My Trader Joe’s Favorites

Do you have a Trader Joe’s near your house? If not, you’re seriously missing out- just like I was before I moved to Austin for the summer! Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that carries their own brand of products almost exclusively. I was wondering what all the hype was about, but after a few visits since I moved in down the street, I’m definitely hooked! After a few visits, here are my first impressions and initial favorites from TJ’s.

When you walk in TJ’s, the first thing you see are tons of fresh flowers. There’s a ton of variety and they’re all so fresh and vibrant that it puts me in a great mood before I’ve even made it to the grocery section! I bought a succulent on my last trip, and it’s super adorable. If I can get my hands on a vase, I might start buying some of the fresh flowers to keep in my room, too.

Once you’re past the flower garden at the front entrance, it’s right into the produce. It’s all super reasonably priced, and just seeing all the variety makes me want to try new things. My favorite is the bananas (one of my favorite fruits!)

If you know only one thing about Trader Joe’s, it’s probably about the legendary cookie butter. I bought a jar on my first trip, eager to see if it lived up to the hype. It did- and more. Clocking in at a whopping 90 calories per tablespoon, it’s definitely not my go-to dessert, but I still sneak a spoonful every now and then. It’s super addicting, and a must-try for any TJ’s newbie!

Something I noticed about TJ’s entrées pretty quickly is that a lot of them lean towards the healthier side. I’m all about clean eating, but I definitely have a sweet tooth, too. TJ’s frozen desserts blew me away! My personal favorite has been the macarons imported straight from France, but I also fell in love with the vanilla meringues as well.

I am going to be so sad when I go back to Norman in August, when the closest Trader Joe’s is in Edmond! I’ll definitely have to stock up on my favorite non-frozen items before I make the trip back to Oklahoma.

I’m finding new items at TJ’s every time I go, so watch my Instagram story for more favorites as I discover them!

-K

Why I Need A Budget

I’m a self-diagnosed shopaholic. If I’m within 100 yards of a TJ Maxx or Uptown Cheapskate, odds are I’m going to go in “just to look.” And as soon as I’m inside, no matter what I tell myself, I’m probably going to leave with something that I didn’t come looking for.

In theory, that isn’t that bad. Because in terms of clothing stores, TJ Maxx and Uptown Cheapskate are pretty budget-friendly options. How can those stores burn through my monthly grocery budget and leave me that broke, that fast?

Well, when I go shopping- or more likely, “just browsing”- I end up spending $50+ in one go, leaving my closet happy, but my bank account weeping. And when your monthly budget for everything (groceries, going out to eat, wine, makeup, toiletries) is only $250 total, a few $50 shopping sprees can eat through your funds pretty fast.

In January, after a particularly bad month of personal spending due to post-Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to make myself a budget, and try to stick to it.

To give you an idea of what I was working with, here’s what I spent in January 2019:

It pains me to even look at it, but yep. $188 over my budget of $225. And the biggest negative profit I saw that month was- to nobodies surprise- in the clothing department, with -$121.

Yikes. To say the least.

So for the month of February, I knew I needed to change. Spending $156 a month on clothes alone is not sustainable. So that’s when I made the budget that I’m working with now, and we’ll see how it goes for February:

$225 Total
  • Groceries: $120
    • I think this is reasonable. It’s not the only money I spend on food for the month- I go out to eat and go out with friends, too- so I think $120 for just produce/bread/cheese/snacks/whatever else I eat at home sounds realistic.
  • Clothes: $35
    • This is proving to be the greatest challenge. So far, this category is still at $0 (go me!) but the temptation is so high. I have a beach vacation coming up next month, so I keep telling myself I should save this money and put it towards buying new clothes in March. But the urge to treat myself to some retail therapy is so real…
  • Going Out to Eat: $20
    • Okay, so maybe this is a little unrealistic. As of right now, I’ve already spent $11.47 on eating out this month, and it’s only day 8. Maybe this section will need a little reconfiguring for next month…
  • Going Out with Friends: $25
    • If the “Going Out to Eat” was estimated too low, I think “Going Out with Friends” is going to be to high. I go out with friends- but when I do, we’re usually going out to eat, which doesn’t fall under this category. I think I can easily scale this one down to $15 for next month.
  • Alcohol: $10
    • Luckily, I’m not much of an alcohol person. However, I do have a bottle of wine that I really love: André’s Peach Moscato. It’s only $7 a bottle, so this $10 lets me go through about a bottle-and-a-half a month.
  • Miscellaneous: $15
    • Occasionally, I know I’m going to need to buy something that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories (a birthday gift, for example.) I allocated $15 to this “extra” fund because you never know what’s going to pop up.

And that’s my budget for the month of February! I’m hoping that by keeping track of my finances along the way, I won’t end up with $20 in my account to last me the second half of a month (which I’ll admit, has happened more than a few times.) Once February is over, I’ll share an update on how my budget did and how I’m changing it for February!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share any of your personal budgeting tips with me! I definitely need them.

-K