I Spent $50 at Trader Joe’s and Bought Holiday Gifts for 9 People

published Nov 28, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

I’m always looking for an excuse to spoil my friends and family, so I rarely leave the store — even the grocery store — without grabbing a little something for a friend. My favorite spot to snag something special? Trader Joe’s. Whether I want to get someone a card, plant, bouquet, or seasonal snack, TJ’s always has something — especially around the holidays. The best part? It’s all affordable. This year, I took $50 to my favorite grocery store to stock up on holiday gifts for friends and family. My grand total was $49.35, including tax, just a hair beneath my budget, and I snagged presents for nine special people in my life. Here’s what I chose, if you need some gifting inspiration, too!

For anyone looking for a reusable alternative to regular dryer sheets, these little bags of real lavender add a subtle, herbal scent to clean laundry without the chemicals. Each bag is good for 10 uses, and then you can sprinkle the dried flower buds on your carpet before vacuuming to refresh a room. I got this for my environmentally-conscious, herb-loving friend Mary. 

Winter, for many people, is synonymous with dry skin (especially where I live in Wisconsin). My friend Meagen is always complaining of dry skin, so I got her this coconut body butter to keep in her bathroom or bedside table. Along with coconut oil, this one contains shea butter and vitamin E to lock in moisture.

I swapped out normal moisturizer for marula and argan oils a long time ago, and I keep this cold-pressed, virgin option from Trader Joe’s in my rotation. It’s so inexpensive, and I love how it locks in other skincare products while adding tons of moisture. I snagged one for my friend Kelli, who, like me, is prone to dry skin in the winter and appreciates pretty bottles in her bathroom.

My good friend Claire lives several hours from a Trader Joe’s, and she often makes special trips to get her favorite turmeric herbal tea. She’s also a big coffee fan, so I decided to grab her this seasonal tea blend that combines maple with black tea and actual espresso for an extra kick. According to the instructions, you can brew two bags in ⅓ cup of water for 8 minutes, then fill the rest of the cup with warm milk for a maple tea latte.

I’m in love with this hand sanitizer. I’ve kept one in my purse since the start of the pandemic, and now I won’t buy anything else. I usually get the lavender scent for myself, but I chose the grapefruit and lemon sanitizer to add to a gift bag for my son’s teacher, who’s exposed to who knows how many germs every day at school.

Pumpkin Overnight Face Mask, $6.99

My childhood friend and now-neighbor Liz is always on top of the latest skincare products, so I usually grab her a serum or mask when her birthday or the holidays roll around. This pumpkin mask, which seems more like a heavy moisturizer, is supposed to deeply hydrate and add a pretty glow to the skin. I’ve been meaning to try it myself, so I decided to get it for Liz because I trust her review.

When I think of the best cook I know, I immediately picture my Aunt Cheryl. She’s spent years cooking up family dinners, and all of them have one thing in common: They’re perfectly seasoned. I got her this container of Portuguese sea salt, which you can use to finish off a steak, savory side, or even a chocolate dessert. It’s in a pretty ceramic container with a cork lid, and I think it would look so cute out on Cheryl’s counter. 

Credit: Reddit

My babysitter-turned-friend Jackie is almost as big a fan of Trader Joe’s as I am — she regularly texts me from the store asking if I need anything. (I almost always take her up on it.) Another thing I love about her? She cares a lot about the planet. I bought her this large, washable paper tote, which is so much cuter than your typical reusable bag (TBH, I’d use it as a purse). It’s surprisingly sturdy, and it’s big enough to carry lots of groceries. 

Spice Duo, $3.98

Lastly, I snagged two of TJ’s most popular spices for my friend Danielle, who’s trying to cook more. First, I got the fan favorite Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend ($1.99), which people love to sprinkle on everything from an actual bagel to avocado toast or salad. I also bought a jar of 21 Seasoning Salute ($1.99), TJ’s version of Italian seasoning that’s great whisked in with a vinaigrette.