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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.

                2. Thank you all - I am making a list and I think neither my fridge, freezer nor pantry will be empty for long. I knew I could count on you...

                  1. Don'f forget their frozen pizzas imported from Italy. Several varieties, all of them good.Their cheese prices are also a good value. Also good for vitamins.

                    1. I always have on hand:
                      Frozen rice....brown and white...seriously the best convenience product out there!
                      Frozen pizzas
                      Boxed Tomato and Red Pepper Soup
                      Nuts/dried fruit
                      Fage yogurt
                      Chocolate pound plus bars
                      Truffle Brownie Mix
                      Olive Oil
                      Pizza dough
                      Chocolate Prezel Bites
                      Frozen Sweet Potato Fries
                      Frozen Chocolate Croissants
                      Frozen French Toast
                      Red and Yellow Curry Sauces
                      Boxed Corn Bread mix
                      Pita Chips

                      I'm sure I'll think of more! Love TJ's!

                      1. Agree that TJ's frozen pizzas are among the best you'll find. The frozen chocolate croissants are amazing as well. (The "fresh" ones are not nearly as good.) My other faves:

                        Frozen Grilled Chicken Pieces (You can do lots of things with this with minimal fuss!)
                        Frozen Fettuccine Alfredo
                        Fruit Filled Cereal Bars
                        Dixie Peach and Papaya Blend Juices
                        Raspberry & Apricot Almond Tarts
                        Brownie Chocolate Cookies
                        Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies (My newest discovery!)
                        Frozen Flan Cake ($4.99 for a 32 oz. cake! Unbelievable value, and it's delicious too!)
                        Frozen Beef Flautas
                        TJ's Kettle Style Chips
                        TJ's Bruschetta (Dirt cheap, and delicious!)

                        There's more, but those are my standard items!

                        1. A few repeaters I'm sure...

                          White Balsamic Vinegar
                          Caramelized Onion and Feta Bites (frozen)
                          Steel Cut Oats (dry and frozen)
                          Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes (frozen)
                          Chocolate Caramel Tarts
                          Vanilla Wafers
                          Rice Krispy Treats
                          Tapioca Pudding
                          Vegetable Tapenade
                          Orange Chicken (frozen)
                          Turkey Meatballs (frozen)
                          Frozen Berries
                          Praline Pecans
                          Pre-Cut Butternut Squash
                          Bagged Cauliflower/Broccoli
                          Sugar Plum Tomatoes

                          1. mmmmm. I guess it is a good thing that we kept the old fridge and have it plugged in out in the garage. Thanks everyone!

                            1. if you like it and go again:

                              i second the butter/eggs suggestion. seriously - the prices are $3 cheaper per dozen eggs and $2.50 cheaper for butter than the normal supermarkets.

                              i love the pizzas that are imported from italy (i'm not sure all are - so read where it's from). we usually get the margarita and it's great.

                              the orange chicken (frozen) is great and just like fast food; you do need to cook this for a bit longer than it says on the package to get it nice and crispy (fyi).

                              the frozen shrimp is great. the frozen fish in general is quite good. i don't really buy it that often (not sure why) -- but when i do i think it's great.

                              i love the herb salad mix. it is so refreshing.

                              the vinegars are a good deal and good quality.

                              frozen/cut bell peppers save a lot of time during the week (or if i do not have fresh).

                              the microwave rice is amazing (there are about 3 packages per box and you microwave for 3 minutes and it's perfect (again when i don't have a lot of time)).

                              the bags of organic frozen chicken breast is a great deal and terrific to have on hand. also, unlike regular grocery stores, the chicken breasts are "normal"/single serving size. i'm not sure what's up with the other frozen chicken breasts - but they are generally over a pound each and are way to big to serve as a single serving.

                              the ground beef is great b/c they offer it in about 1 lb. packages that are very low in fat. i usually get 4% fat which makes it lower in calories than poultry.

                              i'm not crazed about their cheeses b/c often it seems they are spoiled. but goat cheese is a good deal and it is in air tight packages that are "safe."

                              they have a nice selection of beer/wine that is fun to try.

                              the naan (frozen) is great! it really is almost as good as you get in a restaurant.

                              the cioppino (frozen) is also pretty good - but you need to add a bit of spice to it.

                              1. No Trader Joe's here in Florida (and they have no plans to open one here) but I visited one in LA while on vacation a few years ago and my friend will sometimes send me goodies like salsas. The last care package had packets tuna in curry sauce, which makes an inspired lunch at work.

                                1. Agree like you wouldn't believe with other post about the spring rolls (lemongrass, and coconut) absolutely deelish! Perfect accomp for homemade Asian night. Oven and done, and good. A rarity to get all three in one product.

                                  If you like ginger snaps (and even if you don't) I can guarantee you that someone in your fam, or one of your friends will go BONKERS over the "triple ginger snaps" that come in a plastic tub. I have yet to meet anyone who could stop eating them.

                                  Jalapeno cheese curls - like cheetos with white cheddar, and a little heat.

                                  Sesame cashews. Wow. Just Wow. Um, I might have to go buy some like right now.

                                  Dried banana. Ingredients: Banana. 'nuff said

                                  The 1 liter sodas in glass bottles. Grapefruit, blood orange..
                                  Lime sparkling water in the blue bottle. YUMMMM!

                                  Banana Chips are usually a decent price, as are all of the nuts/dried fruits etc.
                                  Vegetable gyoza are surprisingly edible.
                                  The wife SWEARS by the ultra dark french roast if that's your thing. Used to be a die hard 'bucks french roast until she tried the tj's.

                                  One thing I have noticed is that some people tend to think TJ's is some great, giant supermarket, and are "let down" when they actually step foot into one. I'm in the midwest, and our tj's are not anything close to the size of the all encompassing giant grocers. Tj's here are more of a somma this, somma that type joints. Once you figure out what you like, then yes, tj kix a$$, but don't build it up to be some sort of one stop for everything type shopping experience.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                    I'm from Toronto, and only visited Trader Joe's once, in Long Island. But I bought a bag of freeze dried mangosteens to take home with me, and I ended up opening it that night to share with family. We drove back the next morning to buy more, they were superaddictive!

                                  2. Frozen Tarte Alsace
                                    they have the best Frozen pizzas
                                    vacuum packed brown rice
                                    lemongrass chicken spring rolls
                                    sliced yogurt cheese...melts well on toast
                                    mini meringues vanilla...addictive
                                    pizza dough
                                    Sour Cream & chive potato crisps
                                    snap pea crisps...could not find recently
                                    Lite Berry granola
                                    "so this blueberry walks into a bar" fruit bar
                                    coffee beans
                                    frozen roasted corn
                                    Tomato basil soup

                                    1. I went this morning:

                                      Sea Salt Bagel Chips - the family is addicted to this $2.19
                                      Fresh Pizza dough - $1.19 a bag - 2 plain and one herb
                                      Roasted Garlic Hummus - oh, so good
                                      Trader Giotto's Italian Tomato Starter Sauce - good as a cold toss-in with pasta - I've also made salsa with it. $1.49
                                      "This Fig Walks into a Bar" cereal bar - like big Fig Newtons
                                      Olive oil
                                      Jarred Pizza sauce
                                      Goat cheese
                                      Ball of fresh mozz
                                      Box of mini pizzas

                                      My mom picked up a large bag of roasted almonds for $4.50.

                                      I also dig the cereals - cherry crunch is good.
                                      The board tortilla chips are yummy too.