The $3 Trader Joe’s Find That Tricks My Boyfriend into Eating Better

updated May 1, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Hero Images/Getty Images)

Did you read my ode to the humble air fryer? If not, let me bring you up to speed: Basically, I try to eat healthfully as much as possible; my boyfriend, however, is less concerned about that. In fact, he says he’s “allergic” to greens. So I’m always searching for groceries, ingredients, and recipes that are nutritious enough for me, and tasty enough for him. (Actually, let’s say tasty enough for me, too. It’s not like I want to eat cardboard!)

Once I got my lovely air fryer, I set my sight on fries. Healthier ones, of course.

I really wanted to start being the kind of family that regularly made — and enjoyed! — crinkle-cut butternut squash fries. (I’m nothing if not highly specific!)

As luck would have it, Whole Foods stocked crinkle-cut butternut squash in their fresh produce section. They weren’t the cheapest ($4.99 a package), but they were ready-to-cook and also freezable, so into the cart they went.

Finding these felt like a major accomplishment. The fact that my boyfriend — again, a total meat-and-potatoes kind of guy — liked them was an even bigger one. If he were left to his own devices, he’d survive on burgers, wings, and more burgers. (I know this is true, because that’s exactly what happens when I travel for work!). So, as ridiculous as it sounds, I’m always trying to sneak more nutritious veggies into his diet, in attempts to expand his toddler-like palate. (I know! Don’t @ me!) Which brings us to the first time I made these: I might have told him they were sweet potato fries. He liked them! And we had them again and again. That is, until Whole Foods stopped carrying them.

I searched high and low, hitting nearly all the Whole Foods locations in a 50-mile radius, and no dice. At my lowest point, I might have checked a few stores while I was traveling for work. I even tried to recreate the magic with cubed butternut squash, but it wasn’t the same. They didn’t get nearly as crispy in the air fryer as their stick-shaped cousins. As willing as I was to spend all this time searching various Whole Foods stores, I knew I wouldn’t take the time to buy butternut squash, deal with its tough skin situation, and then crinkle-cut the flesh on the reg. So I begrudgingly tabled my favorite secret side indefinitely.

But then. Then! I was at Trader Joe’s perusing the produce, which usually doesn’t move the needle for me (See: Why Is the Produce at Trader Joe’s So Freaking Disappointing?), and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There they were: a couple packages orange Butternut Squash Zig-Zags right next to the cubed options.

Trader Joe’s had its own version of my beloved side! The “fries” were a little smaller than the ones from Whole Foods, but at $2.99 per 12-ounce package, they were also much cheaper. I bought the lot, took them home, and threw some into the air fryer. They were just as good as (if not better than!) the Whole Foods version. We probably have them at least once a week and I even got an extra rack for my air fryer so that I can fry twice the amount of squash at once.

As for that little white lie I told my boyfriend, I have no idea if he’s on to me or not, but he still calls them “sweet potato fries” when we discuss what we want for dinner …

Have you had these? Also, while we’re at it, what are your thoughts on air fryers?