In episode 012 we are chatting with Brenda from the blog Become Betty about her favorite products at Trader Joe's. Brenda talks about have she does to save money and why tiny avocados are a great way to reduce food waste.
Here is the transcript from our interview with Brenda from Become Betty.
Eric: Hey everybody, welcome to a special episode of Eat, Shop, Waste Not. I am your host, Eric Samuelson. Um, as you guys know, I am a huge grocery nerd. I just absolutely love grocery shopping, going to stores all over the country. I will base, um, trips like vacations on going to a grocery store.
It's my favorite thing. Um, so today I wanted to bring out another fellow food blogger who also especially loves a certain grocery store, Trader Joe's and has a blog that's all about the latest and greatest from Trader Joe's. Um, so I wanna bring on Brenda today from Become Betty. Um, welcome to the podcast.
Brenda: Thank you so much for having me, Eric.
Eric: You're welcome. All right. So first I wanna kind of, um, ask you, so what is Become Betty? What does that name mean?
Brenda: Um, when I started blogging in 2016, um, I really didn't have any set like niche mind. Um, so I kind of picked something very, very general. So it was like a little bit Betty crocker, you know, little bit, you know, more like the Susie homemaker kind of, um, theme. And it also coincided with a time when I was laid up, um, I had fallen down a flight of stairs and I had sprained both ankles.
Um, I was still doing the grocery shopping. Um, but I, you know, when you hurt both your feet, you need a smaller store. And that's kind of how I landed into Trader Joe's. You know, six aisles is very convenient for, you know, just doing those types of things. So, uh, instead of doing recipes, I started writing about what I was eating and what I was buying..
And just started giving out recommendations and kind of just grew from there. So that's six years ago now.
Eric: Wow. Yeah. That's I mean, it's great to see something, you know, coming out of a, an injury like that, that you kind of found a love and passion for something that's, uh, really neat. So what kind of things do you have , on your site besides just the, so do reviews and like what other things, um, might people find when they go there?
Brenda: So, I started doing more local grocery stores, but that wasn't really sticking. Um, if you're in the New York area, um, you know, there's a Stew Leonards, you know, I started like focusing on them for a little bit. Um, I've gotten away from that. Um, I do throw out a couple of cocktail recipes here and there a couple of recipes, um, not a whole lot.
Um, at this point I think I have 1300 posts on the website and I would say 1200 are probably all Trader Joe reviews.
Eric: Awesome, so right now I wanna kind of talk about like, what are some things that you're, loving from Trader Joe's now that you want people to say, "Hey, you need, you need to go out and buy that like immediately like after listening to this podcast episode, then immediately go buy it".
Brenda: Um, so we're at the tail end of summer. Um, one of the things that I picked up was the facial sunscreen. Um, I know it did go viral, um, with good reason. Um, most of the reason why it went viral is it's basically a dupe of a much higher price product. So, um, like Super Goop's, like formula the it's similar.
It's not exact. Um, but that's been one of my favorites all summer long because I'm in New York. Um, and it's been unbearably, hot, sunny, very, very little rain. So that product I'm really appreciating. I'm not, I'm also appreciating, not spending $36 on sunscreen.
Eric: Oh, yeah, he definitely.
Brenda: You know that, you know, $8 is more doable as opposed to 36.
Um, let's see, usually they do most of the freezer stuff when fall rolls out, but suddenly there's like a lot of new, um, items in the freezer. In the freezer section. So that's been kind of, some of the things are really, really good. Some of the things, you know, I'm not wild about, um, a lot of really good ice creams coming out.
Um, they started off with lemon ice cream. Uh, the Ube is back. Um, there's just like a lot of really, really cool stuff going on that particular section.
Eric: Yeah. Is there anything that, that lately you've gotten, that's kind of made like, um, meal nights easier? Cuz I think like the summertime for me, I don't like cooking in a hot kitchen, so there's always that temptation like, well let's just go out, you know, let's go out to eat somewhere, but that's not always good either.
So kind of find that kind of balance where you can kind of like still cook something at home sort of little bit of help up here, but you know, and put a hot meal on the table. So is there anything like that, that you've had recently?
Brenda: Yes. Um, I will definitely say that the chicken empanadas, because they're heavy on the veg, you know, it's like basically just like a pocket meal, like, okay. It goes in the air fryer for a couple minutes and you're done. Um, I love my air fryer. Um, You know, just again, same experience of just not heating up an entire kitchen to have a meal.
And my toddler really likes them, so he very much approves of them. So, you know, they come in, they're sold in the package of two. Um, and they're actually pretty good.
Eric: So is there any other good, items that you like to throw on the air fry from Trader Joe's? I've been loving my air fryer and, and we use it a lot too, because like our, our actual oven does not actually work and we found that we don't really miss it that much except for like baking bread and those kind of things here.
So we do a lot in the air fryer. So what are, what are some other things you throw in your air fryer?
Brenda: Um, if I'm having, like, they sell these frozen Mac and cheese balls, those are really good in the air fryer. Um, I'm trying to think of what else I've had recently. Um, the Jamaican beef patties were just, okay. Those, those, I was not wild for. They just came out maybe a couple weeks ago.
The other thing I usually lean on is like the Indian meals in the freezer section, those just go straight in the microwave. So I think like the microwave was like the pre, uh, air fryer before the air fryer was a thing. Um, but a lot of it is really on par with like what, what you might get in an Indian restaurant.
Eric: Do you have a favorite?
Brenda: Um, I'm a fan of the vegan Tika Masala. Um, I don't know. There's something about that. I just keep going back to. Also the, uh, the fish Corma Curry is very, very good too.
Eric: Um, so, so good. What about sweet tooth stuff? Like, oh, I need something sweet right now. What do you, what do you grab.
Brenda: Oh, I think most of the things that I've tried are like sweet leaning. Um, you know, uh, definitely the mini ice cream cones. Um, are fantastic. Um, they sell chocolate and vanilla year round. Um, and then every season you end up with a seasonal variety. So pumpkin, you know, the pumpkin cones are coming out that that's usually followed by the peppermint cones.
And then they have a chocolate chip and a coffee flavor that, you know, again, it's seasonal. So if you don't see it, that's probably why. Um, the sublime ice cream sandwiches, um, they live up to their name. If you've ever had like a chip witch sandwich, same, same premise. I mean, they're delicious. They had the mini little, uh, chocolate chips all around them, the vanilla ice cream, the really two really good like chocolate chip cookies.
So, um, that's really good. Um, mint chip ice cream. I'm sorry. I am a mint ice cream fan. Um, I make no apologies about that.
Eric: Oh, don't apologize for that. Yeah, me and my daughter love it. We went to ice cream parlor that had four different flavors of mint ice cream.
Brenda: Oh, I have to find where this place is. Um, yeah a lot of people are like, it tastes like mouthwash. I'm like, no, it doesn't. No. So it's, it's peppermint done, right. Without it, you know, going into that, that range
Eric: Cool, um, so, so what about some, fresh food things? What are, what are your like go-to items when you head to the produce area? Like you like, like these I need to have, or, you know, those kind of things.
Brenda: Um, my favorite would be the teeny tiny avocados. Um, they're smaller than average avocados and anyone who likes avocados knows: one of the detriments, if you're not gonna eat the whole thing, is trying to wrap that up and to not get brown spots. And that's like mission impossible. I mean, you know, you need a special like training for that.
Um, so just to avoid like wasting food, um, I think the teeny tiny avocados are definitely a go-to.
Eric: Do you call like how much those are going for right now? Price wise?
Brenda: , I wanna say they were like four, you know, four and change a bag. It was like six little avocados. Um, I don't know if they've changed prices. Um, I am starting to notice that, um, inflation is hitting the stores. Um, especially trader Joe's a few items. I've had to go back into the review and change prices on, um, because there's been changed since I posted the original review.
So there's been a handful of items, like, all right, that went up, that went up. Okay. We gotta go back and edit that. Um, the biggest price hikes that I've noticed is actually in the meats department. Um, you know, when you reach for, you know, whether it's chop, you know, ground beef, it's all gone up.
Eric: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Definitely noticing that everywhere. I mean like the, the beef prices were kind of the first things I think that were kind of going up here and like chicken was kind of holding steady for a while, but now I've seen it kind of go up. There was the the big bird, flu issues they had earlier in the year that ended up, they had to cull a lot of chickens here.
And I think that also is possibly contributing to that. But yeah, like every, every meat thing now is pretty much going up in price. I don't know how you feel about this too, but, but my feeling like Trader Joe's, like, I'm not really honestly a huge fan of their meat department in terms of like the quality.
I don't know if you've had, um, similar experience, but I like, like getting a stake there compared to like buying a steak at another store. I just feel like theirs, aren't quite as good. Um, and I don't know if you've, have you experienced comparison wise to other stores? Like what do you feel about the meat?
Brenda: Um, again, it's a mixed bag. Um, it depends upon the turnover in your store. Um, some things are, you know, pretty reasonable. They do sell heirloom chicken, um, which is not available like in every single store. Um, that's gotten a lot of very positive reviews. People really like it. It's very, very chickeny. I know this sounds very weird to say, but it tastes more like the way, you know, maybe like, if you're a little bit older, you remember what chicken tastes like when you were a kid?
Brenda: Whereas like chicken tastes like absolutely nothing these days.
Eric: And that's why they say think, oh, it tastes like chicken because it tastes like nothing. Exactly.
Eric: Yeah, I haven't tried out the heirloom chicken. That's something I haven't, I actually haven't been in it a little bit, so I need to go, um, give that try. It's a little more expensive probably than the regular chicken, but like how much you think.
Brenda: It is a little bit more expensive, but again, you know, that's one of those things that you would typically maybe find at a whole foods that's kind of got its way into trader Joe's and again, it's at a better price. Um, The seafood, um, if your store carries it, um, the salmon again has gone up in price a little bit.
Um, but it's still, you know, pretty good,
Better than most of your like seafood cases you might get in a typical grocery store.
Eric: Yeah. That's good. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely to check out that, that chicken for sure. Um, especially in the, um, you know, it's a little early yet, but, um, when it gets to chicken noodle soup season to have a little more flavorful chicken to use, to make soup with would be, um, a awesome thing. So I will definitely do that.
Brenda: That was, that was where I was gonna go with that and say, yes, absolutely. Um, and then it would probably make probably some really, really good, uh, chicken stock.
Eric: Yeah. We like to do, we put the whole chicken into the Instant Pot with water and then just cook it and then, um, strain all the stuff out and then throw in some veggies and cook those up. Add into the stock so that the veggies are perfectly cooked. Um, and then put the fresh chicken, put it back in. Um, we do noodles sometimes or dumping, so that would definitely be something I will have to put on my list for this fall.
For sure. To give that chicken a try.
Brenda: And just keep in mind, it is a smaller than average chicken. Like, you know, chickens have gotten kinda like disproportionate,
Eric: Ex. Yes.
Brenda: They're like completely like outta whack in terms of like body parts and size and whatnot. Um, the heirloom has, um, you know, it's a little bit smaller, so will fit better into your instant pot, especially if you're dealing with like a six quart, you know, so this isn't the full roaster size.
This is more like, you know, something you might spatchcock and, you know, cook quickly.
Eric: Oh, those are good. I think the two of the did, did they have, I think I remember this, right? They, they had like some already spatchcocked chickens before. Was that a, is that a thing? Yes. Okay. I thought that was.
Brenda: So they have lemon rosemary one that's available all year round. And then, um, throughout the year they've played with like different flavor varieties. Um, some have come back, some have not. Um, they did a barbecue one. Um, they've had other varieties, you know, throughout the years, but the lemon Rosemary seems to be like the universal that's that's been available for years.
Eric: Sure. Sure. Yeah, those are good. If you could put one of those in the grill or the oven, I mean, they cook a lot quicker and you can get the skin kind of crispier. Several times we've done that for Thanksgiving, with the Turkey, um, which is a heck of a lot harder to spatchcock than a chicken.
Um, especially if you don't get it quite un-frozen in the middle. Trouble sometimes with that. And it's, it's, it's just like your hands are freezing and you're trying to cut through the thing. Um, so, so it's nice if you, if you're, you know, that's something, I know people, some people don't like, like messing around with raw meat like that.
So like a spatch cock thing is a good kind of option. If you wanted to kind of try that concept and didn't wanna, couldn't go through the effort of cutting it.
Brenda: If you don't own a good pair of kitchen, cheers. That's definitely the way to go.
Eric: Yes. Yes, definitely. Cool. Um, so those are some, yes. So some great products here. So what are some tips right now? Um, we're all trying to save money at the grocery stores, everything that we talked about keeps going up in price. So like, what are, um, some tips you had, you already mentioned the avocados, like buying, you know, buying something, that's a size that you're not gonna waste.
So I think that's important too. It's like, it's not just about like spending, um, such and such dollars, but also like, "Am I gonna eat the thing?" if we're just gonna throw it out here, then that's still wasting money. So do you have any other tips for people right now about saving money?
Brenda: All right. So at trader Joe's, in terms of produce, what I would recommend is that only buy what you're gonna eat in the next day or so. Um, I know that's been a common complaint, you know, from a lot of people that I've heard from is a lot of the stuff doesn't keep very long. You know, there's nothing worse than buying, you know, a bag of salad mix.
And like, you. You go for, you know, buy it on Monday and then you go to use it on Thursday and it's, it's all mush. Um, so I would absolutely say unless you're gonna eat the next day or two, um, consider looking somewhere else for like fresh produce types of items, um, or consider making a second trip if you have one local.. Like where I am, I have three locations in 15 minutes. You know, so it's easy for me to go back and forth. Um, but for a lot of people, I hear stories. If I drove 45 minutes, an hour, hour and a half or more, I brought a cooler, you know, for, for the drive and whatnot. Um, so again, you know, unless you're local, um, maybe like think very carefully about what you're gonna choose in the produce section.
Eric: Definitely, definitely that.
Brenda: In terms of like, you know, milk and dairy, um, I would absolutely say they sell a really good grass fed, organic milk. Um, it is ultra pasteurized, um, which means there's a longer shelf life, you know, if you're not gonna get to it right away. Um, again, once it's open, that's another story, but again, if you're buying a couple containers ahead, um, not a bad way to go.
It's reasonably priced. It's 4 99, all things considered for organic grass fed. That's still a pretty decent price.
Brenda: Um, other random money saving tips. Um, they do sell in the grocery aisle, pre-cooked rice. It's, it's, it's very convenient. Um, you know, it's three minutes in the microwave and you have like three servings of rice.
The only problem is those. Um, those little three pouches are just as expensive as a two pound bag. So you can make a lot more rice with a two pound bag than, you know, three little pouches pre-cooked.
Eric: For sure. We like to do, rice the instant pot now so, so we do equal cups, rice and water, and we do it for, three to four minutes, um, depending on the type of rice. Um, set the Instant Pot to that and then let it rest for, 10 minutes. And usually then it depressurized by then, and then just , fluff it up here. So it's, that's usually pretty quick. Um, and you know, we usually can do that while we're doing other parts of the meal. Uh, that's one thing when you're cooking rice with stove, you're doing other things you don't wanna burn the rice because then you don't wanna spend all that time it's gonna take to get the rice off the bottom of the pot. That is one of the, like the most difficult things.
Brenda: I've had the same phenomenon happen in my instant pot with rice too. It's like, it's so hit or miss it's, like the top was so good. And then it's like, Ooh, that is so stuck.
Eric: Yeah, we found too that we actually make sure like when it beeps and ends the timing to turn the instant pot off completely and not even have it and keep warm and that seemed to do a better job of it not like sticking to the bottom. it also depends on, you know, there's different types of rice too longer and short grain stuff here. So that makes a difference to how, how it's gonna stick and how much starches in it. Um, so that's always a, a factor.
Brenda: Well, big thing is, you know, if, if it gets stuck and it, you know, it you're wasting food that way too, you know?
Eric: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, no, that's a big thing about food waste is just learning how to cook things, right. And, you do see make mistakes to try to learn, try to learn from them. We're all gonna screw up. We're all gonna waste.
I mean, even on our best days aren't gonna have a hundred percent. You. We're never gonna waste single bit of food ever, but we try to do our best and you know, learn those different tips and learn those different things at all. So. Cool. Um, well, one last question I wanted to ask you before I let you go today.
Um, so Trader Joe's in the fall of course its all about the pumpkin and everyone loves the pumpkin. So are, are you a pumpkin fanatic? Are you one of those people who are like, I'm gonna talk about it, but I don't really like it. So where, so where do you fall on that spectrum?
I am dead middle. Um, I like pumpkin. I do not love pumpkin. Um, I usually say what else is out aside from just pumpkin? Um, for some reason, fall tends to be a big maple time for trader Joe's. Um, so I would lean more on like maple flavored things than I would, uh, pumpkin flavored things. So we'll see what they hit us with this fall.
And usually. I figured another two weeks before today's August 15th, probably another two weeks. The beginning of September is usually when we start to get the pumpkin items, you know, appearing on shelves.
Brenda: But certain pumpkin things. I absolutely adore. Um, they sell this really great pumpkin Curry. Um, you know, it's a simmer sauce, really, really good worth of find, um, skip out on the cute little pumpkin shape pasta.
Um, I found and everybody else found the. Same thing. The directions are so wrong. It's not funny. Um, so if you're one of those people who just reads the direction, sets a timer and you don't do a taste test, um, you're gonna find the world's most undercooked, um, really cute looking pumpkin pasta.
Eric: Oh, yeah. Uh, yeah. And those pastas like the cute little like shaped pastas here. Those never turned to be very good pastas. I mean, it's also really easy to then overcook it, those like seem to have a very small window in which they're good.
You feel like you're standing over the pot and just likely, okay. Not yet. You need another 30 seconds. Okay. 30 seconds. Okay. Almost, almost, almost. And then,
Eric: And the dog then the dog barks and the kid screams. Yeah. It's like the same thing. Yeah. So that totally happens.
Well, thank you so much Brenda, for coming on today. Um, so if people wanna find you, um, where could they look?
Brenda: Um, you can go to the blog, which is www.becomebetty.com. And I have all the social handles as Become Betty. So again, it's Become Betty, not becoming Betty. Um, I took out the shorter domain because the other domain wasn't available. Um, so, Hey, listen, you gotta save money somehow.
Eric: Exactly. Yep. All right.
Brenda: So, thank you so much for having me, Eric.
Eric: Absolutely. It was a pleasure. So thank thanks for coming on today.
📚 Additional Resources
Links to review of some of the products we talked about.
- Mini Ice Cream Cones
- Vegan Tikka Masala
- Teeny Tiny Avocados
- Heirloom Whole Chicken | Our Instant Pot recipe for whole chicken
- Pumpkin Shaped Pasta
Here are some posts from our blog about Trader Joe's items