Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

A Long Post On Grocery Guilt + Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I wanted to talk about how I grocery shop today. The plan of the post (requested by a reader trying to determine if a Costco Membership was worth it while eating Paleo) was to detail what I purchase at Costco vs. Trader Joe’s vs. Whole Foods vs. Our Neighborhood Grocer. Yep I shop at 4 different stores. Not every single Sunday, but since I try and find the lowest prices and sometimes look for specific ingredients, there is never a one-stop shop.

Man, can someone in Sacramento get on that? That would be great.

So I took some pictures while doing my weekly shop last Sunday and worked to write up something cohesive that sort of explained what I buy where. But as I got into the post I started to experience a bit of anxiety. I was trying to communicate an answer to the original question – Should I buy a Costco Membership? I have very specific opinions on that subject, and they are of the HELL YES! variety.


You see for us, it pays for itself each year, and I mean that literally. We pay $100 for the Executive Membership, which offers a 2% cash back reward issued once each year and for us the reward is always more than $100. Yes, it is just the two of us, but between groceries (many which are cheaper than my other 3 grocery store options), household purchases (some are cheaper, some are convenient to pick up in bulk), gas (ALWAYS cheaper), clothing (cheap workout clothes, HOLLA!), booze (always cheaper) and the infamous “impulse purchases” (FUN!) we clearly spend the required minimum of $5000 per year there to make this a good trade off. That breaks down to about $400 per month and honestly between all those things I listed above, we are usually spending more than that.


But the longer the post got and the more stores I started to incorporate, the more I felt like I had to qualify our purchases. The truth is, I love Trader Joe’s (and I used to love it 100x more when I bought all their candy and frozen processed food and pre-made meals) but at this point in my life there are very few items I buy there without “making an exception.” I don’t like their meat (it tends to come from other countries and I live in California so I feel like the least I can do is buy local since it’s readily available.) Their produce SUCKS at all of our locations and the per unit prices are never competitive.

This only leaves a few items on our TJs specific grocery list which include Coconut and Olive Oil, Beef and Chicken Broth, Olives, Almond Butter, Lara Bars, Sunflower butter (Garrett’s addiction) as well as Nuts and Dried Fruit. I buy all of those things there because they are super competitively priced, but when I looked at the photos, I felt like “Wow, seems like a lot of processed food that I could make myself. Maybe I should be buying a better source of Coconut Oil. Shit, my favorite nut mix at Trader Joe’s has peanuts and that’s so not Paleo. People are going to judge the fact that I eat Sunflower Butter.”


Then I looked at the Whole Foods picture.


I basically go there when I want to buy fun stuff. Mint sparkling water to mix with Strawberry Infused Vodka. The Good Olives. Dark Chocolate because it is one of my only vices left. Specialty baking stuff. You know what is notably absent? High Quality Protein Sources. Whole Foods is full of that stuff but they are generally SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE that I don’t pick up my beef there, or my chicken. My god, the last time I bought lamb there it was $25 and only made dinner for one night, and lunch the next day. Do you know how many pounds of ground beef I can get at Costco for $25? TWELVE. Do you know how many meals that makes?

So then I felt like I had to add in this “We’re on a budget” qualification to my post. But I felt douchey about that because who ISN’T on a budget, hello. And when I do the math — the amount of money I spend between all 4 of those grocery stores each month is well over $800. And that’s down from last year when it was over $1000. I get myself over the sticker shock of that by reminding myself that we buy A LOT of things at Costco that contribute to that number that aren’t groceries, but still. I just didn’t feel right rationalizing our purchase of non grass fed ground beef by using the “Woe. We are on a budget so we only buy what we can afford” excuse. Because the truth is, we can be making better decisions on this VERY ADEQUATE BUDGET.

It threw me for a loop. And I immediately felt guilty.

You see, I roll my eyes when I see news articles and talk show segments talking about How To Slash! Your! Grocery! Bill! It’s not that I’m against saving a buck, but I feel in my heart of hearts that I want to be aligning my spending with my values. I say this out loud to people all the time when they ask if Paleo is expensive. Yeah it can be more expensive, but isn’t your health worth it? Behind a lot of those exclamatory article headlines tend to be tips like Buy Less Meat, or recommendations to add cheap filler foods like grains and pastas into your dishes to further your dollar and since going Paleo, that is just NOT a part of our lifestyle anymore. We chose this lifestyle because we believe that food is the 100% most important thing that nourishes our health. We have made some financial sacrifices for it, even. When Garrett and I talk about our budgets, quality food is an absolute non-negotiable. But I had clearly been negotiating my way out of this mindset without even realizing it.

And when I was writing this post and looking at the pictures I just nonchalantly snapped at Costco, it really hit me in the face.


I was actually really upset about it last night. You should have seen me, I was bucking for Best Dramatic Actress in my own kitchen about the fact that WE BUY FACTORY FARMED PORK, OHMYGOD — and luckily Garrett took me by the shoulders and asked the all important question:

“Holly, look me in the eyes. Is this you talking or your period talking?” 🙂

That guy! I don’t always smile when he asks me that question. Understandably, right ladies? But I was being melodramatic. And so if this post is starting to move in that direction again, I just want to clarify the point. The world doesn’t end if you are on a budget. The world does not end if you don’t buy meat that is raised by farmers who only give them positive affirmations and let them go night night on alpaca rugs. There are recommendations everywhere about how to prioritize your food purchases if you aren’t burning money in your fireplace for warmth.

I talk here a lot about my commitment to eating cleanly, and the positive changes that is has brought to my life, so I feel like it’s only honest to also acknowledge when I’ve gotten a little off track. It bums me out, honestly, but I’m going to do what I do best and evaluate where I am, evaluate where I want to be, and make a new list. A new grocery list, actually, and one that is more in line with my values.

That said, I still recommend a membership to Coscto! I mean where else can you find wild caught tuna, bison sausage, roasted seaweed ALL IN BULK.


Oh yes, and reasonably priced LARGE bottles of McCallan 12.


I mean we can’t all be perfect every day, now can we?

What’s In My…Shower?


How about a little voyeurism to start your Friday off right…eh?

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my shower lately, partly because I’ve been a workout machine and partly because as the weather warms up Bathtub Season sort of comes to its natural end (weep!) so I thought I might show you the goods…uh, the goods that I use in my shower that is.

I personally have never met a medicine cabinet I didn’t want to snoop in, but maybe that’s just me. Don’t you think it’s fun to see Other People’s Products? Do you think that’s what Naughty By Nature was talking about when they recorded Down with OPP? (It’s possible, right?)
This is where the magic happens, folks.

We redid our bathroom in 2007 — well actually we added this bathroom, more accurately, and the bathtub and shower combo is just my most favorite place. Well, until you have to squeegee it and clean it and all of that pain in the ass stuff that comes with glass shower doors! But I’ll tell you what, it sure is pretty to look at. 5 years later I’m still in love.


We have a floor to ceiling shower caddy by Simple Human that holds all of our crap-ola, because a girl’s gotta have options, right? It’s one of the best investments ever, and the finite amount of space helps keep me in check. I am naturally the type of person who wants to have 900 bottles of shampoo on the floor of their shower. This caddy forces me to keep the other 899 bottles in my bathroom cabinet and just change them out when the mood strikes, all while keeping everything organized in the meantime. So let’s start at the bottom, shall we?


When it comes to hair washing, the ratio in the shower is 3 to 1 in my favor. Garrett uses a Nioxin Shampoo that he has used forever, and one day he ran out of conditioner and just never bought anymore. That was like a year ago. Apparently this suits him despite my pleas for him to buy conditioner. Boys, I tell ya! They have it easy.

I, on the other hand, use a combination of Redken Products: Body Full Shampoo, Extreme Cat Protein Spray and Extreme Conditioner. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably read Pinterest Hair Tutorial Celebrity Kate over at It’s The Small Things, because this is her recommended cleansing combo for Ladies Who Like Volume. FINE HAIRED LADIES: this combination is priceless.

Styling Sidebar: She also recommends these post-washing products which I am also prepared to evangelize if necessary:

Kenra 25 Volumizing Hairspray // Aquage Uplifting Foam (WORTH IT!!!)

So, next shelf up: Face Stuff


Well, okay Face Stuff and my nifty helpers that keep my CrossFit calluses from wreaking havoc on my workouts. But let’s not talk about CrossFit Hands, and don’t worry, I won’t bust out any pictures of that! YUCK!

We both use the same face wash, and I expressed my love for it here once already. I still love it, but that doesn’t mean my face is really cooperating so I may switch it up soon because that is what I do with skincare. Garrett still loves it to pieces though, so it will probably stick around in our shower — like the Oil of Olay scrub — WHICH IS HIS. Just saying… 🙂

Next Stop: Good Smelling Yums

This Nivea Body Wash smells exactly like what spring should smell like. A little citrusy, a litte clean — I AM IN LOVE WITH IT, currently. And the Need A Margarita Scrub is not too shabby either. That’s my razor — BOY RAZORS 4 EVA. I’ll never go back to the crappy razors they sell ladies. The never work as good no matter how pink and ergonomic and fancy they are.

Last Stop: Miscellany


The things that end up here are my samples from Birchbox (the shampoo cream is this month’s), bars of soap (Dove – Nectarine and White Ginger!) and Garrett’s Shower Gel. It would also not be surprising to find a cup of coffee up there too in the morning. Garrett has talked me into this terrible habit of taking coffee in the shower. I mean WHO EVEN DOES THAT??? Beverages in the shower are for heathens!

And me now, apparently. Whatever.

So anyway…that’s what we use! Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the “Powder Room.” Do we use any of the same stuff? Dish it…

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