You don't have to shell out big bucks to score a load of delicious, healthy TJ's finds. Check out the best things to buy at Trader Joe's if you had just $30, according to dietitians.

By Melanie Rud and Megan Falk
Updated March 05, 2021
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Have you ever met someone without a deep affinity for Trader Joe's? Nope. Same. Even those who take the "grocery shopping is the worst task on Earth" stance appreciate the veritable treasure trove of delicious, wallet-friendly snacks and staples at the cult-favorite grocer. There's no denying that you can find all kinds of...let's call them "indulgences," at TJ's (have you had the cookie butter or chocolate lava gnocchi?), but it's also an excellent place to shop for super healthy picks — that ring in at way, way more affordable prices than many other grocery stores. (Related: Is It Better to Live Near Trader Joe's or Whole Foods?)

To get the ultimate stamp of approval, dietitians scoured the shelves and shared the best things to buy at Trader Joe's if they were given a super wallet-friendly budget of only $30. Ahead, their tips on what to buy at Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's Shopping List #1

The Dietitian: Tory Stroker, M.S., R.D.

Organic Tofu, $2.49

First up on Stroker's list of "What to Buy at Trader Joe's" is an organic block of tofu. "This is one of my favorite plant-based protein options because it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs," says Stroker. Follow her lead and combine it with veggies and brown rice or farro for a quick and easy weeknight stir-fry.

Steamed Lentils, $3.29

Lentils are rich in fiber and a great source of iron, a major boon if you're a vegan or vegetarian; people following those diets often lack iron, notes Stroker. She suggests tossing this best thing to buy at Trader Joe's in salads or quesadillas and applauds the fact that they're pre-cooked and don't require any draining, upping the convenience factor.

Creamy (No-Salt-Added) Peanut Butter, $3.49

"I always tell my clients that there should only be one thing listed on the ingredient label for peanut butter: peanuts," says Stroker. This fits the bill, with no sugar, salt, or oils added. "It completely meets my standards without breaking the bank," she says. (More here: Your Complete Guide to Nut Butter)

Kumato Tomatoes, $3.49

Even in the dead of winter, this particular tomato tastes legitimately tomato-ey, and not like the cardboard ones you often find in grocery stores. "They're also rich in lycopene, which is great for both your skin and heart health," explains Stroker. Once you take home this best thing to buy at Trader Joe's, use them up in TikTok's baked feta pasta recipe.

Greek Yogurt Everything Bagel Dip, $3.49

"I'm obsessed and fully on-board the everything bagel bandwagon. I love this spread on whole-wheat toast with smoked salmon as a healthier take on an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox," says Stroker. It also pulls double-duty as a great app; she often pairs it with crudité when guests come over. (Also obsessed? Here are more creative ways to use the seasoning.)

Frozen Wild Blueberries, $2.49

"Stocking your freezer with fruits and vegetables is one of my top tips for a healthier kitchen. It's a great alternative when fresh produce is pricey or not in season," explains Stroker. She picks up these antioxidant-packed berries, and likes using them in lieu of maple syrup: "Microwave them for one minute and use as a delish topping for peanut butter toast or whole wheat waffles."

Sauerkraut, $3.99

Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list of "What to Buy at Trader Joe's" is sauerkraut, but trust, it's worth adding to your cart. Stroker recommends adding it to salads for crunch and a brine-y taste, plus an excellent dose of good-for-your gut probiotics.

California Veggie Burgers, $3.49

Keep these on-hand for any time you need a quick, easy, and healthy dinner option. Stroker likes serving them on a whole wheat bun or over a salad and adds that they're also the perfect non-meat alternative for BBQs and summer grilling season. (Related: Crazy-Good Burger Recipes for a Vegetarian Cookout)

Total cost: $26.22

Trader Joe's Shopping List #2

The Dietitian: Brittany Modell, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Brittany Modell Nutrition and Wellness

Steamed Lentils, $3.29

Yes, you're seeing double on this list of "What to Buy at Trader Joe's." Modell, like Stroker, is also a fan of the steamed lentils, noting how nutrient-dense (and tasty!) they are. "I love adding them to salads, pairing them with avocado and eggs, or just having them on their own. I prefer them cold, but you can warm them up as well." Variety is the spice of life.

Black Beans, $.99

"Beans are loaded with fiber and protein, and are inexpensive," says Modell. She likes black beans in particular for their versatility, ideal for adding to tacos, bowls, or salads; she also mixes them with canned tomatoes for a tasty side dish.

Tofu Sprouted Extra Firm, $2.49

Another repeat pick, Modell points out that this plant-based protein can work at any time of day. "You can scramble it for breakfast, add it to a salad for lunch, or add to pasta for a protein boost at dinner," she says, adding that it's also low in calories and fat. (Related: 6 Mistakes You're Making When Cooking Tofu)

Olive Oil Popcorn, $1.99

When a snack attack hits, reach for a bag of this best thing to buy at Trader Joe's. "It's the perfect fiber-rich snack that you can eat any time of day. I personally love pairing it with some dark chocolate for a sweet and salty treat," says Modell. (Steal some inspiration from these tricked-out popcorn recipes.)

GlutenFree Rolled Oats, $3.50

"These are one of my must-have pantry staples since they're so inexpensive and convenient," says Modell. She pairs hers with a sliced banana and spoonful of peanut butter at breakfast, though you can also go savory and enjoy with some olive oil and sea salt.

Frozen Shelled Edamame, $1.99

Another inexpensive and convenient source of protein and fiber, Modell suggests keeping this best thing to buy at Trader Joe's in your freezer for a quick and easy addition to stir-fries and salads.

Beet Chips, $3

Surprise: Chips are on this R.D.-approved list of "What to buy at Trader Joe's." "These are one of my favorite snacks, because they're loaded with fiber," says Modell. Also a plus: The minimal ingredient list that contains only just one thing — beets. (P.S. did you know you can make fruit and veggie chips at home, too?)

15-Minute Brown Rice, $3

Regular brown rice can take 45 minutes or more to cook, which, when you get home starving on a weeknight, might as well be 45 days. That's why Modell keeps this quick-cooking option on-hand to complete pretty much any type of meal. (Use it to make this Brown Rice Kale Bowl with Walnut-Sage Pesto and Fried Eggs, for example.)

Frozen Broccoli, $1.99; Frozen Strawberries, $1.99

"I keep a variety of frozen veggies in my freezer at all times so that I can whip up a quick weeknight meal whenever," says Modell. Aside from the convenience element of these best things to buy at Trader Joe's, you're getting excellent nutrition, too: Frozen produce is frozen at the peak of ripeness, keeping the nutrition intact, she says. Two of her favorite go-tos? Broccoli and strawberries, the former for using at dinner time and the latter as an add-on to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.

Unsweetened Dried Mango, $1.99

Wondering what to buy at Trader Joe's to fulfill your dessert cravings? Mango is naturally high in sugar, perfect for anyone searching for a healthier way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Just make sure to go for the unsweetened variety so that you don't get any additional, artificial, sugar, cautions Modell.

Total cost: $26.22

Trader Joe's Shopping List #3

The Dietitian: Wintana Kiros, R.D.N., L.D.N., founder of Reset Lifestyle.

Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal, $2.69

The best way to support your immune system and mood is by keeping your gut healthy, which means noshing on fiber-packed, nutritious foods, says Kiros. That's why she crafted her "What to Buy at Trader Joe's" list, including her first pick, with fiber in mind. The grocery store's multigrain hot cereal not only offers 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving, but it can also easily be customized with spices and add-ins to satisfy your unique tastebuds, she explains. "I recommend boiling a serving with some almond milk and adding some cinnamon and molasses, then topping it off with my favorite fresh fruit," suggests Kiros. And on that note...

Organic Bananas, $2

"Bananas are one of my favorite fruits because of their versatility and convenience," says Kiros. "It's a great snack for an on-the-go lifestyle and travels well." Slice up a medium-sized banana and add it to your morning oatmeal, bowl of cereal, or breakfast smoothie to score the fruit's 3 grams of fiber, she suggests. (BTW, banana milk is a legit thing.)

Brown Rice Medley, $1.99

Similar to Modell, Kiros recommends stocking your pantry with brown rice, as it's a good staple to use as a base for nearly any dish, she says. "It can be seasoned in any way and can be paired with any kind of protein, whether it's salmon or black beans," she adds.

Cuban-Style Black Beans, $0.99

When you've got a hankering for a homemade burrito, skip the takeout and grab a can of these black beans and a few of your favorite fixings instead. "These seasoned beans are very convenient because they're pre-cooked, and even though they're in a can and not freshly cooked, the ingredients are all clean, so it makes me feel better," says Kiros. (Related: 21 Foods That Basically Never Go Bad)

Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup, $1.99

Soup recipes are often not doable as a weeknight dinner since they often need time for the flavors to meld. But with this best thing to buy at Trader Joe's, you can skip the two hours of simmer time and cut straight to the eating. "This is a delicious meal with 7 grams of protein and 8 grams of dietary fiber," says Kiros. "It is a quick and easy meal that can be eaten alone as a soup or paired with a salad."

Creamy Almond Butter, $6.49

Peanut-free eaters don't have to steer clear of Trader Joes' spreads aisle. You can find the grocer's creamy almond butter, which packs 7 grams of protein in a single serving, says Kiros. "It tastes like roasted almonds, and it's delicious with oatmeal or on crackers as a snack," she says. "It also pairs well with slices of apple or pears for a great balanced snack in the afternoon." (You can use the nut butter to make these 5-ingredient cookies, too.)

Vegetable Biryani with Vegetable Dumplings, $2.69

If you're heading down the frozen food aisle, don't skip over this veggie biryani. The heat-and-eat meal features basmati rice, onions, green peas, cabbage, red bell peppers, lima beans, cauliflower, oil, and some spices — ingredients Kiros says she trusts. Another perk: This best thing to buy at Trader Joe's offers 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving, she says.

Frozen Falafel, $3.99

Trader Joes' falafel mix is pretty effortless to whip up but to make life even easier, shop the grocer's pre-cooked, frozen falafel instead. As a good source of protein (8 grams) and fiber (6 grams) per serving, this pick on Kiros' list of "What to Buy at Trader Joe's" is a simple way to make a meal more fulfilling, she says. Stuff a few balls with some veggies into a pita, pair with a side of hummus, and you've got a hearty dinner. (You need to try this falafel fattoush from cookbook author Molly Yeh.)

Organic Broccoli Florets, $3.29

Looking to cut down on your meal prep time? Add these broccoli florets to your list of "What to Buy at Trader Joe's." Since the florets are pre-cut, you don't need to spend much time or energy to take from fridge to plate, says Kiros. Just roast or steam the florets, then toss them to your Buddha bowl or make them as a side to your plate of pasta.

3-Pack of Dark Chocolate Bars, $1.79

A nutritionist-approved dessert? Sold. A single Trader Joe's dark chocolate bar packs 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 40 percent of the USDA's recommended daily allowance for iron, says Kiros. But its perks don't stop there. "It's one of the few dark chocolate bars that's actually creamy, in my opinion," she says. Chomp on a bar straight-up, or create a dessert-like breakfast by adding chunks of chocolate to warm oatmeal or cold cereal, she suggests.

Total cost: $28.61