11 Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s to Pretend You’re on Vacation

updated Jul 22, 2020
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Let’s face it — we’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Plans have been put on pause, vacations have been canceled. And while, yes, it’s most certainly a bummer, staying at home is (still!) the least we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and keep each other safe.

As we near the end of July, we’ve pretty much reimagined what summer 2020 means this year. For some of us, that has meant a few special trips to Trader Joe’s to pick up the groceries that remind us of the season in normal times.

Here are 11 groceries to grab when you want to make staying at home feel like a little getaway.

Credit: Lauren Masur

1. Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers, $2.29 for 9.75 ounces

Trader Joe’s has no shortage of chip options, but these corn chips are by far the very best. They’re sweet and salty, evoke the summery flavors of elote, and are sturdy enough to stand up to even the chunkiest guacamole. Eating a bag of these on your back porch is a vacation day well-spent!

Credit: Julian Montijo

2. Sparkling Watermelon Juice, $3.99 for four cans

If you don’t want to devote precious cart cargo space to an entire watermelon, might we suggest tossing in these cans of sparkling watermelon juice instead? Julian Montijo, the ‘grammer behind @TraderJoeSampleKing, suggests adding a splash of vodka. BRILLIANT.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

3. Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce, $3 for 6.7 ounches

Feel the summer heat (even more) by adding Bomba, a spicy, fermented, Calabrian chile paste, to your breakfast, lunch, and dinner rotation. At just $3 a jar, it also happens to be super-affordable — so use it liberally.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

4. TJ’s Organic Açaí Bowl, $3.99 for a 10 ounce bowl

Start your day the fancy way by blending up your own açaí bowl without ever having to leave your house. In addition to the packets of frozen açaí juice in the TJ’s freezer section, the store also has prepared bowls that you can briefly microwave, or tuck in the fridge the night before to defrost. They even come with a packet of granola for a fun topping.

Credit: Diane McMartin

5. Trader Joe’s Brut Reserve, $10

While you might not be celebrating an actual vacation this year, pick up a bottle of bubbly to toast to your staycation instead. According to our resident wine expert, Diane McMartin, this blend is “crisp and refreshing, with flavors of lemon curd and a bit of lemon zest on the finish.” Did we mention it’s just 10 bucks?

Credit: Danielle Centoni

6. Trader Joe’s Tapas Sampler, $4.49 for 5.29 ounces

Nothing says summer like a fancy Spanish cheese sampler. At less than $5 for 3 wedges of Manchego, Iberico, and Cabra al Vino cheese, you can’t really beat the price either. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni

7. Bloody Mary Salsa, $2.99 for 12 ounces

What’s more vacation-adjacent than starting your morning off with a Bloody Mary? Trader Joe’s takes it a step further, with Bloody Mary salsa. It’s got chunky tomatoes, pickling brine, horseradish, red jalapeño and green chile peppers, Worcestershire sauce, capers, onions, lemon juice, and vinegar. (Everything but the vodka!)

Credit: Lauren Masur

8. Patio Potato Chips, $2.29 for 6 ounces

For the indecisive at heart, this bag contains a medley of chips — Sea Salt & Vinegar, Delicious Dill, Homestyle Ketchup, and Smokin’ Sweet BBQ — meant to pair perfectly with a summer barbecue.

Credit: Elisabeth Sherman

9. Lemon Peal, $8 for six cans

Lemon Peal is a cross between a hard lemonade and citrus beer. If you’re outside, the sun is shining, and you have a large cooler of ice nearby, we guarantee you’ll love this drink.

Credit: Lauren Masur

10. Jerk-Style Plantain Chips, $1.79 for 6 ounces

If you don’t blow through the entire bag of these, spicy, salty, perfectly thin and crisped plantain chips in one sitting, might we suggest pairing your leftovers with #11 below?

11. Avocado Tzatziki Dip, $3.99 for 12 ounces

This summery dip is a blend of Greek yogurt with avocado, plus diced cucumbers and a hint of jalapeño peppers. It’s more fun than the regular tzatziki and makes a great dip or condiment (two summer essentials).

What would you add to this list?