuttals to this claim.

9. Watermelon sparkling juice 

Taking a slight hiatus from delicious snacks, there is nothing more summer than Trader Joe’s watermelon sparkling juice. The packaging itself is “oh so summer” with a green background and little watermelons adorning the front. Just by looking at the label, I  can already smell sunscreen and chlorine pool water. The best part about it is the combination of the sparkling and the juice - the carbonation cuts the sweetness that comes from the watermelon. It is the perfect balance if you’re looking for something with just a little more substance than sparkling water but also not so sweet that you feel like you’re going into hyperglycemic shock. 

10. The Fruits and the Vegetables 

You might think that produce would be the same at any grocery store nearby, but you’re wrong - Trader Joe’s has the best produce. The grapes are firmer, the cucumbers greener, and the arugula more spritely. Also, you can’t argue with the prices of produce - they are astoundingly low. A bag of arugula? Two dollars. A pineapple? Three dollars. A banana? Only nineteen CENTS. I personally cannot speak to items that you would actually have to cook with since we already established that I don’t do that, but the fruit and snacking vegetables have my stamp of approval. I have yet to be disappointed. 

So there it is, a list of 10 Trader Joe’s finds that you’re bound to love at least one item from. I hope this convinces you to go if you haven’t already (if so, why haven’t you - are you ok). And so, the answer we’ve all been waiting for - who is Trader Joe? He’s Him. And he does in fact rightfully want all my (and your) money with his low low prices and electric products.