Even if you managed to pack all of your gift-buying into one chaotic Black Friday, holiday shopping doesn’t truly end until you’ve got enough goodies to feed your family over the holidays. If you’re hitting up Trader Joe’s for items you couldn’t find at the farmers market, you’ll find loads of holiday foods—but not all are created equal. Though the store has made it slightly more affordable to live the slow-food lifestyle, it’s not perfect. So here are some tips to help you get through your grocery list without disregarding your food principals.
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The T.J. Brand Means More Than Savings
Usually, when you buy the store-brand version of a name-brand product, it’s to save money. At Trader Joe’s, there’s an additional bonus to buying the store brand: All products sold under the Trader Joe’s label have no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives; no MSG; no genetically-modified ingredients; and no added trans fats. During the holidays, that label covers a bunch of festive items, including Dark Chocolate Triple Ginger Cookies, Ice Mini Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti, Pfeffernusse German Spice Cookies, and of course, for the naughty family members, Candy Cane Coal.
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Pre-Made Sandwiches Are a No-Go
With all of the prep that holiday meals require, you might be tempted to pick up a few ready-made sandwiches, wraps, and salads for convenience sakes. Resist the urge. Trader Joe’s, due to its many progressive practices, has a reputation for being a “good for you” store. But that doesn’t mean everything sold there is good for you. The packaged salads, wraps, and sandwiches largely aren’t. A Bacon and Spinach Salad, for example, has 880 calories. Add a Christmas cookie to your meal and you’ve almost reached a recommended day’s caloric intake. So buy the basics and make those sandwiches yourself!
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The Produce Aisle Is a Labels Game
Trader Joe’s produce selection has caught a lot of flak over the years. For one, it’s grossly over packaged, with many items unnecessarily wrapped or boxed. Secondly, many of the items are flown in from all over the world—a locavore’s nightmare. (In fact, Deutsche Welle reports that between 20-25 percent of Trader Joe’s products are imported from overseas.) It’s not all bad, though—as long as you read labels and opt for minimally packaged produce. If you’re picking up items you couldn’t find at the farmers market, the following are usually grown domestically: artichokes, seedless grapes, russet potatoes, gold potatoes, navel oranges, Brussels sprouts on the stalk, Honey Crisp apples, and all of the organic onions.
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Two Buck Chuck Is Not Your Friend
It has a cute nickname and a lovely price, but Charles Shaw’s wines are not what you want to drink this holiday season. “This wine is made in a factory, with a lot of synthetic and concentrated products, like grape musk, added to manipulate the flavors from bad grapes,” Keith Wallace, executive director of The Wine School of Philadelphia, told CBS News. Stick to holiday beers instead, like Anchor Brewing’s Merry Christmas Happy New Years Ale or Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale.
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Try the Cheese, Please
Cheese is an easy and, if eaten in moderation, healthy holiday snack. Pair it with bread, crackers, fruit, or some organic, grass-fed cured meats. Trader Joe’s selection of cheeses is vast, and lucky for conscientious shoppers, there are plenty of good options to choose from. Try the New Zealand Grassfed Swiss or Sharp Cheddar; the Trader Joe’s brand Organic Monterey Jack; Trader Joe’s brand Organic American Slices or Organic Light String Cheese. Feeling extra festive? Go for Trader Joe’s Chocolate Cheddar Cheese. Yup, that’s a real thing. Enjoy!
A sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, Megan likes writing about food almost as much as eating it. If you don't want to know what's in your fruit/milk/meat, don't invite her to lunch.@babybokchoy | TakePart.com