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Favorite items at Trader Joe's? [moved from DFW]

Went for the first time today, and was underwhelmed. Maybe I didn't know what to look for. Got a frozen BBQ chicken pizza & baked it for lunch. Chicken mostly MIA, and cheese not identifiable as Gouda. Plus the ingredients all came loose & fell to the bottom, so I had to reassemble.

What should I have gotten instead?

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  1. You might want to do a search on the Chains board here, because there are truly a thousand do's and dont's already posted for a couple of years. Great resource, now that you have one where you can shop!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Terrie H.

      i've already done that ... i see that 'you might also like' has provided options that searching didn't turn up. not sure why it doesn't work better than it does. considering the known poor quality of search, sarcastic replies like the one below are imo inappropriate.

      1. re: foiegras

        I'm sorry, I can't imagine that I sounded sarcastic and was just was trying to help.

        1. re: Terrie H.

          yours wasn't 'the one below' to which i referred.

          1. re: foiegras

            Ah, sorry, your reply was to my post.

        2. re: foiegras

          I have liked most things I have bought at trader Joe. Most of the frozen prepared foods are pretty good. My son (20) really likes all of the frozen pizza, especially the BBQ chicken.

          I love the frozen fruits and veggies, the stocks and their selection of cheeses.

          The less healthy people I live with love the prepared frozen foods such as the taquitos, potato pancakes, and Mexican foods and of course the cookies.

      2. Every palate has its own preferences. It is not possible for strangers to compile a list that will suit yours. TJ's releases an annual list of its most popular items, which you can find by googling, if you are unwilling to read the many helpful TJ's threads on the CH Chains board.

        1. I love the Alsace pizza but it's a thin crust

          1. I've had access to a TJ's for several years - about 1/2 hour to 40 minutes from me. Only go when I have other errands or appointments planned in the area. I'm generally underwhelmed, as well. Not much into frozen, prepared food and haven't tried any.

            When I go, I usually need to stock up on coffee beans - you have to experiment to find what you like (if any) but once you do the price for bulk is a lot cheaper than the grocery stores in my area.

            Also great prices (and selection) on cheeses. As an example, TJ's I go to has Boursin for 3.99 compared to 6.99 at Stop & Shop (I'm in Massachusetts). I always buy grated parm there, too (Argentina, but it tastes good and the price is right). Many more...

            From reading Chow yeah/nay threads I've also discovered their raisin rosemary crisps. I like their gingerbread mix, and always pick up boxes of their roasted red pepper/tomato soup.

            Then it's really hard to walk by the orchid plants and not bring one of those beauties home.

            So you have to spend time, and sometimes lose a bit of money in the trial and error process of getting to know the store. Although others have said they have a generous return policy, an hour round trip to shop and and hour round trip to return doesn't work for me. Plus, they don't consistently carry some of the stuff you like.

            I might be more of a fan if I lived closer. I see people leaving with grocery carts full, but they're probably more local.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nlgardener

              Or they live farther away! Before the Maine store opened, I would fill my car (not cart) at TJs every time I went to Massachusetts, mostly with little dark chocolate-covered things and frozen potstickers.

              1. re: nlgardener

                i generally like to cook fresh food & they are known for frozen, which is why i hadn't gone till now. however, i've injured one of my hands & can barely chop veggies, so i have a newfound interest in the freezer section.

                i remembered reading about the orange chix & looked for it unsuccessfully. i see now they are often sold out, so maybe that was it.

                i want to try the alsace tart & frozen mac & cheese (though i believe i can still make that myself).

                today i tried the sweet potato tater tots. ok, but there's a brand of frozen seasoned sweet potato stuff that's excellent & really beats TJ's.

                i got the frozen brown rice, looking forward to that. i don't have a source of really good brown rice or a cooker, so that's something i don't do well even with 2 hands.

                thx for all the ideas!

              2. "What should I have gotten instead?" Far too open-ended. What would you have gotten if you knew it was good? TJ's has hundreds of products, from frozen dinners to salt and pepper. You could post one of your own typical shopping lists here, so people would have a clue what you want.

                1. In general, I go to TJ's for well priced dairy products, especially cheese. Their bagged salad mixes and other vegetables are priced every day as the lowest sale price at the supermarkets. Their "President's Reserve" olive oil is a bargain. Their nuts are very fresh and very well priced. Corn tortilla chips, gorgonzola crackers, jarred piquillo peppers, canned tuna.

                  If you are looking for frozen items, try what I think they call Mandarin chicken, frozen tamales, and shrimp gyoza. Their frozen wild blueberries are always in my house for my yogurt or oatmeal.

                  Really, there are lots of good products. If you read the existing threads on TJ's you will find way too many things you'd like to try, and they will also steer you away from the waste of money items. All I can say is that the advice has made me a gorgonzola cracker and peppermint JoJo addict....

                  1. As said before, the nut section is excellent, I love the spiced Almonds and similar. Cheeses, Coffee, some seasonal Chai mixes are good. TJ Orange Juice is still the cheapest by far.
                    One of my staples from the frozen seafood section is the bag of Langoustine tails, excellent in mixed seafood dishes, like an Icelandic-inspired soup.

                    1. Some of the things I requently pick up are cheese, wine, snacks, ice cream, frozen mac and cheese, hummus, refrigerated precooked carnitas, fresh cut flowers, small cans of club soda (Hansen's?), frozen basmati rice, olive oil, some kind of chick pea salad that I can't remember the name of...

                      1. >Went for the first time today, and was underwhelmed. Maybe I didn't know what to look for.<

                        I had the same experience on my first visit, but now have a regular TJ's shopping list. There are a few best of/favorite items lists on here that you might want to have a look at. Here is one from last summer:
                        In addition to what I list on that thread, I regularly buy:
                        -low-sodium organic chicken broth
                        -almond milk
                        -heirloom navel oranges - someone on the yay/nay thread reported that the have just arrived for the season and they were good
                        -organic chicken and brown rice dog treats
                        -high fiber cereal
                        -corn tortillas
                        -slider rolls
                        -frozen fruits

                        Occasionally, in a carboholic fit, I get :
                        -Texas toast bread - for French toast
                        -organic corn chips
                        -rice pudding

                        I have read that their mozzarella di bufala is very good, but they always seem to be out of it when I'm shopping.

                        The "most popular" TJ items list was posted on the latest yay/nay thread the other day. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8844...
                        The only item on that list that I buy is the triple ginger thins.

                        Have fun shopping:)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: EM23

                          Oh yes, the triple ginger cookies are wonderful!

                          1. re: EM23

                            Ooh TJ's has Texas Toast?! I haven't passed by their bread aisle lately...will have to check this out, thanks! Also can vouch for their Organic Country White Bread, Tuscan Pane Bread (great for toasting and paninis), and their "British" (English) muffins as all being very good.

                            1. re: littleflower

                              Yes! Thanks for the other bread recs. Are the English muffins crumpets?

                              1. re: EM23

                                We buy their regular English muffins (called "British Muffins") and they do carry a multigrain variety as well. TJ's also sells a separate product which is a crumpet which I heard are absolutely delicious, we just have not gotten around to trying them yet.

                                We make breakfast sandwiches with the English Muffins all of the time by lightly toasting them, adding a bit of butter to the "nooks and crannies", then egg and bacon...TJ's english muffins taste much better than what most grocery stores carry and make an outstanding breakfast sandwich!

                          2. Hi Foiegras, as you can see there are many people on this board who love TJ's and genuinely want to share what items are their favorites with you in the hopes that you will see some that match up well with your tastes. Best of luck and below are a few of our favorites as well...

                            Maple Pecan Clusters Granola Cereal
                            Mediterranean Hummus paired with the Parmesan Garlic Pita Chips
                            Apricot Mango and Strawberry Vanilla Greek Yogurts
                            Organic Chicken Broth
                            Canned Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil
                            Organic Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce
                            Capellini Pasta (dried pasta - paired with the above marinara sauce and their Parmesan Romano cheese - quick yummy meal!)
                            Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in the tub
                            Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Broccoli, and ... for those rushed nights...frozen mashed potatoes are actually good and you can make individual portions of them
                            Frozen Strawberries for smoothies
                            Chicken Tikka Masala frozen indian dinner with frozen tandoori naan bread
                            Very Thin Cut Boneless Pork Loin Chops and Pork Loin Roasts
                            Sparkling French Berry Lemonade and Villa Italia Blood Orange Sodas in the tall glass bottles
                            Vintage Cola and Vintage Root Beer in the bottles
                            Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzels
                            Organic Mini Peanut Butter Crackers
                            Heirloom Oranges and Honeycrisp Apples

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: littleflower

                              thanks, littleflower--i'd wondered about the mashed potatoes! is the pork tenderloin sliced? freezer item?

                              1. re: foiegras

                                Trust me, when I saw frozen mashed potatoes I too was a bit skeptical. It was only when a good friend of ours recommended them did we give them a try and were pleasantly surprised! The secret that we found is to add about three tablespoons of milk or in our case because of mild milk intolerance we add water to the potatoes immediately after they are done cooking in the microwave. We stir them well to make them ultra smooth then add a heaping tablespoon of butter and a couple of dashes of salt to them.

                                As far as the pork, the thin cut boneless pork loin chops are found in the fresh meats part of the store. They come sliced in approx. 9 thin pork loin chops and are perfect for those quick dinner nights because they cook up in a saute pan in just a few minutes per side. For special occasions we buy the full fresh pork loin roast which is equally as good, just takes longer to cook up since it needs to be oven-roasted due to its size (about 2.5 pds).

                                Also, we tried the BBQ pizza last night for the first time and had to give it a nay - tasteless crust and sauce, very few white meat chicken pieces and an herb or spice that did not go very well in our opinion with the flavors in the pizza.

                                1. re: littleflower

                                  we are on the same page with that pizza ;) Totino's is much tastier (and yes I know I shouldn't admit to knowing what Totino's is like!). the crust was at least crispy, & it wasn't bad cold (leftovers). but for the $ that is very faint praise.

                                  has anyone tried the beef bourguinon?

                            2. foiegras, you've gotta try the goat cheese pizza in the refrigerated section. It's one of my favorite take n bake pizzas, ever! the spicy lentil wrap in the refrigerated section is also incredibly delicious. The frozen turkey frank corndogs, mac n cheese bites and arancini balls (rice & cheese) all taste great when you're looking for greasier gratification - all in the freezer section. The guilt-free guacamole with Greek yogurt is the greatest thing. I never really cared for guacamole but this completely converted me and it's great with their white corn tortilla chips. The orange and teriyaki chicken are great values for quick meals with some jasmine rice n steamed broccoli and there's enough for 2 meals in each $5 package. I could go on and on, but you get the idea