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Recommendations for Things to Purchase at Trader Joe's

We have a Trader Joe's opening up fairly near us. I searched these boards for recommended things to purchase from TJs, but came up only with "recipes" to make from things purchased at TJs.

I have never been to a TJs, but want to go. So would appreciate your recommendations. TIA.

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  1. There are a number of posts on the Chains Board. Here is a link to the current "yea/nay" thread:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856872

    My first visit to a TJ's was not what I expected. The stores are are on small side, produce can vary from location to location. This store was so slammed with crowds that I couldn't look carefully - and that's what it takes IMO to appreciate what TJ's has to offer. There isn't a lot of breadth in offerings, but what they have is usually very good.

    Now that I am familiar with their products I'd never want to be in a town without one!

    1 Reply
    1. re: meatn3

      The 3rd quarter yea/nay thread is only a few days old, so here's the thread from the 2nd quarter:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841887

      Lots of recommendations there!

      Threads about Trader Joe's products are on the Chains discussion board.

    2. Besides the yea/nay threads on Chains there was a thread with a subject just like yours. I'd guess it's a month or 2 back.

      1. Yes, please read the threads linked. But one thing I haven't seen mentioned is the Dorot frozen herb and garlic packs. Here's a link to Dorot and what they look like. I used to be able to find the garlic puree at my local grocery store, but no more. I stocked up on the basil when I visited my not-so-convenient TJ.

        http://www.dorot.co.il/

        1. You are seeing recipes because you are looking on the "Home Cooking" Board and not on the "Chains" Board.

          Buy what YOU want to buy. My tastes may not at all reflect yours. The return policy is VERY good. Tell them you didn't like it and you'll get your money back, even if you don't bring back the product. You can also ask if you could try something before you buy; most Crew Members will open a package for you if you ask and explain you are new to shopping there.

          The "fresh" offerings- bakery, produce, dairy, floral, refrigerated prepared foods are all locally provided, so the taste varies from location to location.

          Products come and go and some are seasonal. If you find something you like that isn't a "Trader Joe/Giotto/Darwin/Jose" brand, go back and get more and enjoy it while you can.

          1. If you're looking for bargains, look at their cheeses, wines, and breakfast cereals.

            1. It really depends on your cooking style and where you live, as well; e.g.:

              Do you purchase a lot of prepared convenience foods or are you more of a cook-from-scratch type? I know a lot of people who swear by their frozen prepared foods but I rarely buy them as I' have the time and inclination to cook myself.

              Do you live on the coast or inland? Here in Chicago, TJs has lemons and limes for far less than our major supermarket chains. My friends from California have citrus trees in their backyard and rarely buy them. Ditto on fish: TJs carries reasonably priced tasty,flash-frozen fish. -- e.g., salmon and cod. I always keep both in stock in my freezer. But if I lived in Seattle, for example, I doubt that I'd do so as I could buy it fresh the day I planned to cook it

              Do you live in the heart of a major city or are you in the suburbs or exurbs? If you live near a lot of Mom & Pop specialty stores and ethnic grocers, you probably will be less impressed by TJs "gourmet offerings" than if you live in a more culinarily bland community. If you are used to buying bakery-style bread at your local supermarket, you may find that TJs is both better tasting and less expensive. If you make your own or source from a real bakery, you'll probably not switch to TJs.

              For me TJs supplements but has not replaced shopping at my local supermarket chain. TJs regularly has better prices on dairy products so I buy my eggs, butter, milk and half-and- half there. On the other hand, most of their produce ( other than citrus) is more expensive and is pre-packaged in sealed plastic bags. I'd rather buy my broccoli, green beans, lettuce ,etc loose.

              Other staples that I regularly stock from TJs are coffee (lots of varieties and most is fair trade but if you are a coffee snob you'll want to stick with buying fresh roasted); olive oil; rice crackers; "2-Buck Chuck" Cabernet and Chardonnay for cooking; and TJs brand bubbly water (79 cents/ liter).

              1. Here is a previous thread that may be of interest from someone asking the same question:

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851848

                  1. TJ's Needs to bring back the Vintage Cola!!!!! This stuff was amazing!!! What a horrible time for them to pull this product considering there is a retroactive movement currently going on in the Soda pop industry where the craze is soda made with real sugar. Not the best business decision I've seen a company make this year!!!!!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: guitarman420

                      Guitarman 420
                      Just to confuse the cola issue further, both coke and pepsi have recently announced new colas with a combination of real sugar and stevia. I think the coke is limited to fresh markets in the south only and the pepsi version is only being offered through amazon only.

                      1. re: 51rich

                        Yes, even more confusing. I have to look twice when I go to buy soda these days -- sugar, sugar free, diet, no cal, zero, and so on. Now I have to worry about the sweetener as well. Wonderful. LOL.

                        Fortunately, I am not a big soda drinker. When I have people over -- I never know what to get! LOL.

                      2. re: guitarman420

                        I remember reading something about this. It was part of an article in some trade journal that talked about companies decision making process, planning, etc., when they remove, change, etc. current products. I don't remember the details of the Vintage Cola story, but it was something along the lines of the product not being a "good seller" and not having good market penetration -- not in the marketplace -- but amongst shoppers at TJ's.

                        I've seen cases where companies make what appear to be a "smart" decision and also a "stupid" decision. Sometimes they appear to be premature and rash, others not. Who knows, LOL.

                        Bucking a trend and going "against" what appears to be happening in an industry is never received as a good decision.

                        1. re: guitarman420

                          "What a horrible time for them to pull this product considering there is a retroactive movement currently going on in the Soda pop industry"....

                          Reminds me of the time they pulled their excellent frozen ratatouille, right at the same time the Pixar movie "Ratatouille" was released.

                          1. re: Steve Green

                            And when they pulled their excellent turkey kielbasa right when they introduced their fresh sauerkraut. :-(

                        2. I don't do my "regular" shopping there -- but I go there for frozen appetizers. They are excellent. I've had a rare miss, maybe two, but all of them are hits.

                          The parmesean-crusted pigs in a blanket are excellent and a very popular item. Some of their flatbreads are excellent as well. The vegetable birds nests are very good, if you follow the directions and keep an eye on them (so they come out crispy etc. and not soggy). They also have a chicken parmesean lollipop that is very good, as well as the chicken samosas, mini-chicken pot-pies, and mini-pizza bites.

                          I've tried many of them, and stick with what I like, and when I see new ones, if it looks interesting, and it is something I might like, I'll give it a shot.

                          1. Pecorino Romano, Blue Cheese, Roquefort Blue Cheese, bagged nuts such as cashews, wasabi almonds, shelled sunflower seeks, good catchup made with sugar instead of GMO corn syrup, sometimes get their EVOO green bottle with a spout (it used to be the only EVOO I used then they changed the blend to something that is OK but not as good as it was so I'm sad). Their lip balm with SPF 15 is hard to beat. Some years get a potted plant of fresh basil or a rosemary plant reasonable. The TJs brand of Almond milk is one of the best (we also like Diamond-brand). I sometimes like some of their produce and a few select milk items - seem to recall their sour cream is more natural to not include corn starch as do many (Daisy Lite on sale elsewhere is our usual go-to). Every once in a while they have a decent wine at a good price, but is hit and miss like anywhere when searching for good wine. TJs has a few good products at reasonable prices. When shop their on a regular basis and will be a welcome addition to your neighborhood. Be careful, as some product change over time for the worse like the EVOO in a green bottle with a spout did (some get better as the TJs suppliers are often rotating with semi-frequent new item additions).

                            Do my main shopping at Winco, Grocery Outlet. Shop sales at Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Thriftway, & QFC. Depends on where I am and what is close at the time.

                            Latino specialty stores, Asian markets, Middle East Grocery, and Online for me are also a must to obtain some things not available elsewhere in quality or price to make home meals special.

                            1. There is a monthly thread with recommendations on what to buy (and what not to buy) at Trader Joe's.

                              Chows new layout shows these old threads in the right-hand column and then they get pulled from their graves and turned into zombies when someone posts in them.

                              Here is the October 2014 thread:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/990762

                              1. Cheese. They have better prices than the regular grocer and a great variety. They also highlight a cheese a month.

                                1. Never really looked at cheese there...thanks for the heads up...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ELA

                                    Best prices anywhere for cheese like Pecorino Romano, Blue Cheese, etc. You will not regret checking TJ cheese out.