Trader Joe's must haves?
- gaffes Feb 15, 2002 11:55 AM
I'm going to Trader Joe's on my way home from work today. Today was payday ;) and I want to try some new things. I hardly ever go to TJ's so most of their items are new. I am looking for suggestions.
Please advise. Thanks!
They have the best "instant" garlic mashed potatoes, and their hummus is nearly as good as mine! :) I get the "roasted garlic" hummus as I find the plain variety a little bland for my taste. I also love the little jars of olive tapenade, artichoke pesto & muffelata; very good quality & very cheap. Happy shopping!
Depends on what you like!
Some things I regularly buy at TJ's:
fresh tangerine juice (in season)
nuts, dried fruit and crystallized ginger
chocolate covered cranberries
dark chocolate raisins
Terra chips (my faves are the Red Bliss garlic and parmesan)
Cage free eggs
Milk (no RBST and cheap!)
Schwartenbrocxxx Noir chocolate (77 percent cocoa solids from Belgium for 99 cents/100 gram bar).
Chewable vitamin C (100 500/mg tabs for $4.39)
Frozen white corn
Frozen tuna steaks
Chocolate chips (including my new fave Guittard cappuchino chips)
Vanilla (the Bourbon from Madagascar)
Canned dog food and rawhide bones
Ecologically sensitive laundry and dishwashing detergent
Hmmm ... my name is Ruth, and I'm a Trader Joe's-aholic!
re: Ruth Lafler
HI there! I have one of those observers lurking behind the who is now plucky enough to join in- I have always enjoyed the thoughts that come across this board and hope that I will be able to add to the array-
I have recently proclaimed myself an addict of TJ's Peanut butter filled pretzels- They are nugget sized and have quite a thin crunchy pretzel component with a creamy peanut butter center- the buttery quality of the pretzel totally jives with the peanut flavor- my idea of a perfect movie-viewing treat!
re: Caitlin McGrath
There was no Trader Joe's in D.C. when I first moved here from L.A. five years ago. I used to take an empty suitcase with me when I went home to visit, so I could load up at TJ's. Three years ago, TJ's opened several stores in the greater DC area. O Joy! Definitely improved my quality of life.
I started shopping at Trader Joe's back in the late 60's, at the precursor of TJ's, then called Pronto Market, on National Blvd. in W.L.A., which was a few blocks from my brother's house. Very different in those days, but was the place to go for low cost brie, coffee beans, nuts and wine.
It didn't take long for the people in this area to get into TJ's, but I remember telling people at work about it when the first store opened, and they looked at me like I was a crazy person.
I discovered TJs early on -- their San Rafael shop when it first opened. When my sister Rosie came to visit from Eastern Washington, she was blown away by the place and spent over $100. Now they have them all over the Northwest, I understand. Hope their parking situation is better than the gawdawful Montecito Center parking lot!
One great new item is caramelized onions in a jar. I tried them for the first time last night (sauteed spinach with garlic olive oil, bacon, caramelized onion, and black fig vinegar) and they're really good--I can envision using them in all sorts of sauces or salad dressings.
The meat and fish fresh selection continues to improve--their boneless pork chops are excellent. The Niman ranch ones are even better. The Niman applewood bacon is amazing (it's what fancier cafes around town use on their BLTs). The fresh salmon is also very good for non-fish market, but not cheap.
On the shelves: hot and sweet mustard; manuka honey from New Zealand; "Plumb Magenta" mountain plum jam; and the bags of kettle corn
In the freezer: mochi stuffed with ice cream, especially the green tea and the Kona coffee; also the lemonade concentrate is great
They have the best prices on Valrona chocolate, Feline Pine cat litter, and pecans. Also milk and eggs.
Try the one on Masonic; I usually just get the green tea. I'll let you know next time I see them.
BTW I think TJs will order them for you. Or at least the checkout people always ask if you found what you're looking for...
One more must at TJs: frozen French onion soup from Canada. About $4 or 5 for two single servings, but so good! Pour a little sherry in, put it in the oven for 40 minutes, and you're set.
i love to discover new things at TJ's - my latest is the Aussie Red Licorice Chews (that's not the exact name), which are great. Their own brand of baking chocolate is excellent. The prices on hearts of palm can't be beat. They now carry Strauss yogurt (plain) which I hear is great. We always get a pack of edamame, frozen, which is great for a quick snack. Pirates Booty is my wife's favorite snack. I could go on and on . . .
Jars of Marinated Portabello Mushrooms and Roasted red peppers...Spoon over mixed greens for a great salad!! All it needs is a sprinkle of balsamic, and a handful of the nuts you've selected..You WILL splurge on something from that well-priced nut aisle?!?
- Fresh ovolini or bocconcini mozzarella
- cracked wheat sourdough loaves
- Annie Chun's noodles in black bean sauce
- Santini Olive oil
- Luna and Clif Bars ($15/box)
- fresh tangerine juice
- grilled veggie and chicken burritos (not frozen)
- Italian pizzas - Quattro Formaggio (frozen)
- BBQ-seasoned tortilla chips
- Rosemary & Olive Oil potato chips
- Yukon Gold BBQ chips
- Bordeaux Sauce
- Miso salad dressing - NEW DISCOVERY!
There's lots more... there have been a couple of things I wouldn't necessarily buy again, but nothing's been downright nasty.
Try away! And let us know if YOU discover anything new and special!
The TJ brand of cheetos is excellent. You will never buy Cheetos again.
A new find s their herbal salt scrub for $6.99. Almost as good as Orgins brand for $30.00.
Their Basil and Sundried tomato torta is excellent on bread. On more than one occasion I have finished the whole tub by myself.
TJ's wine selection varies alot but I always have fun shopping for myself or for dinner parties.......
fresh tangerine juice (usually only from Dec-Mar) - positively awesome. I can't imagine how many tangerines it must take to make a 1/2 gallon!
frozen cherry ice pops - large chunks of cherry in every one. I even found a cherry pit in one once!
frozen meat lasagna - only caveat is it's not that great as leftovers, only good when hot out of the oven
ratatouille pizza, pizza with the goat cheese rounds - these are frozen, thin crust pizzas. The ratatouille one is new and is non-dairy. Quite good. The package recommends 8 min. I do mine for 10 for a crisper crust. For the goat cheese one, I take it out at the 8 min. mark and spread the goat cheese out over the pizza and then put it back for another 2 min.
nylon scrubee/sponge combo
mayonnaise - unlike Best Foods and others of that ilk, TJ's mayo actually has flavor
canola oil spray
I live 5 min. from the San Mateo TJ's. Can't you tell? ;-)
1. Pomo tomato sauce--1.99 per carton-best deal anywhere
2. Dolmas in the deli section-4 per pack-very fresh
3. Very good corn chips-unusually thick
4. Pistachio nut meat-incredible deal
5. Par-boiled risotto-wonderful
6. Black Diamond brand Canadian chedder cheese slices-wonderful for cheeseburgers
7.Very good curry chicken sausages in the meat cooler
8. Nice mango-pinapple salsa-jarred
9. Good Bean chips
We get most of our staples at TJ's: cheeses, milk, butter, sour cream, eggs, pasta, tortillas, and flour (and Jody is a fabulous baker, so she goes through a *lot* of flour; they carry King Arthur AP year-round, and King Arthur bread flour during the fall & winter).
In the hooch department, we get triple sec; maybe an Islay single malt (Laphroaig if I'm flush, Bowmore if I'm not); and occasionally a sipping tequila (they sometimes have Chinaco Anejo); most other liquor we buy at Costco. We haven't been too adventurous with the wines, partly because we have another source for house wines (but that's another thread altogether!).
In the frozen aisle, Crinkle Wedges have become a staple for us; they're the best freezer fries I've had.
Also, whenever we go to TJ's, some gnome seems to sneak a bag of Salt & Pepper Kettle Chips into the basket. ;-)
When I have to shop for the backpacking trips I lead every year, I do a lot of it at TJ's: lots of nuts (very good prices, as someone else pointed out), cheeses, pasta, couscous, and little things like Sun-Dried Tomato Splash (sun-dried tomato bits with seasoning & parmesan).
There's a lot more we get there from time to time, but you get the idea...
Wow, what an inspiring question. Not sure if these have been mentioned before, but my favorites include:
-- the honey-wheat pretzel sticks. hardly ever buy them though bc i will literally eat the entire bag when i open them
-- frozen spinach lasagna. by far the tastiest frozen entree i've had, and fairly healthy too
-- the dog cookies and cat cookies (i think this is what they are called, in the plastic tubs). very addictive..one of my good friends literally harasses me about buying them whenever i go
--smoked salmon. it's good quality, and though not cheap, probably a bit less than you'll pay in other grocery stores
-- the tzatziki-like cucumber-yogurt dip is also quite tasty
God I love those whole wheat pretzel sticks too. Perfect salty/sweet combo. I think Trader Joe's is the best place to buy snack foods. The Pirate's Booty (cheddar low fat cheese puffs), the giant corn nuts, TJ's chips all kinds. Snack heaven...
In the freezer section, I really like those potato crinkles and their breaded cod fillets. These aren't the nasty salty, fish stick kind. Really nice pieces of cod and lightly breaded. When I'm super tired and feel like having 'healthy' junk food, I put two in the toaster oven with some crinkles and have "fish n' chips" for dinner.
Also in the snack food vein: Rosencrunch and Guildenpop (really excellent glazed popcorn-nut clusters with lots of nuts).
My roommate is raising her son on the frozen spinach lasagne, serving is at least once a week since he was old enough to chew it. He's going on ten now ... she's probably served him 500 of them.
I absolutely love TJ's brand organic milk -- excellent flavor. European-style butter half the price it is anywhere else. Cage-free eggs. Frozen calzones. Valhrona chocolate for a great price. Turkey pastrami -- yum AND less fat (in fact, I like it better than regular greasy pastrami)! Soft molasses cookies in the bakery section. REAL almond extract (not imitation). Some decent cat food, too.
The only chowhounds I know who don't like Trader Joe's are the 2 Chowpussies....I brought home TJ's catfood, and they looked at me like, "What could you possibly be thinking here, where's the REAL food!!" So, tho I swear by TJ's, various felines don't agree..Of course, in true TJ's style, they refunded my money for the offending chow!! :)
My TJ faves:
- Snackmaster turkey jerkey (teriyaki flavor)- a great low-fat snack
- dried fruit -- especially pears (much cheaper than anywhere else)
- frozen chicken shu mai
- frozen gyoza
- Parducci Pinot Noir
- Cline Zinfandel and Petite Syrah
What I normally get (not much, considering I don't generally buy things that won't keep in my dorm room):
- six pack of Pompelmo (amazing Italian grapefruit soda)
- nonfat cat cookies, comes in plastic tubs...comes in chocolate and gingery/vanilla flavors. Both are good...and cheap!
- big 2 gallon unfiltered Apple Juice...a longtime favorite in my family
- pink lemonade
- grapefruit juice (goes great with half tonic water, half grapefruit juice)
- small thing of chocolate covered espresso beans...good for munching late at night...:)
However, I will say that I've never tried anything at TJ's that I didn't like...I've grown up on it.
re: Cyrus J. Farivar
Pompelmo is probably the best soda I've ever had, even better than cassis (Dutch blackcurrant soda). You can tell I like it, because I just bought a six-pack from you ten minutes ago. I'm also a big fan of Lemon Refresher, which is a sour bubbly lemonade made by Prince Charles's charity, and it's Good Stuff (TM). I also like Molasses Chews, which are chewy molasses cookies. Aidell's sausages are pretty good, too. I also like the $5.99 D'Aquino Chianti, surprisingly good for the price. Rio Red Grapefruit juice is good if you want it sweet, and the plain grapefruit juice is good if you don't; Dynamo is a great breakfas juice, tasty and vitaminy. If you have little kids (I know you don't, Cyrus, now I'm addressing the anonymous CH reader), give them Sir Strawberry. That was the stuff back in first grade. Now, it's too sweet for my taste, but kids love it. TJ's has a nice Spanish olive oil (I like Spanish oils) that comes in a tall, cylindrical bottle, and is also pretty cheap. They also have these instant Indian dishes under the label Tasty Bite (which might ring a bell to readers of John Mortimer's Rumpole books, although that one is spelled Tastee Bite), which are actually very, um, tasty. They have a variety of dishes, and they're all good. You drop a packet in boiling water for a few minutes, and then eat it with rice or whatever. In the chip aisle, they've got more goodness. I especially like the chips that say something like Olive Oil Potato Chips on the bag. The rosemary flavor is especially good. Also, Terra Chips makes some blue potato chips that are very nice. In the freezer, the key lime and pumpkin pies are very nice, and I like the barbecue chicken pizza, too. I'm sure some more things will occur to me later. Really, the whole store is great.
I get fresh Empire kosher chicken (it's been voted the best chicken by the N.Y. Times, and Cooks Illustrated, beating out all the free-range brands) It's a little more expensive, (although a better savings at TJ's than Andronicos where I used to buy it!) I like the imported Italian pizza in frozen food (quatro fromaggio and another, maybe mushroom(?) They are pre-baked in a wood-fired oven...very good indeed (and yes I was born in N.Y.!) The frozen French Onion Soup is terrific. And the pre-breaded eggplant slices are great for makng a quick eggplant parmagiana ..add your favorite sauce and cheese and you're done! I also buy the frozen cioppino..lots' of shellfish. In the refrigerator section (cheese) I get Rice pudding (New York Style) very very creamy, and a Belgian Chocolate- pudding. I also wind up here with a tarmosalata(sp) creamy Greek dip with caviar.This thread has done it! I'm going tomorrow! I'll probably see most of you there. I now have so many new things to try. Thanks for the thread, and for all your input!
They have taramosalata? I didn't know that! I love that stuff. The only place I knew to get it was Bay Cities in Santa Monica. I have half a jar that I brought up last time I was home, but when that runs out, I'll grab some from TJ's. It's too bad it's in Emeryville, though. They should open one in that empty lot on Telegraph and Dwight.
re: David Boyk
I love taramosalata, too. In the absence of a good deli version, and a recipe I can use, I've been buying a bottled version by Krinos. Not bad, but it could use more tarama, IMO. I found it at Trag's and at Draeger's, both in San Mateo. If memory serves, it was $2.99 at Trag's and $4-something at Draeger's for the same bottle. Now I've got to hunt down TJ's taramosalata.
It is really easy to make outstanding taramasalata with that jar of tarama you bought. Make a cup of bread crumbs in your food processor. If I don't have any stale bread I just toast some a little bit and then process it. Empty the bowl and then process one onion. Now put the crumbs back, and add a large heaping spoonful of tarama. Add the juice of 3 or 4 limes. (Lemon is traditional but I like the way the lime tastes better). Now with the processor running pour olive oil in a slow stream. Keep doing this until you reach the right consistency for dipping and spreading. It will take at least 2 cups of olive oil. I often use 1 cup of wonderful oil and then supermarket oil for the rest. It may get too thick--keep adding oil until it thins again. You can also add as much lime juice as you like. My preference is for lots of lime and I usually end up adding another 1/3 cup. You can also adjust the tarama if you like a stronger tarama taste. Just remember that the tarama is eggs--it's the eggs and oil together that thickens.
(Of course, now that you know how it's made you'll feel guilty if you eat a lot!)
I have had much success with serving this for parties: hollow out a round loaf of bread, fill with the taramasalata and serve with pita bread.
They were about to close, so I didn't ask anyone about it. In my experience, the only person to ask is the cashier, and by then it is too late to get it. Since I'm not even sure what this product is, who makes it, or what it looks like, I didn't feel comfortable asking for it.
So, other than glass jars, what does the container/label look like and whereabouts in the 8th & Brannan store would I find it?
I'm almost afraid to mention anything I like from TJ's because over the years they've dropped almost every one of my faves!
We try to buy the organic version of any product and TJ's seems to run hot and cold on that.
Regular shopping basket includes: maple syrup (best prices by far for nonorganic); egg substitute; reduced-fat Havarti, Munster, various cheddars, and Gouda; Dijon mustard, though they changed the formula a few years ago and it's a bit more acidic than before; organic trail mix and organic soy nut trail mix; baked organic blue corn chips; frozen organic supersweet corn (to put in cornbreads in winter); the rarely available but nice and tart lemon drops that come in off-white packages that hang at cashier stations; organic cherry tomatoes; occasionally the packaged artichokes, which vary a lot in quality and are generally less good but a bit less expensive than Cal-Mart's, which are excellent; organic tofu; those great recyclable tooth brushes (which come with a postage-paid bag!); and two new products I haven't tried yet--org. red. fat whipped cream cheese and org.low-fat cottage cheese.
Rainbow's canned org. tomatoes are almost always a better buy than TJ's as are most of their bulk liquid and dry items.
Can't remember if anyone mentioned this, but if you don't care about organics, several of King Arthur's flours are almost always available, including its unique white whole wheat.
I finally made it to a TJ's for the Very First Time only last week, and *partially* restrained myself from throwing everything I saw into the cart. So far, I can recommend the shrimp gyoza AND the vegetable ones, the Pirate's Booty, and the Sharks cheese crackers (imagine Pepperidge Farm Goldfish with a bit of spiciness to them!) I'm still looking forward to the frozen tamales and enchiladas and the can'd salmon chowder. Plus, I fully expect to come upon a surprise or two in my freezer or cabinets in the coming weeks...I was in a swoon and not really responsible for my actions...
Of all the tasty bite entrees bombay potatoes is the one to go with. Chickpeas and potatoes in spicy curry sauce even my toddler gobbles it up.
Also reccomend spicy black bean dip for $1.50 you can't go wrong.
and chocolate covered raisins....
A couple of our favorites are the Reduced Fat Creamy Cilantro salad dressing (usually in produce section), the Riso Bello risottos - Quattro Formaggio and Truffle/Porcini. These are incredible. Pirates Booty! Terra Salt and Vinegar potato chips. Cat Cookies! Straus' yogurt. Best prices on Kashi cereals - Good Friends at about half the price of regular grocery stores. Mango Mochi!!! Lots more... Oh, Campari at about $2.50 less than other stores.
They have sour cherries (hard to find) in their dried fruit section and a great price on Ame (get the white) a very nice, dry non -alcoholic beverage. Good selection of nut meats at good prices. I can't wait to try some new things on my next trip to TJ - I've got a long list from all the postings.
Some TJ items that we love:
--cornbread mix (the dried corn bits take it over the top)
--chicken gyoza in the frozen food section
--frozen hash brown potato patties
--Pomi marinara sauce at $1.99 ($2.99 elsewhere)
--Cabot cheddar -- lots of great cheese bargains!
--dried pluots -- haven't seen them anywhere else (all the dried fruit there is excellent quality and a bargain)
--half sour pickles (in the refrigerator section)
--muffaletta olive mix
--Double Rainbow ultra chocolate ice cream
--mushroom turnovers (frozen food section)
--really good eggs (each one is stamped with a date)
--King Arthur flour at really good prices
--canned corn (sweeter than any other canned corn I've tried)
--Rumford baking powder
--dark maple syrup
--Niman Ranch bacon
--both hot and cold smoked salmon
the bloom has long been off the rose- TJ's has been hiking prices steadily, eliminating "good value" items, changing venders for some items resulting in that happy combination of lower quality and higher prices... They are no different than the "evil axis" [Safeway, Albertson, Cala/Ralph]. Last summer a long time staple of mine- "Mediterreanian Bread" went from 9for.89 to 6 for 1.09... they seem determined[apparently with success] to target only those too much disposable income and not sense to ask for good value....
While I still shop at Trader's and find some bargains[ esp.all the "energy-health" bars] I agree w/PO that the price/value of many products has decreased sharply over the last year or so and no longer trust the store...It seems that more and more of their shelf space is devoted to those who don't cook[just "warm'] and don't care about value....
I've seen some prices go up, while some haven't. Virtually everything I see there, except for some of the produce, is less expensive than (or, at worst, the same price as) equivalent products elsewhere; and there are quite a few products that have no equivalents elsewhere. Stay away from TJ's if you like; that's one more parking space in the lot. ;-)
Lets not forget breakfast. TJ's soy-oat flakes are good and healthy. The prices on English Muffins and Crumpets can't be beat. Their cinnamon swirl bread makes the best toast. Their bottled pear juice is quite tasty.
One gripe - find something you love and they are apt to dissapear it for changing-fashion's sake. They once had a whole-wheat baking mix that made the best pancakes --just add buttermilk and egg. I also loved an apricot-peach flavored drink mix that came and went. Also, I haven't seen Romesco sauce lately.
A few years ago they had a bottled garlic that was amazing - peeled but not crushed & not even a hint of bitterness unlike the crappy crushed garlic they now sell.
Anyway, I spoke to the manager and he said they had discontinued it. So I called corporate headquarters to confirm that it had been discontinued & try to find out if they would tell me who did sell it. The person at TJ HQ explained that they are very experimental in their purchasing policy and will give just about anything a try but if it doesn't sell really well almost immediately they move on to the next "cool" thing that customers might love. They do this because their square footage is small so they can't afford to carry stuff that isn't really popular. Also, there are tons of speciality foods out there and they want to give people variety.
Its a great policy unless you fall in love with something that doesn't make the cut. BTW, I never found that garlic again at TJ or anywhere else. Sad.
re: Rochelle McCune
TJ's had cranberry popsicles for about a year a few years back ... they were sour and true cranberry taste. I was addicted. But the Trader Joe's discontinuation policy got to them too and they went the way of your bottled garlic ... In spite of myself, I check for those popsicles every time I go there!
Yeah, they do that. long ago they had a frozen spinach raviolini with a packet of porcini marinara sauce that was really good and very fast. They disappeared and they told me their supplier had gone out of business and they were looking for another. I kept asking. Then, after more than a year, they told me they were discontinued because they didn't sell enough. Of course they didn't sell many when they didn't have any!
Plenty of comments so far on the foods, so I'll focus on the booze :)
Hard to go wrong in the beer aisle with Chimay, Spaten, and Grolsch (and Ommegang, when they have it). Prices on the harder stuff (Grand Marnier, Bailey's, Ketel One, Sauza, Chambord, Lagavulin) are generally better than virtually anywhere else.
And keep an eye on the wine section for good buys on local wines (and the occasional unbelievable find, like Ridge for $7.99 a bottle [Capitola store a few years back])
I enjoyed the summary discussion in ChowNews, carried a print-out of it with me on my most recent TJ sortie, and followed up on some of the suggestions. Thanks. One of my favorite "only at TJ's" products is pumpkin butter, shelved in the jam and jelly section. Despite the name it's low calorie. But calorie, shmalorie, what matters is the taste, which is yummy; my breakfast spread of choice. TJ's also carries brand-name products for MUCH less than you'd pay at a supermarket-- e.g. the "Better Than Bouillon" soup bases (including a delicious new turkey broth) and Chavrie goat cheese. And since I'm into whole-grain bread for toast these days, I was pleased to find their sprouted soy crunch bread at a lower price than, and as good as, the Alvarado Bakery version at Berkeley Bowl.
--Joanne Lafler, M.O.R. (Mother of Ruth)