It’s time for a grocery cart heart to heart! This week I took a trip to one of my favorite grocery stores, Trader Joe’s with some of my favorite co-workers, Terrell, Megan and Kim. Terrell and Megan have recently started adjusting to eating a more plant-based diet. Kim was along for the ride, as she lost a bet that Terrell couldn’t last his first vegan week. Kim’s loss resulted in her having to eat vegan for a day. Hey, sometimes we will take those vegan wins however we can get them 😉 .
Once you’ve started to figure out new things you can eat, you might find yourself with a grocery list full and ingredients you’ve never heard of or seen before. It can be overwhelming to sort it all out while weaving through the aisles, trying not to stop traffic.
I’m walking you through each section, just like I did with my friends, calling out all my best tips and TJ must-haves.
This is where you’ll want to fill most of your basket. Below are some tips and things to consider while in this section.
- Breakfast – grab some bananas or berries to add to your oatmeal, dairy-free yogurt, or smoothies in the morning.
- Lunch – pick your favorite greens, veggies and fruits for salads and wraps…
- Tip – Step up your salad game with fruit: adding pomegranate seeds, berries, or apple slices to your salad can add a nice change of flavor to your weekly lunch routine. — Also if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s Cold-Pressed Dressing, there are a few different kinds, typically in the refrigerated produce section, that are amazing!
- Dinner – Think about different types of bowls or meals you will want to eat throughout the week. Have some fresh green veggies on hand, asparagus, broccoli or brussels sprouts for example. And load up on all your other favorite vegetables.
- Tip – Sweet potatoes all week: Grab a bag of sweet potatoes and bake all of them at the beginning of the week. Add them to wraps, and salads and heat them up to use them in bowls for a quick dinner throughout the week.
- Tip – Find a good avocado: Look for avocados that are darker in color. When you hold it in your hand you should be able to squeeze the avocado and feel a slight give. If the avocado feels questionably squishy you can quickly tell if it is overly ripe by flicking off what’s left of the stem. If the color under the stem is brown it is overripe. If the color is a bright green it is ready to eat.
- Snacks – I like to have easy to grab fruits and vegetables on hand to snack on throughout the day.
- Fruits – I alternate between oranges, pears, grapes and apples, mangos, kiwis etc. depending on what’s in season
- Vegetables – Think about sliced cucumbers, sliced bell peppers, carrot sticks and celery sticks
If you eat Gluten, buy some good vegan bread, tortillas or naan (Trader Joe’s has a great whole wheat naan) on hand for toast, wraps, sandwiches etc. Look for 100% whole grain, and be sure to scan the ingredients to makes sure your product does not contain eggs or dairy.
- Bars – I always have a few bars on hand if I need something filling to eat in a pinch. Trader Joe’s carries a small variety of LÄRABAR flavors, which are my favorite because the ingredient list is tiny and contains only whole ingredients I can comprehend.
- Oats – I keep rolled oats and steel cut oats on hand at all times. I prepare steel cut oats as I mentioned in Steel Cut Oatmeal 101 to eat throughout the week. Quick oats come in handy if I’m out of the big batch of steel cut oats, or they add a nice texture to smoothies and vegan pancakes.
- Cereal – In case of an emergency…ha! It’s good to have cereal on hand if you’re in a hurry. I usually buy Trader Joe’s Bran Flakes which are a great buy, and a granola to mix in. Add your favorite non-dairy milk and top with fresh berries and/ or banana.
Canned and Dry Goods
- Pasta – Whole grain pasta and a vegan jar of sauce are a staple in the pantry for a quick week night dinner.
- Canned or Dry Beans – Keep an assortment of beans in your pantry for salads and dinner. Black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) etc. can all be found in cans or dry in bags.
- Nuts and Dried Fruit – Raw nuts and dried fruit, or a pre-made trail mix are great to have on hand for a good snack throughout the day. I love Trader Joe’s Almonds, Cranberries and Cashews mix.
- Grains – Grab some whole grain brown rice, quinoa, farro, couscous, lentils etc to add to your dinners or mix in salads.
Frozen produce are just as, and in some cases more nutritious as fresh produce because of how quickly they are frozen once picked.
- Vegetables – Stock up on a good assortment of vegetables or pre-mixed vegetables as sides. Just make sure there are no added ingredients such as butter or oil.
- Grains – Frozen bagged brown rice, quinoa or couscous are a quick option to add a grain to your meal.
- Berries – Frozen berries are perfect to mix into smoothies so there is no need to water down your delicious blend with ice.
- Dairy-Free Milk – Add your choice of dairy-free milk to your cart if you want to add it to cereal or coffee. I love Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, and my husband loves their Coconut Creamer.
- Dips – Grab a fresh salsa or hummus to dip your veggies in or add to a wrap. We are currently loving TJ’s Hummus with Freshly Ground Horseradish.
- Tofu & Tempeh – Trader Joe’s carries a variety of options of Tofu and Tempeh typically kept near the produce. Tofu is good to have in the fridge for scrambles or dinner. We love making tempeh bacon with our avocado toast.
It’s best to reach for the fresh produce and dried fruits and nuts first when you’re snacking, but we do like to have one alternative on hand as well. I love the Veggie and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips and 3 Seed Beet Crackers.
Filling up your basket with the right mix of foods should be a fun hurdle to cross in learning to steer in the plant-based direction. There is so much to explore at Trader Joe’s. Hopefully I covered some key bases for you. If you have any questions about particular grocery items or where to find them please comment below.