The Gift I’m Getting All My Relatives Who Don’t Live Near Trader Joe’s

published Dec 12, 2023
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Trader Joe's canvas bag filled with groceries on countertop.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

During the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, I lived across the street from a Trader Joe’s. My proximity to a grocer provided significant comfort and ease of mind those first weeks; it also made me an unlikely asset to my loved ones. Day after day I fielded calls from friends inquiring about the length of the line of 6-feet-apart shoppers wrapping delicately around the store’s perimeter. Happy to be of service (and for the moments of human connection!), I monitored the queue like the nosy neighbor I am to my core.

These days, the winding line of weary shoppers outside no longer exists — although the parking lot remains a gaping portal to hell. But I still consider myself a Trader Joe’s lifeline to my loved ones without access to the wildly popular chain.

After witnessing the sheer delight on the glorious face of my beloved cousin Jill when she first tasted Everything But the Bagel seasoning, aka Deli Glitter (let’s make that catch on!), I knew exactly how I’d delight my loved ones back home this holiday season. That’s why this winter I’m giving my family the gift of my absolute favorite nonperishable Trader Joe’s items. Our gift exchange limit is $25 max, and these go-to goodies all add up to just a tad over that price point, so I’ll mix and match to personalize the gift baskets. Here are the 11 must-haves I’m including. 

1. Organic Italian Artisan Gigli Pasta

Cost: $2.99

Gigli: excellent pasta! I can’t get enough of this pasta’s texture. In our home, we often pair it with jarred tomato sauce, frozen peas, and goat cheese for a quick dinner fix. 

Cost: $1.99

Whether I’m completing my home’s closing shift tasks or preparing for last-minute guests, the room spritz is a simple all-natural alternative to more expensive and chemical-packed options. A quick spritz here and there (and especially in the kitchen and bathrooms) is the cherry on top of a disinfecting reset. And the scent of fresh lemon is always a welcome delight!  

3. Blondie Bar Baking Mix

Cost: $3.49

Blondie bars bring me back to the best days of my life: preschool in the early ’90s. The “Room Moms” were always serving up blondie bars with M&Ms. This easy boxed mix scratches that nostalgic itch. You can also order a pack of two online for a slightly inflated price if you can’t make it to a TJ’s.

4. Cowboy Caviar Salsa

Cost: $3.49

I recently referred to Cowboy Caviar as “God’s eggs,” and while I agree that’s pretty gross and weird, I do stand by my high praise of this delicious salsa. Easily eaten in one sitting, this salsa will have you screaming yee-haw!

5. Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers

Cost: $2.69

The perfect vehicle for Cowboy Caviar Salsa, these cult-favorite Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers pack a flavorful bite — even without any dip. They’re a must-have for every house party we host, and guests always ask where they’re from.

6. Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

Cost: $1.99

You know it, you love it. This seasoning is for everything: pasta, eggs, cucumber salad, avocado toast, dips, whatever. My cousins burn through their stashes so quickly, I wonder if they’re just straight-up swallowing the stuff. I wouldn’t blame them! If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can also snag the irresistible seasoning for a few extra dollars on Amazon.

7. Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Crackers

Cost: $2.99

These crackers take a very good thing and make a very great thing. I appreciate the versatility of these bite-sized treats, as they taste delicious with a variety of pairings and dips — perfect for crowded charcuterie and grazing boards

8. Oven-Baked Cheese Bites

Cost: $2.99

Oven-Baked Cheese Bites serve three main functions in my home: as a midnight snack; as an indulgent little treat to share with my pup; and as a crunchy texture in soups. I only wish Trader Joe’s made bigger bags of the bites. Until that happens, I’ll stock up for soup season!

Cost $3.99

During the harsh winter months, I switch up my skin and hair care routines to accommodate the season’s dryness. TJ’s hair mask is cruelty-free, smells divine, and does the absolute most at its incredibly affordable price point. (Frankly, their entire bath and body section is top notch, and I’m also a superfan of their seasonally fragranced body butters, gel moisturizer, and Rose Water Facial Toner. But I’m keeping those for myself!) 

10. Chili and Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips

Cost: $2.99

It is not an exaggeration when I say these chips are among the most important things in my life. They taste superior to the well-known name-brand chip that they replicate. Every bite is a new delight covered in a spicy, citrusy blanket of joy. 

11. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups 

Cost: $0.99

I’ve learned through years of snacking that when it comes to dark chocolate and peanut butter, I have self-control issues. The mini packages of the fan-favorite treat are the ideal size for my pantry (or, technically, refrigerator, because I love a chilled crunch!).