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Trader Joe's warning - and request

I went to Trader Joe's for the first time two days ago, and it's a testament to my food dorkery that it was the highlight of my week... that place is a lot of fun and everything looks so great but you really have no way of knowing.

For example, I bought some frozen cioppino that sounded really great from reading the ingredients list (nothing artificial, all things I would put in my own seafood stew), but the fish pieces ended up being nasty fibrous cubes, and the huge mussels came with all of their massive beards intact.

So, I don't recommend the cioppino. But can Chowhounders tell me what IS safe to buy at TJ's?

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  1. I love TJ chocolate tea. Put a little milk in there, oh yum!

    Their frozen cherries have no taste. Blech.

    1. Don't forget, you can return anything you don't like and they are terrific about it.

      7 Replies
      1. re: GretchenS

        Return it and they'll give you your money back on anything...even if you open a bottle of wine and take a swig and don't like it. They want you to be happy.

        1. re: monku

          This is NOT true in NYC. Just a FYI. If the wine is corked, meaning the wine is spoiled due to cork taint, they'll give you a replacement bottle of the same. You cannot return wine that is unopened because they don't know of the environment where its been (read too hot or too cold). Be aware of this especially if you like purchasing your wine by the case [in NYC]. I'm not sure if TJ's wants us to be UNhappy or if they are just abiding by New York City liquor laws. I think it's the latter.

          1. re: Cheese Boy

            Is that what NYC TJ's said?

            *Our Product Guarantee: We tried it! We liked it! If you don’t, bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked.

            1. re: monku

              Really? I was told they'd have to open a bottle and if it was fine with them, then it's fine 'period'. Who are we to question the tastes of the TJ wine Gods?!?!?

              No lie. That's what I was told. I was also told if the wine is corked, they expect you to bring the bottle with the wine still in it for an even "exchange". NO REFUNDS. Apparently, too many people were taking advantage of their refund policy and drinking free wine essentially .

              1. re: Cheese Boy

                I never had to return a bottle of wine to them. But one day I was looking at a bottle and that's what the employee told me. I didn't like it for any reason they'd take it back and give me a refund.

                1. re: Cheese Boy

                  It does depend on who you talk to. There are usually 4 people in upper management at any one store. Talk to a Merchant or Captain, not one of the crew members.

                  I've had them open up the store an hour earlier for me because I was on my to a client's and needed something that morning before I went. I have always gotten to know the Captain's at all my stores, given them my card, and then been able to get special treatment.

                  I guess when you are spending $200-300 a week there, they will go out of their way. They also compete between stores for sales, so they all want your business.

                  1. re: personalcheffie

                    I went to their web site and posted a question and was called by the Northeast regional manager, very nice customer service. He told me that TJ has an absolutely no questions asked return policy. I would just speak with the manager if you get any hassle or send an email via the TJ web site.

        2. I love the haricots vert, the tiny skinny green beans.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            Thanks all. I should be more specific: I am most interested in hearing recommendations for prepared food items.

            1. re: frenetica

              They all pretty much suck. How can such highly processed, mass produced food have any life or truly delicious flavor in it?(even if it looks cute in it's wrapping). I buy Greek yogurt, jarred Morello cherries (great deal), nuts,organic cherry preserves,crackers,oils, vinegar,s mustard and that's about it at TJ's. I have tasted several prepared items when they are being sampled and NEVER tasted anything I would eat again.

              1. re: missclaudy

                I agree with criticism of prepared foods. they all pretty much suck. just because they don't have a lot of artificial this or that, they are mass produced, prepared long ago and far away. why buy crap like that.

          2. i get the following from trader joe's almost weekly!

            pork and vegetable gyozas
            tuna and potato curry (comes in a single serving pouch for $1.39 and is
            perfect for a portable lunch)
            chicken drumettes
            fire roasted vegetables (frozen section)

            1. I know one that is NOT good -- chicken pot pie...YUCK!

              1 Reply
              1. re: slesica2

                Their chicken pot pie is DELICIOUS! The only bad thing is the calorie count-with it being that high, you KNOW it has to be good!

              2. all frozen:

                chicken and vegetable rice bowls
                soba noodle bowls (relatively new item)
                chicken chili verde burritos
                chicken vindaloo rice bowls
                shelled edamame
                tarte d'alsace (found in the pizza section)
                olympia pizza with feta, mozz, and olives
                french onion soup


                boxed chicken broth
                boxed soy and ginger broth
                tuna curry pouches (i add some of the frozen edamame since there are no veggies included)
                "oatmeal complete" instant oatmeal packets (maple and brown sugar flavored)

                1. A few things I like are:
                  roasted red pepper and tomato soup
                  gyozas (best cooked in a pan)
                  tuna curry
                  "2 hearts" tapanade (artichoke hearts and hearts of palm)
                  dried tart montgomery cherries (but NOT the dried bing cherries or rainier cherries)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LauraB

                    I LOVE their roasted red pepper & tomato soup.

                    I'll also finish their spinach dip in a day.

                  2. Frozen:
                    Meatballs (the real ones, not the turkey or veggie)
                    Fettucini alfredo
                    chicken egg rolls
                    any of the thin crust pizzas
                    French onion soup

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HoneybeeSF

                      FYI, you may already know this but you can purchase the exact same Trader Joe's French Onion Soup at Costco for much cheaper. It's $10 or $11 for a six pack for the same soup. I wrote to the manufacturer and they told me this.

                      1. re: sunnyday1375

                        Good to know...I have seen it at Costcos...the problem is finding that much space in my freezer!!!

                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                          I had this same problem. GET RID OF THE BOX. Take the soup "packets" out and store them in the freezer, and just write the cooking directions in the "soup" section of your cookbook, or on a post-it taped to one of the soup servings. Or commit it to memory. Not that hard.

                          1. re: amandaqtpie

                            Good idea...nothing's better than Onion soup in the winter...

                    2. Any of the frozen veggies are great.

                      The TJ brand smoked trout in olive oil is tasty and so is the Genoa brand chunk light tuna in olive oil for $1.69(it's $1.00 to 1.50 more at most other stores).
                      The Genoa tuna in olive oil (don't make it with the tuna packed in water...bleh!) is great for a traditional Niciose Salad (Americanized Niciose Salad comes with a seared tuna steak rather than the canned variety).

                      Also try the TJ brand soups in the mason jars; Portugese bean and sausage is very good. The chili is only so so.

                      1. I love this place, and can totally understand your dorkery!!
                        Some things I liked:

                        frozen pizzas
                        The frozen gzoyas, as well as the thai style dumplings. I like to cook them in the boxed soy and ginger broth and add a handful of frozen spinach. Takes about 5 minutes total cooking time.
                        Frozen vegetables (broccoli, spinach, haricot verts)
                        Mexican Red Sauce
                        Frozen Spinach and Artichoke dip rocks!!!!
                        Frozen French Onion Soup and Cream of Asparagus soup
                        If they still carry the frozen truffle bites, get them!!
                        Frozen Meatballs
                        Tomato Sauces
                        Creamy Cilantro Dressing

                        1. I may be in the minority but I'm not a fan of the banana crisps that people rave about on this board. I do like the seasonal pumpkin butter and reduced sugar blueberry preserves.

                            1. My latest favorite is gnocci in gorganzola sauce, from the frozen food dept.

                              And I can't leave without getting their tangerine juice.

                              1. I agree with above, the frozen french onion soup is very good.
                                The frozen tamales are good - they are in corn husks. I dress them up with a little chili powder and quac.
                                Check out the big TJ frozen pizzas. They are prepared in Italy from organic ingredients and EVOO. They are much less expensive than delivered pizza and have a nice crust. With a salad - it's a good meal.
                                I buy the bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts. No hormones, etc...Not super plump and juicy, so not for a special occasion, but good flavor and chem free for everyday use.

                                I haven't had a lot of luck with the frozen meals, meals in bowls and the stir-fried meals in frozen bags. I'm glad to see some of you have had some luck there. I will try some of them.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Annabelicious

                                  If you like dark chocolate they have several really good buys-Valhrona for an excellent price, a Swiss brand that is really good (forgetting the name) and their own brand which I thought was great.

                                  1. re: dimples

                                    Speaking of chocolate...

                                    I bought the new "sipping chocolate" (comes in a tin like cocoa powder) from TJs last week but haven't tried it yet. Has anyone??

                                    1. re: LAWoman

                                      Yup. For DARK chocolate lovers only. If you follow the directions it's hard to get it to completely dissolve and you get a little mud at the bottom of your mug, but hey, think of it as chocolate Turkish coffee.

                                      1. re: LAWoman

                                        I like it a lot. I found that it does dissolve if you whisk it in milk (or soymilk) in a pot on the stove.

                                    2. re: Annabelicious

                                      I second the frozen pizzas, the margherita, three cheese, and four cheese ones are great as is the cheese-less roasted vegetable pizza (it includes caramelized onions and artichokes).

                                      For the rice bowls, try the lemongrass chicken, massaman chicken or the red curry shrimp, all great. See some reviews under Tuesday's Tastings at http://onefoodguy.blogspot.com

                                    3. Thanks for the many recommendations, all. I assume no-one has a solution for how to escape the crushing three-year wait in line at the Union Square NYC store, though.

                                      Re: 3 buck chuck (2 buck chuck in some states, I hear) - I have to disagree. I've tried the white and it's truly vile. Not mediocre, not disappointing, but actively vile. This has nothing in common with the 2 euro litre bottles of vin de table I'd buy in France - uninteresting but honest, serviceable wine.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: frenetica

                                        The 2-3 buck chuck varies considerably by batch (I know this from experience). Also, I read an article a while back about the company that produces it, and how they apparently buy up surplus quantities of wine from other companies, put in their tanks, and bottle it up under the Shaw label. I got the impression that they aren't too particular about careful blending.

                                        At its best, it's as good as $7 bottles at the grocery store. At its worst, it's undrinkable.

                                      2. Those little quiches are delicious! They come in 4 different flavors and are individual serving size. Perfect for lunches.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: tarconi

                                          I agree. I just had them at a friend's house. Excellent. ( I assume you're talking about the roughly 5" in diameter quiches not mini quiches.....)

                                          1. re: tarconi

                                            I like the baby quiches as well. I also like the ham and gruyere thin crust pizza thing. Another regular purchase for us are the Mintz's Blintzes (made with tofu) topped with Morello cherries as well as the frozen potato pancakes with the TJ chunky applesauce. We also get some of their boxed cereals -- my current favorite is the dried cranberry/granola/flakes type.

                                            Someone mentioned the Portuguese Bean & Sausage soup -- that's a keeper. Premade gourmet salads are good (but I think kinda expensive). I also just tried the frozen garlic cubes and was very impressed -- a great go-to item when your garlic is starting to grow legs. My eight year old can eat a whole box of the shrimp scampi if I don't stop her. Oh, and don't forget the pizza dough. I'm sure there's more -- I live too dangerously close to a TJ's for comfort.

                                            1. re: bards4

                                              I knew I forgot something -- the creamy Mediterranean hummus. With warm homemade pita chips -- lordy, lordy.... :o)

                                              1. re: bards4

                                                Is this soup...Port. Bean and Sausage...frozen...in a can..or jar or box??? It sounds good, I'd like to look for it...

                                                  1. re: enbell

                                                    Thanks..I'll look for it on my nest TJ trip!

                                            2. Love the mole-flavored tortilla chips - sort of a BBQ flavor to them. The jarred mole sauce was very good too - I sauteed til brown a skinned, cut-up chicken, added pork stock with half a jar of the sauce, and simmered it til the meat fell off the bones. They used to have a fresh version of mole sauce in the refrigerated section, but have discontinued it. It was better than the bottled, with a more citrusy flavor.

                                              Love the unsalted "blister" peanuts, as do the squirrels outside! The pistachio and cherry trail mix was a great snack when traveling. The 50% less salt cashews are wonderful.

                                              Some of their chocolate is okay, some not. I am partial to the dark chocolate covered caramels, which I stay away from if I know or care what is good for me!

                                              1. The onion and goat cheese puffs. They're frozen appetizers, $5 for a box of 12, so I guess it's one of their pricier items. And each one probably has about 7,438 calories. But whenever I serve them at a party or bring them to a potluck they're a HUGE hit.

                                                1. The pecan pralines are like crack.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: davinagr

                                                    ditto the chocolate covered banana chips

                                                  2. The Hot and sour soup in a jar (add a dash of Rice wine vinegar and something hot--but good without , too).

                                                    Dark Chocolate covered toffee, coated with pistachios.

                                                    Fire-roasted vegetable ravioli.

                                                    Most of the Artisinal breads (in the Boston area).

                                                    Their Chocolate tangerine cookies (a la Dancing Deer Bakery) when available, but I'm afraid they may have disappeared.

                                                    Jeepers, I thing I need to go grocery shoppign right now-and I was just there yesterday!

                                                    Oh-and I did just try their frozen Macaroni and Cheese--very tasty for frozen, even if it could kill you. I think you asked for prepared items for now :)

                                                    1. They have this Dark Chocolate Almond Bark - $8.99 for two eight-ounce bars packed in a nice box. This little b***h jumps into your cart when you're not looking, and when you get home, it runs towards your mouth. You can't do a thing to stop it.

                                                      Don't try. Just buy it.

                                                      :::: sigh ::::

                                                      TJ's tartar sauce is terrific, as is their cheese department. I'm smitten with their Tomato and Red Pepper Soup, and they have these wonderful garlic-stuffed olives that occupy a large corner of our pantry.

                                                      Did I mention the Dark Chocolate Almond Bark?

                                                      1. Where do I begin...you should have good luck with their rice bowls, the coconut curry chicken stix are great, the tequila lime jalapeno breaded shrimp are great, the spinach and tofu egg rolls are great...

                                                        ...and my absolute favorite TJ's item from the freezer case is their frozen new zealand rack of lamb, which is marinated. It is awesome and I make at often. Check out my Tuesday's Tastings at http://onefoodguy.blogspot.com for reviews of frozen Trader Joe's items.

                                                        1. Just had my first TJs experience here in Cary, NC.
                                                          I enjoyed myself, though I went an hour before closing so I felt a tad rushed-but that was my own doing.

                                                          The staff was friendly, though what the hell is this ringing a bell and hollering about a new employee. The only thing worse than that is when you go to Moe's and they yell "Welcometomoesssssssss."

                                                          I had to control myself, as there was much I wanted. Since I am living low-rent & single, I didn't buy many perishables save some salad greens. I stocked up on a lot of condiments, oils, vinegars, roasted peppers etc for my pantry, plus a few things I could freeze. I thought they had great prices overall, definitely better than Whole Foods.

                                                          I'm chomping in a chocolate covered banana right now & it is very yummy.

                                                          I will definitely go back, even though I hate Cary. My only gripe was that every glass bottle I had was all put in the same grocery bag. Not a good thing. I'll watch them bag my food next time.

                                                          Between Aldi for basics(which owns TJs) & TJs, I think I'll be eating a lot better in 07.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: RaleighRocker

                                                            Haha, I think the bag problem is a company policy. I've never made it home without having at least 1 bag (that is double bagged) rip, because it has every single solitary frozen heavy thing that has started to melt and cause the bag to disinegrate.

                                                          2. Oh yeah-I meant to ask, has anyone used the frozen garlic and/or cilantro cubes?

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: RaleighRocker

                                                              I haven't seen frozen cilantro. Maybe that's an East Coast product. I often use the frozen garlic and find it extraordinarily convenient with good garlic flavor -- almost as good as fresh with much less hassle.

                                                              1. re: silverbear

                                                                Update on the frozen cubes: I just saw the cilantro cubes alongside the familiar cubes of garlic, parsley, and basil at my local TJ's in Phoenix. These cubes, which are imported from Israel, are ingenious. Of course, fresh herbs and garlic are best, but when work and family pressures cut into cooking time, these cubes are a great convenience.

                                                              2. re: RaleighRocker

                                                                I use their frozen garlic and basil all the time - love it! :) (Haven't tried the cilantro)

                                                              3. Trader Joes - Two of them have opened in Atlanta. I was really excited. I was so disappointed. Tiny store, tiny deli selection (prepackaged) Vegetable section was nothing to write about. The fresh Basil was inferior to other stores. It was 25% cheaper, for 50% less Basil. Cheese selection was smaller than Whole Foods store near by and the Kroger for that matter. Nothing I saw screamed bargain. I'm not promoting Whole Foods either as I am shopping there less and less as regualr grocery stores now carry similar products for less. But given the two, I'm going to Whole Foods. Oh, the staff was slowwwwwwwww. I set my basket of goods next to other abandoned baskets.

                                                                1. So yeasterday we were rushign aroudj tryig to finish hrsitmas shopping ans stopped into Trader's for a few things. we were talking about lasgna the otherday and while looking through the frozen section i noticed a frozen chicken lasagna, so we decided why not, lets try it.

                                                                  All in all, its was pretty good. we did make our own sauce and some meatballs for something on the side, need extra sauce for garlic bread too. I wouldn't say it was the best I ever had, but it was pretty good, better then most forzen prepared lasgnas I have had. Perfect size too for two people. I would recomend it as an easy quick meal, well it is frozen so it takes 60 minutes in the oven so quick might not be true...)

                                                                  Other favorites:
                                                                  2 buck chuck... I hear it is 3 bucks on the east(?)
                                                                  The frozen French onion soup.
                                                                  The Frozen Orange flavored Chicken. The bag says for 4, but really it's just enough for 2.
                                                                  Their fresh prepared salads are great for aquick lunch at work... (I like the greek one)
                                                                  Some of their frozen pizza's are ok. (they are NOT real pizza though) :-) but they are tastey.
                                                                  Pirate booty.... (not exclusive to TJ, but always buy a bag when there...)

                                                                  1. Whole bean dark sumatra coffee. In a french press.

                                                                    1. 2 frozen Favorites:

                                                                      Tortellini Pesto bowl and their frozen Orange Flavored Chicken.

                                                                      For dessert, try their pound cake with Grand Marnier -- I used it as part of a trifle dessert and it was good :)

                                                                      1. I'll second the recommendation for the little frozen quiches. Nice, even in the microwave.

                                                                        Love their selection of hummus (hummuses? hummi?) Goes great with the pita chips (both plain and garlic). The cinnamon sugar pita chips are a good accompaniment for ice cream.

                                                                        Like the frozen corndogs and some of their frozen pasta mixes. Toss in a skillet with some water, and watch the little sauce-discs transform before your very eyes...

                                                                        I'm a big fan of their frozen cheese and green chili tamales.

                                                                        Dark chocolate covered pretzels are yummy.

                                                                        Tried the spinach and tofu eggrolls last week and didn't like them one bit. The frozen spinach taste was overwhelming, and the tofu indiscernable. It almost seemed like it had liquified into a gooey paste that acted as the binding agent. Yech...

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: spyturtle008

                                                                          Hi Spyturtle, in regards to the spinach and tofu eggrolls, I just read the ingredients a little closer since I'll be reviewing the item on my blog http://onefoodguy.blogspot.com next week, there is no Tofu in the Spinach and Tofu eggrolls. Rather the "tofu" is a fat-free soy cheese, hence the gooey gluey nature of the filling.

                                                                          I still really enjoy them but if you're looking for a egg/spring roll kind of item from TJ's freezer, try the Coconut Curry Chicken Stix, read my review on my aforementioned blog.

                                                                          Happy New Year.

                                                                          1. re: onefoodguy

                                                                            Huh, that is interesting... I tossed the packaging before eating, so I didn't go back to look at the ingredient list. Why oh why, then, would they call 'em 'spinach and tofu' eggrolls?? Why not 'spinach and soy cheese' eggrolls? Does that sound too inauthentic for the 'Trader Ming's' line? Or do they consider soy cheese and tofu to be the same thing? Huh... I am in the minority camp that really likes tofu; hence my disappointment... But thanks for the coconut curry stix rec!

                                                                            And thanks for the link to your blog as well!

                                                                            1. re: spyturtle008

                                                                              Well, maybe I should correct myself. I guess it will depend on your definition of "tofu". Tofu can be defined as soybean curd, which is in fact present as an ingredient for the fat-free soy cheese. So I guess this isn't mislabeled by definition. The filling is still not quite like any tofu I'm familiar with, it definitely is more cheesy and less tofu-y.

                                                                              1. re: onefoodguy

                                                                                and unless it's labeled Organic soy, stay away from it unless you have a yearning for RoundUP herbicide.

                                                                        2. Wow - thanks for all the interesting & helpful replies. I'm going to end up spending far too much time and money in TJ's. By the way am I the only retard who thinks it's too cute that the Italian and Chinese lines are called Trader Giuseppe's and Trader Ming's, respectively?

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: frenetica

                                                                            Don't forget the Mexican Trader Jose . . .

                                                                            1. re: operagirl

                                                                              All in all I think they have a great marketing strategy, and if you guys are reading this, please keep those great products coming.

                                                                              1. Frozen Pierogies
                                                                                Frozen Mac 'n Cheese (Four Cheese)
                                                                                Frozen individual pepperoni pizzas (my kid loves these)
                                                                                Shrimp Scampi

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: personalcheffie

                                                                                  Do you know the name of the individual pepperoni pizzas? I must have eaten about 200 of these by now but never took the time to look at the brand name, and now my TJ's don't have them and said (oh no, it's too horrible to even consider!!) they are going to STOP CARRYING THEM because of slow sales. How can that be when every month I personally buy 12 packs???? I've got to find them somewhere else because these are the only ones I really like (10 minutes in the toaster oven and perfection!)

                                                                                2. I like their soymilk, and I've liked the pasta sauces and marinades I've tried. Some of their breakfast cereals are pretty good, too. I'm not so big on their frozen "Chinese" line--I haven't really any of it that I've tried.

                                                                                  1. - The vege-tofu eggrolls are great. My two year old loves them.
                                                                                    - They have a red enchilada sounce that makes for a really good bbq sauce.
                                                                                    - The extra firm tofu is good (I've had better) and is also priced well ($0.99 - $1.50)
                                                                                    - The pumpkin granola. Yum. Probably seasonable.
                                                                                    - I tried their whole wheat pizza dough. Keep your crust thin with little sauce and a good amount of cheese and this is a gem.

                                                                                    1. TJ's is our source for nuts, dried fruits, Plugra butter, CharleyBear dog treats (have not personally tasted those), Bay Blend and French Roast coffees (the new Volcano Roast is really good too). Most of their prepared salads are pretty good as are the canned soups.

                                                                                      1. I've been in love w/ TJ's since they opened. Especially during the supermarket strikes (Ralph's, Von's, & Albertson's) a few years ago... Saved me.

                                                                                        I've loved almost everything I've ever bought from Trader Joe's. Their vegies do not always have the biggest selection, but they're always high quality (which I'm finding less & less at other affordable stores).

                                                                                        On to prepared foods. Their frozen (or fresh if you get a lucky day) turkey stuffed peppers are delicious. Honestly, the only product there I've ever disliked (and oh how disgusting was it) was the frozen curry dinner. I should know better than to buy a frozen version of one of my favorite foods, but it was bad! Generic flavor (what was there) & completely bland.

                                                                                        1. I was also disappointed in the cioppino but have returned dozens of times to buy the individual frozen portions of flounder filet stuffed with crabmeat. Also: tiny frozen green beans imported from France; frozen broccoli flowerets; frozen Chocolate Lava Cake; all frozen fruit, especially pineapple; dried Montmorency cherries; nuts. These are all my standards I buy every week at TJ. Oh yes, and Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix (I've made scratch brownies all my life but now prefer this mix, believe it or not).

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                                                            I love the "just lentils" . They are cooked and placed in a vacuum packed container . They are in the refridgerator section near the vegetables. I make them with chopped carrots, celery and onions. Then I put it over cous cous. They are the best!!

                                                                                            1. re: italiana3

                                                                                              The "just lentils" and "just beets" are great! I combine them with the seasoned baked tofu (right by them in the fridge section), diced cucumber, tomato, onion, fennel, a couple splashes of tarragon vinegar, and some marcona almonds and there is my favorite lunch

                                                                                              1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                What about the Just Chicken- plain ones. I throw that on everything

                                                                                          2. Forgot something. Two things. 1) Mandarin Orange Chef Sauce, because if you quickly stir-fry some pieces of chicken breast then add a spoonful of this sauce and some hot pepper you will get a very fast approximation of the Orange Chicken in a Chinese restaurant. If you have it with TJ's frozen Jasmine Rice the whole dinner takes ten minutes. 2) Peach Sauce (when they have it). It's imported from France and very peachy for midwinter when good peaches are rare. My husband likes it on vanilla ice cream.

                                                                                            1. I'll add that my kids LOVE the chili in a bottle. I don't think of it as a dumbed down texas chili but a smarted up cafeteria chili.

                                                                                              Better than Boullion is almost $2 cheaper than at the supers.
                                                                                              Free Range brown eggs also almost $2 cheaper than the super

                                                                                              It may not be great cheese but the basics like cheddar, monterrey jack etc. are better and significantly cheaper than the supers.

                                                                                              Something that I didn't see mentioned was the frozen juice popsicles. In our TJ's they're alway right next to the frozen bananas. The Zee family vastly prefers them to ANYTHING of the type at the supers. Why? Because they taste like frozen juice. You can actually taste the fruit they're supposed to be made of unlike most other "fruit" popsicles like Dreyers and other aspartame filled posicles.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: KayZee

                                                                                                Agreed on the frozen fruit bars, which I think they're now calling "floes." The Caribbean is particularly wonderful: strawberry, pineapple, mango and coconut. I also love the lime ones, but Allstonian finds them a bit too tart.

                                                                                                Also: big ups for the whole wheat couscous, the mixed nuts and the house brand olive oils.

                                                                                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                  TJ's lime floes were okay, but I prefer the 365 ones from Whole Foods.

                                                                                              2. Here is my list:
                                                                                                frozen veg and chicken gyoza
                                                                                                gyoza dipping sauce (has quite a cilantro but not soapy taste)
                                                                                                tandoori chicken and rice bowl
                                                                                                I also love to keep their frozen tuna and swordfish in the freezer...when defrosted, i marinate it in soy, gyoza, sriracha sauce, toasted sesame oil...lots o' sesame seeds and throw it on the grill for just a few minutes...yum!!!
                                                                                                They also have great prices on wonderful jalapeno stuffed green olives...huge jar for $2.99!

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: crosby_p

                                                                                                  I love their Gyoza, Raosted Red Pepper soup and their shumai. I also just bought the artichoke dip for a party and my family loved it! Oh and the Strawberry lemonade is really good too.

                                                                                                2. Likes for me have been brown rice medley. Harvest Grain Couscous blend. High Fiber Frosted Cereal and a Califonia Olive Oil.

                                                                                                  1. Stay away from the frozen pie crust. Last year it was th best I ever had, then they changed it for this holiday season and it is disgustng. It ruined every pie I tried to make wih it.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: mallen39

                                                                                                      wow. different pies crusts for different tastes, i guess. i liked the old version of tj pie crust, but i realllly like the new, flakier, butterier version. it does puff up more, so i find i need to dock it, even if i'm blind baking (with pie weights), but i find the texture and flavor to be terrific.

                                                                                                    2. My second post to this thread: new discoveries. The low-sodium marinara sauce is delicious, very tomatoey and has only 25 mg sodium per 1/2 cup (some name brands go as high as 700 mg). Low-sodium chicken broth is useful for cooking. Frozen croissants (leave them on pan overnight to thaw and rise and bake them for 20 min in the morning).
                                                                                                      Frozen fish fillets (cod, Dover sole, wild-caught salmon) are wonderful. Frozen gnocchi. All frozen berries are great and are a deal.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                        I use both of those low sodium products (marinara sauce and organic chicken broth) as well. They are so much lower in sodium than traditional low sodium products, even! Nice for someone who is super salt sensitive.

                                                                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                          Those little frozen croissants are warm, fluffy puffs of love!!

                                                                                                        2. Went to Trader Joe's in Wheaton or Glen Dale hts over the weekend and picked up 3 items that were terrible.
                                                                                                          TJ Mochi Ice Cream the Mochi outer shell was like cold frozen wax.

                                                                                                          TJ Green Papaya Salad (Thai) I dare any Papaya Salad lover to tell me this is edible. I wanted to like it so bad I even added more lime and a splash of fish sauce.

                                                                                                          TJ Ham/Cheese Corrissant slice of Ham in between mushy dough (look like white scummy stuff you skim off making chicken soup.

                                                                                                          I plan on returning all 3 and hope they give me my money back even for the stuff I had to toss out.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: KPS5696

                                                                                                            I realize taste is a totally personal thing but did you find anything you liked? I really enjoy their Ultimate Chocolate Ice Cream and would recommend that to heal your experience from the Mochi ice cream.

                                                                                                            1. re: KPS5696

                                                                                                              i've had that croissant with the black forest ham and gruyere at the tasting station on two occasions -- and it was lovely cheesy decadence for me. it was soft but in a squishy cheesy sandwich kind of way that i didn't mind at all. i've resisted buying them because i know i would hog them all within a couple of days. question: do you have to bake them or simply reheat? if bake, are you sure that you baked it long enough?

                                                                                                              i just bought but haven't tried the thai papaya salad. i was so hoping that it would be delicious, because i adore that kind of salad. (but it did give me an idea to freeze portion size packets of the julienned green papaya which i can buy at the nearby asian shops).

                                                                                                              trader joe's "quickie" pad thai in a box was meh. it was too sweet and the noodles were too thick -- wrong style of noodle, in my book.

                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                Never mind. I haven't purchased those.

                                                                                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                  cathy, were you intending to respond to me? because i don't understand your post, "never mind."

                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                    I had samples of the 'regular', plain, frozen croissants that you proof overnight, made with a ham they were selling for Easter..they also made croissant samples with one of the sliced cheeses they are selling. I thought you were asking about those croissants.

                                                                                                                    Then the other synapse kicked in and I remembered TJs sells the frozen filled with Black Forest and cheese croissants. I never bought those.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Cathy

                                                                                                                      ok, i see! ;-)).

                                                                                                                      i saw them demo'ing croissants and that ham, too -- but went by it because i've never liked their "bakery" items per se.

                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                        The frozen regular, chocolate and mini croissants are pure heaven. You can pull out one or two, put in the toaster oven to 'proof' overnight and then bake in the morning.

                                                                                                                        Bakery, dairy, fruits/veggies and prepared items (sandwiches and sushi) are locally supplied and vary...I always look at dates and can pretty much judge freshness by 'feel'. "My" fresh bakery area has a lot of parbaked breads, which are excellent.

                                                                                                            2. Here at my NoVA TJs, my likes outweigh my dislikes.

                                                                                                              Things I like (these lists are partial):

                                                                                                              The recently added frozen Indian dinners, I've tried the Butter Chicken, the Masala Chicken and the Palak Paneer, and all are tasty with decent ingredients.

                                                                                                              Garlic Naan, and the vegetarian Masala Burgers too. And the frozen Haricot Verts. Oh, and the delicious, sweet canned corn. I actually pour myself a bit of the canning water as it is the essence of corn goodness.

                                                                                                              I also like the frozen gyoza, and the bagged pasta dishes with frozen sauce ovals.
                                                                                                              Their frozen Mexican food is good, but I avoid the Gorditas as they are just kind of tasteless with lots of greasy calories. I really like the cheese enchiladas that come in a delicious sauce.

                                                                                                              I do like buying turbinado sugar there, as well as creme fraiche and Lurpak butter, and Greek Yogurt. I also love the cheese section, their salsas.

                                                                                                              Their thin sliced steak is great for making cheesesteaks at home.
                                                                                                              I've had good experiences with their butterflied leg 'o lamb.
                                                                                                              Great chicken too, the boneless chicken thighs go into my stir fries.

                                                                                                              Great prices on carrots and celery, and I constantly buy their Butter Lettuce

                                                                                                              Pretty good olive oils and vinegars, pasta sauces and pasta.

                                                                                                              Refrigerated ravioli (butternut squash is great with a browned butter and sage sauce!)

                                                                                                              I too like those frozen ham and gruyere on crossaints....decadent!

                                                                                                              Here's most of what I don't like:

                                                                                                              Fresh potatoes in my stores tend to be soft and green.

                                                                                                              Their Queso in a jar.

                                                                                                              I don't like the plain frozen pasta, I can't get all the noodles to cook.

                                                                                                              I also don't like the frozen packs of rice, they taste a bit strange to me.

                                                                                                              Their chicken sausages taste OK, but they are tough.

                                                                                                              I think their almonds are a bit too hard for some reason.

                                                                                                              I don't care for most of their bread, but I do like the challah loaves and rolls.

                                                                                                              I like their pickles.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                                                                Hard almonds= old almonds, not last year's crop. Fresh almonds should be crunchy but with some residual moisture in the meats. (that's how they make almond 'milk') Hard dry almonds are old, and probably cheaper for TJ's.

                                                                                                                (from almond country)

                                                                                                                1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                                                                  The canned corn is indeed spectacular, I agree. Better than the best Fresh farmstand corn I've had, consistently. More corn flavor and totally unlike any other canned or frozen corn anywhere. Whenever I go into a TJ's, I pick up an empty wine case and fill it full of 24 cans.

                                                                                                                  And yes, do not throw out the liquid. Add it to your recipe if at all possible.

                                                                                                                  Another nice bonus is the price has remained almost the same for close to 30 years.

                                                                                                                  If anyone noticed their float in this year's Rose Parade, there was a giant can of corn rotating at the top. Hilarious.

                                                                                                                  1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                                                                                    Love the haricot verts. I just finished a lunch of asian noodle salad with TJ's frozen haricot verts.

                                                                                                                    I don't use TJ's as my primary produce market, but they are hard to beat for carrots, celery, apples and grape tomatoes.

                                                                                                                    I also found the jarred queso to be awful. It's too thin and doesn't taste like cheese at all.

                                                                                                                  2. i hope this is not a repeat but as of Dec 2011, i would highly recommend the frozen mac cheeze dish from TJ's - i assume you were not looking for specifically healthy cuz i don't think tj and health go together unless all buy is "fresh" artichokes and their delish sparkling water brand.

                                                                                                                    what else - some of the salads in the cooler section (spinach something, cobb something, very likely a ceasar that i have never bought etc etc)

                                                                                                                    i find it's always so crowded in any tj's i go to (CA, OR, WA) that is it diff to get a good look at any produxt .... i know they have a flyer but i just don't look at it in advance and make notes etc etc.

                                                                                                                    i wonder if tj's time has run out - has anyone any feedback about Grocery oUTLET CHAIN in the west --- it's friendly and great p;roduct and prices at the one i go to. i think independent owners at each location.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                                                                      I shop at GO a lot and I think they're really quite different. TJ's used to be a place to go for staples at a good bargain price but now it seems to me it's mostly about prepared foods, which I just find I don't buy that much. I remember when TJ's first started in CA in my neighborhood, it was just a nice little cheese and wine shop where you could get some great deals, and then they added Dairy and Deli.

                                                                                                                      I haven't really liked most of their prepared frozen items, but I have had some pretty good frozen plain fish and vegetables. And the Crispy Crunchy little chocolate chip cookies are worth killing for.

                                                                                                                      Grocery Outlet is hit and miss. There are three in my general area and I probably stop into one at least weekly. Most often I walk out empty-handed but sometimes there are spectacular deals and you walk out with a case of mayonnaise or game hens or something.

                                                                                                                      1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                        That south Pasadena wine and cheese shop is ancient history, unknown to most of us. I've been shopping TJ since they opened in Washington state (10 years?). What attracted me then still attracts me. Products come and go, but the focus is roughly the same.

                                                                                                                        At the moment GO gets my coffee business, but that is solely because they sometimes stock a preground Italian coffee that TJ dropped some time ago.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                                                                        There is a regular yea and nay thread for TJ, fresh each quarter.

                                                                                                                        Look on the San Francisco board for Grocery Outlet threads.