Our very own Jacksonville Beach Trader Joe’s is coming up on their one-year anniversary and we would like to mark the occasion by gushing over how much we love this store. If you aren’t familiar with Trader Joes, it started out in California as a small chain of convenience stores in the 1950s. Since then, they have grown and expanded and gained a huge following in the process. While they have stayed true to their California roots (over half of their 450+ stores are located there), they can also be found in about 38 other states. Our Jax Beach location opened in early October 2014. It only took one trip for me to instantly fall in love. To be honest, its location on 3rd Street at the end of Butler Boulevard is really not at all convenient for me. But, at least once a week I find myself heading over the ditch to my happy place, in search of interesting foods and killer deals.
Every trip I take to Trader Joe’s is like an adventure. I love exploring each aisle and seeing what unique things I can discover. And since their products change pretty regularly depending on the season and what they are featuring, I am constantly coming across new items I want to try. But there are a few staples that I pick up pretty much every time I go. These are the items that are well worth the trip out to the beach, even when I have absolutely no other reason to head that way. Here is our list of must-try items that you, well, must try next time you stop in at the Jax Beach Trader Joe’s.
Fresh Flowers – I love having fresh flowers in my house, but I rarely buy them because they are just so darned expensive at most places and they usually don’t last long enough to justify the price. Not at Trader Joe’s. They have a whole wall of fresh flowers that greet you as soon as you walk through the doors. There is a wide selection of both bouquets and single stems. And they prices are great. My favorites are their sunflowers. The blooms are big and bright and they stay fresh for a long time. It is definitely worth the $3.99 price tag for a bunch of 4 to 5 large, happy sunflower stems.
Snacks – Want something salty to munch on? Craving something sweet? Either way, Trader Joe’s has you covered. From their frozen desserts, to their macarons, to their puffed white cheddar popcorn (which I am addicted to), Trader Joe’s has a ton of interesting and delicious snack options.
Wine – I cannot say enough great things about the Trader Joe’s wine department. I do not consider myself a wine snob…I’m more of an equal opportunity wine enthusiast. What I mean by that is I drink what I like regardless of the price. Cheap, high-end, cork, or screwtop…if it’s wine that I like, I do not discriminate. And Trader Joe’s has a little bit of everything. From their famous “Two Buck Chuck” to some much more expensive bottles, the wine selection at Trader Joe’s runs the gamut. That means that you can explore and try new wines without breaking the bank.
Cheese – While you’re stocking up on wine, why not stop by the cheese section too. The Trader Joe’s cheese selections are just as varied as their wines. If fancy gourmet cheese is your thing, you can find some good ones here. If you’re more of a plain cheddar kind of person, you also will not be disappointed. Some of my favorites are the Goat Cheese Brie and the Unexpected Cheddar. Again, the selection is so vast and the prices are so great that you can afford to go a little crazy and try something new.
Frozen International Foods – I love to go out to eat and try new cuisines. But sometimes I also like to sit in the comfort of my own home in my pajamas and stuff my face with tamales and/or potstickers while watching Netflix. Don’t judge me. Luckily, I can find both those things and more in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. No matter what sort of ethnic cuisine you might have a hankering for, Trader Joe’s probably has something you will enjoy. It is a great way to taste test new dishes. My favorites are the aforementioned tamales…the sweet corn tamales are superb!
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil is amazing. It has a million different uses from cooking to healthcare and beauty. It can also be expensive. Trader Joe’s carries Organic Cold-pressed Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil just like a lot of other high-end health food stores, but for a fraction of the cost. At $5.99 for a 16 ounce jar, it is a real steal for good quality coconut oil.
Prepared Foods – Not in the mood to cook? Need to pick up a quick lunch? Head to the Trader Joe’s prepared food section. Their hummus selection is a thing of beauty to me and my hummus-loving kiddos. And their salads, wraps, and soups are the perfect thing when you need a quick, easy, and relatively healthy meal. With most of their prepared food options priced around $4 or $5, they are quite a good deal, too.
Cookie Butter – If you’re not familiar with cookie butter, it is basically spreadable cookie deliciousness. And it is crazy addicting. Trader Joe’s has several varieties of cookie butter for all your eating-cookie-butter-straight-outta-the-jar needs. And they have a whole line of other products made using said cookie butter, including cookie butter ice cream, cookie butter cheesecake, cookie butter cookies, and more. Or just grab a jar of cookie butter and a spoon and go to town. We won’t judge; I’ve done it myself a time or two.
Lunch Box Fillers – I am constantly on the lookout for new and interesting things to pack in my kid’s lunchbox. I prefer healthy, but I like to keep things fun and appealing, too (ya know, so he will actually eat it). Trader Joe’s is a great place to find decently healthy, no-fuss lunchbox fillers. My kids love their cereal bars veggie straws, and cinnamon alphabet cookies. Their selection of trail mixes and dried fruits are also top-notch and kid-approved!
Healthy Stuff – Now that we’ve covered booze, cookies, carbs, and cheese, let’s get to the healthy stuff. Trader Joe’s has a lot of it! You can find smoothies and juices, seeds, grains, nuts, and more. There are a lot of healthy items to be found at Trader Joe’s. And their produce section is great, too. The selection is vast and super fresh. And their organics are very reasonably priced. I love their bagged salads and greens, which are a great deal and seem to stay fresh for ages!
Pumpkin Things – I know that some people are staunchly anti-pumpkin spice, but I would be remiss if I did not mention all the wonderful pumpkin items that Trader Joe’s now has on their shelves. With the fall season upon us, Trader Joe’s has become “Pumpkin Central” by stocking all sorts of pumpkin goodies – pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cereal bars, pumpkin o’s cereal, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin macarons, pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ravioli…you get the picture. Really, the list goes on and on and on. And they also have, you know, actual pumpkins.
Before my first trip out to our Jax Beach location, I had never stepped foot in a Trader Joe’s. So I never really understood their cult-like following and their diehard fanbase. I had heard and read about devout TJ’s shoppers singing the praises of $3 wine and an ethereal cheese case. But I didn’t get it. I mean, it’s just a grocery store, right? Well, let me tell you…now I get it. Sure, it’s just a grocery store. But it’s also an experience. Each trip is a little different and lends itself to discovering all sorts of new goodies. And my kids love the place (free stickers and lollipops for the win). There is so much to see and they love finding new foods to try just as much as I do. It is almost like a treasure hunt, trying to see what new items we can pick up each time we go. And if you’ve ever cooked for kids, you probably know that if they help pick it out, they are much more likely to actually eat it. I cannot tell you how many new foods I’ve gotten my kiddos to try simply because they saw it on the shelf and we picked it out together.
What I really love most about our local Trader Joe’s is that it doesn’t feel like a chain grocer. From the friendly personable service, to the small-scale space, to the great quirky finds, it feels more like a mom & pop market to me. The walls sport kitschy beachy décor and an awesome mural of Jacksonville landmarks spreading across the back wall. Trader Joe’s is a perfect fit for Jax Beach and a perfect fit for this homecooking foodie who gets probably a little too excited over fun food and great prices. If you haven’t checked out Trader Joe’s, be sure to stop by…and wish them a very happy birthday!
For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram.