Ever wonder how Trader Joe's influencers actually grocery shop? This week's advice column pulls back the curtain and reveals the creator of @hoez4traderjoez's secret tips and tricks on how to make the most of your weekly Trader Joe's experience (without breaking the bank).
Okay, I am not going to lie I am not a good grocery shopper. I usually go in without a list and typically without a plan, therefore I almost always get sucked into the latest and greatest products on display. Add the magical world that is Trader Joe's into the mix and I need a road map (or I'll end up with the entire frozen treat and hors d'oeuvre section in my cart). I am also very easily influenced, so I love a good Trader Joe's influencer account. My favorite of all time? Easy, it is @hoez4traderjoez. If @taragarvey's memes weren't impeccable enough, I also walk away with the best tips on new products and recipes from her page. What @taragarvey calls her passion project, could easily be a full-time job (and she's good at it). She's so good at it that I don't even realize that I am being influenced by an influencer, I feel like she's just an internet friend with great recommendations. So, I couldn't resist the opportunity to interview her for The Advice Column by Dear Diary and to get her road map from the queen of Trader Joe's herself.
DD: Introduce yourself to our Dear Diary readers.
TG: “Hi!! My name is Tara Garvey, I'm 26 years old living in Chicago, and I run the Instagram page @hoez4traderjoez. Apart from my obsession with a trendy grocery store chain, I love going out for drinks with my girlfriends, long walks with coffee, and yoga!”
DD: What has your journey been like thus far into your 20s?
TG: “My post-grad 20s were off to an amazing start with three beautiful years of living with my closest friends in Lincoln Park, and working for a young company in the city. I was navigating adulthood and balancing new career responsibilities while carving as much time out for my social life as possible. Once March of 2020 hit though, that took a drastic turn (as it did for everyone). At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt overwhelmed by the external factors in life I couldn't control and decided to lean into my creative outlet - an Instagram account I had started a few months before as pretty much a joke. For me, @hoez4traderjoez became a source of joy, community, and creativity that was missing in my life during the pandemic.”
DD: What is the origin story of Hoez 4 Trader Joez? Did you ever think that the account would become this popular (23K followers and counting)?
TG: “As I said, I started @hoez4traderjoez as a total joke. It was November of 2019, and I had taken what I thought was a cute picture of my Trader Joe's basket (looking back, it wasn't lol). I wanted a place to post it, so I sat in my room trying to lock down an Instagram handle. After a few tweaks, I landed on my janky name with the number 4 and "ez" in place of S's. I didn't tell my friends I was doing this at first because it felt so embarrassing. Eventually though, after a few weeks of posting, I let them in on my new venture. From there it became a joke in my friend group, and they started tagging me in their Trader Joe's hauls.”
“The first time I noticed the account was getting traction was when I posted my first meme. I pasted together a picture of a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, a man bun, and the phrase, 'Ohhh lookout these are addicting' and captioned it the 'Trader Joe's employee starter pack'. In 5 minutes the post had over 200 likes, which is 10x the max amount I was getting on my previous posts. It ended up racking up over 2,000 likes which was mind-blowing to me. From there, I decided to lean into the memes, sprinkled with my favorite products, pictures of recipes I've made, and videos of my friends and family - Shout out to my bestie Alyssa who reviews Trader Joe's Sauv Blancs, my bf Trevor who obsesses over his love for Trader Joe's white rice, and my Insta famous dad who reviews the Bachelor and tries a new Trader Joe's snack on his segment 'Bach & Snack'.”
“During the pandemic, @hoez4traderjoez really hit its stride. I felt inspired to create original content, art (memes count as art right?), and recipes to share with my growing follower base. I've loved messaging with followers, and getting to know the amazing creators behind some of the other Trader Joe's accounts out there (my favs being @traceyjoes, @joesbeforebros, and @traderjolene). Hitting 10K felt like a huge milestone, and 20K right after my one-year mark was almost unimaginable. I'm so excited to see where else this account will go!”
DD: What are your favorite staple products from Trader Joe's? What has been your least favorite product that you've tried?
TG: “My friends would laugh at me, but my favorite product is the jalapeno chicken sausages. I never leave the store without grabbing a pack of these. The ingredients are really clean, and they are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I truly can't get enough.”
“My least favorite product would probably be the cup of ramen! It is the only thing that I've ever tasted and immediately thrown away. When I posted it on my story, I was flooded with responses from people who agreed. Trader Joe's need to step up their noodle game IMO!”
DD: Ideal Trader Joe's Shopping List?
TG: *This list is subject to change* but...
- Jalapeno Chicken Sausages
- Whole Wheat Wraps
- Southwest Chopped Salad Kit (which I use for my wrap)
- Plantain Chips (purple bag)
- Three Layer Hummus Dip (OMG)
- Frozen Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry
- Frozen Brown Rice
- Frozen Soup Dumplings
- Frozen Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- Soyaki Sauce
- Chunky Almond Butter
- Spicy Garlic Cashews
- A few sparkling waters (raspberry lime and orange flavors are so good)
- A block of Unexpected Cheddar
- Go Bananas (aka frozen dark chocolate covered bananas)
- Bottle of Two Buck Chuck (I usually go red)
- Chomp Sticks
DD: Tips and tricks on how to stay focused in TJs and how to budget yourself?
TG: “Prep yourself! I usually spend the week saving posts on Instagram and TikTok looking for inspiration for the following week. Make your list ahead of time and stick to it! You will save yourself time and money.”
“Pro tip: @TraceyJoes is a huge inspo for my meal prep. Her meals are 90% Trader Joe's ingredients and they kill it every time.”
“I also try to balance the fresh with the frozen. If I buy too much fresh food I end up wasting it. But if I buy only frozen, I sacrifice a lot of the nutrients. I've found adding some fresh elements to Trader Joe's frozen meals is the perfect combo. I've been adding sauteed broccoli, shallot, and an egg to the frozen cauliflower stir fry recently and it's unreal! Last week I added kale, chicken sausage, and fresh garlic to the frozen sweet potato gnocchi, and I'm a changed woman. This can be done with so many of their frozen offerings, so get out there and try some new stuff!!”
“Lastly, treat yourself to a new item every week! Trader Joe's has SO many amazing new and seasonal options that make grocery shopping a little more fun. I usually pick one item off the new item shelf as a gift to myself for being an adult and getting to the store on Sunday (which can be a struggle lol). Also, don't sleep on the beauty section! So many goodies in there (shout out to the microdermabrasion scrub and the moisturizing hand cream!)”
DD: Now for our final question of each interview, what now?
TG: “Great question! I released some merch back in November and I was so shocked by the response! I'm planning on doing some more merch this Summer so stay tuned...I'm also working on partnering with some external brands that sell their products in Trader Joe's. So far I've partnered up with Chomp Sticks, which is literally my favorite snack ever, and I hope to keep that going. So we shall see!”