HOME > Chowhound > Chains >


Need Specific Trader Joe's Input

I'll be traveling on business next week, and though I have a kitchen where I'm staying, I generally don't feel like cooking after a long day just for me. And sometimes the thought of going out isn't always appealing (though sometimes it is). There's a Trader Joe's a quick walk away, and I don't have one close at home, so I'm really unfamiliar with the products.

For a lazy dinner that's not take-out, what frozen TJ's products do regulars recommend?

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. That's kind of a fantasy--imagine you could eat only TJ's frozen foods for a week...

    I am very fond of the chicken tikka masala, with the frozen naan. There are other frozen Indian meals too (the lamb vindaloo is very spicy).

    I recently tried the ginger miso broth (shelf-stable, not frozen) and liked it a lot. I had it with udon and tofu, but it would also be good with the frozen chicken cilantro mini wontons.

    When I get home late and can't face cooking, I'm always really glad to find a Tom Yam soup in the freezer, but it's a very light meal.

    I'm not too fond of the stir-fries, I never buy frozen pasta, and the burritos really vary.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sciencediet

      The frozen saag paneer is also quite good - as good as I've had from many Indian restaurants. They also have a fairly nice variety of sliced meats, cheeses, dips, salads, spreads, etc. - you can put together a very nice sandwich or wrap without so much as a knife.

      1. re: sciencediet

        We really like the lamb vindaloo and while it's not bland I don't think it's overly spicy.

        1. re: c oliver

          I didn't think the lamb vindaloo was too spicy but it's definitely spicier than the butter chicken or chicken tikka masala.

      2. I like the Green chile & cheese tamales and the chicken enchiladas.

        Trader Joe's also has a section of refrigerated ready-to-eat salads, sushi, and wraps.

        There are also miniature loaves of bread & rolls that are personal size and would be good with a tub of spinach dip, a chunk of cheese, some slices of cured meats, and a bottle of wine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: seamunky

          Yeah, I'd go the cheese/cold cuts route. They also have some heat-and-serve meats in the refrigerated (not frozen) section, like pulled pork. I lived on the roasted beet and chicken salad with balsamic dressing one week. Oh, and sausages are my go-to for quick and easy.

        2. The Orange Mandarin Chicken is nice, but make sure to get some rice or veggies to go with it. I've found the frozen pastas and stir-fries about what one would expect - better than a grocery brand, but still frozen food. Same with the pizzas - a step up certainly, but will not exactly rock your world (the ham/gruyere is quite good though).

          For not-frozen stuff, I'll +1 the salad/sandwich/wrap suggestion. They have great hummus too. I'm not a fan of their cold cuts.

          1. I am a huge fan of the frozen Joe's Diner Mac and Cheese. It tastes better than some homemade versions.

            And every time I eat it, I look at the nutritional info and snicker because it says "2 servings."

            5 Replies
            1. re: Jelly71

              Huge fan of their fresh salads. I know its not frozen, but they are darn good. Grab some of their bread, some butter or hummus...yummy meal.

              1. re: Miri1

                I was going to suggest these as well. I like some of the frozen foods (especially the Indian entrees), but when I am traveling and am near a TJ's, I gravitate to the salads. They are just as good as most restaurant salads, and cheaper.

                My favorites:
                Field Fresh salad with chicken and couscous
                Kale & edamame bistro salad
                The one with wheatberries and quinoa and butternut squash

                When I worked at TJ's, one of these plus a yogurt was my usual work lunch.

                1. re: Rilke

                  +1 for the kale salad and the quinoa and butternut one

                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    +2 on that one, had it for lunch this week and it was really tasty

              2. re: Jelly71

                #1 on the Mac'n'Cheese. There's also the "Less Guilt" variety that's single-serving, but it's also Less Good! The frozen meat lasagna and eggplant parmigiana are really good too.

                It's hard to remember all of the frozen/refrigerated things I've liked at TJ's, but one thing you'll want to do is look at the cooking instructions. Some of my favorite dishes are strongly recommended for stove-top preparation, and just won't be satisfactory microwaved.

              3. Many thanks! It will save me from mindlessly wandering, even though I know it's a relatively small store.

                Stove-top or oven is fine, I'm just being pro-actively lazy and know I won't want to do the prep and clean-up for just me.

                The salad etc. recs are also much appreciated -- because it may only be one or two nights on my own, it's really impractical to buy salad fixings just for one. Especially after business lunches, which are very often much more than I eat for lunch (if I eat lunch) on a normal day.

                Thank you all -- I'm probably all set for two trips (it's a regular thing). And it's in California, so they do have wine, beer and booze. Not like at home here in PA. One stop, one bag, everything I could possibly need.

                3 Replies
                1. re: lsmutko

                  They have a chicken salad that is to die for in the fridge section with the hummus and dips. It's got poppy seeds, cranberries and nice chunks of white meat. So good on one of their pita or flat breads!

                  Could also make a dinner of some of the awesome cheeses and gourmet crackers.... have to get wine of course!

                  1. re: bugablue13

                    They really do have an excellent cheese selection and the sizes are reasonable. The Delice de Bourgogne (?sp) is a fave.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Love their cheeses! The goat's milk cheddar is my current obsession-among others

                2. I am partial to many of their flatbread pizzas- onion/gruyere one is quite good.

                  The frozen breaded chicken cutlets topped with their marinara and mozzarella makes a nice faux chicken parm. their frozen meatballs and marinara make a good meatball sub.

                  The veggie burgers in the produce section are good too. You can nuke 'em, pan fry or bake.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: foodieX2

                    I think you mean the Tarte D'Alsace, which isn't really a pizza. It's flammekuechen, with a buttery, flaky crust. It's got ham, onions, and gruyere and is one of their best sellers. As a main course, it feeds two smaller appetites or one hungrier one. The actual frozen pizzas are the same size.

                    I like the frozen Szechuan Beef with Broccoli. Rice not included, though. I only use half the sauce packet, saving the rest for making my own stir-fry from scratch.

                    There are good dessert items too, like the Belgian chocolate pudding and some of the yogurts and ice creams. Also really good chocolates, nuts, and dried fruits. The frozen croissants (plain, chocolate, almond, pumpkin) make a decadent breakfast pastry. Thaw overnight to rise, bake for 20 min. But there are 4 to a package, and you may not want to do that every day. They need to stay frozen until you are ready to thaw and bake one.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Call it what you (they) want it is still a flat bread pizza to me! <grin>.

                      I also find it, along with their other pizzas, a perfectly acceptable size for dinner with or without a salad. I thought the OP was looking for solo dinners while traveling, not looking to feed a group.

                      1. re: foodieX2

                        That's why I mentioned the size. I too regard it, along with a salad, as a meal for one but for some folks it would be a half the tarte, and it's not something that I would want to reheat, because once baked the crust is quite crisp, and there's no sauce on top.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          It's good when eaten cold the next morning.

                      2. re: greygarious

                        +1 on the Tarte d'Alsace - one of my favorite TJ's products (though sometimes I find the ham a bit funky).

                        Frozen beef tamales.

                        I like the Kale and Broccoli salad, as well (includes chicken and dried cherries, I think).

                        I'd stay away from the sushi...

                        1. re: emily

                          The thing that got me about the ham is that it's HAM, not lunchmeat! The mushroom version is good too – Tarte aux Champignons.

                          The frozen Pad See Ew is prepared in a skillet, and it's very good. I haven't tried the veggie Pad Thai yet, but it seems to use a similar method. I like to keep a bag of frozen cooked shrimp handy (close it with an alligator clip!) and thaw a few to toss into such veggie entrées.

                    2. I eat the frozen Thai gyoza, in shrimp and vegetable form, as a lazy meal often. You heat them up in some oil in a pan for a few minutes, then add a little bit of water and a lid to steam for a few minutes more. The gyoza dipping sauce in a jar that Trader Joe's also sells goes great with 'em.

                      1. Tarte d'Alsace (Ham, gruyere, carmelized onions) is wonderful. I'd suggest a little side salad to complete the meal, though the tarte is enough of a meal for me.

                        If you enjoy Indian food, the Paneer Tikka Masala is one of my favorites alongside their Garlic Naan. Need the naan to soak up the tasty sauce.

                        Those are my two go-to's every time I stock up at TJ's.

                        1. TJ's has two kinds of prepared entrees, frozen for reheating in a stove or oven, and refrigerated for microwaving. I've had good enough luck with the frozen foods that I'd suggest just choosing whatever you feel like having for dinner! Don't have a microwave oven, so I haven't tried the TJ meals for MWing.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: John Francis

                            I've had frozen ones that I MWd just fine.

                          2. The lamb vindaloo is great as well.

                            1. My regular roundup:
                              * Lamb vindaloo
                              * Cheese enchiladas
                              * Chile rellenos
                              * Mushroom raviolis
                              * Meatballs (party size)
                              * Chicken pot pie
                              * and there's a shrimp, scallop & other stuff mixture that's good

                              I cook these in my toaster oven, except for the meatballs which I drop into a pot of gravy.

                              The lamb, enchiladas and ravioli need a veggie, so I usually lay a zucchini or handfull of green beans into the dish before cooking them.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sharuf

                                The Curried chicken salad in the fresh case with some flat bread to make curry tacos is a staple in our lazy meal arsenal. The microwave trays of asparagus and fingeing potatoes help keep things interesting.

                              2. Since you will have an oven, you should definitely try one of the pizzas, or a couple of them.

                                You should also try some of the frozen croissants, just take them out of the freezer the night before to proof then bake in the morning.

                                Also look at the desserts--the coffee ice cream is very good.

                                1. Our current favorite is the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Comes in a bag, the sauce is in there too, in solid chunks. Dump it in a frying pan, and five minutes later, it's dinnertime. Delicious! Better than anything you'll get at the corner pizzeria.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: coll

                                    Ditto to the gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce! Yummy comfort food.

                                  2. The Southwest chicken quesadillas are excellent as is the Tarte d'Alsace which is like a pizza/flatbread with onions, gruyere, and ham on it.

                                    1. For about 10 weeks last year I had to be in a motel 3-4 days a week and Trader Joe's was a lifesaver! All I had was a fridge & microwave, but between any of their fresh salads and fresh entrees such as the rosemary chicken with rice, it made life bearable.

                                      I like their pizzas, especially the arugula one, and also their calzones. The selection of cheeses with either crackers or the kalamata bread is also a nice light meal. I wasn't too fond of any of the seafood frozen entrees, however. The gnocchi w/gorgonzola sauce is good, I fry up a little of these diced pancetta and add it to the sauce.

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: coll

                                          The pancetta is also a great deal since it is much cheaper than anywhere else.

                                          1. re: Barbara76137

                                            I just happen to have a chunk of pancetta in my freezer, you made me think of adding it to my brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving, instead of bacon. It's very versatile!