Trader Joes has lots of tasty treats. Sometimes it feels like a specialty supermarket for stoners who have the munchies.
I don't know if this is true of other stores but the San Francisco store has horrible turnaround on its stock. Everything perishable expires before its due date, from milk to salsa to pita bread to sliced mushrooms. I really can't understand it. They do such volume, the check-out lines are frequently intimidating in length, and the shelves can be near bare on a Friday evening. So who knows the answer to this riddle...
Oh, and their website has no comment section, so here I am ranting about it on this website. Thanks for enduring my annoyance.
Chocolate truffles .. bar none.. a must try.
The new blueberry estate juice is a bit of a dissapointment .. simply tastes like grape juice.
Orange chicken in frozen... yummy
New tempura shrimp in frozen.. yummy
Last night.. cooked two fillets of their frozen swordfish and was very pleased with them. .. and their price 5.99 per pound.
(i prepared them with a orange vinnegrette, and pumpkin seed cilantro pesto).. served with wasabi mashed potatos, and the mixed frozen haricots also from trader joes.
re: Ruth Lafler
re: Ruth Lafler
Just to clarify, I meant what was I doing buying turkey to eat this week when I'm going to be doing the whole Thanksgiving turkey thing next week. ((gg))
Maybe that's why they had it in stock, though -- they so rarely have it at my local store that I always buy it when I see it.
What a brilliant idea! I've never cared much for the potstickers because I don't think the wrappers heat up well, but putting them in soup sounds fabulous (and easy!).
While we're in the frozen veggie aisle, these days I always have some of their frozen artichoke hearts in my freezer. And this time of year, you can save yourself both time and money with the frozen chestnuts.
Just a related question -- (by the way their egglplant parm in filo -the purple package- is quite the meal for $5)--
Does anyone know of a Trader Joe's in anything that resembles an inner-city neighborhood?
Don't you think their clientele would want them to take a shot at it?
In San Francisco, our third T.J.'s has recently opened on the ground floor of newly reconstructed "Public Housing Project"...they also went out of the way to hire people from this complex...It is however, not far away from higher rent districts such as Russian and Telegraph Hillsand Fisherman's Wharf (North Beach and China Town) from which it also draws clientele.
re: ChowFun (derek)
I talked to them last weekend and they said they had hired eight from the complex so far. Trader Joe's business model is to avoid high-rent neighborhoods generally so as to retain profitability at each location while keeping prices low, and I believe that they got a favorable deal for locating there (as will the other enterprises opening there). It's a good fit, especially since TJ's is known for having an extraordinarily good compensation package.
re: Gary Soup
Said billionaire is also the 3rd richest man in the world behind Bill G, according to the annual Forbes list. I believe he also owns the largest, or one of the largest, grocery chains in Germany.
As to their avoiding high rent neighborhoods, they surely do not here in So. California, as they are in as many of them as they can be, given the rent pro-forma of volume vs. rent ratio. If the store projects high volume, they will do what it takes to make the deal, within reason. With their credit standing, they can get VERY favorable leases as there is a 100% guarantee for the landlord of collecting the rent and on time, something many competitors wish they could say.
I love the pink grapefruit preserves in my plain Total as well, although I usually find it needs just a drop of honey to counteract the bitterness, at least when combined with non-fat yogurt (which doesn't have the natural sweetness of full-fat). After trying several of their preserves, I also really liked the organic reduced sugar apricot preserves (better than the other two apricot spread/preserves they carry) in my yogurt (especially the full-fat -- as a friend I turned onto this combo said, the others combos he tried were good, but this was "something special").
Wow! Who-da thought there were so many different approaches to TJ's? After reading EVERY post, I amazingly discovered that while I heartily second many of the suggestions, I have a few things I buy that were not already posted:
- Baumkuchen - OMG - delicious little morsels of rum drenched cake covered with dark (or milk if you prefer) chocolate. Surprisingly not too many calories for the exquisite confection rush
- Tangerine Juice - It's already been mentioned, but this stuff makes incredible Mimosas! Oh yeah, and has Vit. C
- Akbar W. W. crackers - hi fiber, delicious and low price - $0.99
- Kalamata Olives in jars
- Brown, Jasmine Rice
- Dried Fruits & Nuts - indispensable at this time of year - esp. good prices & quality on pitachios, macadamias, apricots & cranberries
- Frozen Mango Cubes - lovely & cheap
- Organic Dk. Chocolate, Pecan & Raisin bars - OMG
- Sugar or Salt Body Scrubs
- Citrus Body Wash (they replaced Shikai with house brand - still great stuff)
- Apricot-Mango or Black Cherry Fat Free Yogurt
- Soy Chorizo Potato Taquitos
- Seasoned Tofu (still expensive, but not as bad as elsewhere - it's tofu for crying out loud!)
- Baking Powder
- Evaporated Cane Juice - a great sweetener with a little less guilt
- Pearl tomatoes - I know, I know, Farmer's Markets, etc. but sometimes you just gotta throw a salad together
Triple-ginger gingersnaps (these are *so* freakin' good!)
Total Greek yogurt (when they have it)
Tri-tip roasts (which can be hard to find on the East coast)
Kirk's Castile bath soap
TJ's ginger granola (great in vanilla yogurt)
Nuts and trail mixes
Sumatra coffee beans, in a pinch
Roasted frozen corn
One-pound plus chocolate bars
I know there's more, but...
Balance bars (cheaper than the grocery store)
Annie's Naturals White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Tasty Bite Indian meals (I like the Peas & Paneer)
Maryland Crab Cakes (frozen) which are awesome with TJ's Wasabi Mayonaise
Bottled water (very cheap!)
I'm going to foucs on TJ brand things that you can't get elsewhere.
I love TJ's house brand lowfat cottage cheese. I love it. It is the best cottage cheese ever.
Their packaged, already washed broccoli and cauliflower are great if you are lazy about cleaning vegetables. Last a while.
Whole wheat couscous! I don't know what this stuff is, but it has a much more interesting flavor than normal couscous and a ton more fiber.
The red pepper-tomato soup is really good. I had a dinner party disaster once where my homemade tomato soup tasted like nothing (damn $4/lb tomatoes at the Ferry Plaza) and served the TJ's boxed soup instead. Got lots of compliments :)
I like their canned tuna. Better than most grocery store brands.
For really lazy, I don't want to cook days, their frozen chicken teriyaki, enchiladas, pizzas, and french onion soup are pretty good. Not fabulous, acceptable when you just need food.
chicken and pork gyoza (potstickers)
large frozen uncooked shrimp
frozen red, green and yellow pepper strips
Pomi marinara sauce (in the box)
Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes
refrigerated full sour kosher pickles --they also sell half sours (made by Strub's in Canada)
refrigerated rice pudding
corn chips (the thick, little ones)
cabot cheddar and other good buys on cheese
butter (best price around for both salted and unsalted)
milk and half and half
eggs (great prices and good quality)
greens (chard mix, greens mix, spinach in packages in the fresh produce area)
sliced or whole cremini mushrooms
frozen hash brown potato patties
frozen peas, corn, blueberries
dried fruit and nuts -- the best and freshest around
honey roasted peanuts -- fantastic!
re: Nancy Berry
I love those dried Montmorency cherries. Great in oatmeal cookies, or eating out of hand. I put them on my corn flakes.
I just tried the dried Rainier cherries and was disappointed. They taste sugary with no discernable cherry flavor.
The dried dark bing cherries are pretty good.
Most prepared and/or frozen foods are "icky" IMHO if you're a good cook (with time and desire) or eat out a lot in good places. But, there are a few exceptions. Same with their TJ produce, with a few exceptions.
I think TJ should also quip the Carl's Jr. ad that states paraphrased, "without us, some guys [non-cooks] would starve." Poor guys!
Their TJ brand nuts and dried fruit section is good. If you like coconut, I think you will like the coconut cashews. A few other posters hit the good stuff, too. Ginger lemon cookies for one.
You're not a spoiler.
re: kc girl
Im considered a good cook, but dont eat out THAT often. I hate to admit it but I went to Bertuccis yesterday, bypassing the new Grimaldi's, with my son. As always, its a matter of opinion. I pretty like much of TJ frozen products, but tried once and havent gotten again the frozen Paella and the (Impretty sure Crab) canned Bisque. The refrigerated Lobster Bisque was ok. I do take shortcuts sometimes :-) I used to get their dressings but have been making my own. I also started doing a cranberry/walnut salad myself. So.... and its my kids that are hooked on the PB pretzels but they are good. I like the chocolate Cat cookies, and the dunkers. Oh well, so far those are the two things that I DIDNT like. You cant beat the prices on Dairy/nuts. See I responded too early the first time, and Im sure more will come to mind, meanwhile it reminds me its time to take another trip. My oldest kid went once and came home with the dried Wasabi peas et. al.
ooooh, yes. The wasabi peas are good. My Keith likes to eat dried peas (produce section in many grocery stores). I saw the wasabi peas at TJ and bought some for him. We both like them. Except, I noticed my tongue going numb after a few mouthfuls.
I put them in a pasta salad for the crunch with smoked salmon, fresh red peppers, and a few other ingredients. It was great, but you have to eat the salad right away. They mush up fairly quickly with moisture.
Garlic herb pizza dough (the other doughs are great too and only $.99)
Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
Beef Knuckles for Dogs
Frozen Mandarin Chicken
All the hummus varieties
Cornmeal Rye bread (a find if you live in certain parts of CA, not such a find if you live back east)
The Indian dinners that cook in minutes
Pound Plus Chocolate bars
IMHO If you are on a tight budget, you can't go wrong if you buy the TJ equivalent of the things you ordinarily buy in grocery stores. If you entertain on a tight budget you can afford to indulge your guests without having to mortgage the house! I stock up on the wine and dairy prior to dinner parties because it seems my friends go through a lot of wine, butter and half and half.
I like the Doro brand frozen cubes of crushed garlic. Incredible freshness, better than a clove sometimes with more of a bite. Each cube is one clove.
Can find crumpets there and not elsewhere.
Fat free half and half.
Frozen gnocchi (in the gray bag, only) for a fix. Homemade is better. No other commercial brand is even edible.
Cubed butternut squash (for incredible price).
Bagged baby spinach.
Bagged lettuce varieties.
Plugra butter for a great price.
Cafe twists (regular and maple flavors).
Parmesan toasts for a great price.
Bruchetta spread - the one with the black cap.
More, I'm sure.
I adore TJ's and also go at least once a week, more if my husband runs out of "fizzy water." In addition to what others have said, I buy:
Crystal Geyser 1.25 liter carbonated flavored waters (fizzy waters - $.85 each)
regular water- $.35/bottle for sport top 26 oz bottles
frozen berry mix - great in plain yogurt or in their hot cereal
5 min hot cereal mix - $1.79 or so - healthy & yummy
eggbeaters (different brand) - way cheap
better n peanut butter - very thick but low in fat
muir glen canned whole tomatoes - cheap
la tortilla factory low fat tortillas
frozen asparagus & red/orange bell peppers (super cheap)
morningstar farms sausage
dr praeger's fake burgers
frozen sockeye salmon
frozen shrimp stir fry
frozen stir fry veggies
fresh stir fry veggies
better than bouillion (love this, esp for steaming veggies)
frozen chicken breasts
fat free black bean dip
fat free refried black & pinto beans
regular canned beans
whole wheat pasta for cheap & good
jarred minced garlic
hot & spicy mustard
laughing cow cheese
tj's brand chicken sausages
tj's brand veggie corn dogs
I really love the customer service there, too. Friendly workers, happy to take returns, gleefully throw free stuff in, nice food samples too. They pay their workers decently, I think, though sadly they aren't union.
The union comments is interesting-- the whole concept of labor unions is to ensure that their workforce is being treated/compensated fairly. Trader Joe's seems to operate their business a great deal more honorably than the unionized supermarkets (and they have happier employees for it) giving generous wages, healthcare and retirement contributions... it would seem that unionizing TJ's would take their employees a step backwards.
Here are my 10 favorite items at TJs in Westfield NJ:
- Joe O's (like Cheerios but much cheaper)
- chocolate covered dried cherries
- orange-scented liquid dish soap
- chewable Vitamin C tablets - grapefruit flavor, very tart
- really delicious raisins (jumbo goldens and organic thompsons)
- Armenian style string cheese with nigella seeds
- 'Tasty Bite' bengal lentils - heat and serve pouch
- organic crunchy peanut butter
- basmati rice
- canned beans
Thanks for the post. I'll make my shopping list right now for later today:
chicken breakfast sausage
organic butter (TJ brand is good for me)
pellegrino orange soda
chicken sicilian sausage
raw cane sugar
irish kerrygold cheese
organic wheat bread
I stay away from the produce except for the hothouse cukes, small potatoes, bananas, and sometimes berries.
Oh and I am partial to the oatmeal vegan cookies
We shop there at least once a week, we were just there last night after a Costco run for our large family. I enjoy:
The Sonoma Sparkler Sparkling Pear Juice
San Pelligrino by the case
Chocolate Covered cherries
Hazelnut filled candy seashells
Goat cheese to put in salads
Garlic chicken enchiladas
Gnocchi in gargonzola sauce
All of their pasta noodles, especially the spinach fettucine and the gnocchi
The lavender lotion
Of course, all the great wines, DH buys the Charles Shaw Shiraz by the case for $24!!!
Also, the pumpkin flavored Double Rainbow ice cream.
I didn't care for their key lime pie, it was rather tart for my liking and I returned it for a cheesecake that my DS took up to our condo to enjoy with homemade strawberry sauce. TJ's is just a great place to shop, it's never a chore, I enjoy it every time. ***kim***
In addition to a lot of what's already been said:
Dairy, dairy, dairy.
I like the convenience of their precut butternut squash bags.
Frozen Wild Mushroom Medley
Organic Jams (Blueberry, Blackberry)
Milton's Wheat Bread (the "lo carb" one)
Trader Jose's Mild Salsa
Cheese- particularly the soy cheese blend
Frozen Eggplant Parmesan
McCann's Irish Oatmeal
Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks
Chocolate Truffles coated in cocoa... mouth waters upon the thought of these...
South Shore Suzy below nailed it: the frozen French onion soup. So convenient and tasty. The best price in the world on wild rice. Amazingly low prices on Annie Chung and Thai Kitchen dry soup bowls. The pizzas imported from Italy are among the best frozen pizzas I've had. But, as noted below, they do get you hooked and then discontinue: witness the frozen Muscovy duck breasts at almost give-away prices, now gone.
There was a new prepared packet of Yellow Fin Tuna in Red Curry sauce, about the size of an Indian Tasty Bites pack, but TJ's brand....$1.39 or so....Wonderful! Big ragged flakes of tuna with some veggies cooked in a hot, and I mean hot curry sauce...Surprised it was so spicy, thinking they would have dumbed it down...A great lunch for 240 calories......
I originally found it on one of those "new product" end caps, but yesterday, it was next to the Thai instant noodles,Tasty Bites Indian food packets, and other prepared Asian food...I happened to be in a smaller TJ's, not my usual, but this positioning seemed to be in line with their norm...I *had* to get more, the stuff was great!
I bought mine on the West Coast, so unlike some products it's available in both distribution zones. I also found it in a "new products" display, or rather, I was directed there (after not finding it in the most logical places) by a crewmember I asked. Remember, TJ's folks are usually happy to help, and if they don't stock it, they often will if you request it.
I usually stock up my pantry at TJ's. My favorites:
- Nirvana Vegetable Patties
- Individually quick frozen vegetables, especially sugar snap peas and organic spinach. Much better quality than the supermarket -- can pass for fresh after cooking.
- Wheat Thins (TJ's knockoff - forget what they're called)
- Various trail mixes and nut mixes
- Chocolate covered almonds - but be careful, these are addictive.
- Artichoke merlot sauce
I feed my 15 month old daughter mostly from TJ's. She loves the all natural turkey hot dogs (not so tasty for adults though!),chicken apple sausages, the cat cookies, yogurt cheese, waffles, organic milk and bananas. And whatever we come across on our weekly trip there.
I also thought I should mention that they are no longer carrying the total yogurt due to an FDA problem.
We have quite a few staples we always buy from there. You cant beat their prices on a lot of items.
Usual buys for us include:
Frozen Stir Fry Veggies
Frozen Blueberry Waffles
Organic milk (MUCH cheaper than other stores)
Total Greek Yogurt
Bay Blend whole bean coffee
Woven Wheat Wafers (Triscuit knock-off)
Salted crunchy peanut butter
Salsa style canned refried beans
Chile flour tortillas
Whole wheat and regular pizza dough (@ $0.79 a pound, why make it at home?)
Cage Free Eggs (cheaper than at local grocery store)
Dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent
Trader Zen all purpose cleaner
Trader Johans Lip Balm Virtuoso
Based on my 5 yrs. of shopping at TJ's:
What they generally do well at and for good value: all dairy products (great eggs, butter, basic cheeses); nuts; dried fruit; jarred sauces & pestos; pasta; juices (their OJ rocks!!); some produce (salad bags, avocado, onions, lemons, mushrooms); good table wine that won't break the bank; floral bouquets
What I stay away from: most meats (way overpriced given quality, sometimes get spicy italian sausage but "gourmet" flavors can be odd tasting); fruit (apples in a plastic box??); most pre-made frozen foods; cookies/snacks made by TJ's; cereals; spices and baking products (way overpriced, except saffron threads for $3 was a bargain find!)
Even though every TJ's I've been to is always packed and you need creative maneuvering w/ the shopping cart, I keep coming back for the good quality products, value, and excellent, efficient service.
re: Carb Lover
I think the fruit is plastic boxes is to prevent bruising, and to make their inventory system easier to manage. Of course having said this, I usually limit my produce purchases at TJ's to apples and onions and buy the rest of my produce at local farmers markets. Things like grapes and berries at TJ's tend to be soft and go bad very quickly (probably because their produce is usually not refrigerated)
re: Mr. Taster
TJ's must have its reasons for packaging some of the fruits/produce in those plastic boxes, but it has always baffled me; I don't see how it would be economical or environmentally-friendly--tenets that I thought TJ's was founded upon. It may help prevent bruising, but seems like they get enough hoards of people coming through that the fruit would be gone before a blemish could even occur.
Main reason it bugs me is that I am one of those who likes to touch my produce (gently) before buying, and a plastic barrier will surely squelch that, as I'm too lazy to open it. I, too, get most of my produce from my farmer's market since I know it's going to be fresher and I can poke, prod, and taste to my heart's content.
re: Carb Lover
No, I'm sure that's it -- they sell it by "unit" (or piece in the case of bananas) not weight because they don't have scales. It's inherent in their business model.
Anyway, I rarely buy produce at Trader Joe's -- I think of it as a convenience rather than a core product there -- about the only thing I buy regularly is the red peppers, which are usually a good value (I'm a roasted red pepper junkie, so I go through a lot of them). I also occasionally buy some of their prepared produce items (cut-up butternut squash, for example). This time of year they carry tubs of pomegranate seeds, which sure beats trying to seed them yourself!
re: Ruth Lafler
Perhaps selling pre-packaged units may be easier for them in some respects, but every other store that I know of (outside of the Costco types) does the majority of their produce by weight--thus, allowing customers the freedom to control the amount. What if I want 2 apples instead of 4, 3 zucchini instead of 10, etc.? There have been a # of times that I would have bought more produce from them if I could have that choice...
re: Carb Lover
re: Mr. Taster
Well, well, is that so?...Thanks for clueing me in on a perk that I had NO idea about in my 5 yrs. w/ TJ's, Mr. Taster. They are so cool that way...
I'm trying to picture how that logistically works...do you grab a full container and then allow yourself a loose one in the cart?? In other words, what is the etiquette for this?
re: Carb Lover
*shrug* Yeah, but Trader Joe's isn't just like every other store -- that's the point. Their business model is based on everything in the store being sold by unit. Not only do they not have do deal with scales, they don't have to deal with shipping, stocking, storing and displaying loose produce. They don't need a produce manager or anyone with special training, they just need to open cartons and put packages out, which saves them both time and money and helps them keep their prices down. As I said, I don't think of them as a place to buy produce -- I think of the produce there as a convenience: something that allows me to skip making a trip to another store if I'm willing to settle for what they have. They don't claim to be a full-service grocery store and I don't expect them to be. They are what they are.
re: Ruth Lafler
This time of year they carry tubs of pomegranate seeds, which sure beats trying to seed them yourself!
I just wish they carried them in the East Coast stores. I asked last year when it was mentioned on this board, and the Arlington, MA manager said it would definitely be a regional thing and probably wouldn't be carried in the Northeast. But I'll have to check again, with the new Burlington store opening up.
re: Mr. Taster
re: Carb Lover
I agree on the produce issue - however, some of the TJ's products are actually quite good. I like the TJ's spices, vanilla, frosted shredded wheat cereal and their version of Cheeri-o's. They were sampling their Oreo cookie knock off a while ago, and I thought it was as good as the original. The frozen pizzas are good, as are the frozen berries and veggies. It's like anything else: you have to sample, then pick and choose what you like.
I don't have many needs that can be filled best by TJ's, as my wife cooks Chinese food exclusively and has good access to the Chinatown markets. But I'm not complaining that a TJ's opened recently in my neighborhood!
I still go to TJ's for what drew me to their LA store 20 years ago: nut butters. (Haven't seen pure hazelnut butter there in a while, though.) Otherwise, I'll forage for interesting snack crackers and the like.
A few of my "must haves" from TJ's:
-Fresh corn tortillas-fresh corn, no lard, preservatives
-Wild rice-1lb. $2.39!
-Organic udon noodles-$1.69
-Tj's Mayo-$?-cheap & better than Hellman's
-French Dijon mustard-$1.99!
-Vidalia sweet relish-$2.99
-Vanilla (tahitian)-$? cheap, but outstanding
-Valrhona chocolate 5.5oz. bar-less than $2.50!
-Savory mini-thin crackers-$1.79 (dangerously addictive)
Avoid most of the Tj chips-they stink!
Other items that stink: Most of the prepared items, frozen or canned.
Most of the candy, cookies are not worth the calories.
(besides the butter waffle cookies, which are good)
Cheeses, in general, are bargain priced, but seem to have a limited shelf life...
It's a fun place, they're always stocking new stuff, but they do have a bad habit of hooking you onto an item and then suddenly discontinuing it!
It's fun while it lasts, though.
My staple purchases are: Peanut Butter filled Pretzels, Garlic Chicken Sausages, Pineapple Salsa, Banana Cereal, Frozen Bowtie Pasta (spinach, carrot and pepper), the Frozen Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta, any frozen fish, frozen Sweet Potato Fries, and usuallly some variety of nut. I dont leave without those. Their layered mexican dip runs out fast but if they have it, I get that as well.
What is not to like at TJ's? I buy my Olive oil and balsamic vinegar there...tofu...milk...greek yogurt, any cheeses that catch my eye. There's an artichoke spread that is awesome. The thai simmer sauces are great for quick dinners- just add chicken or pork. The whole bean coffee is as good as any I've ever had, and at a great price. While their fresh meat selection is rather small, I did pick up some boneless/skinless chik breasts for about 2.99/lb (comp. to 5.99/lb at whole foods) and they were good quality. Ditto for the salad bags- great selection and cheaper than other stores. It's also fun to see what cheeses and wines they're featuring.
Ok, so I have so many favorites at TJ's that I may not have provided any help. But I've come across very few duds from what I've bought!
Oh, I forgot about the salads in my previous post.
I love: the spinach salad with dried cranberries, goat cheese, candied walnuts with raspberry viniagrette dressing, the crab and sashimi seafood salad with Thousand Isalnd dressing and the Greek Salad.
On more: the frozen orange chicken, my DS just made these last week, almost as good as Panda Express! ***kim***