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Trader Joe’s Hacks, As Told By Kayla Hansmann of @CincyFitFoodie

March 29, 2018

A couple times a year, I meet someone that I deem my “girl crush”. This year, with the interviews and events that come with running this site, I think I’ve hit an all time high. And at the top of that list is local foodie/registered dietitian/fitness instructor, Kayla Hansmann. Kayla and I met serendipitously while enjoying acai bowls at the newly opened Rooted Juicery on 6th and Vine. It was a week after Mer and I launched CSOB, and I'm pretty sure I word vomited on her when I found out she was a fitness instructor and registered dietitian. Since then, Mer and I have been crushing on her via Instagram, admiring her beautiful kitchen concoctions and Trader Joe’s hauls.


Kayla was born and raised in Cincy, but did a stint in Chicago like I did, where she got her post-grad education as a registered dietitian in pediatric and public health at Loyola University of Chicago. She now works for Cincinnati Children’s, as well as a private practice, providing one-on-one and group nutrition education and wellness seminars. As a side job, she teaches group barre, sculpt, spinning and HIIT fitness classes at Body Alive. Oh, and she has a food blog/Instagram called Cincy Fit Foodie where she offers nutrition coaching and services, and share delicious looking healthy recipes. Are you crushing yet?


Every week over on Instagram, Kayla features recipes that are focused around one ingredient. We’re talking a week of beet recipes (beet brownies?! Weird, but interested.), a week of eggplant, a week of tofu+tempeh…. You get the point. Aside from her weekly ingredient inspiration, she has us racing to Trader Joe’s.


For this feature, I asked Kayla to type up a list of TJ must haves. She came back with a pantry full of items, along with tips for preparing each product, items to avoid and "TJ hacks". Here it is! Enjoy! 



"Making a list of my favorite TJ's products has honestly been one of the hardest (and most fun) things I've done in a while. So, to condense, or attempt to shorten it a bit, I've broken it down into sections. I'm definitely missing a few things (i.e. all of the produce section is top on my weekly list), but here's a good outline to get you started or to change up your regular routine and try a few new things!


Pantry staples:

  • Coconut Oil Spray and Organic Virgin Coconut Oil - no-brainers for baking + all non-stick needs

  • Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning - put this on everything, life changed!

  • Rolled Oats (bagged) - unbeatable price and enough to last you till your next run

  • Dried fruit (craisins, raisins) - have on hand for easy energy bite, muffin, or snack-mix making

  • Hot and Sweet Jalapenos, Cut Beets in Vinaigrette, Cowboy Caviar and Corn Salsa - always put these in my cart for salad toppers and wrap/taco add-ins

  • Chicken/Veggie Broth (low sodium) - for when that urge strikes to make homemade soup! Broth can also be an awesome base to cook veggies/meat as it's less calorically dense than oil


For the busy weeknight dinner or quick weekday lunch:

  • Organic Brown Rice (frozen) - only takes 3 min to cook and tastes just like freshly steamed rice

  • Steamed Lentils (refrigerated in produce) - a great risk-free way to try lentils if you've never had them before and they make an easy salad throw-in or base to a homemade burger

  • Organic Veggie Chili (canned) - tastes just like Amy's chili but much cheaper +all the flavor

  • Boxed salads (produce) - all of these are winners in my book but I'm an especially a big fan of the Kale & Edamame Salad

  • Carrot Spirals (frozen) – save yourself 20+ minutes and avoid another kitchen gadget with these pre-spun carrots ready for a sauté or stir fry


For the sweet tooth:

  • Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans - jolt of energy, chocolatey coating - so, so good!

  • Dark Chocolate Almonds (w/sea salt & turbinado sugar) - okay so, a lot of places carry similar items but TJ's chocolate, salt, to sweet ratio is the best out there, hands down

  • Brownie Crisp Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches - need I say more?

  • On the contrary, I tried their new skillet cookie cake at the sample counter and was, meh, slightly underwhelmed…


Snack attack:

  • Thai Lime & Chili Cashews - great on their own or as a crunchy topping to stir fry or noodle dish

  • Caramel Ginger Popcorn - not always around on the shelf but holy moly, I love this combo - perfect summer snack + wine!

  • Bamba Peanut Snacks - perfect for kids, teens, and adults alike (side nerd note, these were actually one of the foods consumed by infants/toddlers in Israel that led to studies showing that early peanut-introduction in kids is protective against allergy development!)

  • Mediterranean Creamy & Smooth Hummus - it's hard to pick a favorite dip here but this one has been a fridge staple the past month

  • Brie Bites - betcha can't just have one ;)



  • Simpler Wines - 4-packs of white and rose wine for just $4! Cute, portable, delicious

  • Starfruit Sparkling Water - can't say I've ever actually eaten a starfruit but this drink is definitely one to add to the rotation

  • Matcha Green Tea Powder Packets - if you're trying to move away from coffee and like the earthy taste of matcha, this is the way to go! Uder $1 per packet and no fillers added


Things that are just "alright" and I may not buy again:

  • Cauliflower Pizza Crust - decent taste and holds together well buuut I like easy homemade pizza crust so much that it's hard to compete

  • Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate - maybe I just don't prepare this stuff right cause it had almost too much of a kick for me…

  • Cocoa Almond Cashew Beverage - honestly, I am not impressed by the added sugar and for only 2g protein per cup, other milk-alternatives might be a better bet


Other TJ's hacks and must-knows:

  • Their cards are unbeatable at $.99 - cute pictures, insides, and something for every occasion

  • Flowers! Also follows suit in their low-prices and stay fresh minimum 1+ week

  • Try-it before you buy-it. The sample counter is always one of the highlights of my trips to TJs, not only because you get a little mid-shopping snack, but they're also pretty open to letting you try other store products (within reason) if you've never had them before. With that said, if you can't sample in-store, they always encourage you to take it home, try it, and if you don't like it--let them know and get your $$ back!"

Kayla, we heart you. If you aren’t yet, give her a follow @cincyfitfoodie, and be on the lookout for future collaborations with CincyFitFoodie + CincyStateOfBeing!


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