Food, Travel and Tech

The creator of Black Girls in Trader Joe’s shares her top 5 favorite products, easy meals for under $20

Courtesy Mercedes Davis
Mercedes Davis

Trader Joe’s' popularity endures, bolstered by its vast assortment of products, seasonal favorites that amass a dedicated following and refreshingly accessible prices.

For content creators like Mercedes “Dee” Davis, Trader Joe’s has become a go-to for inexpensive ingredients that she often whips up into quick and easy meals.

“The appeal for me was the uniqueness, the price point and the seasonality,” Davis says, “I love that things change throughout the year, and you get some really unique products at a great price.”

And the trendy supermarket has allowed people like her to form communities around their love of the store.

Once Davis realized other Black women enjoyed or were curious about the store, she curated an online space called “Black Girls in Trader Joe's” (BGITJ) to discuss the best finds and deals at the food mart.

“I was kind of like, ‘Wait, you don’t see any of these major pages that are dedicated to Trader Joe’s showing a Black woman or really any person of color,’” she says. “Not on a big platform that was like, ‘Hey, Black women can shop here, too.’”

Over the past few years, Davis has spent a lot of time shopping around at Trader Joe’s, discovering hidden gems and tasty food pairings that get the most bang for your buck.

Dee Davis' top five Trader Joe's products

When it comes to favorites, Davis can hardly choose, but most of the products she gravitates towards can be bought for a decent price. “Oh boy, it always changes,” she remarks.

But, once the BGITJ creator gave it some thought, she was able to narrow her Trader Joe’s favorites down to these five, with one honorable mention:

  1. Flowers - Price ranges
  2. Brioche bread - $5 or less
  3. Mandarin orange chicken - $4.99
  4. Onion salt - $1.99
  5. Partake cookies - $3.99 - $5.49

Honorable mention: Espiral Vinho Verde (wine) - $4.49 - $4.99

Though some products may be out of stock or out of season, Trader Joe’s favorites sometimes return to the shelf, Davis says.

“I don’t expect Trader Joe’s to have everything, especially when they’re getting them locally,”  she says, “But, I literally can get almost everything I need there, and I usually do.”

Easy Trader Joe’s meals for under $20 each

Here are some simple, satisfying meals that use Trader Joe's branded products, and other ingredients you can find at the store.

One of Davis’s favorite meals to make is an orange chicken based recipe. She usually pairs the very popular frozen chicken with vegetable fried rice, which you can also find in the freezer section.

“I even like to spice it up. I add a couple scrambled eggs, some more green onions,” she says. “You can add one of those ginger or garlic cubes in there and sauté it with the rice.”

Here's everything you need to recreate Davis's favorite dish:

  1. Mandarin orange chicken (one bag yields 5 servings) - $4.99
  2. Vegetable fried rice - $2.99
  3. Pasture raised large brown eggs - $4.49
  4. Green onions - $1.49
  5. Dorot Gardens crushed garlic or ginger (cubes) - $3.79

Total cost: $17.75

If you’re plant-based, don’t worry. Davis has meal suggestions in the same price range for you, too.

She recommends the vegetable gyoza with brown rice and a tasty dipping sauce.

Here’s what you need for the meal and how much it will cost:

  1. Thai Vegetable gyoza (one bag yields 3 servings) - $5.29
  2. Brown Basmati rice - $11.78
  3. Gyoza dipping sauce - Less than $3

Total cost: $19.00 (approx.)

You can also try your hand at a hash using the Trader Joe's beef-less beef and sweet potatoes or incorporating lentil noodles and turkey-less turkey to make other creative dishes as well, Davis says.

And many people enjoy making tacos with the soy-based chorizo that Trader Joe’s sells, she notes.

She also recommends socializing with employees at Trader Joe's, which can be especially helpful if you have dietary restrictions or are looking for something specific.

"I always tell people to talk to the [workers] at your store," she says, "They're there to help, and they love to help."

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