Why You Should Do Your Holiday Shopping at Trader Joe's

In the ongoing Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's debate, I've always been a Whole Foods gal, pretty much by default. When Hubby was diagnosed with Celiac Disease years back, Whole Foods was our only option in town to find the gluten free foods he needed.

Even though our neighborhood grocery store is carrying many more of our favorite gluten free foods (due to the fact that I am there like, eight times a week and they don't want to lose such a great customer), I am still at Whole Foods at least once or twice a month to get a few things our neighborhood store doesn't carry, organic produce, and some natural beauty items and vitamins that I can't find anywhere else.

And I walk out of there needing to take out a second mortgage on our house. I mean, Jimeny Christmas, that store is expensive!

So when Trader Joe's came to our city over a year ago, friends encouraged me to go there. Encouraged may be a bit tame of a word. They insisted and demanded I go. In fact, some even called me crazy for not going. I really think my college roommate stopped answering my e-mails just because I hadn't gone to Trader Joe's yet.

I mean, I didn't get the big fascination, the love affair, with Trader Joe's. It's just a store, right? So what if they sell the best $2 bottle of wine on the market. I even thumbed my nose at that, wine snob that Hubby has made me.

The catalyst for losing my Trader Joe's virginity came in the form of a flyer we received in the mail the other day. As I quickly glanced at it before depositing it into the recycling sack, words like sea salt, dark chocolate, caramel delights, chocolate gift bars, special wine, relaxing bath salts jumped off the page at me.

And the prices! Nothing was over $9.99.

Today I had a babysitter. After a loooong week of being in the house - cuddling - with sick kids, I had to get out and get some things done. So armed with the flyer in my hand and visions of this so-called Two Buck Chuck Wine, I headed to Trader Joe's.

And now, in just half an hour and about two hundred dollars later, I have gifts for 26 people. Now that's what I'm talking about!

Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that I am not a review or giveaway blog, nor do I write sponsored posts (not saying that I won't someday). So, no, Trader Joe's did not compensate me to write this post. All of the opinions are mine just because I want to share with you some great ideas for teacher and co-worker gifts at a great price. Call it my gift to you (and a break from some of my more serious posts).

So here we go.

Now, first of all, here is a list of all the people I am buying for:
  • Hubby's two partners and their wives and an associate and his wife
  • Lil C's five (yes FIVE) preschool teachers (I adore them!)
  • Slim's speech therapist who has been a part of our lives for over six years. Again, I adore her.
  • Slim's third grade teacher and teacher assistant.
  • While I was at it, I picked up something for the other two third grade teachers and their assistants (Slim's a handful, I recognize this. They should get a little something.)
  • Knox's first grade teacher and her assistant
  • Because there were so many great, inexpensive options, I picked something up for the principal and the assistant principal in charge of special education because they have been very responsive and understanding to Slim's needs this year.
  • And because I felt bad leaving her out even though we have no interaction with her, the other assistant principal.
  • And then I saw something that one of Hubby's sisters would like.
  • The kindergarten teachers that Joey, Slim, and Knox all had and I'm hoping Lil' C will get, too. (A little bribery never hurts. No, seriously, they are amazing, and I will never forget everything they did for Joey during his only year at school.)
You're thinking "IS SHE CRAZY??WHY IN THE HELL IS SHE BUYING SHIT FOR ALL THESE PEOPLE?" (Okay, maybe only Hubby is yelling that.) But, you're right - I don't have to.

But, I want to. I like to give gifts, even small ones, just to show my appreciation and love for all these people who are so important in our lives and our children's lives.

So, here's the stash (and I apologize in advance for my poor picture taking skills):

Creamy cheese paired with a delicious pinot? Yes, please. These are going to make great gifts for Hubby's partners. Every year, he makes a basket filled with delicious goodies to show his partners and their wives how much he enjoys working with them. This year, I'm adding in some luscious smelling French soaps (see below) and some candy and a desert wine that Hubby found and voila - a tasty basket they can use for entertaining.
You know bath items are going to be good when you can smell their fragrance through the package. I've had these permanently glued to my nose since I've been home. Perfect for fancying up a bathroom or soaking in the tub after a long day with kids, these are going to make great teacher gifts.
How could I possibly go wrong with huge $1.99 chocolate bars that are already festively wrapped? These are ideal for all the teacher assistants working with Slim in the other classes. Just a little treat for your trouble. I got the box of cookies for someone who has small children of her own so that her whole family can enjoy them.
No, I didn't take this picture at the store. I actually bought all of these. For five dollars a box, I figured I could get one for almost everyone on my list. Although, once I got to the checkout, I began to wonder, What if these really suck? My cashier assured me I could return them.
I don't think that will be necessary. The right amount of salt, sweet, and creaminess make these a perfect holiday treat.    
I also found Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte Mix for $3.99 for the boys' favorite aunt, and some antibacterial soap in a beautiful bottle also for $3.99 for the germaphobe on my list.
Some of these gifts I will pair together, but some can stand alone. I figure, everyone can use food - either for themselves, to set out at their holiday get-togethers, or to take places as hostess gifts. I'm really happy with all of my finds. I was stuck in a rut of coffee gift cards and holiday ornaments (nothing wrong with those, unless your kids have had the same teachers and you've given those in previous years).
To add a few more ideas to this list, in previous years, Hubby and I have given Williams-Sonoma's Peppermint Bark as gifts. At about $25/tin, it can get pricey, even when they have a special on it. Recently, I discovered Costco's Kirkland brand peppermint bark. It is just as good, and at half the price, it's the perfect substitute. I believe it is $10.99, but I had trouble searching for it on Costco's site. I just bought it before Thanksgiving, though, and I'm planning on going back for more.
We are lucky to live in the Midwest where we have excellent beef (so I'm told - I don't eat much red meat). Hubby is always disappointed when we eat at a steak house while travelling. There is nothing like a steak from Omaha Steaks. Right now, they are having an excellent Christmas sale. And with free shipping, get some for yourself, too! Theirs are the only hamburgers I will eat, and their fish is wonderful as well. They also have hot dogs, potatoes, and cheesecake. Hmmmm...
So, there you go. Some holiday gift ideas for almost everyone on your list. Will I go back to Whole Foods, you ask. I'm sure I will. I'm a creature of habit, and I didn't see my favorite vegan cookies or the shower soap I love at TJ's. But I'll definitely hit Trader Joe's again.
And now for some questions:
Have you tried any of these products? What did you think? Would you like any of these as gifts? Are you done shopping? Do you have any great, money saving ideas to add?
And lastly, have you tried Two Buck Chuck? Because I walked out without it, and I want to know if I should go back for it.


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