What Are Trader Joe’s Must-Haves?

I’ve been to Trader Joe’s twice in my life, and I know that many people adore it and consider it a huge part of their daily existence. However, the two times I visited it, I found myself unprepared for what I was going to encounter there and barely bought anything. I just wandered around completely lost.

Now I am going to undertake my third visit to the store and I’d like it to be more successful. Could those of you who like the store and go there regularly tell me what it is that you buy there? What are the Trader Joe must-haves?

I know this sounds like a stupid request but I don’t want to miss this opportunity finally to benefit from what everybody says is a fantastic store.

39 thoughts on “What Are Trader Joe’s Must-Haves?

  1. snapea crisps ๐Ÿ™‚ uhm puffin or kashi cereal, pirates booty, bargain wines, great frozen dinners, great speacialty lunch meats like applesmoked ham. yum

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  2. For someone who makes everything from scratch? ๐Ÿ™‚ Part of why I love it is because I don’t have time or inclination to do that. However you will still find great deals on staples such as nuts, grains, eggs, yogurt, cheese, wine. I don’t like buying meat there, I always go to a butcher counter for meat, but I do love the frozen veggie burgers (Californis something) TJ’s have. Also the freeze-dried strawberries are addictive.

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      1. Oh it’s great, but I only get some vegetables and no fresh meats there. But the staples I mentioned are very useful, and much more affordable than most grocery stores, and there are some good deals on fruits and vegetables. I just don’t like the pre-packaging on many of the fresh vegetables. I do buy the green onions and salad greens. I also get the stir fry mix (fresh, not frozen) when they have the onion/mushroom/asparagus combo, and several of the pre-made salads (I practically live on those). I don’t buy any of the frozen meals so I am no expert there.

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  3. They have better prices (and excellent quality) on cheese, wine, and coffee, than any store I know of! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Yes, I forgot coffee, I have started buying it there and it is a great deal. Looking forward to your review of the store, Clarissa!

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        1. Try the Pinon Coffee. I also agree with the wine and cheese (try Port Salut or St. Andre triple cream) recommendations (and chocolate, but I think I remember you saying you didn’t like it).

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  4. I second (third?) the cheese – this is what I buy most regularly from Trader Joes (I love cheese!). I don’t really like TJ fruit and veggies much, except they usually get really good fresh figs when they’re in season (which go really well with creamy cheese…).

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  5. I adore their frozen veggies. They have Organic Foursome (corn, peas, green beans, carrots) that are really easy to boil and add to any pasta salad. They also have Beans so Green, which is green beans with asparagus florets (I think) in a light garlic sauce, and all you have to do is heat it up. YUM.

    I love their green and white iced tea in a jug, their turkey hot dogs, their version of spaghetti o’s, their baked beans, and I used to eat their pomegranate & flake cereal (when I used to eat sugar). I buy their guacamole (in a plastic envelope) and freeze it. I also love their individual teeny ice cube trays with smooshed garlic in them. You keep them frozen until you want to use them, and each little cube is a clove of garlic. So easy! I spread that directly on bread to toast for garlic bread. They have good sugar snap peas and veggie trays. They always have some weird snacks, but don’t get hooked – they switch things out a lot!

    Those are my mainstays. I used to eat their teensy pizzas until I realized they were basically made of fat. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And they have a frozen bag meal called Garlic Chicken that is a great heat and serve deal. If you get that, be sure to chop up the veggies a little smaller, and it’ll cook better. Yes, I like Trader Joe’s. Have fun!

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    1. ‘I also love their individual teeny ice cube trays with smooshed garlic in them. You keep them frozen until you want to use them, and each little cube is a clove of garlic. So easy! I spread that directly on bread to toast for garlic bread.”

      -How fascinating! Thank you for explaining how this works because I would have never guessed what one could do with garlic ice cube trays.

      I’m very happy I started this thread because now I will be prepared for this store. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. They actually call the product “crushed garlic”, and it’s made by a company called Dorot. (I had to look in my freezer.) Kind of looks like legos, because the little tray is bright red.

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    2. Sorry, but frozen Organic Foursome! Now that is some marketing!

      Veggies grown organically taste so much better than ones doused in chemicals, to freeze them just destroys that. Have you tried buying the same veggies unfrozen and making your own?

      I don’t think you could actually do that. I don’t see where they could grow this stuff so that corn, peas, green beans and carrots were all in season at the same time?

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      1. For me, eating healthy has been a slow transition, and one of the things I’ve been working on is eating more veggies. My instructor at my morning workout class has said that these days, the flash frozen foods actually contain more nutrients than the canned foods. And you’re probably right that you couldn’t get all of those things in season at the same time. You could come close: I think carrots, green beans, and corn are all good crops at the end of the summer. But peas are generally planted much earlier and done much earlier. Your location may vary, and I’m in Washington State, so we don’t have fresh local veggies all year round.

        I’m sure there are healthier options. This is what works for me right now.

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        1. I have the same problem with peas. I love them but they are not the same coming from a can. The season for peas is very short and even then they are hard to find in my area. So I don’t have a problem choosing frozen ones instead. They are definitely better than the canned variety.

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          1. You guys really need to grow some veggies of your own!
            If you have as little as 1 square meter of space you can be quite productive. There is a book called One Magic Square that makes it so even a beginner can be successful.

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              1. Well Cacti need very specific growing conditions. So you can both absolve yourselves of any guilt. Most veggies are more tolerant to varying conditions and I really encourage you to have a go.

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  6. Mostly I get the basics there. Eggs, bread, potatoes, milk and cheese are all cheaper (and better!) at my local Trader Joe’s than my local Safeway. I wouldn’t recommend most of the meat, as it is more expensive, but the all-natural chicken wings and legs are reasonably priced. I eat a lot of them. If you’re feeling lazy, most of their frozen meals are quite good (I like the sweet and sour chicken, it’s got that perfect sweet vaguely-Asian-inspired taste that we all know and love).

    The frozen fruits and vegetables are great. The frozen green beans taste like actual green beans when prepared right and the frozen sliced bell peppers are a godsend for making stir-fry, both for the convenience and the price. The frozen berries aren’t always wonderful on their own, but they’re more than adequate in smoothies or anything cooked.

    Unfortunately for me, the store plays to my vices: Charles Shaw wine and Simpler Times beer are good enough that I’d serve them to guests despite their low price tags, in fact they’re superior to many more-expensive beers and wines I’ve purchased elsewhere.. The half-kilo “Pound Plus” bars of chocolate are some of the best chocolate I’ve found at any price and the natural thing to buy if you ever want to make a chocolate-based dessert. Their selection of spirits is also great: Vodka of the Gods is no Grey Goose, but it’s easily as good as Smirnoff for about half the price; they’re also the only place other than BevMo that I’ve been able to find Bulleit Bourbon and not had to pay an arm and a leg for it.

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  7. Lucky you. I used to live close to one, but they are not in the state where I reside now. I used to enjoy the assortment of cheeses and wine. I cook from scratch too. Nuts are nice too as are some of the dried fruits. Last time (when we found one out-of-state) we got some cereal with maple in it and I loved that. I do love real maple syrup. We also stocked up on the inexpensive wine. Be adventuresome!

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      1. Yes, it is such a wonderful sweetner and I use it in recipes. I really love the flavor. I have a dear friend who brings me some as they collect the sap, etc. It is labor intensive making it. I love maple candies too and maple sugar to bake with.

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  8. TJ’s is our “staples” place–we do most of our shopping there, stuff folks have already mentioned like yogurt and dairy and juice and stuff. Coffee. Bread. Tortillas. Cheese. Chocolate. So pretty much what everyone else already said.

    We have a couple of favorites, though (and I normally am a cook from scratch person, these are just good…)–they have a frozen mushroom risotto that’s surprisingly good–I usually saute a half pound of sliced mushrooms and maybe an onion first and then add the package, and it’s a really nice dinner. They also have a frozen naan bread that heats up in like 2-3 minutes that is quite lovely…

    Basically, that’s our store. There’s very little we need that we can’t get there–the exception, as others have noted, are that we prefer to get our produce elsewhere. But they even have organic grass-fed beef at a reasonable price, and that’s not easy to find.

    But they are Satan. They have this long aisle with frozen veggies in the case…and all the chocolate right above it, at eye level. That’s just…wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. There you go, focusing on what you should buy to satisfy that missing “part” of your life that you cannot put your finger on. I think you should take the money you are planning to spend at Trader Joe’s and take a sabattical to search for some spiritual truth into your life…

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  10. Trader Joe’s frozen corn (especially the white frozen corn), peas and French green beans are much better than the equivalents at any supermarket around here; their bread is excellent; we are very fond of their bacon. Their jarred Morello cherries are excellent for cherry pie, turnovers or cobbler, and also very good right from the jar with yogurt. Their cheese selection is not as good as a proper cheese store, but better than the regular supermarket. They have a frozen dessert based on coconut milk rather than dairy that we may be trying here soon – in general, their frozen desserts are quite good. I do buy such staples as butter, coffee and eggs there, as their prices are good, and sometimes I get a can of kippered herring as a treat for myself.

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