Everything You Need To Know About Shopping at Trader Joe's.

Plano has one. Fort Worth has one. And tomorrow, finally, Dallas will become home to its very own Trader Joe's location.

This is a big deal, you guys. If you're sitting there, thinking that Trader Joe's is just another grocery store or some Whole Foods 2.0, know this: You are completely mistaken.

Trader Joe's is a great place. It's unique, but it's not overwhelming. And it won't force you through a grocery maze — cough, cough, Central Market, cough. It's a simple place where you know what you're getting.

We like that.

We also like making sure our people know what they're getting into before they blindly walk into a situation. With that in mind, we've put together a list of some tips to help make sure you don't look like a complete idiot come tomorrow's opening.

Day One Details.
Mama didn't raise Trader Joe's to be no fool. This chain's been around since 1958 and, in recent years, the chain's expanded to include almost 500 locations across the States. So, yeah, they know how to handle the opening day rush. Hell, it's part of their business plan. To that end, tomorrow's opening at 2001 Greenville Avenue comes with a whole bunch of happenings. At 8 a.m., mayor Mike Rawlings will attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony. For the five following hours, patrons will have their shopping sessions scored by a DJ — y'know, for those who like to dance while they run errands. Kids, meanwhile, can get their faces painted at booths set up around the store, and the first 4,000 people through the door will even receive leis. Most important, though? Yes, there will be free food samples. Free samples galore.

Know Your Joe Brands.
What really sets Trader Joe's it apart from the riffraff is its own branded items. If you go into this amazing place with an open mind, you're sure to exit with healthy — if not bizarre and completely tasty — treats. The new location will carry all the same standard products as the others. So if you've ever been to another Joe's, you know what you're getting.

But let's say you're new to this glorious place. First of all, I'm so sorry. You've been missing out. And you're not really going to know what to look for. But, hey, that's why I'm here.

Here are some of my personal favorite items:

TJ's French toast with the 100% Organic Maple Syrup. This is a breakfast two-for-one. Don't worry about the French toast coming frozen. It's still delicious. Better yet, it's quick and easy to serve up. And it's by far the closest thing you can find in a store that even comes close to the way your mom home-made French toast when you were a babe. Recipe To Try: French Toast Goes Tropical.
TJ's Spinach and Kale Green Yogurt Dip. I'm always in search of the best dips around, and this is one is right at the top of my list. Be warned: It doesn't taste like spinach and artichoke dip, because, well, it's not spinach and artichoke dip. It's totally different: The calorie count is way lower, and the taste is lighter and more refreshing. Not your thing? No worries. TJ's has so many irresistible snack-time dips — like its chunky salsa and the reduced guilt guacamole made with Greek yogurt. So, OK, this is really three things, you should try. But who's counting? Recipe To Try: 7-Strata Party Dip (with the guacamole).
TJ's Speculoos Cookie Butter. I'd heard about this product's glory a long time ago, but I'd never tried it for myself until recently. I'm an idiot. It's great. How do you eat it? Carefully start with just a spoonful. And then another. After you finally yank yourself away in better judgment, try dipping some yogurt-covered pretzels into the mix. Or just add a dollop to your ice cream. Swoon. Recipe To Try: Cookie Butter Buddies.
TJ's Frozen Turkey Meatballs. People flip out for these things. Like, buy-multiple-bags-at-a-time-and-go-through-them-all-in-a-few-days flip out. They're fairly healthy, though, so it's cool. Plus, they're easy to heat up. They go great with spaghetti, too. Recipe To Try: Classic Meatball Subs.
Journey to the Center of the Cookie. First of all: That name, am I right? So great. Just don't microwave this treat like the box suggests you might want to try. I almost burnt down my kitchen when I did. But when I made these right (read: in the oven), these gooey, chocolaty desserts are downright irresistible. Basically, it's a cookie crust cup with a melty chocolate inside. The words “molten chocolate magma” are in the description and that sounds like it's a little over-the-top, but it's not. It's unreal. Don't forget to put a little ice cream on top. Maybe with some of the aforementioned cookie butter, too. I don't know. Go crazy. You can't go wrong with these.

Take Your Time.
The above items are just a starting point, really. Also worth checking out here: Organic virgin coconut oil, Mediterranean hummus, sweet basil pesto chicken and turkey sausage, and the frozen mac and cheese.

Look around some and you'll probably want to add like a million more items to the list.

It's cool. Do it. We won't judge you.

Photo by Nicole Arnold.

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