As told to Carrie Havranek
Many of us who love to try new foods, experience new flavors, and enjoy the discovery of new items in the grocery store are already familiar with the affordable splendor that is Trader Joe’s. Clean Plates founder and CEO Jared Koch is certainly in that camp. But it took his family’s relocation to the West Coast followed by a pandemic — and his wife Blake’s pregnancy with their third child — for him to fully proclaim his love for Trader Joe’s. And now he’s not looking back.
The reasons are familiar to many devotees: Logistics, economics, and quality. Oh, and some stellar customer service, too.
“Trader Joe’s was always someplace we shopped once in a while, but once COVID-19 hit, we had trouble getting food delivered from other stores on a regular basis. They were so accommodating to us and helpful with curbside pickup because of my wife’s pregnancy,” he explains.
Koch says he quickly noticed the “prices are cheaper, a lot of the food is better tasting, and the ingredients are just as good or better as the options as other places including Whole Foods.” The savings are noteworthy too; he estimates his family saves $100-$200 a week.
What’s in Jared’s Cart?
The other thing that won his heart? Stellar customer service. “A human answers the phone and their employees are very knowledgeable about their products.”
Here’s the short list of what makes its way into his cart—virtual or otherwise—these days. You may notice it’s a healthy mix of meal prep helpers and snacks for his two daughters under the age of 5.
Dried Fruit, Produce & A Favorite Frozen Pizza
Koch calls out dried no sugar added mango in particular, and TJ’s fruit leather buttons, whose cute circular form is made for little hands.
He says they try to limit sugar and gluten in his house, but “it certainly is harder with children, as are most things,” he says, with a laugh.
“Ultimately, we just do our best and buy as many products without sugar that often have hidden sugars, such as tomato sauces and yogurt. We really limit juice. When we bake we use better quality alternatives like coconut sugar and almond flour. We also limit the number of desserts the girls have and never give more than one pack of fruit leather buttons per day…even though they keep asking.”
“My girls love their mini watermelons and cantaloupes. The bag of chopped kale is really easy. The bag of sweet peppers is great. And we really like their medley of small potatoes (blue, white, yellow).”
“They make one that’s organic and one with olive oil. We like both. The organic popcorn with olive oil is $1.99 a bag, and it’s so good. They also make organic tortilla chips with no salt added.”
Sauerkraut with Pickled Persian Cucumbers
It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it makes you wonder why no one thought to package these two items together before. “This may be a regional thing, I don’t know, but the pickles in the sauerkraut just adds a nice change. The kraut is great, it just has this perfect tang.”
Summer may be the season for grilling, yes, but when you have kids, hot dogs are kind of an all-year-round food. The organic uncured grass-fed beef dog wins. “It’s one of the few types of meat she’ll eat,” he says, of 2 1/2 –year-old daughter Brielle.
Reduced Sugar Preserves
These might be one of Jared’s favorite finds. The organic and reduced sugar jelly is a favorite of his kids too — especially the blueberry and strawberry flavors “It’s got something like only 6 grams of sugar, which is unheard of,” Jared says.
Sprouted Wheat Bagels & Gluten-free waffles
“We don’t eliminate gluten completely but do try to eat sourdough breads and sprouted bread products like these. My approach with most things is not to be extreme. I believe the body does better/develops knowledge of how to deal with things when getting them in small doses. If you completely remove something (which you should if you really need to) then the next time your body comes into contact with it in can produce a more severe reaction,” he explains.
The sprouted bagel has 9 grams of protein, which is pretty impressive for something that’s typically just a source of carbohydrates.
Frozen fruit and veggies
“We always seem to have a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer, especially now, and the frozen fruit, which my wife puts into smoothies in the morning.” Frozen fruit is a great snack, especially when the weather is hot. “The kids love to just eat the pineapple tidbits,” he says.
Frozen pizza has to be the most universal last-minute freezer food. For Jared and his family, the organic square-cut Cheese and Tomato Pie is a go-to.
“They have an Italian family one and a veggie one. They’re all reasonably priced and they feel and taste more like pizza. The texture is good, it’s not very doughy, and it’s a little crispy,” he says.
We know it’s hard to limit yourself at a store like Trader Joe’s, but tell us in the comments below what’s on your TJ’s shopping list every week?
Become the expert of your own health and nutrition. Lose weight, gain energy and never worry about dieting again. Jared Koch, the founder of Clean Plates, put 15 years of research and insights from helping over 1 million people live happier, healthier lives into developing The Clean Plates Approach program. Click here to learn more and get 75% off for being part of our community!