It’s a Monday Rewind! Yellow Brick Home has 12 years of archives, so from time to time, we’ll be sharing our favorites from posts past. This was originally published in July 2019. Enjoy!
Fun fact: I do the vast majority the grocery shopping for the Vargo household. It’s become a bit of a weekly tradition for me to scoop up Lucy at the end of the work day and head to the store. Lucy and I love
running errands going on adventures together, and let’s be honest, my laser-focus gets us in and out pretty quickly. And although grocery shopping may not be Kim’s speciality, she can’t resist when it’s an outing to Trader Joe’s! I’m thinking it’s less to do with the shopping and more to do with the secret longing to bask in the green glow of fresh eucalyptus and (boiling lava hot – ouch!) coffee samples.
Trader Joe’s is great (the best!), but with most of their products being exclusive to their stores, it can sometimes be overwhelming to make purchases without any prior tasting experience. We’re all familiar with 2-buck Chuck (now 3? GASP!), but what about the really, really good stuff? The cult favorites? Some of our personal favorite recipe hacks and quick meals come from TJ’s (many of which have been pinned from a few of Kim’s favorite blogs) so we thought it would be fun to share our favorites here. Enjoy!
Our Trader Joe’s Favorites
1| Kim’s favorite. Apparently almond granola and almond milk pair well together!
2| Blue corn chips are thinner and crispier than their yellow corn cousins. This makes them a bit tricky for my aggressive dipping style, but they’re still sooooo good, and we always grab a bag (or two).
3| This mix of kale, shredded brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage works as well on tacos as it does in a salad – and atop a burger or anything else that needs a crunch!
4| VFR, as we’ve come to abbreviate it, is an easy lunch or weeknight dinner when time is in short supply. Add a few eggs, extra veggies, soy sauce and sriracha to take it up many, many notches. We often pair it with …
5| … these Chicken Gyoza Potstickers to round out the meal! Another tip: Kim will make a big batch of ramen noodles (like the kind from the crinkly package) and add potstickers, handfuls of spinach and eggs. Top that with chopped green onions and a drizzle of Sriracha!
6|Take my word: The Reduced-Guilt Pita Chips paired with Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip is a combo made in heaven! Have it as a snack. Serve it at a party. Eat it for lunch. Versatile goodness!
7| Cookie butter. Period. (Kim will scoop out a small spoonful as her ‘dessert’ – but you didn’t hear that from me!)
8| Lacey’s Cookies (we especially like the milk chocolate with macadamia nut) are so so good, that we ate almost the entire package before photographing it for this very post. Oops.
9| Milk chocolate peanut butter cups are better when chilled in the fridge, and yes, there is always a container chilling in ours. The peanut butter is creamy, the chocolate is thick, it’s… well, their bite-sized cups of pure magic, really.
10| The Tuscan Pane Italian bread makes for incredible – and huge! – sandwiches. And garlic bread. And toast. And… pretty much anything you might make with bread.
11| We use these Organic Pizza Crusts for DIY pizza nights, and we almost always default to this white pizza recipe. Quick and easy!
12| TJ’s taco seasoning is a magical mix of super spicy spices, and it’s perfection. We buy the pouches 10 at a time and straight up panic when our spice drawer contains fewer than two packets. (Taco Tuesday, anyone?) The directions call for 1/2 pouch per pound of meat, but that’s for sissies. Dump the whole thing in there and sweat a little bit, why dontcha?
13| We’ve recently started using these Organic Coconut Chips in our smoothies, and they add a richness and texture that makes any combination of fruit, veggies and juice as filling as a meal!
14| Kim rubbed an entire container of this on her belly while she was pregnant with Lucy. Not all at once – I mean, that would be crazy talk! It smells so, so good and always reminds us of our little Goose when she was still in there cooking.
15| TJ’s Fruit & Vegetable wash removes dirt, wax and pesticides from (obvs) fruits & veggies. We pour ours in this amber glass pump and keep it by the sink for the daily apple. Gala or Pink Lady or you can just get right out of here!
TJ’s always has the. best. greenery – and on a budget, too! When in stock (it can be a rare find at our store), we grab a few bundles of the silver dollar eucalyptus. Otherwise, we load up on anything leafy, and lots of it.
We also left the Everything But the Bagel seasoning off the official list because you probably already have it in your pantry. It’s an obvious staple! (Right? )
Trader Joe’s has a bit of a cult vibe (in a good, everyone’s included sort of way), and we always love peeking into other peoples’ carts to see what they’re buying. How about you? What always leaves the store with you?! Is there a super secret grocery item that we’ve been depriving ourselves of? Share your favorite TJ goods (and recipe mash-ups) in the comments!
The Kitchn has been posting a lot recently about full meals you can make with things from Trader Joe’s – slow cooker meals, ingredients entirely from the freezer section – seemingly random stuff, but it’s introduced me to so many products I’ve never used before! Definitely worth a look! (If you Google search “Kitchn Trader Joe’s meals” you’ll get a ton of links)
We’ll have to look into this! Thanks for the rec!
My husband and I eat low-carb and TJ has the BEST low-card must-haves: low-carb tortillas, cauliflower gnocchi, cauliflower fried rice and must haves. If you like spicy (which it sounds like you do), the Wasabi Mayo gives everything a kick!
Yum! I’ve been curious about the wasabi mayo. We’ll have to grab it next time!
Their frozen almond (or chocolate) croissants. You have to take them out the night before and let them thaw & rise before you bake them but it’s v v rewarding to pull FRESH BAKED CROISSANTS out of the oven the next morning. We are also always stocked up on their canned dolmas, their fresh pizza dough in the fridge section (which freezes really well, btw), and our kids inhale their freeze-dried fruit (mango/bananas/strawberries are the faves).
Lots of recs for the frozen croissants! Definitely need to try them!
I love cold brew and it gets $$$$$ to get it as often as I want so I LOVE the cold brew concentrate. It still would be cheaper to make my own from scratch, I know, but this is still a great way to save some money. And it’s pretty good!
My kids beg for their chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cat cookies. We love the brown rice and quinoa pasta. I always stock up. They have a great coconut oil spray and great prices on balsamic vinegar and cooking oils, etc. In the winter, we always grab several bags of freeze-dried strawberries. I always grab spirulina and probiotics from there! Also, their sunscreen is awesome.
We’ve determined that you pretty much can’t go wrong with cookies and sweets from TJ’s!
I always get the dried fruits (coconut and mango are faves), a bag of the thai spiced almonds, and their cold brew concentrate.
The dried fruits are great for smoothies and snacking for sure!
The packets of riced cauliflower are the best price around us from TJ. We pair it with the orange chicken in the freezer section or anything really. The sirloin taco kit saves me on evenings when I have no motivation and is so so good. The granola is my hubbie’s favorite and the price is killer. Oh man, now I’m going to Trader Joe’s tonight…
salmon burgers, cauliflower gnocchi, inside out gnocchi (so good!), frozen brown rice, ancient grains granola (the most amazing crunch)
The frozen brown rice might be a great alternative to cooking our own since brown rice takes FOREVER to cook! Thanks for the tip!
So many, but most recently, we started buying Bambas for our baby…great way to expose to peanuts and a great snack (especially while teething)!
Oooh, we’ll have to check that out!
I buy their nuts and GF oats to make granola. I’m also a fan of their yuzu hot sauce and lemon curd. And they’re brioche makes really yummy French toast–and is a great deal.
That Yuzu hot sauce is so so important to me ????
Funny enough, I bought 4, 5, and dark chocolate peanut butter cups when I was at TJ’s yesterday! I also frequently buy vegan cream cheese-like spread, pretzel bread (my family loves it sliced and added to a kid-friendly charcuterie board), whole wheat mini pitas (homemade pizza lunchables ahoy!), shredded brussels sprouts, the veggie and soba noodle stir fry kit, and recently discovered Simpler Wine’s canned wine (totally delicious!)
Yum to ALL.
You’ve got to try their enchilada sauce! I’ve started buying them 5 at a time because I can’t go without.
That’s what we do with their taco mix, haha!
We don’t have any TJs locally but often make a point to stop by when traveling. My favorites are the Just Mango dried mango, cold brew coffee cans, and wine cans. My husband always grabs a big bag of nuts or trail mix.
Holy moly, the turbinado sugar and sea salt covered almonds are the BEST! We always have a stash around for a sweet bite or two after meals.
I used to really, really love Trader Joe’s, but as I’ve been trying to eliminate more and more single use plastic from my life, I found myself eliminating TJs by default about two years ago. Almost all of their products are in plastic :( so while I miss some of my old items, it’s just a choice I’ve had to (and have the ability + finances + etc) make to live up to my personal standards/goals. That said, I’ve signed multiple petitions pushing them to innovate their packaging and reduce their waste. I’d love to shop there again and definitely miss some of their unique items. Their food is generally a great price for the value and quality, so I can see why it’s an appealing place to shop! If there’s something I know is hard to find anywhere in my town plastic free, I’ll occasionally swing by TJs to pick it up, but it’s really never top of mind anymore.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply! Would you be able to point us in the direction of the petitions?
This spring Trader Joe’s <a href=”https://www.foodandwine.com/news/trader-joes-plastic-policy“>committed to reduce packaging</a> in response to customer demands and promised to eliminate 1 million pounds of plastic annually. Some of this looks like a switch to compostable plastics so check an see what packaging can be composted vs recycled in your area.
Thank you, Ryan!
Yes to Lacey’s cookies, peanut butter cups and everything but the bagel. Also if you can find the Benne Wafers (tiny toasted sesame cookies) they are Amazingly Addictive. Just like the ones I used to get in South Carolina
I wish there was a TJ closer by us, but anytime I make the hike to one, i usually stock up on the frozen foods for quick weeknight dinners. My favorites are their orange chicken, beef and broccoli, and kalbi (tastes just like ones you get from korean restaurants!). Oh and their cheese (my favorite is gouda, but also liked the blueberry flavored one!) and salami selections are great and priced well!
Triple cream brie, string cheese, apricot or strawberry preserves, whole milk yogurt, mochi ice cream, toffee chips, frozen almond croissants, frozen chana masala and vegetable biryani frozen dinner. We also always buy the tuscan pane (toast it and serve with the brie and apricot jam) and chicken dumplings too!
They have a clean recipe, simple marinara sauce (it’s in a big can, like for tomatoes, not a bottle) that’s so good! But more importantly, they just came out with these Southern pecan cookies that are to die for. I’m normally a chocolate girl, but these are absolute heaven!
They have a cinnamon croissant loaf that is amazing. They delicateness of a croissant that can fit in your toaster and makes a delicious quick breakfast!
I’m all about TJ’s red curry sauce, their fire roasted frozen corn (I add it to EVERYTHING!), their handmade flour tortillas, salsa verde… shoot now I’m hungry and definitely need to go make a run ????
We’re obsessed with their tiny ice cream cones. Perfect size for kids or adults and feels like a treat without being too much
Sounds like they’d be perfect tiny treats for Lucy!
We don’t have a TJs. Cue all the sobbing, especially after reading this post! Maybe I’ll make the hour+ commute just to check it out sometime. :)
Yes that taco seasoning is my jam! I also buy it in bulk…lol. My other favorites are the crunchy cheese puffs, the white cheddar cheese puffs, the orange chicken, the choc chip ice cream sandwiches and the coffee ice cream sandwiches. They used to sell a really good white lambrusco that I used in my sangria and the best black bean & corn salsa but both have been discontinued ????
Scott used to love that salsa, too! Ugh!
Try the Whole Foods salsa (365 brand) if you have a store nearby. It’s the best. My fave is green tomatillo, but the red salsas are awesome too.
Cannot believe this list didn’t include TJ’s orange chicken! It’s literally the best, such an easy and quick meal! We mix a whole bag with some brown rice and broccoli and it feeds the three of us. It’s the best! Try it next time you go!
I love the vegan soy chorizo, salsa verde, green dragon hot sauce, cauliflower gnocchi, vegan pesto, and green goddess salad dressing! They have well priced produce too.
I love Trader Joe’s!! And for those items that you’re not sure of, their company policy is that you can ask to try anything in-store before you buy (they use the rest of the package at their sample counter). They also donate the food nearing its expiration date to schools and shelters, which is why you never see it go on sale. Love this company!
TJ’s chicken shawarma! Bake for 30-35 mins, the time they give is not enough! So yummy as a sheet pan dinner w/broccoli. Also, their avos are usually the best.
We love the potstickers you mentioned along with miso soup. We add a hardboiled egg and some sliced green onion to the soup to beef it up a bit. It’s super easy to prep several of these for lunches throughout the week!
Every time we come to the US (from the UK) I try my best to get to a TJ. If I buy nothing else, it’s always for the EBTB and at least three packs of their peanut butter pretzels!
You know what is better for at home pizzas than their pizza crusts? Making it on their garlic naan!!!!!!!!
We can’t even have the peanut butter cups in our house….they don’t even last a day and their almond butter ones are just as tasty (if you cant do peanuts)
I like the frozen-organic-cooked brown rice (three packs in a box), and make it over low heat in a covered pan with pre-sliced mushrooms on the bottom. 20-25 minutes, then add salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and stir. (Next time I’ll add spinach.)
Also, the Indian “butter chicken” is very good though a bit high in calories.
If you like homemade pizza and are into doing personal pizzas or pesonal pizza parties, I highly recommend using the garlic naan bread as the crust. SO good, especially with white sauce, chicken, spinach, and zucchini.
STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Trying that next!
The smoked trout is really wonderful when I am no-carbing it on my way out the door. Half of one will keep me going for a few hours or longer and I feel that I am in ketosis but not suffering. They also have gluten free bread which tastes great but sticks to my teeth so it provides an unusual experience! Still, sometimes I just want some Marmite and it needs to be on buttery toast so that works.
Siracha BBQ sauce! Macro counts are good – we use on everything, even as a sauce for our cauliflower crust and chicken pizza!
I buy these things in multiples when I go to TJs.
Quinoa pesto – great on pizza and pasta.
Organic Red lentil pasta.
Brie Bites. Great piled on a charcuterie board.
Also love the bagged organic spinach and arugula.
The EASIEST, most satisfying dinner is TJ’s Latin-style black bean soup with their frozen chimichurri rice and shredded chicken (or carnitas from the refrigerated section, if you’re feeling indulgent) mixed in. I cook up the rice and protein separately before adding it to the soup, especially if I’m doing carnitas because it crisps up the edges.
My second-place TJ’s dinner hack is this one: https://cupofjo.com/2018/03/trader-joes-dinner-hack-recipe/
And that other commenter is right about the brioche making excellent French toast. It also makes a heavenly BLT when tomatoes are at their peak.
Their g-free chicken nuggets and Mac and Cheese are better than most regular. The raw shredded Parmesan is amazing. The Trader Giotto’s rectangular pizza crust/flat bread is excellent for pizza making. I can go on and on and on…
The roasted red pepper eggplant garlic sauce is amazing as a pizza sauce or added to tomato sauce for spaghetti!
I like #4 & #9, but in the dark chocolate version. I’v also become an addict for their Ginger-lemon soda. Oddly enough, I didn’t care for it at first but with dinner or right after, it really completes the meal for me. I’m not a drinker but I’m sure it should be delish with vodka or gin in summer.
We’ve gotta try it in the dark chocolate, for sure.
My favorite frozen food of all time is the TJ bibimbap bowls! I throw an egg in sometimes but they’re good as is too.
ORANGE CHICKEN. They have THE best ever! We grab a few bags every TJ’s trip to keep in the freezer. We cook it along with some broccoli and their microwave brown rice and it’s a super quick and easy dinner! Note: ALWAYS mix the chicken with sauce before adding anything else. Otherwise the rice will absorb all the sauce and leave your chicken high and dry!
YES! We’ve tried that since writing this! And their beef + broccoli, too.
Synergy strawberry lemonade kombucha- this flavor is only sold at Trader Joe’s and it’s the best of the best! Guava yogurt, gluten free quinoa tortillas, and of course the almond Kringle!
I love the veggie fried rice too but one time I went and accidentally bought the Japanese fried rice instead and now I can’t go back! There’s such good stuff in there, including edamame, really good flavor, and my kids can’t get enough of it. I usually sauté some chicken or shrimp with soy sauce and throw it on the side. This meal is in our weekly rotation.
Just this evening at dinner we were reminiscing about how we always grabbed a bag of Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate trail mix with us on trips pre-pandemic! It’s the best trail mix for people who don’t love raisins.
Great tip! Not a fan of raisins, so we’ll keep this in mind ahead of our long drive.
AHHHH!! Me being in Italy, I so miss TJ. But then again, we have prosciutto, parmigiano, pasta, pizza. So, ok- just wished Tjs shipped to Bella Italia!!
Sorry that I can’t be sorry for you, haha!
We love the carne asada, unexpected cheddar, dark chocolate covered ginger, roasted potatoes with peppers, cauliflower stir fry and chocolate croissants. So much more but I tried not to repeat items already mentioned.
Omg, love trader joe’s! Ok, their face wash, hylaronic cream, shave cream and dish soap in lavender. The ice cream sandwiches are perfection. Toffee chips are amazing as well as the scandanavian sour swimmers and my husband loves the s’mores candies. Unexpected cheddar is amazing! The blueberry lemon sparkling water. They have kind bar knock offs in green boxes that are better than kind bars. The movie theater popcorn! Naan crackers and they have these crackers that are olive and fig and then pomegranate and something that are amazing for charcuterie boards. Always love their fruit selection and plant selection. The 1/2 pound chocolate bars are amazing for cookies. The regular jerky is something I always stock up on as well. Clearly, I’m obsessed lol.
Wow! Those are some great recs!