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May 20, 2008 02:13 PM

Trader Joe's - Never Been - What to Try?

I have seen numerous posts about Trader Joe's. I am going to be in New York next week and have seen a TJ's off of I-84 in Danbury, CT. We have a second home in Fishkill which happens to have a brand new EMPTY fridge and freezer. After reading many of the posts, I am just overwhelmed and think I will walk into the store and feel the same way. My question is... what are the outstanding items that I shouldn't miss? Any type of items are fine - veg, meat, fish, frozen, snack. Anything different and unusual is always welcome too. I know some of you Trader Joe fans can help me out here. Thanks as always.

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  1. I've just started shopping at Trader Joes, so I'm not an expert but we consistently pick up three items there:
    - The jalepeno tarter sauce is the only commercial tarter sauce I've ever liked. It's not hot, just flavorful, and is excellent. I highly recommend it.
    - Hummus is a specialty of theirs. They carry many different varieties -- it can be overwhelming to choose one. We are very partial to the Mediterranean Hummus.
    - Stroopwafels, which are little caramel wafer cookies. They're very sweet so they are not for everyone.

    Others will have lots of wonderful suggestions too. Have fun shopping!

    1 Reply
    1. re: happy2sing

      I love the chocolate croissants that you proof overnight. They are in the frozen dessert area.

    2. Nuts and dried fruits. I take one of their individually-packaged trail mixes to work everyday and my family likes the Nuts about Chocolate and Raspberries one.
      Frozen Tarte d'Alsace -- a perfect quickie hors d'oeuvre. Some of the other frozen hors d'oeuvres aren't bad either.
      Frozen berries -- great for smoothies, etc.
      Good prices on olive oil.
      Love their light tuna, much better flavor than major brands and much cheaper.
      Organic chocolate bars with pecans and raisins.
      Juice Squeeze sodas, also the new Trader Joe's pomegranate sodas.
      Peanut butter, jam, sourdough bread, Ezekiel bread.
      Those are just a few, I do 85% of my shopping there since the prices on eggs, butter, etc. are so much better than the supermarket.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chowpatty

        I agree with your post, but you left out the great cheese selection and frozen veggies combos that are perfect on a rushed weeknight.

      2. I don't live near a TJ's. When I am near a store I stock up on the small elephant ears, maple/pecan granola and bread & butter pickles (in the refridge case), soup that comes in a box....roasted corn and the butternut squash are favorites.

        1. If I were stocking a freezer for the long haul (TJ's is a mile from my house so I don't need to have all this on hand!):

          Tarte D'alsace
          Veg tempura
          Individual quiches (good for nuked work lunch)
          Spring rolls (lemongrass curry, coconut chicken)
          Mac & cheese aka crack and cheese (for my son)
          Croissants, both chocolate and plain
          Puff pastry
          Roasted corn (never have seen this anywhere else)
          Artichoke hearts
          Organic wild blueberries
          Biryani rice
          Plain rice (nuke for a minute, both brown and white jasmine)
          Ice cream and sorbet
          Ice cream bon bons
          A cheesecake or two
          Any dessert that looks interesting
          Australian lamb chops
          Frozen naan, I prefer the plain

          I don't particularly like the bowls--to me they taste very chemical

          FAGE yogurt! as much as you can consume before it expires
          Organic milk
          Lemonade (sugar sweetened)
          Niman Ranch bacon--many many boxes, be ready for BLT season

          1. One thing to be careful of if you are "stocking up" is to check expiration dates as well as a general look-over for freshness. Some of their items do not seem to keep very well after the purchase date. I've had problems with dairy items (not the yogurt but almost everything else), and don't buy their vegetables, sometimes even the packaged goods like the popcorn are stale. It's not a problem if you live close by, because they are good with returns.

            I usually get the nuts, dried fruits, yogurt, frozen fish and veg, and reduced fat string cheese.

            They have lots of snacky items (seems to be a specialty, I think they invented the peanut butter filled pretzels). I like the bean chips.

            7 Replies
            1. re: mlgb

              ITA about the veggies, and I skipped the snacks, cereals, etc as my post would have been REALLY long!

              I must say I've never had a problem with the dairy being old--it's more likely that the store by me won't have something in stock! Nothing sits around long enough to age.

              1. re: coney with everything

                The cheese sold in chunks is suspect, the milk tends to go off fairly quickly, and the cottage cheese is just yucky tasting from day one.

                1. re: mlgb

                  Where do you live? Never had a problem with any of this in L.A. Our store is extremely busy and everything rotates very quickly. I like the cottage cheese much better than the supermarket brand. My milk often lasts for weeks. I'm sure the suppliers are different everywhere however.

                  1. re: Chowpatty

                    I'm in Southern California. I buy the nonfat versions of cottage cheese and milk, which in my experience are more perishable. The cottage cheese almost always has off-flavors to my palate, even on the first day. If I buy a quart of milk, I usually have to toss the last third. It rarely lasts more than a week. For the cottage cheese, I usually have to stick with the Vons/Safeway or Knudsen brands.

                    1. re: Chowpatty

                      Others have mentioned the short shelf-life of TJ's dairy, but I've never had a problem. In fact, their dairy products seem to last a very long time in my fridge (I'm in OC). I love the flavor of the organic milk; the only other brand I buy is Clover from Whole Foods.

                      Other mainstays (most have been mentioned already): butter, eggs, cream (great stuff, though the Clover cream is a bit better), nuts, chicken breakfast sausage, Tarte D'Alsace, croissants (both plain and chocolate), beef tamales, grass-fed ground beef, veggie masala burgers, Bellwether creme fraiche (for a decent price), and other stuff I can't think of right now.

                  2. re: coney with everything

                    I eat cottage cheese every single day, and Trader Joe's is my very favorite. Perhaps it varies by area? I live in northern Calif.

                    1. re: jjw

                      I'm the same way and I live in SoCal. I can't stand the taste of the supermarket versions compared to TJ's (plus, they're much more expensive). Also, instead of Fage, try TJ's brand Greek style yogurt. It tastes the same, but it's much cheaper than Fage.