What you need to know about Trader Joes

I expect this is what the gates of Heaven look like...

Lets state the obvious. I love Trader Joe’s. I look forward to going.  It is never a chore. They never cease to amaze me with their awesomeness. I could keep going.  Sadly, some of you do not have a Trader Joe’s near you. I weep for you. We have 1 in Cary and 1 in Raleigh…and that just isn’t enough. I drive 20 minutes just to get to one…but it is totally worth it.  The food is great. I can come up with so many easy meals, it can be pretty healthy AND the price can’t be beat.

I am often asked “this is my Virgin trip to Trader Joe’s. What should I get?” I figured I would chronicle my loves.  First off let me say, I have never had anything bad.  My only complaints are the produce seems to go bad quicker and they run out of stuff sometimes.  Like we love the blueberry waffles and sometimes, it just isn’t there..like it never was. Weird. Anywho, lets move on to the good stuff. I am going to break it down into categories. Meal options and snack options. Lets get started.

Like a sea of nom.


Now for me, I can get a lot out of a trip to TJs.  If you aren’t against frozen solutions, you are freakin set! We love to have them waiting in the wings for those nights we a) don’t want to do much b) are in a hurry c) don’t wanna clean many dishes d) wanna try something new.


  • BBQ Chicken – This is in the asian section.  I grab this and a bag of organic broccoli florets.  Throw it all in a skillet and heat.  Simple simple.  Last 5 minutes, add the sauce (however much you want) and stir.  Then I get the TJs frozen organic brown rice. 3 minutes…done. It is a hearty rice…in case you don’t like that.  I think it is a lot like PF Changs brown rice. Dinner? Done. LT also likes this one.
  • Mandarin Orange Chicken – Again in the asian section…same as above…just a different taste.
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken – Asian again.  This is a little different.  You bake the tempura chicken.  I use the toaster oven to save time and house heat. Same brown rice and I whip up a bowl of steamed broccoli usually(LT LOVES broccoli).  Done.
  • Frozen Fish Fillets – Great for grilling or baking.  Nothing special…just good quality flash frozen seafood.
  • Turkey Meatballs – I can’t recall their exact location but they are a nice to have for throwing into pasta for a quick meal.  Grab a jar of your favorite sauce from that isle and BOOM.
  • I use the bologenese pasta sauce for my lasagna…great taste.
  • Frozen pizzas – We have had all kinds, all are good. We sometimes doctor it up with turkey pepperoni or a veggie.
  • Quinoa with Roasted Veggies – Great side dish or I could eat as a meal. Sadly, I am the only one in the house who will eat it but I just make small little batches. Has chopped sweet potatoes and zucchini in it.
  • Quick meals for 2 – You can find these in the meat section.  They are just a variety of heat and eat meals.  They aren’t the healthiest but quick options.  I think we have had the burritos, lasagna and maybe the meatloaf.
  • Any frozen veggie – I am the queen of frozen vegetables.  We are so indecisive throughout the week that fresh produce has a tendency to go bad.  Staples are sauteed green beans, steamed broccoli and steamable bags of mixed veggies.
  • Blueberry Waffles – LT LOVES these waffles.  I will never buy an eggo EVER AGAIN. it doesn’t even compare. We always have at least 2 boxes at all times.
  • Frozen mac and cheese – it is fantastic.  Great to mix with some grilled chicken or just have as a side.  There is regular and less-guilt.  Both are great.
  • Frozen Burritos are nice to have around for quick lunches or when we have “fend for yourself” night.
  • I want to try the indian foods because I have heard good things but K hates Indian. did just buy some garlic naan to try.
  • These little dried raviolis are a great quick dinner option for Landon.  He LOVES them.  I can make a handful for him and they keep well in the fridge for quick little snacks.
  • The meats are always good.  A little pricer but then again they are a lot more hormone free organic types.  We love the steaks. The chicken sausages are also a big family hit.  Pineapple bacon was a big one.


Check above the frozen sections for treats


  • Ice cream cookie sandwiches will make you orgasm. It is some kind of devils magic how they get those cookies to stay soft.
  • Similarly the frozen chocolate bananas are heaven.
  • Sesame round crackers –  Be careful..they are like crack.  Get some Mediterranean hummus too.  Deathly combo.
  • Fruit Leather – cheap and good for the whole family
  • Vanilla/Blueberry Yogurt cups(they aren’t low fat) – the vanilla and cream is the best yogurt I have ever had. I try to beat the toddler to them.
  • Frozen Fruit –  The mango and blue berries are great for snacking and toddler meals during teething. LT actually prefers frozen fruit most of the time saying “Icey Cold Blues, Mama!”
  • Coffee Ice Cream – best I have ever had.
  • Apple Crushers – Apple sauce with carrots in it. Instant toddler hit.  Little packs they can squeeze.  Awesome.
  • Salted almonds – we just found these.  Taste like sunflower seeds but the healthiness of almonds!
  • Dried fruit.  There is like a whole row.  We love tart cherrys, mangos. green mangos and LT loves apricots.
  • Trex mix – just get it
  • Trex mix bars – yummy granola bars
  • Their cereal bars are all great and pretty wholesome for the little ones. Always an easy grab on the way out the door for a snack

Now if you don’t believe me, check out Laura’s blog about TJ’s that she just filled me in on. Go check it out!

Ok I could keep going…soo if you are thinking about something specific or wanna know about something you have seen, just ask.  Please comment your favorite TJs item.  I am forever finding something “new” all the time because I just look in the right place.

P.S. I also was sent this recently. It does a great job…but obviously you don’t always have these things at your Trader Joe’s.

16 thoughts on “What you need to know about Trader Joes

  • September 27, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for this post! I have been less than 10 times & still feel really overwhelmed there.

    I will say that we got a box of the dried mac&cheese that tasted like the cardboard it came out of. It was horrible! Not sure if we got a dud or what but I think I’ll stick to the frozen one if I want to get mac&cheese there in the future!

    • September 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Sure thing. Go by yourself on a lunch break. Have time to look around.

  • September 27, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I could do a post on individual sections of the store. Seriously, we get 90% of our food there. and that wine, for $6 you can get your fancy drink on.

    I DO NOT EVER buy non-refrigerated produce or bread there. They do a crap job with quality control on turning those over.

    • September 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      good to know. Yeah my peaches always go bad within like 2 days…fuckers.

  • September 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I just bought some of their Habanero & Lime salsa yesterday and it was by far some of the best salsa I’ve had in a while. It’s not as spicy as you’d think considering the habanero, so even if you aren’t into spicy, it’s definitely a must buy 🙂

    • September 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      O yes I had that on sample one day and was SOLD. They run out sometimes…beware 🙂

  • September 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I love the frozen mac&cheese and the broccoli/cheese quiche.

  • September 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve never been to TJ before. I’m feeling deprived. Of course, I live in JoCo & that’s kind of like a third world at times!

  • September 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    We go every week and get most groceries there
    Our faves are
    Muffins and bread – preservative free but have to check the dates closely
    Snack size packs of nuts and berries – they come 10 to a bag
    Puff pastry and imported italian pizzas
    The non-frozen eggplant parmagian
    Tuna for cats – for our furry friends

  • September 27, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Don’t hate me but I have a TJ within walking distance of my house. We like everything you listed. I have add that there are squeeze tube low fat organic yogurt that is a huge hit here esp if you through them in the freezer. Like ice cream popsicles. Also in the freezer meal category the frozen gnocci is amazing.

  • Pingback:5 Trader Joe’s Meals That Save My Sanity | Liberating Working Moms

  • April 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Wah! I miss TJs so much. We’ve been in CO for 4.5 years…STILL no TJs here! They’re finally building one, to open this spring, BUT it will be 30 mins away from us. Better than no TJs, though.

  • Pingback:4 Easy Toddler Dinners from Trader Joes

  • March 3, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Great tips! I’m jotting down notes on what to get next time. Now I get how you are able to make a meat, veggie and carb for those toddler dinners. Given my dislike of touching raw chicken, the freezer section looks amazing.

    Boulder, Colorado just opened one on Valentine’s Day, I stayed away for a month in hopes it would calm down but it was a complete zoo on a Sunday. I’m hoping it’s less crazy on a weekday.

    • March 3, 2014 at 10:22 am

      It is always a mad house. Been here years and always the same. Pro tip: Go at 8-9am on weekends. Always the best for me.


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