Maybe you intended to buy all your food locally this spring, and visit the farmer’s market so often you’d get to know every Bob, Dick, and Harriet there. Well, the best-laid plans can go awry—and there’s no shame in hitting the grocery store for the ingredients you need to cook at home (which is well worth the effort, for your budget and your health!)
If Trader Joe’s is your go-to, here’s what we’d suggest picking up this spring. (Note: You won’t find snow peas and snap peas from Guatemala and Mexico on our list because we like to recommend food grown closer to home, which tends to reduce your carbon footprint. Wait till those are available locally if you can.)
All prices represent what we saw in-store in Brooklyn, New York, in March, 2018.
Vault No. 5 Cave-Aged Cheese from Jasper Hill ($11/lb)
A new TJ’s addition, this extraordinary cheese is on the menu at Bâtard, a fine dining restaurant in New York City, so we were over the moon to spy it here. It’s a pasteurized cow’s milk collaboration between Cabot and Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, home to some of the best cheesemakers in the nation. Sweet and savory with a lightly crystallized texture, it’s a delightful riff on cheddar.
Trader Joe’s Whole Globe Artichokes ($3 for 4)
Unlike the imported Peruvian artichoke hearts stashed in the frozen foods section, these artichokes are grown in the U.S. of A. Use them in any Italian preparation you like, such as with lemon, garlic, and arugula in this fabulous salad.
Brilliant Brand Meyer Lemons ($2 per bag)
Meyer lemon season will vanish soon, so it’s wise to pluck them up while they’re still here. Wonderful in lemonades and cocktails, they’re also heroes of the dessert world, thanks to their delicately sweet flavor profile.
Trader Joe’s Organic Tuscan Kale ($2.79 for 10 oz.)
Generally speaking, we prefer to get kale in loose, super-fresh dark-green bunches, but we love this variety, which sometimes goes by “cavolo nero,” “Lacinato,” or—to the delight of children everywhere—“dinosaur kale,” so we don’t mind that it comes chopped, in a bag. It tends to have delicate little bumps on its leaves, and is a darker green than most kale.
If we had our druthers, we’d get Trader Giotto to spend more time slicing the stems completely out of these pre-chopped pieces. (Yes, you can use them, but they’re tougher and generally must be cooked separately.) But this kale is worlds tastier than the typical one, and this is a decent price. Toss it with dressing or throw it into curries and stir-fries.
Luna S’mores Bar ($1 per bar)
We can’t be the only ones who start hiking more—or talk about hiking more—in the spring, right? These little protein bars stash easily into the nooks and crannies of your gear; they contain chocolate(!); and $1 a bar is a steal.
Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce ($3 for 8 oz)
Zhoug, sometimes seen as “zhug,” an herbaceous Yemeni hot sauce, is becoming more well-known thanks to the increasing popularity of Middle Eastern and North African food. This verdant version of it, made by a California vendor, is packed with jalapeño, cilantro, cumin, cardamom, garlic, and chile flakes. Layer it into sandwiches, spoon it on to black beans and breakfast tacos, and so on.
Trader Joe’s California Dry-Roasted, Low-Salt Almonds, ($6/lb)
Everybody knows about the health benefits of almonds, but good grief, are they expensive. These roasted, lightly salted nuts are only six bucks a pound, which these days is a relative bargain, and they’re grown—as they should be—in almond country: Cali.
Eat clean (and save money!) with our 21-Day Healthy Lunch Challenge
Beets ($1.69 for 16 oz)
All the fresh beets we spied at TJs were grown in America, so if you just can’t wait for them to come into season near you, get them here, then roast them for salads, turn them into noodles, or—as a small sign at TJ’s exhorts—“Make borscht!” We’ve got lots of recipe ideas for these beauties, right this way.
Yes, you should try to get your flowers locally, or maybe grow pots of them in your yard or in your windowsill. But if you’re as snowed under as much of America still is, no judgment. Tulips are one of the few things that will help us get through the lion’s share of March.