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A College Student’s Guide to All Things Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is the “it” grocery store nowadays. If you haven’t shopped there, you’re missing out. And if you have shopped there, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re lucky enough to live by a Trader Joe’s, count your blessings, there are those of us who are less fortunate. Back home, my closest TJ’s is in the neighboring town about 30 minutes away from me. *Cries to self.* Luckily, though, Gainesville has blessed us with a TJ’s right in the middle of our beloved Butler Plaza.

What you might not realize about Trader Joe’s is that it’s actually insanely cheap, especially for the quality you get. As a college student, shopping on a budget is important, but I still want to treat my body as a temple and give it the best quality  food. As a self-proclaimed health nut, I need fresh produce constantly, and unique products to switch my everyday diet up. Trader Joe’s offers it all: superior, original products, all at a low cost.

So for the uninitiated, here are my fave foods from TJ’s, all waiting to be discovered (and devoured)!

Produce

The produce section at TJ’s, at least the one in Butler Plaza, is quite the optical illusion: It looks really small, but it surprisingly features a ton of yummy foods. It has everything you need — from avocados to strawberries, organic and non-organic, and all for (usually) cheaper than other grocery stores. Somehow, I find fresh blueberries that taste like they’re straight from the farm for a cheaper price than other stores. Truly the magic of Trader Joe’s.

Cheese

I try not to eat dairy, which means I don’t eat cheese a lot, but if you do, or are looking for a ~nicer~ cheese for a wine night (#galentinesday), they have a great assortment of quality cheeses for a decent price. I just made a baked brie the other weekend for some friends, and someone said to me that they love brie but never buy it because it’s too expensive.

Now, good cheese is never just a dollar, but I found an absolutely mouth-watering assortment at Trader Joe’s for around five dollars, and I’m talking about a whole block that would feed you and five others. Not only is it quality cheese at a great price, TJ’s also has a huge variety to choose from. There are about four different brie cheeses to choose from alone! TJ’s also has brie, gouda, cheddar, and even goat cheese! If you’re into cheese, this grocery haven is the place to go.

Bakery

Whether you’re looking for a nice baguette to go with your cheese, some yummy pastries or just a regular loaf of sliced bread, Trader Joe’s has it all! Its breads are amazing quality, you can truly taste the freshness and use of seasoning (I love the multi-grain loaf, it tastes kind of like a poppy bagel). The bread actually tastes like you made it in a bread cooker at home.

The reason I found this out to begin with was because I went to TJ’s for one of its specialty items and realized I was out of bread at home. Not wanting to make an extra trip for a loaf of bread, I grabbed one from TJ’s. I was shocked when I walked over to find that it was actually cheaper than my bread I typically buy. Besides the bread, TJ’s pastry selection is awesome and ever changing. The treats range from unique goodies like mango babka (a delicious pastry that’s only available during the summer) to more traditional treats like red velvet cupcakes. They all taste so good, and I always have to resist walking away from the sweets shelf when I’m shopping there. It’s such a great place to stop by if you need a quick dessert for a party.

Snacks

Whether you’re looking for a healthy or not so healthy snack, all of TJ’s snacks taste so fresh, even your typical potato chip tastes next level. Personally, my favorites down the snack aisle are the unsalted peanut butter pretzels, the sweet potato chips and the plantain chips. A lot of my friends rave about the roasted seaweed snack. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of seaweed, but if you’re into sushi, give it a try!

I also recommend keeping an eye out for all of Trader Joe’s seasonal specials, but specifically down the snack aisle. If you’re obsessed with pumpkin-flavor like me (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), the TJ’s snack aisle is the place to be during October. There’s a caramel pumpkin popcorn that is out of this world. Sadly, you’ll have to wait until next fall to try this, though.

More dessert!

There’s no such thing as too much dessert. And Trader Joe’s definitely supports indulging in your sweet tooth. Macaroons, cookie butter and mochi— oh my! Macarons are one of my favorite desserts, and if you don’t have a Le Macaron near you, TJ’s assorted macarons box in the frozen aisle is surprisingly good. And I know what you’re thinking… frozen?! But I swear, you can’t tell! Mochi is another underrated dessert offered in TJ’s frozen aisle. Mochi is a Japanese dessert that is super unique and worth a try. TJ’s offers mochis in many flavors and has different ones throughout the year.

Another popular item at TJ’s is cookie butter. And while we’re probably all familiar with cookie butter, you might not know there’s  crunchy cookie butter too, cookie butter’s sophisticated older brother. Chunks of Speculoos cookie mixed into the smooth and sweet cookie butter— enough said! And how could I forget Trader Joe’s assortment of seasonal dry-baking mixes. TJ’s is a go-to spot all year round with its easy to follow recipes which require few ingredients while still packing each baked treat with good ol’ homemade flavors

It’s no wonder why Trader Joe’s has gained its reputation as the king of the supermarkets with all these great products. And if this wasn’t enough to convince you, try them for yourself! Trader Joe’s has a great return policy: they’ll take anything back. And I mean anything. I’ve returned unopened cheese before, as well as opened (and slightly used) salad dressing that I wasn’t a fan of. I think this is because Trader Joe’s as a brand just wants you to try its products and venture out of your comfort zone, because as I mentioned earlier, TJ’s definitely has some unusual things to offer. Next time you need groceries, stop by Trader Joe’s and try something I suggested, or explore any of their other superb products.

You’ll always find something new at this hawaiian-shirt-filled store — whether it’s a seasonal item, or just something you never noticed before. If you try something that you love that I didn’t talk about, rave about it on our Facebook page.

Maxine Grossman is a second-year Public Relations major with a concentration in business at the University of Florida and is so excited for the opportunity to do what she does best for Her Campus UFL: write about fashion. When Maxine is not staring at Pinterest fashion boards or wandering around shopping, she can be caught eating sushi, devouring cups of coffee and tea, or munching on some delicious macarons. Besides writing for Her Campus UFL, Maxine is also an active member of UF’s Panhellenic life and enjoys spending time with friends, traveling, and painting.
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