Trader Joe’s has just come to Tampa and it’s coming next month to Orlando. Lots of my friends there have asked me what I buy (I’ve been shopping at TJ’s in Minnesota for a couple of years), so I thought I’d make a list…
Ta Da! Favorites from Trader Joe’s!
(And no, this is not a sponsored post. As my grandma used to say, Trader Joe’s doesn’t know me from Adam. If they wanted to pay me in chocolate covered goodies though, I’m up for negotiating.)
First things first, when Trader Joe’s opens near you, avoid the opening few weeks at all costs. People stand in line for the opening. They camp out. It’s ridiculous. This is a grocery store. A good and funky grocery store but last time I checked Bruce Springsteen was not singing at the opening. No need to stand in line. All the good stuff will still be there in a few weeks when the madness subsides.
Also, be prepared for parking hell.
That being said, you’re in! Stop right away and pick out some flowers for yourself. You’ve earned them. TJ’s has fabulous flowers. $4 for a dozen pink roses? Don’t mind if I do. I have absolutely no problem buying flowers for myself.
On to the produce. This is going to sound lame, but look around and get whatever you need. A lot of their produce comes with the option of going organic. They usually have great sales, so check out what is on special and what is in season.
I love the Edamame that is all ready to go so it almost always comes home with me. You can eat it right out of the container or zap it for a minute in the microwave to warm it up restaurant style.
The cheese section is not to be missed. I was a little lame on this trip and only got goat cheese, but if you are having a party and want to put together a killer cheese tray, Trader Joe’s cheese section can totally help you out.
I’d suggest you start with the Cotswold with Chives (which is awesome in scrambled eggs), some good hard, aged Gouda, and some creamy Manchego. I usually buy some sort of cheese I’ve never tried before. They often have someone giving samples so you can try before you buy.
Next to the cheese section is a great variety of funky sausages. I like these grilled and cut up on a big green salad. Dinner done in minutes.
It’s not too sexy, but Trader Joe’s is great for staples. I love their Tricolor Quinoa (get some to make Curried Mango Quinoa Salad) and the brown basmati rice. Prices much lower on these items than my regular grocery store.
Soup in a box. With a fox?
I love this for convenient lunches. I’ve tried a few of the other flavors, but tomato & roasted red pepper is by far my favorite. (Not a fan of the butternut squash…you’ve been warned.)
Okay, time for condiments. Whole grain dijon mustard (hello Honey Mustard Chicken!) is something I always have on hand. I get marinated artichokes for dressing up tossed salads and often add a jar or two of olives.
Toasted sesame oil and capers are cheaper here than in my regular store. The capers are in a MUCH bigger jar too which is nice if you are a fish lover. Buy some and make Mustard Roasted Fish and you can use your capers and your mustard in one great recipe.
I haven’t tried the balsamic glaze yet. It was an impulse purchase.
Speaking of impulse purchases….check out these stuffed peppers with olives and garlic. I think this is one of the best things about Trader Joe’s. You can find these sort of funky things you might never try anywhere else, they only cost a couple of bucks, and you might find something really great that you love.
Keep in mind that MANY Trader Joe’s items are seasonal so if you find something you absolutely love, stock up.
Also, set aside some money and time because things get crazy good there around the holidays. Chocolate Covered Boozy Figs. That’s all I’ll say.
Back to some more staples that I always buy: Coconut Oil for assorted baking and making Meredith’s Awesome Granola.
Speaking of granola, go check out the nut aisle. There is pretty much every kind of nut imaginable there. I always get pistachios because they offer the lower salt variety. My store almost never has hazelnuts so I grabbed some of them as well.
Next to the nuts is just about every kind of dried and dehydrated fruit possible.
Why have plain old brown raisins when you can have a medley?
Sadly, they no longer have the dried strawberries which were my favorite. I’m campaigning for them to bring them back. (The dehydrated ones are just bizarre…I’m trying to figure out what to do with them…chocolate bark maybe?)
For the gluten free among us, the TJ’s gluten free flour is pretty good and doesn’t cost and arm and a leg. Too bad it doesn’t come in a bigger bag.
I also buy Almond Meal to make my friend Jen’s Amazing Gluten Free Cookies. You can find it right by the flour.
Off to the freezer section….possibly the second best section in the store. (What is the BEST section? Wait and see…)
Frozen leeks and frozen artichoke hearts. Never seen either one in my regular grocery store. I’m not big on frozen veggies but these come in handy for tossing in with some baked chicken and wine sauce.
If you buy the leeks, put them in a second bag when you get home or your entire freezer will smell like leeks.
They have pretty much every frozen veg you could want. Many of them come in organic varieties as well.
There is frozen fruit galore. Smoothie time. Mango Lassi recipe coming soon.
The best two things in the frozen section are sadly things I can no longer eat. That doesn’t mean you should skip them though…
Apple Blossoms are SO GOOD! They’re little apple dumplings and come individually wrapped so you can make just one wee little apple dessert for yourself in about 2 minutes. YUM!
And you can either thank me or curse me after you try the Shrimp Corn Dogs. OH. MY. GOD. Just do it. Shrimp on a skewer covered in corn dog batter. You bake them in the oven and then dip them in the sweet and sour sauce provided. Ridiculous.
(those 2 photos from the google.)
Since you’re in the frozen section, look around at all those shelves above the freezers. Welcome to the best section of Trader Joe’s:
Chocolate Covered EVERYTHING!
Chocolate covered almonds, coffee beans, pomegranate seeds (surprisingly good), cranberries (also good), raisins, orange peel, etc. You name it, they’ve managed to put chocolate on it.
Be warned, these items are not for those of us (ahem) lacking self control. Trader Joe’s apparently knows that so they make small packages of some of the more popular items.
The dark chocolate peanut butter cups are the bomb. They kick all other peanut butter cups’ butts. I am no longer allowed to bring the full size containers of either of these items home.
Some other helpful hints you might not know…
Look in the freezer section for frozen bottles of water. They sell them already frozen so you can make your own cooler or freezer bags on hot summer (Florida) days.
If you have kiddos with you, the stores all hide some sort of mascot/stuffed animal around the store. Look for a sign or ask someone and let the kids go searching (hint, look up) for the dinosaur, turtle, or whatever your store has hidden. They change the location every day. Once you find it, tell the clerk at the checkout and you get a prize! It’s fun for big kids too.
Put all your loot in a 99 cent reusable bag. These are huge and are much more durable than most. They also make great beach bags. I’m sort of addicted to them.
I could go on and on but it’s more fun if you just go to the store and have a look for yourself.
Ooh, I just realized I forgot the salsa!
What are your Favorites from Trader Joe’s?
This is one of our favorite discussions in the symphony carpool. We usually tackle the list of favorite Costco items next!
Happy Shopping. Don’t forget the Peanut Butter Cups.