Welcome to Texas, Trader Joe’s!

June 17, 2012

I couldn't stand it.  The first Trader Joe's store in the entire big state of Texas opened a full 48 hours ago, and I hadn't been yet. Regardless of the parking chaos and the packed aisles, I had to go. Happy day, oh happy, happy day!

The new store is in Fort Worth, with the next location in Plano opening September 7th, and two Dallas stores scheduled for 2013 and 2014. The Fort Worth store is about an hour away for me, so 3 hours and $124 later, here is a sampling of what came home with me.


Trader Joe Frozen Entrees

All 3 of these sound incredible. The bird's nests are kale, carrot and onion.


Trader Joe Refrigerated

Lots of lunches and snacks here...


Trader Joe Pantry Items

I couldn't leave without TJ's chocolate chips (vegan but not kosher now).


Trader Joe Spreads

The olive hummus is unbelievable!


Trader Joe Seasoning

Can you believe $3.99 olive oil and $1.99 pepper?


Trader Joe Produce

These heirloom tomatoes were only $2.99 and shiitakes just $2.79.


Trader Joe Snacks

The almond butter with flax is toasty scrumptious, and just $4.99 for 16 oz.


Trader Joe Grains

The best grain blends ever. My favorite is the Brown Rice Medley, LilSis' is the Harvest Grains.



Trader Joe Bistro Salad

TJ's, you're talking my lunch love language.


Trader Joe Nutty Bits

As delicious as they sound, even to a non-sweet eater. And they're vegan!


Trader Joe Cranberry Apple Butter

I can't believe I found this again, and it's not even Christmas!


Trader Joe Chai

Chai $3.49 + Almond milk $1.69 = LOTS cheaper than Starbucks!


Trader Joe Almonds

My favorite almonds ever!


Trader Joe Hand Cream

$1.99 vegan hand cream that's awesome!


Trader Joe Lavender Dryer

Buy these!


So that's a quick look at my first trip to the first Trader Joe's in Texas. It's been a LONG time coming, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area is buzzing like you can't believe.  Welcome to Texas, Trader Joe's! We promise that you'll be happy that you came!


Friday Favorite: Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks

May 18, 2012

When BigSis was here in CA last month for my birthday week, we made our usual trip to Trader Joe's. We always try to pop in so BigSis can pick up a few favorite items since there's not a TJ's in Texas…yet!

Yes, Texans, get ready!  Trader Joe's is coming to Texas. There are five confirmed locations in Texas so far. The first stores will open in Fort Worth, Houston and Plano, then in Fall 2012, they'll open in Dallas and San Antonio. (I bet BigSis is first in line when their doors open at the one in Dallas, which just so happens to be pretty close to her house.) 🙂

When she was here, BigSis picked up some of these Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks since she regularly buys the wasabi flavor in the Annie Chun's brand, and loves them. I've tried the plain ones without the Wasabi before and even though I did like them, they smelled a little fishy so I never bought them again.

Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Can you see how yummy and crispy these are? Not only are they a great snack, but this is my new favorite quick and easy, healthy lunch.

Trader Joe's Seaweed Snacks

Two or three of these simply wrapped around a half a slice of  TJ's low sodium turkey breast makes a perfect lunch.

Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Here are a couple made with TJ's no salt Solid White Tuna.

I've been making these almost every day with either the tuna or the turkey, depending on what I have on hand. It's a great alternative if you're trying to cut back on the carbs. For vegetarians, I've made these wrapped around an avocado and tomato slice and they're super good!

I'm sure I could get even more creative with these; maybe crab and avocado like a California roll? Yummy!

If you're lucky enough to have a Trader's nearby and you like Wasabi, pick these up on your next trip and let me know what you think.

An added bonus is that they're only 99 cents!  And, maybe the best thing is that they satisfy our cravings for a salty crispy snack, but they are actually low in sodium at only 65 mg per serving.

(Just so you know, this is not an “paid” endorsement for Traders, I just love their products and they have great options for low sodium products!)


The Best Gift and Food Packaging Store is PaperMart!

November 20, 2011

How often do you shop online and find great selection, speedy shipping and excellent value?  Not often enough, if you ask me!  I have a site to tell you about that has all three of those boxes checked, and what's even better; they'll help you get ready for Christmas!

Thanks to Anna's recommendation on CookieMadness, I found out about PaperMart a few years back and have been using them ever since.  PaperMart  says they are the largest and most complete packaging store, and I'm here to tell you their claim is justified.

What can you find at PaperMart?  What can't you find might be a better question!  Here are a few of the items we ordered this year for our Charity Bake Sale for Animals (benefiting In-Sync Exotics, by the way).

Paper Mart Paw Print Bags

Paw Print Organza Bags (5″ x 7″ $0.60 each)

PaperMart Paw Print Wire Handle Box

Paw Print Wire Handle Boxes (4″ x 3.5″ $0.88 each)

Paper Mart Candy Cane Ribbon

Candy Cane Satin Ribbon (5/8″ 25 yds $3.94 per roll)

We got the red/pink variety and the red/green one.  Both are gorgeous! These ribbons have the design woven into them, not just printed on like you'll find with cheap ribbon.

Paper Mart Christmas Pink Ribbon

Narrow Christmas Satin Printed Ribbon (5/8″ 25 yds $5.96 roll)

We got the pink Christmas print and the white Christmas ornament prints, and loved both of them.

We loaded up on red and green solid color 5/8″ ribbon too, which was a steal at 100 yds for $3.52.  We were completely impressed by the high quality of all these ribbons.  They are shiny on one side, and matte on the back, but you can upgrade to a variety that is shiny on both sides if you're even more obsessive than we are and don't mind paying a bit more.

We also buy the hard-to-find cello bags that we use for breads and cakes at PaperMart.  I daresay that PaperMart carries pretty much anything and everything you might need for packaging gifts and food this Christmas and year-round.  Check them out and let us know how your shopping experience goes!


Cruelty-Free Shopping: 2nd Update

February 20, 2011

Animal Testing Cartoon

Back in July, LilSis and I made a commitment to ourselves and to the animals in testing labs that we would eliminate animal-tested products from our worlds.  We've had some easy instant successes and some challenges.

I talked about one of the biggest challenges in my first shopping update in September.  The problem?  Paper products!

I dare say most of us are UBER picky about the toilet tissue, paper towels and napkins that we buy.  I certainly am. I was completely loyal to Charmin toilet tissue, Puffs tissues, Viva paper towels and Bounty napkins…all animal tested.  Viva is a Kimberly-Clark brand, while Charmin, Puffs, and Bounty are part of the Procter & Gamble empire.

I first tried paper products from Seventh Generation; a brand that I really love because of their dedication to green cruelty-free products.  On a side note, their Free & Clear Natural 2X Concentrated Laundry Liquid is actually less expensive than Tide and is just as effective, in my opinion.  Plus it is non-toxic, biodegradable,  and is free of phosphates.

I also love their Automatic Dishwasher Gel.  I tried another natural dishwasher gel that did a horrible job.  Even after thoroughly rinsing dirty dishes, they still didn't come clean with that product. Seventh Generation's gel is just as effective as the animal-tested, chemical-filled products I used to use.

Now back to the paper problem.  I'm sorry to say that I didn't fall in love with Seventh Generation's line of paper goods.  I wanted to!  I really, really wanted to.  They were just a bit too natural, if you know what I mean.  I tried a few other natural brands and Whole Foods' store brand, and had the same experience with them.  For me, they were just a little too rough and scratchy, and didn't have the strength I was looking for.

I can haz TPNever fear though!  I have a solution that I'm happy about, and it comes from an unexpected source.  Did you know that Safeway products are not animal-tested?  I didn't until I found that bit of news on PETA's Caring Consumers site.

To my happy surprise, Safeway paper products are pretty good, and I'm now purchasing them regularly instead of experimenting with other brands.

In Texas, Safeway products are the store brand for Tom Thumb stores.  In other states, you may find them at Von's, Genuardi's, Carrs, Casa Ley, Dominick's, Pak'n'Save, Randall's, Pavilions, and Safeway stores.

If you don't have one of these stores in your area, you might try the store brands for Trader Joe's and Food Lion, since they are not animal-tested either.  I don't have access to those stores, so I can't vouch for their paper goods, but if you do, please let me know how it goes.

The bottom line for me…if I can find a more-than-ok replacement for Charmin, then this endeavor is totally doable.  Safeway is obviously not a vegan company, and they don't have the same focus and natural-dedication as Seventh Generation and some other companies like Method.  But they do make a lot of products that give us options, and allow us to enjoy quality products without supporting animal testers like Procter & Gamble.

I just noticed that Safeway makes a duster refill that fits the Swiffer duster handle!  Swiffer is another Procter & Gamble product, so I was dreading the day that my last box of duster refills was depleted.  Worry no more, me!  Safeway to the rescue!

Animal Testing photo credit: AlBakker's Flickr photostream

I can haz TP photo credit: ixmati's Flickr photostream

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Fabulous Friday: Swimsuits

May 14, 2010

It's another Fabulous Friday and today we're talking swimsuits!

I've been putting off buying myself a new swimsuit for at least two years now, maybe three. I have friends who are lucky enough to be able to order suits online without even trying them on first, but not me! For me, heading out on a swimsuit shopping trip will most often bring on quite a bit of anxiety! Silly, but true! 🙂

On New Years Day, I set a goal to lose ten pounds in ten weeks. If you've been reading, you'll remember when I started talking about joining the Ten in 2010 Challenge. When I set my goal, I also decided that I would reward myself with a new swimsuit when I hit my goal weight.

I did reach my goal by March 15th, but I still hadn't been in the mood to do the “dreaded” swimsuit shopping until last week. Right before our overnight trip to the desert, I squeezed in an hour to run into Macy's to look for a suit. Luckily, I was able to find one on my first trip. Granted, I tried on 25 – 30 suits before I found one, but this is the fabulous suit that I came home with.

2 Bamboo Braided Halter Swimsuit

2 Bamboo Braided Halter Swimsuit

I had never even seen this 2 Bamboo brand before, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's a necessity that I have an underwire top and I also have to be able to purchase the top and the bottom separately. You can't tell by the photo, but the most fabulous thing about this suit is that the top ties in the back and around the neck. It makes a huge difference for me instead of just having a hook that you can't adjust.

And BigSis has been working her fanny off doing radical ‘two a day' workouts, which includes a nightly P90X workout after a lunch time cardio workout at the gym. I think she deserves a treat for all her hard work! This is the fabulous swimsuit by Kenneth Cole that she's eyeballing!

Kenneth Cole REACTION Swimsuit

Kenneth Cole REACTION Swimsuit

This fabulous suit has a banded halter top and a ruched skirted bottom. Funny how we're both attracted to the solid blues this year. I usually prefer a patterned or floral swimsuit. Luckily, when I got home from my shopping trip, I found a floral wrap that I've had for years and it matched the blue in my new suit perfectly! 🙂

We're both coming to terms with the fact that our bodies won't ever look like we're 25 years old again, but a 40 plus woman can still wear a cute suit, right? 🙂


Aldi in Texas: Store Brands Review

April 30, 2010

Aldi stores have finally come to Texas!  We've been looking forward to their arrival for a while, partly because we heard Trader Joe's stores are owned by one of the Aldi brothers.  We hoped that TJ's would follow Aldi here, but we're hearing now that is only wishful thinking.  Boo!!  For now, we'll have to settle with exploring Aldi stores.

Aldi stores are marketed as being basic, no-frills, and low-priced grocers.  I visited a new North Dallas store, and found those claims to be true.  The store was very small, with concrete floors, and products stacked in their shipping cartons instead of arranged prettily on shelves.  These are not warehouse club stores, but that is the feeling you get: bare and stark.  Prices are clearly marked on tags above the product.

No frills also means you bring your own bags and bag your own groceries.  You must deposit 25 cents to get a grocery cart, refundable when you return the cart to its home.  You should know too that Aldi brands eliminate the use of coupons, and Aldi only takes cash and debit cards – no credit cards or checks.

Another important note is that you'll see very few familiar brands at Aldi.  During my initial 15 minute breeze-through, I only saw 2 or 3 identifiable brands.  That means you're going to need to spend some time looking at products and reading labels to figure out what you're buying.  You can't just grab your favorite granola bar and know exactly what you're getting.  You'll have to do some research in the aisles when you first shop at Aldi.

On my first trip, I spent $14.59 on 7 items, an average of just over $2 per item.  That's already a good sign, right?  It seems like everything I buy at the Wallymart or SuperTarzhay is $3-something or $4-something.  When's the last time you bought something that was $2?


Here's what I got (I know it's an odd random list!) and how it worked out:

  • Tuscan Garden Large Black Olives $1.19 – Perhaps on the medium-ish side, but good flavor as far as canned black olives go.
  • Fit & Active Instant Brown Rice $1.35 – I've always made regular brown rice so this was  my first taste of an instant version.  It wasn't quite done after 5 minutes of simmering and 5 minutes of steaming, as the directions stated.  After another 3 minutes of simmering and steaming, it was fine. Not fabulous, but ok.
  • Benita Guacamole $2.99 – Wow!  Great!  Just like the Wholly Guacamole two-packs; it tastes like it might have come out of the same kitchen.
  • Fit & Active Dried Cherries $3.49 – The best dried fruit I've ever had.  Really!  These cherries were plump and full of tart sweet flavor; not dried to leathery death.  Next time I'm grabbing a bag of the dried blueberries too.
  • Grandessa Garlic Vinaigrette $1.99 – Slightly sweet for me, but a high quality dressing.
  • Millville Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars (10 pk) $1.69 – That's not a typo…you get 10 bars for $1.69.  Granted, they are small bars.  Very small.  But they're tasty little guys that my coworker says are a dead-ringer for Quaker's chewy granola bars.  They weigh in at 100 calories-3 grams fat-2 grams protein-7 grams sugar.  These are too candy bar-ish for me, so even though they were yummy, that's not what I want from a granola/energy/protein bar.
  • Fit & Active Mixed Berry Fruit & Grain Cereal Bars (8 pk) $1.89 – These tasted exactly like Nutri-Grain bars to me, but may be a touch smaller. A great value for an 8-pack of bars.  They have 130 calories-3 grams fat-2 grams protein-13 grams sugar.  Delicious, but I don't want this much sugar in a bar so I wouldn't buy them again.

Overall, I thought these products were a fabulous value for the money.  The quality was consistently excellent, even though the prices were sometimes unbelievably low.  Will Aldi be a weekly stop for me?  Probably not.  I don't buy a lot of processed foods, and the majority of Aldi's offerings are not what I routinely buy.  I do see Aldi as an occasional stop for a few items from time to time, like that amazing guacamole and the scrumptious cherries!


Free Coupons and Promo Codes!

March 20, 2010

We all like saving money, right?  I check the Sunday newspaper every week for coupons, but it seems like most of the offers are for things I never ever buy; otherwise they're too puny to even mess with!  10 cents off 12 rolls of toilet paper?  Fugedaboutit!

There are lots of coupon sites out there, but I heard about a coupon database the other day that I think is pretty cool, and it seems to have lots of coupons I would actually use.  It's on MyDallasMommy.com, which features all kinds of freebies, deals, giveaways and other fun goodies to help you stretch your dollar a bit farther.

Some of the coupons are printable, others will refer you to another site like CoolSavings or Upromise, or to a Walgreens coupon book.  I think this database is really a portal that organizes all of the stuff out there for you in one place.  One great feature is that expiration dates are shown with the search results so you don't waste your time clicking all over cyberspace, only to find a bunch of expired offers.

On my first visit to the database, I found a $1 coupon for my favorite Sensodyne toothpaste.  I was referred to the manufacturer's web site and I did have to sign up before printing, but for a decent savings on an item I use and rebuy all the time, it's worth a few seconds of time for me.

So, that takes care of coupons for your usual “in-person” shopping.  What about saving money on the things you order online?  You need promo codes, of course!  Do you know about RetailMeNot.com?  I've been using it for years, and love it.  You just go to the site, type in your store's url, and poof!  You get a list of coupon codes.  Voila!

Retail Me Not

These codes are reported to the site by other users, so it can be a bit hit or miss, but you can easily see the success rate for a particular code.  For example, today you can use “KCOOK34” to get $5 off at DSW Shoes, and it has an 89% success rate.  If it doesn't work for you, just go back to the site and report the failure.  When I pulled up Amazon.com offers, they were all labeled as unreliable, with very low success rates, so I wouldn't even bother trying to use them.

I order supplements from Vitacost.com a lot, and always check RetailMeNot for a promo code first.  Right now, you can get 5% off your order at Vitacost.com using the promo code “pc13wb”.  The site tells you this code has a 94% success rate and that the average reported user savings are $6.03.

I also saw some great deals today for 25% off at Coldwater Creek, 15% off at Kohls and FootLocker, and free shipping at tons of sites.  Why wouldn't you use this site, I ask?  🙂

Now get out there and save some money!  And enjoy your weekend!


White House Black Market Little Black Dresses

September 18, 2009

Have you seen the new “The Dress Issue No. 2” catalog from White House Black Market?

model with cat

Not only are there some beautiful little black dresses in this catalog, but there are some precious little black and white kitties, too.  I'm not sure what cats have to do with selling black dresses, but this catalog has a little kitty on almost every page.

I do love White House Black Market, though.  Their clothes fit me better than almost any other brand, so when I need something special it is usually the first place I go.  The last little black dress that I bought for a formal event, I bought at White House Black Market.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the catalog. You can see all the new little black dresses on White House Black Market.

Shoes & Kitty

Piped Leather Button Heel $88.00

I love these shoes but the kitty is even cuter! Look at her pretty little necklace.

White Kitty

Satin Full-Skirt Dress 158.00

They must have given this little guy a treat to help him sit still. He's still licking his chops.

Not that there's anything wrong with it, and I am a “cat lover”, but if you're all dressed up in a little black dress, are you really going to pick up a big, white, furry kitty?


Satin Rosette Dress $168.00

She has a smile on her face, but this kitty looks like he's about done with the photo shoot!


Dorm Room Organizers

August 20, 2009

I called this post Dorm Room Organizers, but these ideas could be used in any student's room or anyone's office.  I can personally ALWAYS use more organizers.  I'm a little bit of a fanatic about them…ok, a lot fanatic.  One perfect obsessive example is my pantry.

But enough about me.  Back to the organizers.  You say organizer, I say Container Store!  Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!  I adore Container Store.  And you may know it's the #1 company to work for, at least in Texas.  Their employees seem so darn happy, don't they?  I think I would be if I worked in organizer mecca, however, I wouldn't be happy when payday rolled around because I would owe the company money.

First of all, the Happy Organized Home Sale is running until September 7th.  My favorites:  Those skinny huggable hangers for $6.99 ($3 off) and their slim folding step stool for $19.99 ($10 off).

Back to back-to-school!  You see how easily I'm distracted in this place!  As always, Container Store has some incredibly cool things for your back to school organizing needs.  I love their organizing tips section for back to school.  You can shop by closet, walls & doors, desk, laundry, bath or storage.  Or you can search by your style of dorm: artistic expression, booksmart, a natural fit, high fidelity, big ideas or fashion forward.  Choose natural fit, for example, and you get this:

Container Store Natural Fit

Container Store Natural Fit

Gorgeous, isn't it?  Below the photo, you get a list of all the products used, along with their prices.  I'm loving the bamboo clothing rack ($129) and the coordinating magnet bamboo boards ($14.99 each).

Container Store Mini Mantel

Container Store Mini Mantel

Also, in the category of things-you-didn't-know-you-need-but-now-must-have is this little mini mantel ($14.99) that grips onto your bed post.  This would be perfect if your dorm room didn't have room for a nightstand.

And before we leave Container Store, don't forget all of the awesome Elfa carts that make organizing simple.

And, one last thing.  There is a really cool web site that you must check out if you're an organizing junkie like me.  It's Jeri's Decluttering and Organizing News.  She's done posts recently on cool ideas in cork bulletin boards and on memo boards with pretty fabric coverings. Love these!

That's it for today, gang!  Now get out there and organize something!


What to do with Beanie Babies??

August 8, 2009

Beanie Baby Kaleidoscope by lyle58

Beanie Baby Kaleidoscope by lyle58

Do you have boxes and boxes of Beanies?  I hate to even bring up this topic, because it makes me cringe.  I think that LilSis and SisMama feel the same way.  We fell victim to the hysteria that surrounded Beanie Babies, and we absolutely wish we never had.  Now, what the heckie darn do we do with all of them?  I have boxes and boxes taking up room that I don't have, and I'd love to find a solution to the overpopulation problem.

I have three ideas so far, and obviously I'm not sold on any of them since I haven't done a ding dang thing yet:

  • Send the Beanies to the Beanies for Baghdad project. You send the Beanies to this organization, and they ship them to our military personnel overseas to give away to little kids who have so very little.  I wonder if this is still a viable option, since the president is talking about withdrawal timelines.  Once they arrive, could we be sure there would still be a purpose, a distribution channel and a home for them?
  • Take them to children's hospitals.  I've heard that hospitals aren't always thrilled about taking in Beanies because they can't be sure they haven't been played with, and they can't risk introducing any additional germs into the hospital environment.  Are there any nurses out there who might know about this?
  • Try to sell them.  In this economic market, however, it's the worst possible time to try to sell a collectible item.  It's totally a buyer's market, and prices are way down.  I also think demand is too low and the supply is too high.  This idea seems useless to me.  I'd much rather donate them than fiddle around with selling them for a song.

So, if you have tried any of these ideas or if you have any other solutions, I (we) would LOVE to hear them!!  I don't want to just impulsively trash all these Beanies to get them out of my way … heaven knows how much money I invested.  But if they could be put to good use somehow, I think it would be selfish of me to hang onto them.  Help!