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Costco & Trader Joe's Arrive in Sarasota. What food to buy/avoid?

Oh happy day-- both Costco and Trader Joe's are opening in Sarasota in a matter of weeks. I've never shopped in either store. Would appreciate suggestions regarding what types of food items would be worthwhile exploring -- and what to avoid.

I'm really interested in getting better quality and selection of food than is currently available -- bread, meats/poultry, spices, produce, prepared foods, wine, etc. Of course a bargain is great, but buying 36 giant rolls of toilet paper or mega bottles of ketchup won't motivate me.

Many thanks

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  1. +1 on the aforementioned question. What's good at those places? Help a newbie out.

    1. Sep. 7, for those too lazy to Google :-)

      OK, here's what I crave from TJ's: snacks! Nuts, dried fruit, rice crackers, wasabi peas, sesame sticks, crackers, pita chips, cookies, chocolates and chocolate-covered things, most made by TJ's but some imported, all better (natural, some organic) and way cheaper than at my local grocer/health food store. I also buy certain jams, whole-wheat couscous, and I like all the flavors of hummus and similar dips (also all-natural, some organic). I rarely have the chance to buy fresh food at TJ's, so am less familiar with cheeses and such; rarely could buy frozen, so am interested to see what's available, if it's all-natural, but prepared food is prepared food. Was never a fan of their baked goods. Coffees and teas are decent for the prices, which are low. Ditto wines.

      They have really good canvas--real cotton canvas--tote bags, too, in which to haul home the booty.

      1. As for Costco, we will have to see. My experience has been that their meats are excellent and their imported cheeses. Also, they have great rotisserie chickens at a great price. iMO their produce isnt anything special. You can get better at our local markets.

        1. When I lived in Northern California I shopped at both Trader Joe's and Costco. The chicken at Costco is very good and Gluten Free. Also, they offer higher quality merchandise then Sam's Club. Trader Joe's has excellent fresh meats, bakery items and cheeses.Lots of interesting items that I can not find in Florida. Can't wait to shop!!!!

          4 Replies
          1. re: prairieprincess

            Thanks to everyone who's responded. Gives me lots of places to start. Does anyone have a particular favorite food item at either TJ's or Costco?

            Latest info on opening dates in Sarasota : 8/17 costco, 9/7 TJ's

            1. re: SarasotaLady

              Costco meats rock. They have PRIME beef try finding that anywhere else regularly...

              1. re: drctl

                The prime beef is in the blue styrofoam tray not the white.

              2. re: SarasotaLady

                The frozen chicken and green chile tamales from TJs have to be my favorite!

            2. is the TJ going to be bigger than the one down here in Naples? because the selection here is very small...

              for all the hype i didnt find much that i couldnt get already at publix
              and i dont care about the 3 buck chuck ...i dont drink

              costco...i dont shop at very much ..but when i do its usually for the meat and cheeses...

              5 Replies
              1. re: srsone

                srsone-- the Sarasota TJ's will be in a former rooms to go showroom -- about 18,000 sq. ft. Don't know how that compares to Naples..

                I also found website for the Naples TJ's -- . http://www.yelp.com/biz/trader-joes-n...
                Lots of reviews. Reviewers feel into 2 camps-- they either really liked the food and atmosphere of TJ's or just didn't get it and were disappointed. . .

                1. re: SarasotaLady

                  im in the "i dont get it and dont care" camp...

                  and the one here was a books a million ..i think its 12,000 but i dont remember

                  1. re: srsone

                    It was Borders and I believe it is smaller then the Sarasota store.

                    1. re: Mother of four

                      ok...forgot..get them mixed up they both closed a bunch of stores

                2. re: srsone

                  TJ's has a lot of prepared foods, which some people avoid. I find it to be of higher quality and less unhealthful than most prepared food, but it is what it is. It's an unusual store, so sure, opinion is polarized.

                3. Costco:
                  Costco is/was a very large seller of wine. Good product at good prices
                  The afforementioned prime beef, l buy a whole ribeye and butcher it at home.
                  Excellent fish oil supplements, the more expensive ones are the better ones.
                  Their cheeses, depends on what the store orders, the one l go to up north has stopped all
                  interesting cheeses, assume they did not sell well enough.
                  Acme fish products, herring and whitefish salad.
                  Pellegrino bottles by the case, last bought at $10/case

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Delucacheesemonger-- very interesting. Will add fish oil to my list. Haven't had herring or whitefish salad in many years -- definitely will look out for those. . We 're not big meat eaters-- but really enjoy occasional prime steak or roast. You buy and butcher the whole ribeye because????

                    Many thanks for the info.

                    1. re: SarasotaLady

                      You buy and butcher the whole ribeye because????

                      Half the cost and can make thick steaks or roasts as l wish.

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        Do you crack the Chine bone yourself or do they do that? Or do you just saw it off entirely?

                        1. re: suzigirl

                          It is boneless, but has a lot of surface fat, not difficult 'butchering'

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            Good to know. Thanks. What beef eater wouldn't fall head over heels for a huge hunk of beef like that. You're making my salmon in lemon butter w/ broccoli and jasmine rice (dinner) jealous over here

                            1. re: suzigirl

                              I was intrigued by DIY butchering whole ribeye. i found foodslinger.tv video online -- he takes choice Costco ribeye, shows how to age it in fridge, and then then cut it up into steaks and roast. Just needed sharp knife. Big advocate of buying meat at Costco.

                              1. re: SarasotaLady

                                Sounds like all good feedback on the meat. Good to know

                  2. MEAT!
                    Great prices in general.

                    1. There are a number of threads on the "Chains forum" here on CH
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/32
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856872
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849818

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: easily amused

                        Thanks to everyone who replied . Learned a lot. Will definitely check out the "chains" forums as well.

                      2. Costco has excellent quality and prices in smoked salmon.

                        At TJ's, my favorite item is the flattened, whole bananas that are very addictive.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nerditry

                          According to a mailing I got from Costco, the Sarasota store will be opening on Friday morning, August 17.

                        2. I don't buy everything at TJ's but I do like very much:
                          --their organic green tea
                          --their organic white tea (with pear/ginger)
                          --their organic hummus ($2.29, no gummy additives)
                          --their frozen Baingan Bharta
                          --their frozen falafels
                          --their frozen macaroni & cheese (son mostly eats that, I just take a spoonful...hee!)
                          --their 7-grain sprouted bread (VERY low carb, 7 g carb in each slice)

                          I don't belong to Costco. Have fun exploring!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Val

                            Once they both open, you can try my "go to" party dish which ALWAYS gets raves. First, go to TJ's & pick up the wasabi maynonaise,then go to Costco, get the cilantro lime shrimp (they're already cooked & marinated - you'll find them with the prepared food / salad area). I serve the wasabi mayo as a dipping sauce (as well as cocktail sauce) but once people try the wasabi mayo, they usually forget abour the cocktail sauce. I garnish the shrimp with lime wegdes (& leave some extra wegdes out too for people who want an extra squeeze of lime) - YUM!

                          2. TJ is a fun experience. Costco, not so much. Costco is wading through the gigantic product sizes with your calculator to see if it's really a good buy. I've found that more times than not, better to go to Publix! Plus, it's an ugly place. (Intentionally)

                            TJ is fun fun fun. Lots of great and interesting products, many unique. It's basically a grazing experience, buy what toots your horn, just go for it. Pricing is excellent. Love the Italian and French sodas. Interesting and unusual snack chips.

                            Another great thing about TJs-- if you try something and hate it, bring it back for refund-- no questions asked!! The most hassle-free product return anywhere!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lemarais

                              Went to the Costco for a sneak peek last week and was unimpressed. Its big and cold and they haven't marked the isles so you have no idea where you are going. Not my bag. I was interested when i first got there but the new car smell wore off quickly. I'll stick to sam's, thanks. Haven't been in a trader Joe's yet. I am looking forward to it because of people like you getting me all jacked up to go here when it opens.

                            2. TJ's; Frozen, cooked Italian meatballs, precooked organic rice packets (3 minutes in the micro and perfect), par-baked sandwich loaves, Gruyere/cheddar blend cheese, butter-lettuce complete salad kit, Nectar of the Gods vodka, most produce, but fresh herbs are a stiff, ($2 per bunch of cilantro).

                              Costco; fresh ahi, 'mexican whites' shrimp (not vietnamese farmed tiger shrimp), rotisserie chicken, store made enchiladas, wild caught frozen salmon, lo-carb Monster drinks.

                              1. During the holidays at Trader Joes do not miss the salt caramels or the frozen, pastry wrapped Brie. Good god it's good and one time I ate a whole one myself. They aren't small.

                                1. I wish TJ's would post a sign that would read;

                                  "It is entirely within the realm of human endeavor to eat gluten free food and not tell anyone"

                                  1. Is TJ's going to open anywhere else in Fla?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lemarais

                                      TJ's recently opened a store in Gainesville and is scheduled to open a store in Tallahassee sometime this year.

                                    2. TJ: Corn Salsa

                                      1. I'm surprised this thread is still alive, but since it is-- I thought I'd point out things I've enjoyed from Costco and TJoe:

                                        Costco--best deal on gas in town; strip steaks are wonderful and worth buying in quantity; Kirkland brand dish detergent, clothes detergent, paper goods-- all good but huge and very heavy. If u need sunglasses, visit optical dept -- maui jim on discount plus costco own frames ; / Impressed with fresh spinach for salad. But definitely not a fun experience.

                                        Trader Joe's-- great experience Love their baguettes (whole grain, olive, etc); greek yogurt, crumbled blue cheese , frozen spinach polenta, artisan pasta, roasted red peppers, spiral ham.. Can't comment on frozen meals, cookies, or pastries, but there are lots of them. Best customer service I've ever seen. Well worth parking crunch.