I buy a lot of groceries at Trader Joe’s, from chicken to fruit to salsa, but one of my favorite aspects of the store is the ready-to-eat meals in the cooler case.
Wraps, salads and sushi abound, with a ton of possibilities from which to choose, and most of them check in at a more-than-reasonable $3.99. Now, that’s an affordable and quick meal. It will satisfy the vegans with items including the kale and edamame salad and tofu spring rolls, and right down to the barbecue chicken salad or sushi sampler for those wanting a little animal protein.
But it’s the wraps I tend to go for. Since stock tends to vary from store to store, it may never come to pass that Louisville’s TJ’s, located at 4600 Shelbyville Road, will ever see any of the more exotic wraps I’ve seen online, such as the Cuban Wrap, the Spicy Lentil Wrap or the Grilled and Pressed Eggplant Wrap. (Although, on a recent visit I was quite tempted to try the Vietnamese-Inspired White Chicken Wrap.)
I’ve had the fairly pedestrian — in concept, at least — Turkey Club Wrap, a pretty simple concoction featuring sliced turkey, lettuce, chunks of tomato and non-cured turkey bacon. It was tasty and had a nice fresh feel to it, but there are a couple of others I’ve been rotating through lately: The Turkey, Spinach and Swiss Cheese Wrap and the Pesto Chicken Wrap.
Much like the club, the Turkey, Spinach and Swiss Cheese is not exactly mind-blowing, featuring exactly what the name implies, plus a mild honey Dijon dressing and wrapped in an herb and garlic tortilla. But there’s also a tomato basil salsa that adds just enough of an ah-ha to push it ahead of the club for my taste buds.
But my favorite so far is the Pesto Chicken. When you unwrap this guy — and you’ll need a blade to open these wraps, or it’s like trying to liberate a CD and jewel case from its cellophane prison in 1998 — you can immediately smell the garlic and a hint of basil.
A first bite, you get an instant taste of the creamy and flavorful pesto vinaigrette dressing made with Parmesan-infused basil. But there’s a lot more to this one than meets the label. Inside, along with the flavorful pesto dressing, are chunks of white-meat chicken and liberal amounts of roasted red tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini.
Much like with the Turkey and Swiss, eating the Pesto Chicken Wrap just feels good somehow, as if your body knows you’re not trying to hurt it too badly and is giving you a slow-motion applause.
That makes sense, because this wrap is pretty manageable health-wise at 380 calories, with 15 grams of fat, and 350 milligrams of sodium (per the label). The Turkey, Spinach and Swiss Cheese Wrap comes in at 330 calories, with plenty of protein and vitamin A, but 710 milligrams of sodium might not be optimal for some.
But what it boils down to for me is that in a world in which fast food is everywhere, these types of meals can be had as quickly or even more so than sitting in a drive-through line waiting on a double cheeseburger. I have office hours just down the street from TJ’s, so I usually can walk in, grab what I want, and be back at my computer typing inside of 10 minutes, depending on time of day.
And by comparison, that Big Mac Meal (with medium french fries) is going to run you more like $6 and is packing 880 calories, 44 grams of fat and 1160 mg of sodium, according to the McDonald’s website. And that’s without a soft drink. And worse yet, when you eat that stuff, your body doesn’t give you the dramatic applause — it’s more like a head tilt followed by, “What were you thinking?”
You get my point: I get in a hurry, too, but there are quicker, more affordable and far tastier options at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores around town. Hey, if Dirty Kroger can step up its game, so can we. •