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Please don't pounce on me! I know there are lots of threads, and I regularly read the quarterly yays [Trader Joe's]

and nays, but what would you choose first at Trader Joe's? We have a new TJs opening in Fort Worth in two weeks -- and many of us are eagerly awaiting its arrival. Many of you have a great deal of experience shopping at TJs, but many of us here, including me, have never even been inside one.

Armed with your experience, if you had a TJs opening in your area, what would be your first choices, your must-haves, on Day One?

Thanks from all of us who look forward to your responses.

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  1. Wine, assuming Texas allows TJ's to sell it. To me, thats the best, most high value item in the store. The prices are amazing, $4 to $7 a bottle for very drinkable, good wine. Nero D'avola, Aglianico, Vinho Verde, Prosecco. (edit: avoid the "2 buck chuck")

    Other choices: saffron, fresh flowers, guacamole "kit", whatever snack/cookie item currently on special...

    1 Reply
    1. re: carolinadawg

      Yes, they'll have wine and beer, and I appreciate the specific suggestions, carolinadawg.

    2. Chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels. You'll find these in the frozen aisle above the coolers.
      Frozen veggies (especially the green beans).

      Once you have those, explore the store.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dee S

        Those sound good, Dee. And I look forward to exploring the store.

        1. re: Dee S

          Oh yes, the frozen haricots verts. They usually have washed/trimmed fresh haricots verts in the produce section also, and they are much cheaper than any other store in my area.

        2. The precooked grilled chicken strips from the frozen aisle. You will never come home from work late and wonder what's for dinner again. Just nuke them, spread some refried beans on a tortilla, fold up with the chicken, and eat.

          Also agree with the wine rec--that is a real bargain, as is the beer.

          1 Reply
          1. another vote for the wine, with a caveat. if you don't know the good from the bad, ask whomever handles the department to guide you to some tasty bottles - they do carry some good wines at great prices, but they also stock a fair bit of plonk.

            my faves:
            - bags of nuts, seeds and dried fruit
            - organic almond butter
            - Pound Plus chocolate bars
            - canned beans, sardines, tuna & salmon (BPA-free cans!)
            - bagged teas
            - dark chocolate-covered ginger
            - plain kefir
            - kumatos (brown tomatoes)
            - white balsamic vinegar
            - organic lemons & limes

            Mom & Sis absolutely love:
            - the Fillo Factory frozen spinach pie (not the individual spanakopita triangles)
            - frozen Kobe burgers
            - dark chocolate mint creams
            - Highbrow chocolate chip cookies
            - Cinnamon Roll Bread (not cinnamon swirl, cinnamon ROLL)
            - Balade light butter with sea salt

            i know there are more, but those are some of the highlights in our house...and if you're a dog family i can recommend some treats.

            10 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              They're not really Kobe, are they? I have Wagyu now, but not impressed. I have a doctor appt in two weeks which alway coincides with a trip to TJs and Whole Foods (directly across from each other, 5 minutes away from doc). A nice reward for an otherwise crumby day.

              1. re: coll

                they're Wagyu, but the product name is American-Style Kobe Beef Burgers. and they're honestly too fatty for my taste, but i'm in the minority in this house.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I know this is far off when this was posted... but do they still make "Cinnamon ROLL bread"--I feel like I have only seen cinnamon swirl bread (I am wondering if it would be good for the overnight-french toast recipe I use for company!).

                  1. re: GraceW

                    For me, Cinnamon Roll Bread is over the top, too sticky and sweet, but it's regularly stocked at the local TJ's (in NYC).

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Those Pound Plus bars are the greatest thing ever. We keep a stash in the house for baking. Went through a bunch over Christmas. Quality chocolate for cheap.

                    1. re: mtoo

                      Me too. Love those Pound Plus bars for baking.

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      GHG, I know you are one of the experts here on TJ's items and I saw in this thread that you like the bagged teas. Which kinds do you purchase, and if you have tried the green teas which is best? I have tried the English Breakfast (it's pretty good) which I am working my way through now. Also, any teas to avoid in particular? Thanks in advance.

                      1. re: littleflower

                        i like their decaf green, organic green, jasmine green, peppermint, and Irish breakfast. and if you like yerba maté, they sell the Guayakí for a really good price. i don't really do sweeter flavored tea, but my sis likes the decaf candy cane green and the organic ginger pear white. i'm also a big fan of the ginger Yogi Tea - again, a better price at TJ's than other places.

                        i don't recall ever having a bad experience with their teas. the coffee, however, is another story ;)

                    3. Thanks for all the great resposes so far!

                      If others have additional suggestions, we'd be thrilled to have them.

                      1. Speculoos spread!

                        If you like Indian food, I recommend the frozen naan bread and I also like the frozen lamb vindaloo and butter chicken. Not much meat but tasty sauce and a decent enough work lunch.

                        Their prices on goat cheese logs cannot be beaten, and rice as well is about the cheapest I've found unless you buy massive bags at Costco or Asian markets.

                        Second carolinadawg re: wine, esp prosecco or German Sekt, and when they have it, viognier.

                        Every once in a while I get sucked in by trail mix or chili lime nuts...or chocolate pretzels. This is the category known as "TJ crack".

                        My advice: don't go in until they've been open a couple of weeks because it will be madness. Then just wander around for a bit. Then, grasshopper, you will be ready to shop

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: coney with everything

                          RE: "TJ Crack"

                          I haven't been to one in a while, since I moved and now have quite a long drive to get to one. But when I was shopping there regularly, no matter how much I swore I wouldn't, I always left with a carton of the dark chocolate edamame. Man, I could polish off those little tubs in a matter of days, and that was with restraint! Talk about addictive!

                        2. We also love the nuts, dried fruits and vacuum fried bananas.

                          I never leave TJ!s without a bunch of those 19¢ bananas either.

                          The ice creams are all good.

                          The tubs of cookies are usually good, especialially the chocolate chip oatmeal and the vanilla wafers.

                          I cannot live without Soyaki marinade. We keep a spare bottle in the basement for emergencies, (Seiouslly.)

                          Midnight Moo chocolate syrup is delicious in coffee or on ice cream. Fleur de Sel caramel syrup is heavenly on their French vanilla ice cream.

                          The breakfast bars "this blueberry walks into a bar" are exact replicas of the nutragrain cereal bars. Rolled oats & peanut butter fiberful bars are filling and give you a candy like snack for 135 calories per bar.

                          I love love love the All Fruit Bars ends & pieces. 100% fruit leather that is sold for cheap because it's not in perfect sized pieces.

                          If you can find the sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, get them They've also got caramel squares covered in dark chocolate that are heavenly. (The shaving lotion is awesome too.)

                          I could go on and on. Love me some TJ's.

                          1. Highbrow chocolate chip cookies, the butter cookies with fruit topping (don't remember what they're called), chocolate covered anything but especially the blueberries, the dark chocolate caramels, canned chicken chili, trail mix, truffle brownie mix (I think they only have this in the winter months for some reason), their shampoos which don't contain sodium laurel sulfates, fresh stuffed chicken breasts, frozen Mexican food (for a Texan it may not be up to snuff but it's pretty decent), frozen three-cheese pizza, frozen Chinese dumplings, pimiento cheese spread.

                            As you'll notice from my list, I mostly use TJ's for pantry and freezer items along with chocolates and cookies. I'm not a big fan of their breads or produce.

                            1. You all are wonderful! Thanks so much for these awesome suggestions! Really, really appreciate them. I'm sure it will be crazy the first couple of weeks, and walking into the store and having no idea which way to turn or what to look for would be daunting, to say the least, without your help.

                              All other hints are very welcome and appreciated.

                              How do TJ's wine prices compare to Costco's?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: peppergal

                                Trader Joe's wine strategy is completely different from Costco's. Costco has a pretty consistent selection with recognizable brands at good prices. But they don't really offer a lot of super-low priced bargains or "finds".

                                Trader Joe's has a lot of low-priced wines, which can range from bad to a great surprise for the price. Let's say under $10 for an example. You have to be willing to experiment a little.

                                For both stores selection and pricing vary by region. Trader Joe's encourages their employees to engage with customers, so get to know the wine staff at your store, they will let you know what's good.

                                There are several people who blog about TJ's wine. Here is one example:

                              2. My TJ's staples are peanut and almond butter, aged gouda, string cheese, eggs, frozen haricots verts, frozen edamame, frozen dorot herbs, dried fruit, nuts, grape tomatoes, kumatos, celery hearts, mini Persian cucumbers and hearts of romaine. These are all less expensive at TJ's than the others stores in my 'hood, and usually higher quality.

                                My TJ's splurges are triple ginger cookies, frozen mini croissants, journey to the center of the cookie (frozen chocolate chip cookies with melted chocolate center), Caribbean fruit floe popsicles, refrigerated pizza dough, and cheese puffs.

                                TJ's is also my source for cut flowers and occasional house plants.

                                1. Peppergal - you can hit the report button on your original post and ask the moderators to edit it to include "Trader Joe" in the title:-)

                                  California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
                                  Apple smoked bacon
                                  Kerrygold butter - way cheaper at TJ's
                                  Ginger Thins
                                  Meyer Lemon Thins
                                  21 Salute herb seasoning mix
                                  Kumato tomatoes
                                  Heirloom oranges
                                  chicken rawhides for my doggy

                                  Enjoy your new store!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: EM23

                                    Thanks, EM23. I appreciate it. Never knew what the report button was for!

                                    1. re: peppergal

                                      It worked! This should help responders. Thanks!

                                  2. My staples from TJ include:
                                    eggs, buttermilk, cream, flour, bread, flour tortillas, dark chocolate, canned beans, frozen vegetables, dog treats. Most of these aren't unique, but the price is better than the regular groceries.

                                    Most of the yeas/nays are for the ready to eat items. They excite people, but I haven't had much luck with them.

                                    1. I don't see this mentioned ever but I love TJ's Buttermilk Pancake & Baking mix. I'm generally a "from scratch" baker but this mix makes excellent tasting pancakes, I like them better than my own from scratch. And I don't even make them with the box recipe which says to add eggs and water. I just add skim milk to the mix. If you know anyone who can't eat eggs this mix works great without them. I used to use eggs then one day I didn't have any so I thought I would try it with just milk and I liked it a lot better.

                                      1. OMG the frozen mac and CHEESE. My 3 year old can eat an entire box of it, it's that good. Even the "light" (which isn't very) is good. I also really like the mushroom fettucini (frozen) and the previously mentioned haricot verts.

                                        The trail mix section bears review, as they have some unique/interesting flavors, like lime-chili cashews or what have you.

                                        The mini oatmeal cookies are delish. The ginger snaps are amazeballs.

                                        So many "don'ts" as well, be sure to look through the thread on there. Everyone's taste varies.

                                        1. Generally, TJ's is best at things like nuts, cheese and wine. They also have some very good frozen prepared items and their dairy products and eggs are very well priced. Here's a couple of links you might enjoy: http://www.clubtraderjoes.com and http://traderjoeswine.blogspot.com/

                                          1. Thank you to those who have contributed. I, too, am interested in "first choices" and these responses are helpful. Peppergal, only 2 weeks until opening!

                                            1. Dairy and eggs are better/cheaper than the super's.
                                              Chocolate Bars (3 pack at the checkstand) are excellent value/flavor.
                                              Jarred pasta sauces are better than most--for a $1.79 jar of sauce and $0.99 bag of pasta it is a cheap dinner for 2-4.
                                              Lettuce is always cheaper than supers. Tomatoes are inconsistent. Peppers are ok.
                                              My always purchases/always in the house:
                                              1/2 & 1/2
                                              Cottage Cheese
                                              Sour Cream
                                              Iceberg Lettuce
                                              Caesar Salad w/Chicken
                                              Beef Stroganoff
                                              Dark Choc Bars
                                              Dark Choc Mints
                                              Jack/Colby Cheese Slices
                                              Columbo Low[er] Sodium Hard Salami [$2 less than super's].
                                              Tomato Basil Sauce
                                              Bread & Butter Pickles
                                              Tuna in Olive Oil
                                              White Bread (it WILL be moldy 1 day after the sell-by date)
                                              Bell peppers
                                              Joes O's (Spaghetti O's)
                                              Jo-Jos (oreos)

                                              Never [as in NFW] purchase again:
                                              Raisin Bran
                                              Beef Bourguignon
                                              Bean Dip
                                              Corn Salsa
                                              Fresh Pasta w/Prosciutto
                                              Peanut Butter
                                              Hot Dogs (the new ones, meh!)

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: phxjcc

                                                Funny, I love their mayo and their peanut butters, at least the ones made with Valencia peanuts.

                                                Agree with you about the corn salsa. Sickeningly sweet to my taste.

                                                1. re: chompy

                                                  ah, yes. i forgot - based on CH raves i bought Mom their mayo, and she loves it (prefers it to Hellman's).

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    I also tried the mayo based on CH raves and it tastes just like any run of the mill generic mayo. I can't quite describe it, but Hellman's/Best Foods and Kraft both produce a product that is, well, refined. I won't turn this into a mayo thread but TJ's offering fell short.

                                                    1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                      well, i can't attest to the quality firsthand because i can't stomach store-bought mayo so i didn't try it myself. if it's not made fresh, i can't eat it. but Mom did seem to prefer it over Hellman's.

                                                      1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                        I started off with Hellman's (in the 1970s) because some guru or other recommended it over Kraft, and stuck with it for a long time. But I've branched out in recent years, starting the Mexican style with lime juice. Now I only buy Hellman's if I find it on sale at Grocery Outlet. Western Family (generic) is just as good in my estimation.

                                                        TJ's tastes fine, but isn't quite as stiff.

                                                        Mention MW (the other salad dressing), you'll find that tastes for mayo and its substitutes are highly idiosyncratic. People tend to latch on to a particular balance of sweet, sour, saltiness, oil, and egginess, and structure their dogmatic opinions around that.

                                                  2. re: phxjcc

                                                    What did you find wrong with TJ's raisin bran? I like it, the bran flakes not oversweet, plenty of raisins. A breakfast staple.

                                                  3. Frozen garlic cubes (each cube = 1 clove of garlic)
                                                    Canned artichoke hearts
                                                    Goat cheese
                                                    Individually bagged cashew nuts (for pre-portioned snacks)
                                                    Their large peanuts which have a name that I do not remember
                                                    Heavy cream (higher butterfat content than supermarkets)
                                                    Fresh flowers
                                                    Frozen croissants + frozen chocolate croissants
                                                    Frozen mango pieces (for smoothies)
                                                    Wine Wine Wine
                                                    Jarred kalamata olives, pitted
                                                    Chocolate bars

                                                    One of the nice aspects of TJs is their return policy - they'll take it back, no questions asked.

                                                    I don't buy their packaged combos or ready-made meals, so cannot comment on them. Why someone would buy pre-cooked rice is beyond my ken.

                                                    1. I don't generally buy prepared foods, and avoid buying snacks and sweets (for my own good), but there are things I buy there quite regularly because the quality and price are excellent relative to the other places I shop.

                                                      Calfornia Estate Olive Oil
                                                      plain bittersweet chocolate
                                                      sardines in olive oil
                                                      grade B maple syrup
                                                      frozen artichoke hearts
                                                      multigrain English muffins (whole grain, fairly high in fiber and protein)
                                                      eggplant hummus
                                                      Marcona almonds

                                                      I'm not a big buyer of prepped produce, but I like the bags of organic broccoli slaw and the Healthy 8 medley (big downside - for me - to this is its nonreyclable plastic container) for when I'm short on time and/or energy, times when I can't face much dinner prep. Guarantees I'll get a nice, big serving of veggies with little effort.

                                                      1. I often leave TJ's with two full shopping bags, so it isn't about what I'd get first. It depends on what I happen to need just then.

                                                        The first thing to buy is a couple of shopping bags that are made to last. TJ's sells them, some as cheaply as 99¢, so you don't wind up with a lot of paper or plastic shopping bags to dispose of - and when you bring your bags to the store, TJ's gives you a raffle ticket on which you can write contact information in case you win. I haven't won yet, but I like the spirit.

                                                        Nearly everything I eat comes from TJ's. Breakfast: cereal (Joe's O's, raisin bran), milk, orange juice, eggs, uncured bacon, British muffins as they call them, butter, marmalade or jam, etc. Lunch: any of the boxed soups (they're all good), instant miso soup, their high fiber whole wheat or multigrain bread, sliced smoked gouda cheese and other sandwich makings, organic apple sauce. Supper: various kinds of fried rice and potstickers, frozen salmon and other fish, basmati or jasmine brown rice plus one of the Indian Fare sauces, any of their chicken, turkey, or beef sausages, frozen individual vegetables or medleys, Others here have told you about their sweets.

                                                        One department that often gets mixed reviews is fresh produce. Personally, I've been happy with the carrots, celery, sweet peppers, brussels sprouts, and other veg I buy there, but they may not look as pretty as in the supermarkets or last as long. I've read that this is because they're pesticide free and not treated with preservatives - quite a few are organic - and so their shelf life is not so long.

                                                        Also, TJ's has been getting more into microwaveable prepared dishes and meals, and these have gotten some discouraging reviews. I don't use them because I've never had a microwave oven, so don't have an opinion of my own. The prepped foods I buy are for the stovetop or the conventional oven, and here TJ has seldom disappointed me.

                                                        My suggestion, then, is the first time you shop at TJ, buy what you need and what looks good. That would give you a sampling of the foods and dishes you normally eat, and you'd have a basis for comparison. But also branch out into cuisines you aren't used to serving at home, such as Chinese, Indian, Mexican, whatever. TJ sources many such products in the countries where they are native, and you may surprise yourself at what you can put on the table after just heating it up.

                                                        1. Thanks so much for all your great responses. I really appreciate your taking the time to give me much-needed guidance -- ensuring long shopping lists for weeks to come! Thanks for your generosity.

                                                          Nine more days!

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: peppergal

                                                            WOW! You guys are great. Going to have to get a 2nd job before heading over to Ft. Worth for my TJ's "deflowering". I can't wait!

                                                            1. re: peppergal

                                                              If they have A Dozen Sweet Bites in the freezer (they seem to come and go), grab them.

                                                                1. re: peppergal

                                                                  I did not get anything about sweet bites on that link.

                                                                    1. re: peppergal

                                                                      Yes! Making room in the freezer tonight! Thanks.

                                                            2. Tarte d'Alsace (pizza-like item with Gruyere cheese + ham)
                                                              Frozen mini croissants and chocolate croissants
                                                              Almond Windmill Cookies
                                                              Orange Blossom Hand Soap
                                                              Valrhona chocolate bars
                                                              Milk, butter, cream (though these are regional; I used to get a wonderful, thicker-than-normal, heavy cream in SoCal, which I can't get in NorCal)

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: emily

                                                                <Tarte d'Alsace (pizza-like item with Gruyere cheese + ham)>

                                                                These are DELICIOUS and surprisingly authentic.

                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                  when i was on a food tour in paris, i met the family who makes them for tj's--in alsace. no wonder they are authentic--they are the real deal!

                                                                  1. re: chez cherie

                                                                    Okay, this is awesome. Do you mind if I tell customers I have a "friend" who met the family who makes the Tarte? Great story while ringing up groceries.

                                                              2. The boxed miso soup - I think it's better than I've had in some restaurants.

                                                                It's probably been mentioned already, but it's great that they will let you sample something before purchasing.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                                  I keep a box of the miso soup at work to mix with hot water from the tea/coffee machine for lunch. Includes tiny cubes of tofu and other extras.

                                                                2. This isngreat info. New Hampshire now has TJ's and I can't wait to go.

                                                                  1. Here's a list of my favorites that I buy regularly...

                                                                    Maple Pecan Granola "Just the Clusters" Cereal (we tried this recently and are hooked!)
                                                                    Tuscan Pane Bread (refrigerate the day after buying to prolong shelf life)
                                                                    Applegate Farms Nitrate Free Roasted Turkey Breast/Turkey Bologna/Slow Cooked Ham
                                                                    1/2 Gallon rBST-free Whole Milk
                                                                    Apricot Mango Greek Yogurt (full fat)
                                                                    Original Lemonade in the carton - refrigerator section (seasonal)
                                                                    Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil (out of this world!)
                                                                    Organic Tomato Basil Marinara
                                                                    Capellini Pasta imported from Italy
                                                                    Parmesan Romano Cheese in the green can (I know, not freshly grated but we love this stuff)
                                                                    Chicken Tikka Masala
                                                                    Crispy Oatmeal Cookies in the tub
                                                                    Lime Fruit Floes
                                                                    Heirloom Oranges (seasonal)
                                                                    .99 cents Greetings Cards
                                                                    Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda
                                                                    TJ's Vintage Cola and Rootbeer in the glass bottles
                                                                    Social Snackers Crackers
                                                                    Everything Bagel Chips
                                                                    Organic Corn Chips
                                                                    Peppermint Joe Joes (seasonal)
                                                                    Peppermint Pretzel Slims (seasonal)

                                                                    There are many more products that we buy from there but these are the ones we buy often!

                                                                    1. Maple Syrup (GRADE B!)
                                                                      fleur de sel carmel sauce
                                                                      speculoos spread.
                                                                      welsh red dragon cheese
                                                                      truffle flat bread
                                                                      these are their phenomenal "o.m.g." stuff
                                                                      kindly remember that it's a discount grocery store,
                                                                      I know with the selection it's often hard to tell.