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May 12, 2008 02:47 PM

New to Trader Joe's

I've just started shopping at Trader Joe's, and I'm liking it. I never went before because I live in Mill Valley, and the closet one is in San Rafael, and I just can't deal with the small parking lot and store. But now there's a nice new big one in Novato, so I've been going there. (And soon we'll get one near Cost Plus in Corte Madera, so that's good.) Anyway, I'd like to know what people's favorites are (especially in the frozen and prepared foods categories) as well as things to avoid. I notice that Trader Joe's items often get low ratings in the SF Chronicle's taste tests, so I want to figure out how to just buy the good stuff. Today I noticed some shu mai and potstickers in the frozen section. Worth buying?

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    1. Trader Joe's have became my #1 place to get my food at. I have a Lucky's 5 minutes away from my house, but I choose to drive an extra 20 minutes to shop at TJ.

      My favorites are the mushroom risotto and mushroom puff pastries. I have also tried the raspberry creme brulee. I usually just try things here and there. I'm sure you'll find your favorite at TJ.


      1. The nice thing about trying new things at TJ's, as opposed to many other stores, is that if you don't like something you can get your money back.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chemchef

          True. I did that just this week (Hollandaise in a jar -- what was I thinking!). But as Robert said, this discussion goes on Chains, where if you do a search you'll find extensive discussions about what to buy and what to avoid at TJ's. In fact, if you're interested in specific items, you might try searching those items on that board.

        2. I love TJ's, and always stock up on milk, OJ, cheese (esp. the extra sharp cheddar) and eggs.

          In response to your specific question, I really like their potstickers. I usually cook them the traditional way, frying them and then steaming, but in a hurry they work in the microwave. Good quality fillings and good wrappers. However, the shu mai are among the few items I've found very disappointing -- turned out very rubbery and bland.

          Great bargains in the frozen food dessert section. I've had very good luck bringing the chocolate torte and the mixed berries charlotte to parties. I also like the small cheesecake, the key lime pie, and the profiteroles.

          3 Replies
          1. re: nosh

            Also in the frozen desserts case, I love both the chocolate croissants and the plain mini croissants--you leave them out overnight to proof and bake the next day. Yum

            Frozen puff pastry is great, too--tasty and convenient. And if you're interested in potstickers and shu mai, you might also like the lemongrass spring rolls.

            But as other posters say, you will find discussions of just about every product that TJ's sells on this board if you search.

            1. re: nosh

              I have always picked up OJ every now and then from TJ's, but I was absolutely stunned when I realized that their milk and eggs are cheaper than at the supermarket.
              OJ sales at the supermarkets still usually beat TJ's OJ prices, but not by a lot. But from now on most of my milk and especially eggs are going to be purcahsed at TJ's!

              1. re: zhelder

                Yup. Or if not cheaper, better quality for the same price.

            2. Lots of good ideas posted so far. Every time I go, I make it a point to try a ew dessert or appetizer. The prices are so low, and the satisfaction piolicy is so good, you can't lose. I also buy the salt and pepper grinders- really cheap, and great to use for summer grilling. Also like their brand, and the Fage brand of yogurt, thier fresh flowers and their soups. I buy their salsa to keep for some of my relatives who do not like chunky salsa. Their brand is the consistency of a taco sauce- just a bit of a bite, but a favorite in my fmaily.

              5 Replies
              1. re: macca

                We have a few TJs in our area but I have never really tried anything because I was thinking the prices were HIGHER than "normal" supermarkets? Are their prices lower (or comparable)?

                1. re: TwoPointers

                  Lower ! For example, I love their Persian Cucumbers (not fond of their produce in general but these are great !) $1.99 @TJ's, $3.99@Albertson's (a 'normal', not expensive grocery chain). Salad mixes, $1.69-$1.99/ bag. Cheeses, about 1/3 less. Milk and eggs, less.

                  1. re: TwoPointers

                    Lower prices. The salt and pepper grinders, for instance. AT TJs they are about 1.69- and are at least 2.50 in the supermarket. AND the TJ brand is at least 30% bigger!. And their desserts are usually less than 5 bucks- which is why we love to try a new one at every visit.!

                    1. re: TwoPointers

                      A lot of people have this misconception... and TJ's does have its share of "gourmet" items that are costly, but their prices on staples cannot be beat. Eggs, milk, quality cheese and yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, rice, pasta - all these items (and more) are consistently cheaper and better quality than what you'd find in any supermarket.

                      1. re: addiegirl

                        Oh yeah. I can't stand to buy nuts at the supermarket, where you end up spending as much for six ounces as you would for a pound at TJ's. And even their "costly gourmet" items are relatively cheap compared to what they would cost in a gourmet specialty store. Combine that with their "you don't like it, return it" policy and you really can't lose.