I've also enlisted some help, since my affinity for takeout and cheap wine may not always address your interests. You know her from tales of Black Friday bravery and sexual politics, but now she brings her expertise in "binging on brunch, lunch and everything in-between, studying up on the latest fad diet trends, following them for three days and then eating a piece of pizza the size of my head," to Chewsday. Without further adieu, here's Marlisse Silver-Sweeney with Chewsday Volume 1:
Navigating Trader Joe’s – The Poor Man’s Whole Foods
Those of you who don’t know Joe, or Giotti as he’s called on all his Italian packaging, have been missing out in the world of low-priced, conveniently-packed/cut/chopped groceries south of the border (for Vancouverites) or South of Morningside Heights (for the Columbians). It’s the Forever 21 of the food world, back when we were actually 21, or the accessory aisle for us today.
However, unlike its organic-touting competitor Whole Foods, there are some prepackaged disasters waiting in the aisles and freezers, ready to clog both your arteries and your desk drawers at work (the green curry and bamboo individual microwaveable soup containers were my paper weights for much of my legal career. The sodium levels alone held down my legal briefs).
The Trader Joe’s at 72nd Street and Broadway is where the entire west side of the city shops, usually on Sunday afternoon when I choose to go. And thanks to NYC liquor laws, they don’t even have the regular wine section to indulge in halfway between the produce and the frozen goods. You have to go at it sober. My wiser and less-alcoholic roommate, Niki, suggested that we go Monday night instead, save ourselves the claustrophobia, social anxiety and liquor calories. The cashiers confirmed that the best time to shop Joe is early in the morning or just before closing.
The following products will fill your fridge with (undercase) whole foods without spending your whole pay cheque (or, well, um, student loan cheque). Except for the chocolate covered cherries, the crack cocaine of candy, but there are some habits you just can’t beat.
The best contender in the aisle is the Super Spinach Salad (with quinoa, carrots, cranberries, chickpeas, edamame, pumpkin seeds and carrot ginger dressing). It’s 400 calories for the whole thing, extremely satisfying with, as the name suggests, plenty of super foods to keep you full for the rest of your work-day. It’s also vegetarian and gluten free, for those of you that are following that diet for the next three days.
Besides French’s and its upscale Maille cousins, guilt-free condiments can be hard to find or unflavourful. The following picks from my main man, Joe, will spice up your meat and veggies without making you have to run that extra mile.
Smoky and delicious, this salsa is great over fish (especially halibut) or chicken or tossed in a salad and is perfect to have around the house for last-minute entertaining (asshole friends).
Regardless of whether you prefer to be given roses or eat them, this pepper adds a nice touch when ground over salads and entrees and at $1.99 you can afford not to like it. There’s also a lovely lemon pepper grinder, but the lemon is potent so it’s not good for every day/dish use. Unless you really like lemon. A lot.
Don’t do it. Foods are meant to be prepared more than unwrapping a vacuum packed seal and putting it in a micro-wave for seven minutes. Unless it’s 4am and you’re drunk. And the calorie and sodium count in the freezer section would equal more shoes than are currently in my and Niki’s closets combined. (That’s a lot).
However, there are some great produce packs that are almost as easy to prepare. The Asparagus, mushroom and onion sauté is a particular favourite (throw in a few eggs or egg whites and you have the perfect omelette without lifting one finger to chop) and the Asian Vegetable Stir Fry mix was a first time purchase, but I’m certain its mix of broccoli, peppers, baby corn, snow peas and bamboo shoots, when tossed with soy sauce and garlic in a pan, will be delicious, nutritious and fun to eat.
There are two different kinds of dried cherry chocolates at Trader Joe’s and it’s the ones with the unnatural red food dye (as opposed to the natural dark chocolate) that will make you eat the entire package in a night of self-loathing and self-fulfillment. It’s worth the half-marathon you’ll have to run the next day, trust me.
[Editor's Note: Also don't buy the fresh tomato, pesto, and mozzarella flatbread pizza and eat it at 10:30 at night. It will cause you one mean stomach ache and make your bowels as stiff as Tommy Lee Jones' frown at Sunday's Golden Globes.]
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