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Trader Joe's brand - The Good, the Bad - What have you enjoyed? tossed? bought more of? thought a bargain?

I'm from Toronto, Canada, and we don't have Trader Joe's here. But, on recent trips to Michigan, I have purchased a number of items, some of which have been fabulous (dried, unsweetened, unsulphured cherries at a great price), and some have been not so great (frozen crème brulée). It's hard to get through much of their product line with odd visits now and then.

Please share your experiences!!!

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  1. The frozen naan is our favorite must-have from Trader Joes. This is a staple in our freezer now. You throw it in the oven for about 2 mins. (no defrosting needed) and it comes out chewy and crisp on the edges. How's that for convenience! We also buy a lot of the nuts for snacks, which are always a bargain. Prepared foods have been pretty hit or miss, as you indicated.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jboeke

      Oh, yum yum. Sounds great. And naan is something I'm definitely not equipped to make at home!!! Thanks!

      1. re: jboeke

        The naan is a favorite of ours too.

      2. You might want to check out the various "Yeas and Nays from Trader Joe's" threads; I think there are three spanning a few years, but they're all still living on the board. These threads are all about answering the questions you pose: things people particularly love and those that are bad or not worth the money.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Thank you so much! I discovered them after I had already posted. I did a search on the wrong Board for Trader Joe's, which is why I didn't find them. Thanks again!

        2. I had to take back some navel oranges in december. I had my receipt with me so it was easy as pie. I've heard that TJs issues refunds even without the receipt or even the item though. I can see where it wouldn't be worth the return trip to return an item you didn't like full tummy! My TJs has been open for over a year and I'm still nibbling my way through it. It's hard to go wrong with the cookies though. Last summer I bought the cashew and caramel cookies, they were fairly small so I ate three and thought, eh just so so. Five minutes later I was stuffing down more. Those kind of snuck up on me. They have a really good aftertaste. I bought some chocolate almond bark at Christmas and really liked it. I was hoping it wasn't just a holiday item. Sigh. Have not seen the bark since.

          5 Replies
          1. re: givemecarbs

            Thanks for the tips. Will check out the cookies.

            1. re: Full tummy

              One thing I usually grab is the wide noodles, intended for stroganoff. Made a big pot of turkey noodle soup the other night with those noodles and it is already gone. One person is lamenting that he didn't get his fair share! They are a bargain at 2.00 a package but I always buy two.

                1. re: Full tummy

                  :) On the same visit I got some gourmet pie crust. It was kinda pricy at 5 bucks for only two crusts but I wanted to try it. Other hounds have said they were disappointed with this year's new recipe but with nothing to compare it to I thought it was great. Easy to handle as long as you ignore the instructions to let the crust come to room temp. I like to use my pie crust still slightly chilled and had no problems. I made a turkey, potatoes, and carrot filling with gravy and tossed in some peas and corn. I couldn't resist brushing an egg white on the crust right before I popped it in my convection oven. It turned out gorgeous! Yummy too. I'm going to grab another next time I go to keep in my freezer. If I'm asked to bring a covered dish sometime I will be set because the crust bakes up beautifully.

                  1. re: givemecarbs

                    Sounds good. A couple of pie crusts in the freezer is extreeeeemely helpful.

          2. The Yea/Nay threads will be very helpful. Recently we've been getting the wild rice, the lightly smoked sardines (purple can), the Greek style yogurt, the frozen French onion soup. Unfortunately, many of the items that we loved (Muscovey duck breast, white truffle oil) have been discontinued.

            1. Good:
              Tuscan pane bread
              pine nuts
              authentic salsa, salsa verde
              danish dripless taper candles
              Spanish cava
              Chimichirra rice frozen

              tea tree oil shampoo and body wash
              carne asada

              2 Replies
              1. re: AllesandroSprezzatura

                Great tips! It's good to know what to stay away from. Will have to give their salsas a try.

                1. Milk Chocolate Macadmia Lace Cookies yummy!

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Island

                    Oh, I will HAVE to check those out. Thanks!!

                    1. re: Island

                      I actually prefer version at Cost Plus...tastier..nicer crunch.

                      1. re: gnomatic

                        I don't know anything about Cost Plus. Is it worth checking out?

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          If you have one nearby, it's worth checking out. Good selection of wine and beer, import food and chocolates. Like TJ, they have snacks under their own brand:

                          1. re: gnomatic

                            If you're looking for Cost Plus in Michigan, they closed all their stores (alas) in the Detroit area, so the next closest ones coming from Ontario are in Ann Arbor and Lansing.

                            TJ's favs:
                            dried cherries, dried wild blueberries, in fact I think nearly all the dried fruits, nuts, and snack mixes are good and good deals
                            cookies: triple ginger, caramel/cashew, pecan sandies
                            frozen: gyoza, cookie dough, mini croissants
                            I liked the tea tree shampoo and body wash - strong tea tree scent, make lots of suds

                            One thing I can recall really disliking was their vanilla extract, which I think was Mexican, not Madagascar

                            1. re: gooddog

                              I know TJ's sells a couple vanillas, including one labeled Bourbon which doesn't specify Madagascar, but has the right flavor, and a Tahitian. Not sure about Mexican.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                OP, if you're visiting TJ's in DTW, we also have a Penzey's spice store you might want to check out.

                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  I had a look at the map on the Penzeys site, and I see there's on close to Royal Oak, Michigan. Thanks for the tip!!!

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    Yup, only a couple of miles from the TJ's on Woodward. Definitely worth a visit!

                                    ...and there's a Tuesday Morning in the same strip mall as Penzeys :), which can be chowish because they will sometimes have some good "gourmet" food finds as well as cookware

                                2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Thanks for the tip. I am fortunate enough to have bottles of Mexican vanilla from family who recently travelled there, but when that runs out...

                                3. re: gooddog

                                  Those caramel cashew cookies are da debil. Last summer I got some and tried a couple. I was like meh these are okay. I was kinda distracted. Then the aftertaste hit me. Yeah, they didn't stick around long.

                                4. re: gnomatic

                                  I see there's one in Ann Arbor. Will put it on my list for the next visit there. Thanks!

                          2. Their frozen Mandarin Chicken is pretty tasty!! I spice up the sauce with chili flake and a little ginger, then toss some toasted sesame seeds over the chix. adam

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: adamshoe

                              Will have to check that out. I was feeling a little nervous about those prepared frozen dinners, as some that are out there can be truly awful.

                              1. re: adamshoe

                                i tried 2 of the frozen chinese chicken dinners, the mandarin was delicious and the sweet and sour tempura was good but not as good as the mandarin. very generous portions too compared to "panda" brand in the regular market....add some veggies and rice and these meals can easily fill 3-4 people

                                also love the potstickers, but the potsticker sauce is a big no....too vinegary and a wierd aftertaste

                                tried the garlic naan and was at first disappointed, but read on the package "try brushing with butter prior to cooking" and that made a huge difference

                                honey roasted peanuts great deal
                                dried banana chips great deal
                                granola great deal
                                frosted shredded wheat good deal

                                1. re: joe777cool

                                  Thanks!!! Will have to give those potstickers a try, too. Sauce is a snap to make with the right ingredients on hand.

                              2. If you enjoy Indian food, TJ's frozen Paneer Tikka Masala with spinach basmati rice is quite good. I always like to have a couple on hand for when the craving hits.

                                My latest snack fave is Wasabi Wow. It has almonds, peanuts, cranberries and wasabi peas. I love the combination of the sweet, salty and spicy flavors and the soft and crunchy textures. Too bad I got the bag out to read the ingredient list. Now I can't put the darn thing down! :)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: justalex

                                  I've gotta try these two. Both sound really good.

                                  1. re: justalex

                                    Sounds yummy. I find they have a lot of great snack mixes.

                                  2. I love their Asian Spicy Peanut Vinegarette - it's a fairly new item and is in a refrigerated case - near the vegetables in my store. It has lots of flavor and is fairly low fat. I love making a salad of that over shredded cabbage/carrots with a chopped apple and raisins tossed in.

                                    1. TJ's is in my regular grocery shopping rotation. Here are a few of the things my husband and I get frequently:
                                      Frozen brown, jasmine and basmati rice - three minutes and done. (I always forget the rice.)
                                      Heavy whipping cream - it's the only kind I use ever.
                                      Peeled garlic in the vacuum-packed bags - always a time saver
                                      Nuts - all types
                                      Crimini mushrooms - TJ's has the lowest price
                                      Baby sweet peppers - I use them for all sorts of things, especially salads
                                      Baby tomatoes - I eat tons of 'matoes and the dogs get them as snacks
                                      Pre-made salads - My husband loves the Pasadena, I go for the chopped Italian.
                                      Cereal - I eat the high fiber cereal everyday (seriously.)
                                      Frozen BBQ chicken and orange chicken - That's what my husband eats when I'm not there to cook
                                      Pasta and rice - good prices, good quality.
                                      Organic brown and granulated sugar
                                      Greek yogurt - Yum!
                                      Shave lotion - no parabans!
                                      Vodka - okay, I don't know the name but the label looks like it's from Stoli but it's green and gold. One of the employees recommended it for mixed drinks. It goes down easy and is like $8 a bottle.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: RebJaeBoe

                                        How long does the garlic last? How do you store once you have opened the bag?

                                        1. re: six dower

                                          I have some I buy like that at the grocery store near me in Toronto, Canada. Mine lasts a couple of weeks at least. Sometimes I freeze the rest before it goes off, which works well if you're using it in cooked foods.

                                        2. re: RebJaeBoe

                                          Great tip on the vodka. Will take a look next time. I bought some of the Fage yoghurt last time, but I haven't tried the Trader Joe's own version.

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            re. the fat free versions - fage is definitely better with a creamier texture than tj's, but the fage is almost $5 while the tj's brand is 2.79.

                                        3. O.K. I tried the Gnocchi al Gorgonzola tonight. It comes frozen and just needs to be warmed in the microwave. It was very good, except that the sauce lacked gorgonzola flavour and was more like a simple cream sauce--to my tastes, anyway. The gnocchi had a nice firm texture, to my surprise, and the cream sauce was quite serviceable. After crumbling some gorgonzola into it, it approximated what I would expect from such a dish. I will definitely buy more on my next visit!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            Another TJ fan here:

                                            nuts (great prices)
                                            tomato starter sauce (in a carton, great to doctor up into your favorite pasta sauce)
                                            TJ marinara (same as above)
                                            some produce
                                            Green chili+ cheese tamales - these are great to have in the freezer. Kids love this as an after school snack.
                                            Many of their chocolates and candies, especially the seasonal ones

                                            Amazing bargain:
                                            TJ candied non-crystallized ginger. Great for baking, and costs literally 1/10 of the McCormick crystallized ginger at the regular supermarket!
                                            Makes a great addition to trail mix etc.

                                            I haven't bought too many things to identify a "bad" list .....

                                            1. re: Rasam

                                              Thanks for suggesting the ginger. I love that stuff, and, you're right, it can be really pricey.

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                I haven't been able to find the ginger the last several times I've been to TJ's - I'm really hoping it hasn't been discontinued:(

                                                1. re: BullCityChow

                                                  Tried the large mushroom ravioli with beef in broth. It's frozen. You put the package in the microwave for 5 mins and it's pretty damn tasty!!! Big ravioli's with chunks of chuck in a delicious sauce!!

                                          2. A few more things I like of the top of my head...

                                            1. Indian spinach simmer sauce over rice (but I add fresh lemon juice, fresh spinach and red pepper flakes to it to punch up the flavor.)
                                            2. The mixture of brown rice,black barley, and daikon radish seeds.
                                            3. I like Annie's Goddess salad dressing and discovered that the TJ's brand of goddess dressing is EXACTLY the same - made by the same company and $2.00 cheaper.
                                            4. Toasted Oat flakes cereal and the Barbara's shredded oat squares cereal
                                            5. Dark roast Sumatra coffee beans
                                            6. Brown conical coffee filters (very cheap compared to others)
                                            7. TJ's brand toilet paper
                                            8. Olive oil (I always have one cheap kind from TJ's and one better quality one for recipes where I can really taste the oil.)
                                            9. Dried fruits
                                            10. Nuts
                                            11. TJ's brand Greek yogurt (the honey one especially)
                                            12. Grilled chicken strips from the refrigerator case (love these - they taste strongly of the grill)

                                            I've had bad experiences with a lot of their prepared foods - I approach those with a lot of skepticism - and if I go for it, I only buy one, in case it's awful. Case in point, I just tried 3 different types of their "Reduced Guilt" frozen meals to bring to work for lunch. I won't be buying them again.

                                            1. I went yesterday during lunchtime to pick up a few things...

                                              - bake at home rolls- I keep several packages in my freezer
                                              - maple leaf cookies (a little too sweet, but good)
                                              - habanero lime tortillas

                                              - vaccum dried pineapple- really gross- tasted greasy
                                              - crunchy green bean snack

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                                Oh, I love maple cookies. Is it artificial or real maple flavouring?

                                                I bought the crunchy green bean snack and quite enjoyed them. I think it's just a matter of taste. I saw the exact same thing (in different packaging, of course) selling for more money in another grocery store in Michigan.

                                                1. re: Full tummy

                                                  "maple leaf cookies" with a smooth and flavorful maple cream fillling
                                                  enriched flour, cane sugar, organic palm oil, invert syrup, maple syrup, sea salt, ammonium bicarbonate, natural flavor, soy lecithin

                                                  I've had crispy green beans prepared that way before, and these seemed to be missing something. Didn't hate em, just wouldn't choose them again.

                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                    Woohoo! Real maple syrup!!! That will be a first for me. Here in Toronto the ones in the stores are typically artificial. I will be buying me some of those. Thanks!!!

                                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                                      Enjoy! They're in a box on top of the frozen section. I liked them, but they were very sweet cookies.

                                              2. The masala naan in the fresh bread section is fantastic.

                                                The Triple Ginger cookies are addictive.

                                                There's also a mushroom brie that makes me drool just thinking about it.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                  Mushroom brie. Yum, yum. Sounds like my thing. I saw those triple ginger cookies last time but didn't buy any. Love ginger. Thanks!

                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                    The loves:
                                                    Pot Stickers
                                                    Any of their Coffee
                                                    Chile spiced dried pineapple
                                                    Frozen square of basil and cilantro - great for quick flavoring
                                                    Seaweed Rice Balls (Future Snack!)
                                                    TJ Greek Yogurt
                                                    TJ Whole Milk European Yogurt - Plain
                                                    Cheddar Cheese Curds

                                                    The not so loved
                                                    Dried Mango Strips - really hard
                                                    I guess that's it!

                                                    1. re: chinacat1969

                                                      Seaweed Rice Balls have potential. Will have to look for them!!!

                                                      1. re: chinacat1969

                                                        Love the dried mango strips when I get a "fresh" batch--they are soft and chewy. Just bought some today and they were hard and crunchy. Definitely disappointing! Love the jambalaya that comes in a pouch, but I am afraid it's gone b/c they've been out of it the past two times I've gone. My hubbie's also a fan of the gluten free english muffins.

                                                      2. re: Full tummy

                                                        Those triple ginger cookies are my FAVORITE. The hubby and I are going to Santa Fe next week and have a huge list of things to pick up for us as well as other fam in CO - good thing we are driving as I'm sure the whole rear of the car will be full of TJ groceries. :-)

                                                    2. Thumbs up:

                                                      silver coho salmon deboned skinless (frozen) - 1 lb - $7.99 (brand name: Natural Wild Salmon) - sautéd some, poached some, all great. They have several other types of frozen Pacific salmon in the store too.

                                                      vegetable masala burgers - 10 oz (4) - $2.49 - not veggie burgers but vegetable patties with a potato base. So good I can't stand it.

                                                      Petite Peas (frozen) - 1 lb - $1.29 (not the frozen full-sized peas) - particularly good

                                                      Indian Fare Madras lentil - 10.5 oz - $2.19 - served over rice, a meal in itself

                                                      Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage - 12.8 oz (4) - $3.99 - works for me in jambalaya

                                                      Fresh Cherry Preserves - 17.5 oz - $2.99 - with whole cherries and the occasional cherry stone to prove it's the real thing

                                                      Next to Godliness automatic dishwasher detergent - 50 oz - $3.49

                                                      Thumbs down:

                                                      Steamed Six Bean Medley - 12.3 oz - $2.99 - nearly flavorless, unappealing gooey "sauce"

                                                      Reduced Fat Mayonnaise (eggless) - 32 fl oz - $2.99 - pretty disgusting, the only item I've actually returned

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: armagnac

                                                        I just bought some salmon to try as I heard someone wowing it in the store, glad to hear you like it, I just took it out of the freezer for dinner.

                                                        I also agree on the smoked sausage - also good diced up and mixed into eggs and cheese on a tortilla...

                                                        1. re: armagnac

                                                          Oooohhh, I think those Maala burgers are calling my name. Thanks!

                                                        2. I just tried their fresh tomato bisque from the refrigerator case. Delicious! Big chunks of tomato... A tad too salty to be perfect, but really good none the less.

                                                          1. Love:
                                                            Tricolor pasta
                                                            Shaved beef (for French Dips) coupled with the ciabatta loaf or rolls
                                                            Cherry cider
                                                            Chicken shu mai
                                                            Tricolor fresh cherry tomatoes (when they have 'em)
                                                            Fresh gaspacho
                                                            Comte cheese
                                                            Canadian bacon (no nitrates)
                                                            Love their cereals
                                                            Frozen spanikopita
                                                            Crispy crunchy apple clusters- a great snack if you are watching your weight
                                                            Jojo's (the kids like 'em)
                                                            Frozen shrimp (great for stir fries)
                                                            Meatless corn dogs
                                                            Frozen meatballs (family can't get enough of those, but not my favorite)

                                                            Not a fan:
                                                            Their bakery desserts

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. The Trader Joe's branded sake is a really good deal. I bought a bottle to cook with and ended up drinking it instead.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Condimentality

                                                                If the sake you bought was the one from Yamaguchi prefecture, it is VERY good and a great value. I was surprised the first time I had it.

                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                  The one I got is made in the city of Hita in Oita prefecture. I guess Hita is close to Yamaguchi, but I'm not sure if it is the same one you had. It came a blue bottle and is a Junmai Ginjo. Is the one that you're referring to a sparkling sake? They have one of those as well, but I haven't tried it.

                                                                  1. re: Condimentality

                                                                    The one from Oita is new to me, but it's likely very similar since it is a Junmai Ginjo. Was it about $10?

                                                                      1. re: Condimentality

                                                                        So, how was it? Perhaps just a touch heavy or sweet?

                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                          I thought it was great, but I'm also a sake neophyte. I found it to be quite light and rather dry. Of the few sakes I've had, I'd compare it most closely to Mantensei.

                                                              2. Wow, this is great to be able to read reviews/recommendations on TJ items before I buy/try them! I've been doing it the hard way and trying one or two new items a month. I try to stop by TJs on my way home once every week or two - these are my favorites:
                                                                1. TJ brand plain fat-free greek yoghurt (low cal, great texture & price)
                                                                2. Refridgerated pizza dough (great price at only $1 & good taste but MAKE SURE you leave it out of the fridge to let it get to room tem for at least 30 mins to one hour)
                                                                3. Roasted flax seeds (I used them in my yoghurt & to grind them myself in my coffee grinder)
                                                                4. Boxed corn bread - delish...IF you like your cornbread sweet. I've actually bought this for family & friends because I like it so much. BUT, it is NOT healthry or low cal.
                                                                5. Individually packaged bags of almonds - good price and so convenient to carry in your purse, gym bag or car for when you need a healthy snack
                                                                5. Dark choco covered pretzles - very tasty
                                                                6. Pita chips & olive tapenade - great easy & tasty snack
                                                                7. Hummus - the chipolte flavored one is wonderful and a great low cal treat with veggies

                                                                I'm very careful about buying their pre-packaged produce (they go back very quickly) but have had good luck with their blueberries, tiny blood oranges and bagged salad greens.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: AudreyDale

                                                                  Oh oh oh, those pretzels are calling my name. I didn't see them last time. Are they a bit salty, too? Will have to try the hummus as well.

                                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                                    Yes, salty and chocolatey....I stopped buying them because they are crackalicious!

                                                                    Look for them on the shelves above the freezer case, they also come in milk chocolate.

                                                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                                                        There is also the yogurt cover pretzels....I CAN NOT buy it...I finish off a bag before I even get home!

                                                                  2. Their dried fruit in general is very nice and very varied. There is a mix of golden raisins, cherries, cranberries and blueberries called "golden berry blend" that we love.

                                                                    1. -The frozen manitaropita from TJ's is a staple for when I need a quick appetizer I can just throw in the oven without any prep. Nice and flaky and full of musrooms in white wine. A little yogurt sauce to dip in and they're good to go.

                                                                      -The store brand instant oatmeals, while not gourmet in any way, are quite delicious. I usually keep a couple packets in my desk drawer at work for when I need a food boost to get me through the mid-morning. I actually just had an apple cinnamon one this morning.

                                                                      -The only dislike I can think of is the sweet potato bisque in a carton. Even after heating, it was just way too gloopy and baby food-like for me.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. The TJs milk chocolate pretzels and milk chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels are my crack.

                                                                        We also like the {insert fruit} and cream yogurt, the mini pizzas, the frozen mac n cheese and last weekend we tried the chicken pot pie in the refrigerated section. Must be a new item - it was quite tasty but a bit pricey at $9.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: toopickytobeafoodie

                                                                          How was the pot pie?, saw it and intend on buying for the weekend rainy weather.

                                                                        2. Trader Joe's multigrain 'milk.' It's gluten free and non dairy. It tasted good in coffee- and I made monkey bread with it and chocolate chip muffins. Both came out very good.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                            I'll have to check that out. We're trying to use less dairy. Thanks!

                                                                            1. re: Full tummy

                                                                              Of course :)

                                                                              Last time I went there was a whole display of it on one of the end caps.

                                                                          2. I love their chicken burritos (the ones that are made from "chicken leg meat" with refried beans) but for the second time in a row they didn't have them in stock. So I tried the beef burritos.and I have to say they are pretty nasty. They taste like Dinty Moore stew or something. I don't think I can eat it again. (The correct titles is "Beef with Seasoned Beans"). I am not sure what the seasoning is, but I believe that is the major turn off.