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Spunkygal

Trader Joe's

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TJ's has just fairly recently arrived on the scene in my local area, but for years I have heard of it and also saw the 60 Minutes piece on the Canadian man who traveled to one of the west coast states and bought tons of TJ items to resell in Canada. So I have always been intrigued. My interest is especially piqued because I see TJ's items mentioned in various different threads in this Food forum.

So what are your favorites? For a simple and yummy appetizer, I put TJ's blue cheese and pecan dip/spread in those tiny phyllo tart shells and bake for a few minutes. It's always a hit. I have heard their salted caramel sauce is great and have a recipe for salted caramel apple squares that I want to try and thought the TJ's sauce would be a good shortcut. 

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I'm in Canada.  One of my first stops every time I go the US is Trader Joe's.   I have gotten many of my friends hooked.   My favourites are all snack foods, since I'm staying in hotels and flying home, so I can't really prepare any of the "real" food.

Year round favourite:  dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  I can't buy the large tub, because once it's open, it's gone.  I have to buy the small bags.  

Seasonal:  Turkey and Stuffing Chips.  A colleague travelled to the US last week.  I said it sure would be nice if he brought me some chips.  I spoke to him 2 days ago (he works a couple of hours away from my office), he said he had forgotten.  Yesterday, a knock at my office door.  A delivery of 3 bags!!  Best colleague EVER.   I haven't dared to open them yet. 

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I loved, and I mean LOVED, their cocoa-dusted chocolate covered almonds. Sadly, they were discontinued. But it was chocolatey crack in a plastic tub. HEAVEN! So sad it's no more. But I may have to try the peanut butter cups! (Why did you have to let me know that exists, @Quof? Why?!  :-) My poor waist.)

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Wendy, which almonds do you mean? The ones with sea salt and turbinado sugar are the bomb, and I believe they still sell those.  I also have a recipe that's pretty close.

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Thanks, @Quof! But these were almonds which were with, I believe, dark chocolate on the inside with cocoa powder covering the outside. :-) So, close (without the turbinado sugar!) but not quite. This is what they looked like on the outside. But maybe I'll try the almonds you suggested. Sounds like they may be a good substitute.  :-)

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I rarely shop at Trader Joe's, because I shop primarily for raw ingredients and it stocks a whole lot of pre-made food instead.  So I don't have much to contribute, but my dad loves the Kona coffee beans it carries (I don't drink coffee, so no personal experience).  TJ's also has a nice cheese selection; no competition for a proper cheese shop, but much better than most general markets.  Oh, and it used to have a good whole wheat pizza dough, but now it's no longer whole wheat.

The pre-made stuff I've tried has always been really good, but I just don't usually care to make a separate trip for it and thus don't make note of it.  Maybe this thread will give me a list of things to grab when I go in to pick up some Kona coffee beans for my dad's Christmas stocking.

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My fave  Trader Joe's item? Easy! The Exit Door- because I've never had more than a 'meh' reaction despite all the hype and pals' pleadings.

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TJs is close to home and tailor-made for 2-person households.  You don't have to buy industrial quantities of food as you do at Costco, and their convenience foods are perfect for those working opposing hours and/or on the road a lot.  There's always something interesting and decent in the freezer.

I like their availability of European butters (French, especially).  Their egg prices are way below the local supermarkets.  Good breads, including artisan.  They have crumpets!  Their toothpaste does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which aggravates canker sores. (Try finding it elsewhere. Even Tom's of Maine includes sls.)

Spices are cheap!

I always have their Roasted Vegetables in Balsamic Sauce in my freezer.  Nice selection in their frozen appetizer section. Good crab cakes, which include lots of actual crab.  Love their Jalapeno/Dill Tartar Sauce.

These are just a few off the top of my head.  Mr. pig and I make a run every Saturday.

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Have to add their cashews in small packs inside a larger bag, so you don't (glaring at Mr. pig) let the uneaten nuts go stale.

(As if anyone could resist a whole bag of cashews.  But it helps in portion control.)

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On my next US trip, I will have a full kitchen in my hotel suite. While I have no intention of actually cooking meals, is there anything I should try, just because I can?  I hear good things about the frozen croissants.

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2 hours ago, Quof said:

On my next US trip, I will have a full kitchen in my hotel suite. While I have no intention of actually cooking meals, is there anything I should try, just because I can?  I hear good things about the frozen croissants.

If your trip is over the holidays, see if they have bacon-wrapped scallops in the frozen apps section.  They're a seasonal item and available now.

And, believe it or not because frozen pizzas are generally lousy, their bambino pizzas (four to a box) are pretty good to tide you over between meals.

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Trader Joe's is in my weekly routine. We get a lot of staples there - dairy, pasta, beans, produce, meat. For prepared foods, I like their quinoa and butternut salad, salsa, chive yogurt dip, lasagna, and simple roast chicken breast (easier than rotisserie and great for salads). From the frozen section we usually get the Indian dishes (Chana masala, saag paneer), mandarin chicken, gyoza, eggplant stacks (really good). This time of year I appreciate all of the frozen appetizers, especially the Camembert and cranberry phyllo rolls. For snacks I'm partial to the teriyaki turkey jerky, cheese crunchers, and mini cheese cracker sandwiches. 

I have tried the chocolate croissants which were pretty good.

Did you know that you can return food if you didn't like it? I've only done it once with some sea salt brownie bites which were so dry and dusty. They took them back with no problem. 

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I love that the nuts come in a variety of salt levels - unsalted, 50% salted or all the way.  I normally buy the unsalted, but sometimes splurge and get the 50%.

Their honey roasted slivered almonds are awesome on ice cream.  The honey coating gets a little crisp in the cold.

I'm a fan of their toothpaste too.  Not a fan of mint which is apparently a required ingredient in most toothpaste.  And it is way less expensive than Tom's.

Since I tried the Ode to the Classic Potato Chip, I cannot eat any other brands.  Think Lay's style chips but less oily and salty.  Plus, they stand up to dip pretty good.  I was disappointed in their Ruffles style chip though.

I seem to remember my co-workers used to be big fans of the cheesecake.

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I have returned things, without receipts, with no problems.   Recently, I have found their store brand chocolate bars have been waxy. Back they went.

Thanks for the tips, spiderpig, but I'm on the east coast of Canada.  Those scallops were probably harvested within a 30 minute drive from my house.  I can buy them fresh from any number of roadside stands when they are in season.  Jealous?  And I don't like scallops : )

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Trader Joe's is in my weekly routine. We get a lot of staples there - dairy, pasta, beans, produce, meat. For prepared foods, I like their quinoa and butternut salad, salsa, chive yogurt dip, lasagna, and simple roast chicken breast (easier than rotisserie and great for salads). From the frozen section we usually get the Indian dishes (Chana masala, saag paneer), mandarin chicken, gyoza, eggplant stacks (really good). This time of year I appreciate all of the frozen appetizers, especially the Camembert and cranberry phyllo rolls. For snacks I'm partial to the teriyaki turkey jerky, cheese crunchers, and mini cheese cracker sandwiches. 

I have tried the chocolate croissants which were pretty good.

Did you know that you can return food if you didn't like it? I've only done it once with some sea salt brownie bites which were so dry and dusty. They took them back with no problem. 

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I love this store and got a lot of suggestions here, fabulous.

I keep a couple of boxes of their vanilla cake mix on hand. It doesn't taste like a mix AT ALL. I aM a bit of a food snob so that is key for me. 8 X 8 pan so the perfect size for a quick dessert .  I usually serve it with sliced strawberries and whipped cream

There is a cracker that comes in a lavender box. Delicious, look for it. The are easy to spot. They are often out as it is a big seller. I love them with brie. Small hard cracker with dried fruit and nuts in ithem.

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2 hours ago, Quof said:

I have returned things, without receipts, with no problems.   Recently, I have found their store brand chocolate bars have been waxy. Back they went.

Thanks for the tips, spiderpig, but I'm on the east coast of Canada.  Those scallops were probably harvested within a 30 minute drive from my house.  I can buy them fresh from any number of roadside stands when they are in season.  Jealous?  And I don't like scallops : )

Grrrr! (Just kidding...Mr. pig is from Boston and always insists Atlantic seafood is far superior to Pacific, where we now live.  Can't argue about the lobstah and haddock.)

Back to thinking cap - Gorgonzola crackers?  Great with soup.

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1 hour ago, spiderpig said:

Grrrr! (Just kidding...Mr. pig is from Boston and always insists Atlantic seafood is far superior to Pacific, where we now live.  Can't argue about the lobstah and haddock.)

Back to thinking cap - Gorgonzola crackers?  Great with soup.

I agree with Mr Pig. Lived in MA all my adult life, moved to FL for 12 years and now in Phoenix. I was stunned to find FL did not have great fish. It was just okay but the shrimp was fabulous IF you could find it outide of the Keys. 

You cannot beat the seafood in New England. 

I won't bother mentioning seafood in Phoenix! Trade off is that I am close to my sons and their families.  

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Thanks, all, for the TJ info. Especially @spiderpig's that they're good for two-person households. I haven't been in one in years and have always pictured a "serves 4-6" scenario. 

I don't have one nearby but there is one I can route-around to.

Agree with @wings707. I've lived in Florida for decades and am amazed to get so-so seafood. We ship it all north? Dunno. Makes no sense.

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1 hour ago, NewDigs said:

Thanks, all, for the TJ info. Especially @spiderpig's that they're good for two-person households. I haven't been in one in years and have always pictured a "serves 4-6" scenario. 

I don't have one nearby but there is one I can route-around to.

Agree with @wings707. I've lived in Florida for decades and am amazed to get so-so seafood. We ship it all north? Dunno. Makes no sense.

Not good enough to ship. Who wants tile fish up north when you have better and cheaper options? :^)

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I've always enjoyed fresh grouper when we visit family in St. Petersburg, FL.

I've never found anything I'm interested in at TJs. It's not convenient and always crowded (so obviously many do), so you've inspired me to give it another look. Good emergency frozen meals are always welcome. 

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I think Hell's Kitchen had a challenge recently featuring fish from the seven seas.  The Gulf of Mexico was represented by grouper.

We had grouper at K-Paul's during a New Orleans visit.  It was delicious.

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I like their little packages of cubed pancetta.   It's just enough to start my bolognese sauce at a decent price.  I also buy their house wines to cook with.

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I buy most of my groceries at TJs because there's one between work and home if I'm walking (as I should be), although I buy meat from Whole Foods.  I go to TJs and nowhere else for sliced cheese, canned cat food, and dry roasted almonds. 

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Is Biscoff Spread comparable to TJ's cookie butter? The nearest TJ's is four hours away (*tears*) but I'm curious as to what a cookie butter even is, so I'm tempted to try something similar, and Biscoff is available at my grocery store. My understanding is that cookie butter can go on anything that nutella can?

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1 hour ago, coppersin said:

Is Biscoff Spread comparable to TJ's cookie butter? The nearest TJ's is four hours away (*tears*) but I'm curious as to what a cookie butter even is, so I'm tempted to try something similar, and Biscoff is available at my grocery store. My understanding is that cookie butter can go on anything that nutella can?

I've had Biscoff (the cookies & the butter... LOVE both, & always try to beg extra cookies off the flight attendants when I'm flying airlines which give out the cookies with the drinks service), but haven't had Trader Joe's (we're a TJ-free zone, so far, but we have a Fresh Market). Anyway... From what I understand, the Biscoff cookie butter is comparable to TJ's. If you try it & it's not, apologies for steering you wrong.

Cookie Butter, at least in this case, looks like peanut butter--but isn't, as I remember--& it has little bits of whatever cookie in it to add to the flavor.

I guess it can go on anything Nutella can--might be too thick for ice cream though. I've only eaten Cookie Butter in sandwiches, like peanut butter.

Edited by BW Manilowe · Reason: To add some comments.

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TJ actually stole the idea for speculoos/cookie butter from Biscoff, which is the original from Europe. The texture is similar to peanut butter, so you can use it anywhere you would use peanut butter - on toast, bake into cookies, make ice cream (or a sauce to pour over ice cream).    TJs make a smooth or crunchy, as well as one mixed with cocoa, along with a bunch of products made with speculoos, such as chocolate bars and cheesecake.

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I like their Indian simmering sauces.  The masala is great with sauted chicken breasts cut up.  And they sell frozen naan that is quite good.  So if you like Indian food you can do it yourself easily.  I also use some masala simmering sauce now when I make chicken salad (they were selling samples and told me how to make it--it's delicious!)  And their plain pork tenderloins are very tender.  I no longer buy pork tenderloins anywhere else.  I love their frozen chicken burgers. I also like their sourdough bread (it's great toasted).  I buy their California estate extra virgin olive oil ($5.99 and IMO almost as good as Olio Santo at $29).  And I like their Prosecco - the one with the screw-on top so I don't have to pop the cork (hate that) and it's under $7.00. Don't bother with the Two Buck Chuck (actually, it's been over $3 for a long time but people love the nickname for Charles Stewart wine).  It's not good.  Reduced Guilt Mac & Cheese is a great snack food for me or lunch (pop in the microwave for 2:30 and waa-laa).  There have been a number of things I've tried that haven't been all that good so I make note of what we like and stock up on them.  Oh and their frozen chicken breasts.  I love them because they're flattish and easy to thaw + easy to pound thinner if you want to (unlike all the boneless skinless chicken breasts in the supermarkets which are thick).  The employees are helpful & friendly.  I like TJ's :>)

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12 hours ago, chessiegal said:

Lucky you who can get wine at TJs. In MD chain grocery stores can't sell alcohol. So annoying.

Didn't know that.  Strange state laws.  I remember when I first moved to Raleigh, trying to buy a bottle of wine for my sister's luncheon (this was around 11 AM) and was told by the cashier that one couldn't buy wine or beer until noon.  I was so embarrassed.  I don't know if NC did away with that law.  In VA there are no laws about wine...or none that I'm aware of.  And then there were the blue laws in Massachusetts years ago where you couldn't dance on Sunday (but you could drink!)

One more thing about TJ's:  flowers!  I like to get alstromeria.  They're inexpensive and if you use the stuff that you put in the water, they last a long time.

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In California does TJ's sell liquor?  I can't remember but I seem to remember that.

Another thing I love about  TJ's is the employees will generally tell you the truth if you ask if they have tried it.  This weekend I heard someone asking about the cherry danish something and the girl said "when we tried it here, it really did not go over that well so you may want to test some before you purchase".

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5 hours ago, DeLurker said:

In California does TJ's sell liquor?  I can't remember but I seem to remember that.

 

Yes, TJs in California sell beer, wine, and liquor.

Edited by biakbiak
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I don't go to Trader Joe's too often because they have too many sweet things that are delicious and I don't need to be eating them. I love their dark chocolate laceys but I couldn't find any the last time I went. I did get the dark chocolate peanut butter cups(the bombdiggity) and some pumpkin  macarons that were pretty tasty. I also love the ginger ale they have there, Hansen's brand.

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On 12/4/2016 at 7:54 PM, chessiegal said:

II've never found anything I'm interested in at TJs. It's not convenient and always crowded (so obviously many do), so you've inspired me to give it another look. Good emergency frozen meals are always welcome. 

The stores are pretty small and they pack a lot in them, so going at a high traffic time is insane because there is so much to see and everyone is doing the same.  I usually go if I can make it there before 10:30 - 11 PM.  After that, it gets a bit nutty.  The staff will tell you what there low volume hours are if you ask.

On 12/2/2016 at 5:04 PM, WendyCR72 said:

I loved, and I mean LOVED, their cocoa-dusted chocolate covered almonds. Sadly, they were discontinued. But it was chocolatey crack in a plastic tub. HEAVEN! So sad it's no more. But I may have to try the peanut butter cups! (Why did you have to let me know that exists, @Quof? Why?!  :-) My poor waist.)

Speaking of nuts...cocoa glazed roasted almonds are listed in the current Fearless Flyer.  They sound like what you described.

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3 hours ago, DeLurker said:

Speaking of nuts...cocoa glazed roasted almonds are listed in the current Fearless Flyer.  They sound like what you described.

Mmmmm...thanks, @DeLurker!

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I tend to go on Sunday mornings before 9. Mines pretty quiet at that time and well stocked. 

One thing I always grab this time of year are the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe-Joe's, which are different flavors of Joe-Joe's covered in chocolate. The box has double chocolate, peppermint, peanut butter, and my favorite, ginger covered in white chocolate. They only have them at the holidays, which is probably for the best as I am deficient in self control. 

We're having an all Trader Joe's meal tonight - panko tilapia filets*, French fries and tartar sauce. 

*thanks to Blackish I now know that tilapia are a garbage fish. Hasn't stopped me from eating it. 

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Uh-oh.  I made clam chowder for the first time tonight, using the recipe on the back of TJ's frozen clams. Blech.  Mr. P914 will have to eat the remains of the day (he'll doctor it up w/ stuff).  Gosh, those clams had no taste and they smelled a bit fishy.  I usually love clams but not these. Caveat emptor (or somethin' like that).

Edited by annzeepark914

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Quote

Did you know that you can return food if you didn't like it?

What if you're kinda dumb and let the packaged cubed butternut squash go bad before you have a chance to use it? Probably not.  :)

It was marked "sell by Dec. 1" and I bought it a couple of days before that, brought it home and put it in the veggie crisper drawer in the fridge. Took it out today and it was mushy. Mom had asked for some, so now I owe her a replacement.

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13 minutes ago, forumfish said:

What if you're kinda dumb and let the packaged cubed butternut squash go bad before you have a chance to use it? Probably not.  :)

It was marked "sell by Dec. 1" and I bought it a couple of days before that, brought it home and put it in the veggie crisper drawer in the fridge. Took it out today and it was mushy. Mom had asked for some, so now I owe her a replacement.

I actually worked at Trader Joe's for a summer and people did do stuff like that. We took it back no matter the reason.

That reminds me of my Trader Joe's pet peeve, which may be specific to my Trader Joe's store. If I don't check the expiration date on each fresh item (dairy, meats, produce, etc.) I inevitably end up with something that expires the following day or day after. It's generally pretty basic stuff (like milk or yogurt) so I'm surprised that it happens. 

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1 hour ago, DeLurker said:

@WendyCR72 - don't know if the cocoa glazed almonds are exactly what you had in mind, but I was intrigued and just bought them.  Oh my!  Yum to the infinity!

Not exactly, but based on your reaction, I must try them!  :-)  Thanks for the heads up, @DeLurker.

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On 12/2/2016 at 2:39 PM, Quof said:

Seasonal:  Turkey and Stuffing Chips.

OMG, what?! I need those.

On 12/5/2016 at 7:53 PM, chessiegal said:

Lucky you who can get wine at TJs. In MD chain grocery stores can't sell alcohol. So annoying.

In CA we can get beer and wine everywhere and liquor almost everywhere. 

At TJs I have really bad luck with their bread products. They always go moldy before I can finish them. 

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We love Trader Joe's!  Its moved into the Dallas area in the past few years.  Its great for staple items and good sizes for a two-person household, as @spiderpig mentioned above.  Favorites of ours include the mandarin orange chicken, chicken fried rice, lasagna, stacked eggplant and macaroni and cheese, plus staples like sourdough bread and greek yogurt.  We'll buy wine on occasion, Italian soda, random cheeses (brie bites!) and crackers (love those gorgonzola ones).  They had a frozen grilled zucchini and eggplant side we had a bunch of times and then it completely disappeared, though we keep checking to see if it'll be back.  And while I love lots of their chocolate snacks and items like the little "hold the cone" ice cream cones, I try not to buy them too often, so I'm not snacking on sugar all the time (i.e. eating them all in one day)... but I think I am going to have to pick up the multi-flavor Joe-Joe's, thanks for reminding me of them, @MargeGunderson.

Last night we had TJ's butternut squash risotto with dinner, fiancé liked it but I was fairly meh on it, not sure if we'll buy it again.

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Semi on-topic here...

Sprouts is opening at the end of the month a couple of blocks from our local TJs.  Anybody ever shopped there?  It appears from their website there are a bunch all over California.

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