Thursday, January 29, 2015

Doing the rounds... and the truth about Trader Joe's

*image source:

If you're like me and you care about what foods you and your family consume, you find yourself doing an odd grocery store dance each week I like to call "doing the rounds". As in a doctor doing rounds in a hospital, you visit each grocery on your list of favorites checking the pulse on the best they have to offer. 

It's exhausting.

 I shop Whole Foods for meat products and fruit, Trader Joe's for vegetables, bread, dog biscuits, mini yogurts and cheeses, two different local markets for milk and general oddities my boys like, and Costco and Walmart for paper products. I like both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for fresh flowers. The truth is, I just can't buy everything I like in one place. I don't insist on all organic products, but I do like to use the best quality I can find, and price matters too.

Let's take Trader Joe's for example. Is it everything? I find myself skimming the outskirts; an outer loop sweep of flowers, vegetables, yogurt and cheese and I'm outta there. Personally, I just don't go for the packaged meals because I find they are often a bit high in sodium. This Huffington Post article digs into why Trader Joe's prices are so low and, after all, we all love that, right? The flowers and cards are great and we can't live without the peanut butter dog biscuits, which is why our dog weighs 80 lbs. And what of reports that all or much of Trader Joe's foods are sourced from China? Most of what I read about this seems unfounded and so I won't share it here, but this story by the LA Times seems most valid and suggests these issues were dealt with years ago. 

I do my best (most of the time) to provide healthy foods for my family, and I know I'm not alone in this quest. I just wish it was a little easier and less time consuming to hunt and gather these days.

 However, here's one after dinner dessert recipe completely made from Trader Joe's products... on this night, it was everything.

*postnote- Did you know that America's Trader Joe's are owned by the Aldi supermarket chains in the UK? Aldi supermarkets were started in Germany with just one premises and now operate many thousands all over the world.  Read this article about the original owners of Aldi, the Albrecht brothers who divided their empire into two outfits: Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord (who own Trader Joe's). It's fascinating... a tale of the richest men in Germany, a kidnapping, and even the birth of quadruplets.  

Apple-Rhubarb-Pear Mini Crumbles

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

  • 3 large pears, peeled and diced
  • 3 apples, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp frozen rhubarb
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp flour
For the crumble topping:
  • 3/4 cup Trader Joe's old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into pats 
Method For The Fruit:

In a large saucepan, saute the fruit in the melted butter for 3 minutes until fruit is beginning to soften. Now add all remaining ingredients except the flour and simmer for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the fruit is soft, add in the flour and simmer for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Method For The Crumble Topping:

In a large mixing bowl, blend together all the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla and mix well. Now cut in the butter until you create crumbles.

Now spoon the fruit filling into greased ramekins and then spoon the crumble mixture on top of each one. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbling. Great with vanilla ice cream - Enjoy on an extra cold night!


  1. Hey Leigh, I feel your pain! you think TJ has good produce? I feel like everything goes bad within a day or two of buying it. And I don't think their prices are that great. I get frustrated that they price things as per item and people think that is cheaper than WF but in reality it's not. For example, TJ will price an onion as .99 per onion. WF prices their onions as $1.69/lb and onions rarely weigh a full pound. More like half a pound, if that. So the WF is definitely cheaper. I have wanted to write a blog post airing my TJ frustrations, but feel like that isn't being very fair. I do appreciate their price on nuts and coconut sugar which is what I buy there.
    Just had to vent!!

  2. You're so right, Jessica. It takes time to sort it all out because you really have to consider the unit price, weigh it, read labels, and then worry about where you think it might have come from. Many places sell fruit that has clearly been frozen and the kiwi from Costco are outstanding, but then you have 500 kiwi to eat... Yes, they're cheap but who can eat 500?!