Very quickly after Callie Gullickson joined the Peloton instructor team in June, fans of her strength and cardio classes picked up on some key facts about the Florida native. She's one of six children, a former ballerina who packs a serious punch (she was, after all, also a boxing instructor), and potentially the world's biggest Trader Joe's fanatic.
Seriously, just take a peek at Gullickson's Instagram. Peppered in amongst posts from her honeymoon abroad and relatable Reels are veritable love letters to the cherished (and fairly affordable!) grocery chain. Everyone from Gullickson's die-hard fans (see: Callie's Killa Crew on Instagram) to her colleagues is well aware of her unconditional adoration for all things TJ's — so much so, in fact, that Gullickson even called out fellow instructor, Cody Rigsby, in a September post about the market's myriad of fall-themed products. "If your name rhymes with Rody Kigsby I advise you to keep scrolling. Thank you @codyrigsby," she wrote in the caption. (ICYDK, Rigsby, who's currently on Dancing with the Stars, has hilariously roasted Guillickson's unabashed pumpkin worship in class and on social media. Thus, the rather public tête-à-tête.)
So when Shape promoted the article, "7 Fall Trader Joe's Products Every Customer Should Buy, According to Employees" on Instagram two weeks later, Gullickson's coworker Kendall Toole couldn't help but wonder, "@calliegullickson did you contribute to this article? 😂😂😂" Gullickson replied, "hahaha IF ONLY!!!!!!" which made the Shape team curious to know just what the TJ's queen herself would've included in her own comprehensive shopping guide. So, we asked her.
Here, Gullickson opens up about her Trader Joe's obsession and reveals the must-have items you're practically guaranteed to find in her cart (hint: pumpkin-flavored everything).
When did you first fall in love with Trader Joe's, and what makes it such a magical place?
"I first heard of Trader Joe's when I moved to New York City for college at the age of 18. It's not that I had only never been; I had never even heard of it until I went to a friend's dorm room and they had snacks from there. As a college kid living in NYC, you learn pretty quickly to find ways to save, and once I heard about Trader Joe's great pricing, I was interested. My first experience was overwhelming, and I couldn't believe the length of the line. I mean, it not only wrapped around the store but there was also a line just to get in. I told myself I would never wait in a line that long and look at me now, years later, not only waiting in the never-ending line but also enjoying it!
The Trader Joe's experience is quite like no other. I mean a tiki-themed grocery store? Say no more. I don't know if it's the floral shirts, but the employees may be some of the nicest people I've ever met. They always help me find an item I've been eagerly waiting to try or, truthfully, they even recommend which items to get and not to get. More often than not, they suggest items I never knew existed, and their picks become my go-tos every single time. Who even knew there could be Everything But the Bagel-flavored chips, dips, and nuts? It's the pricing, the customer experience, and the unique items that bring me back every single time."
What do your coworkers, friends, and family think of your TJ's love affair?
"I honestly am honored when my friends and family see anything Trader Joe's and automatically think of me — honored, I tell you! It's funny; a lot of people are initially hesitant to try a new store but after some convincing, they begin to see why Trader Joe's is special. I absolutely love looking down at my phone and seeing a text from a friend saying they're making the trip and asking what they should get. I have to stop what I'm doing and give them the full run-down because if you've been, you know how overwhelming it can get. There are so many unique and delicious products that you don't want to miss! In all honesty, I think one of my favorite things about TJ's is the conversations and relationships that [develop] over a shared love for the brand and its products. I cannot tell you how many members of the Peloton community I've connected with chatting all things Trader Joe's."
What are you buying and eating?
For energy on multi-class days:
"My schedule changes week to week, so some days I teach two classes then can head home and make food while in and out of meetings. The other days when I'm filming multiple classes, taking meetings, running to a shoot, and programming classes, I have zero time to prepare my food beforehand. TJ's does a great job making me feel like I can cook when really I'm just taking food out of a container and mixing it with other products.
For breakfast, I love the overnight oats with a scoop of their crunchy no-salt-added almond butter. Might I add that the TJ's almond butter is one of my top 10 favorite items? It's a must. For dinner, I love making the jalapeño chicken sausage over the basmati microwavable rice with peppers and onions. Another go-to would be the cauliflower gnocchi with the Argentinian shrimp tossed in the vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto."
For convenience while on the go:
"I love all the bagged salads. My favorite is the Mediterranean, and I add the pre-made grilled lemon pepper chicken."
For nighttime snack cravings:
"The hardboiled eggs in a bag are delicious with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning on them. I am a sucker for the fruit and nut aisle. The salt and pepper-flavored pistachios, the dried fruit, like just mango slices, and the coconut cashews are always in my cabinet. If I want something sweet, my go-to's are the sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, the non-dairy frozen dessert chocolate fudge oat bars, and the Gone Bananas dark chocolate-covered banana slices."
For cooking something special:
"Well my favorite food is pasta, specifically, penne alla vodka. I have not attempted to make it myself but when I do, all my ingredients will for sure come from TJ's."
You are the pumpkin season queen. So, what are your favorite seasonal items from Trader Joe's?
"Where do I begin?! If I had to narrow it down it would be the pumpkin oat milk, the pumpkin cream cheese, the maple butter, the pumpkin gluten-free pancake mix, and the pumpkin Hold the Cone ice cream cones. I do love pumpkin, and I think my love for it stems from my excitement for the seasons. Growing up in Florida, I didn't experience the change in seasons so when fall arrives, I go all out. If you think I love pumpkin, just wait until peppermint and gingerbread are stocked on the shelves." (Related: The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Are Proof It Deserves All of the Hype)
What's the weirdest TJ's item you've ever taken a risk on and ended up loving?
"I am not vegan, however, all the vegan dips and spreads are delicious! A lot of the time I prefer them over the non-vegan. The vegan tzatziki dip, the vegan caramelized onion dip, and the vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto."
Anything you wouldn't try or recommend buying from TJ's?
"There have been a few products I've tried that don't live up to the hype, but they weren't gross, they just weren't my cup of tea. But I believe that at TJ's, for every item that doesn't live up to the hype there are about twenty products that do and even surpass the expectation."
Why do you think TJ's is so great for active and busy people such as yourself?
"I love Trader Joe's — plain and simple. But at the end of the day, I need food that fuels my body and my energy as a Peloton instructor. Trader Joe's makes eating clean, affordable, simple, and fun! For me, it is an experience and one I look forward to week to week." (Up next: What to Buy at Trader Joe's, According to Dietitians)