I’m a Former Chef and a Mom of 2 — Here’s What I Got from Trader Joe’s to Feed My Family

published Mar 25, 2022
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Credit: Stephanie Ganz

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Name: Stephanie Ganz
Location: Richmond, VA
Number of people in household: 4 (myself, my husband Seth, and two daughters, Lily and Hazel)
Age: 38, 46, 10, and 3
Occupation: Writer and Recipe Developer
Grocery shopping for how long? 1 week
Where did you shop? Trader Joe’s
Did you get your groceries delivered or did you go to the store? Went to the store.
How much did you spend? $161.79, and I used a few ingredients I already had at home

Where did you shop?

Though usually a regular Kroger shopper, I made my way to Trader Joe’s for this haul, as I’m always curious about the products at other grocery stores, and I hear nothing but raves about TJ’s goodies from my friends. 

What’s your grocery strategy?

I almost never shop for an entire week at a time. Instead, I make a few trips a week to various spots — seafood shops, bakeries, and farmers markets to get everything I need throughout the week. I realize it’s a luxury to shop this way, and it’s not always possible on busier weeks, so I tried to source most of this week’s ingredients from Trader Joe’s, though I did make use of ingredients I already had on-hand, like eggs and bread and some fresh produce from a weekend trip to the farmers market.

How do you meal plan?

I start meal planning by taking stock of what ingredients I have and then brainstorming ways to use them up before they go bad. I try to prioritize fresh produce, meat, and seafood and build from there. I’ll usually scroll through my saved tab on Instagram and look at websites like Kitchn for recipe ideas, and trips to my favorite restaurants always provide a good source for inspiration, too.

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

What did you buy? 

I was excited to check out TJ’s famed freezer section, and it was just as thrilling as everyone described. From it, I stocked up on pasta, samosas, and wontons, as well as mini chocolate chip cones that my family absolutely devoured. Prepared items like milk chocolate toffee and peanut butter pretzels also mysteriously disappeared within about 24 hours. Note to self: Next time, get two of each.

I was on the lookout for ingredients that would work well for my daughters’ packed lunches, and I found several, including snapdragon apples, teeny tiny tomatoes (so cute), and sugar snap peas, plus yogurt tubes, sliced deli meats, and a few different types of cheese.

There were some good options in the meat section, so I grabbed a whole chicken and a pack of (extremely well priced) chicken thighs, plus ground pork. I planned to use the pizza dough and a tube of pre-cooked polenta to round out the week’s dinners.

Sugar snap peas $2.99
Teeny tiny tomatoes 2 @ $1.49 each
Marzano tomatoes $2.79
Persian cucumbers $3.49
Romaine hearts $3.29
Snapdragon apples $3.49
Organic baby broccoli $3.79
Organic strawberries $5.99
Green cabbage $2.29
Bananas $1.33

Meat & Fish:
Smoked wild sockeye salmon $7.49
Italian combo pack $5.99
Sliced prosciutto $6.49
Bone-in chicken thighs $3.52
Organic whole chicken $15.97
Ground pork $5.99
Spanish Iberico $4.56

Israeli feta $6.99
Dubliner $5.11
Strawberry yogurt squishers $3.49

Cheese-filled finochetti $3.99
Vegetable samosas $3.49
Mini chicken cilantro wontons $2.99
Hold the Cone! chocolate chip ice cream cones $3.49

Plain pizza dough (2) @ $1.49 each
Peanut butter pretzels $3.49
Radiatori pasta $1.99
Peri Peri sauce $3.29
Grilled Iberico artichokes $6.99
Dukkah $3.29
Wildflower honey $8.49
Dried mango $2.19
Lavash $2.49
Milk chocolate English toffee $3.69
Organic polenta $1.99
Organic garbanzo beans 2 @ $.99 each
Roasted tomatillo salsa $2.99

Total $161.79

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

What did you make?


I didn’t use a ton of my TJ’s haul for breakfast. I already had bread and cereal, which are our go-tos on weekdays. I did use some of the tomatillo salsa on sunny-side-up eggs and leftover potatoes for a quick, satisfying breakfast, and the organic strawberries and bananas made appearances at breakfast as well.

Credit: Stephanie Ganz


My daughters had a blast packing their lunches this week because we had a ton of great options. They both use a bento-style lunch box that makes packing lunches easy for them, and they filled them up with cherry tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, cheese, prosciutto, salami, and yogurt tubes.

Working from home allows me to spend a decent amount of time on my own lunches, and I am of the controversial opinion that lunch is, in fact, the most important meal of the day. I used the radiatori pasta to make an antipasto pasta salad with salami and chickpeas one day, and the leftover, undressed pasta got covered in vodka sauce for another lunch.

I also threw together an embarrassingly easy tapas-style lunch board with grilled artichokes, chickpeas, Iberico, and chorizo. I could possibly eat that every day. Another afternoon, I topped the lavash flatbread with smashed avocado, feta, chickpeas, and tomatoes for a super satisfying and relatively quick lunch. 

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

Snacks and treats

The family favorite snack from this haul had to be the mini chocolate chip ice cream cones. Those were fought over and prized, and I loved them because they felt like a reasonable portion for kids. Dried mango was a nice afterschool snack for my almost 4 year old. 

For my own late afternoon snack, I warmed up a piece of lavash and dipped it in a mixture of olive oil and dukkah. I also really loved the combination of the chorizo and Iberico, which made a nice quick snack while I was making dinner.

Credit: Stephanie Ganz


The first night after shopping, I used the chicken thighs and peri-peri sauce to make a simple sheet pan meal with some cauliflower and onions I already had on-hand. We leaned on the freezer for one busy night, heating up samosas and dumplings and cutting up some fruit for a super easy option that miraculously pleased everyone. 

And speaking of pleasing everyone, I can’t say enough good things about Trader Joe’s pizza dough. One dough ball is big enough for me to make two personal pizzas, and since everyone wants their own specific pie, I picked up two dough balls. We topped them with jarred sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, mushrooms, and pepperoni (not all on the same pizza), and served it with sauteed baby broccoli. It was everyone’s favorite dinner of the week.

On the night when I turned the ground pork into a kind of lime-y, Thai-inspired larb salad that I knew the girls wouldn’t like, I heated up the frozen pasta, which was like ravioli but in a cute purse shape, and those were happily gobbled up. On Friday night, I made my usual roast chicken using the whole, organic chicken and served it with braised cabbage.

The daily breakdown


Sheet pan chicken thighs with cauliflower and onions with a Peri-Peri and honey sauce and a cucumber salad.


Personal pizzas and sauteed baby broccoli.


Limey pork larb over rice for the adults and frozen paccheri for the kiddos.


Freezer Night, featuring mini wontons and veggie samosas, plus fresh fruit.


Mom & Dad went out for date night. Kids ordered a pizza or something, IDK, not my problem!


Lemon Sumac Roasted Chicken with potatoes and braised cabbage.