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May 25, 2009 06:33 AM

My first visit to Trader Joe's is today...anything I must buy or look for??

Heard so much about Trader Joes from Chow but always thought it was just a West Coast Enterprise until yesterday when someone asked me if I had been to the TJ in Ann Arbor. Was so excited to hear that they were here as I haven't been thrilled with the shopping choices since moving from Florida to the Midwest. I did check out their website and was amazed to find all of the areas of the country their in...guess eventually they'll make it as far south as Florida but anyway I'm headed there today and excited to check it out. Definately will pick up their chocolate croissants as remember reading in a previous post that they used the same bakery as William Sonoma does for their famous croissants. What else is really good there and how is their fish dpt??? That is one of the things I miss most about leaving Florida...the availability of fresh seafood. TIA and have a great Memorial Day!

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  1. holy moly, one could get a phD here on chowhound about shopping at trader joe's.

    their brie -- in fact, all their cheese -- is an excellent deal; get the french triple cream. and cotswold, one of my faves -- especially on a grilled cheese sandwich.

    get their whole wheat tortillas (can use like indian roti), french truffles (lovely real chocolate, and nice texture), and get the frozen mixed seafood -- but not the mahi-mahi or swordfish. <take an insulated shopping cooler or bag -- or buy one of theirs>.

    their regular trader joe's dried pasta is great quality -- equal to many more expensive brands. we just bought two more packages of spaghetti and linguine just yesterday, at 99 cents. it is a household staple.

    their frozen organic english peas are superb! also, the frozen bell pepper melange is great to keep in the freezer to add to all sorts of dishes. but, this is available in other groceries, too. i haven't really done a cost comparison.

    there are plenty of pastes and spreads. see what appeals to you, but others will chime in.

    if they have it, smoked trout in the blue and white tin (like a sardine tin), and pumpkin butter (which may be seasonal -- superb in oatmeal).

    their indian-style korma "simmer sauce" is good in a weeknight pinch -- to add in some shredded chicken breasts, or chicken thighs.

    their grade a dark amber maple syrup is a great deal, too. the brand i bought is "spring tree."

    ps, take your second mortgage paperwork with you, to speed the processing. ;-).

    and... where in florida? my home state (fort myers).

    1. The upper mid -west isn't exactly a culinary mecca, I spend half the year in Montana, TJ's would never make it here, locals would brand it "too weird". However, I spend the other half in Arizona and use TJ's all the time. Some of my favorites---

      Half sour pickles
      The various frozen pastas
      The cheeses
      Organic carrot juice ( I drink about 8oz. a day, actually makes me feel better) the other brands like Odwalla etc. don't taste as good or have the same affect on me as TJ's brand.

      1. I hope you aren't disappointed -- there's little or no fresh seafood at Trader Joe's.

        Trader Joe's is *not* a full-spectrum grocery store. It's not Whole Foods, it's a small specialty store. In fact, with the exception of dairy, fresh food in general is not their strong point. I always think of meat and produce at TJ's as being more for convenience than anything else -- it's not their focus.

        Their strong point is their shelf goods, which are generally gourmet-store quality at supermarket prices. Lots of organics and "natural" products.

        There are lots of threads on what to buy, but given your screen name:

        Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate and chocolate covered everything. The pound-plus bars are great (any chocolates of theirs that say "Belgian" are Callebaut). Around the checkstands there are some single-origin and other higher end bars. And just wait until they start stocking up for the holidays.

        Other things I routinely buy there include nuts and dried fruit, organic sugar, some cheeses, Fage yogurt, organic eggs, all kinds of snack foods.

        1. I agree, the "fresh" products such as fresh produce, eggs, and meats are not so great and I find they go bad too quickly so are not worth buying unless you plan on using immediately.

          They have great prices on fage greek yogurt, cheeses, cured meats (though a somewhat limited selection), tapenades & sauces if you like that kind of thing (some of them are great, some kind of meh) olive oil, nuts and dried fruit, and CHOCOLATE! :-)
          Excellent prices on wines if they happen to sell at your location.

          I have noticed that in the past year or so, Whole Foods has begun selling many of these things at lower, more competitive prices (olive oil, peanut butter, applegate farms turkey slices, cheeses etc..) so I find myself going to TJs a lot less often since I don't have very good luck with their fruits and veggies.

          1. They sell a package of 4 unbaked chocolate souffles. Not only are they incredibly good, but they come in little white ceramic souffle ramekins. I don't remember the price, but I remember thinking that it was a steal, considering you get to keep the ramekins after you eat the souffle.