Hold up. I know you’re all like, “TRADER JOE’S? JESS. A POST ABOUT YOUR GROCERY LIST!?”
But there are FEW things I am passionate about more than Trader Joe’s. (NO they are not paying me to post this, either.) I’ve secretly been wanting to do a post like this FOREVER but I didn’t think anyone would be as excited about Trader Joe’s as I am.
But, what finally pushed me over the edge was one person’s joke in my GG reader feedback survey. Under the question, “Is there anything else you’d like to see on GG this year?” The person wrote, “GIRL. You do you. I’d even read your GROCERY list!”
(THANK YOU, anonymous person. I know you didn’t mean it quite that literally, but it was a sign that I needed to go ahead and publish my TJ’s favorites already, because I didn’t want you all to miss out on these goodies any longer.)
I swear, this might be one of the most enlightening posts you’ve read all year. There are so many incredible items that TJ’s has to offer, it would take years to discover all of them by yourself! Not only are these items delicious, but they’ll also save you BOAT LOADS of time. They’re the easiest tools there are to get you through the work week with delicious food.
So next time you go to TJ’s, consider this your grocery list.
1. Trader Joe’s Yellow Thai Curry Sauce
If I had to pick one TJ’s favorite, this curry sauce would definitely be near the top. I’ve never tasted an asian sauce product this good from any other grocery store. Add some chicken, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and onions, and this seriously tastes like the real deal. If you’re short on time, just pick up a frozen pack of asian veggies and throw that in there too. I promise, it doesn’t get any easier. Best paired with brown rice (see below!) This really does rival your favorite curry takeout.
2. Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils
I love love lentil soup (Ina has my favorite recipe to date. To make it healthier, I sub chicken sausage, which is another favorite Trader Joe’s item that I didn’t happen to include here. I had to stop the list somewhere, you know.) The thing about lentils is that they’re kind of a pain in the you know what to cook because they require soaking and boiling. This takes out all the legwork of lentils! Use them in salads, soups, whatever–they’re SO good, super healthy, and an excellent source of protein.
3. Trader Joe’s Chinese BBQ Pork Bao Buns
This is a weird one, I know. You’re judging me. I almost didn’t put this in here because I thought people would think I was nuts. Trader Joe’s frozen Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns? But hear me out. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Chinatown–one of my favorite places in the city–and I know a good bao when I taste one, and these are pretty damn good. They don’t have any artificial coloring (like a lot of bbq pork buns do) and, oh, they take FORTY FIVE whole seconds to microwave. Just put a damp paper towel over them, wait 45 seconds, and you have a hot, steaming snack that is very satisfying. When I have zero time but need something in my stomach, I always reach for these.
Are they the healthiest snack I could reach for? Of course not. Are they the worst thing I could eat? Very far from it.
This would also make a perfectly wonderful snack for small children. Super fast, and the perfect half-pint sized snack. What’s cuter than a little peanut munching on a pillowy bao?
4. Trader Joe’s Coconut Creamer
I started buying this dairy free creamer on a “Paleo” kick a couple summers ago, and I’m still hooked on it. I think it’s definitely one of the best dairy free creamers out there and very equivalent to half and half in terms of consistency. It’s much healthier and more delicious than my standard cream and sugar–it’s also vegan. Obviously an added bonus if you’re, you know…vegan.
5. Trader Joe’s Pita Bite Crackers
These crackers. GAH. You can’t stop eating them. Which is great because they’re less bad for you than most crackers. I eat them with peanut butter for a quick afternoon snack, or serve them with a cheese plate when entertaining. They’re also excellent for my favorite dips (see below!)
6.Trader Joe’s Frozen Green Beans
I’m not usually a fan of frozen vegetables, especially when it comes to green beans, but Trader Joe’s does them differently–I’ve been buying them for years. You honestly wouldn’t be able to tell they were even frozen. They still have tons of flavor, and still give you that juicy green-beany snap when you cook them just right. I used them in this recipe in lieu of asparagus recently and it was amazing.
7. Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers
Another Trader Joe’s item I’ve been buying for years, these chicken burgers are straight up delicious. They aren’t pre-cooked like a lot of TJ’s things are, but all you have to do is pop them into the oven or heat them up in a frying pan. (You could also grill them, obviously.) They have a really delicious fresh cilantro flavor. I love them with caramelized onions, avocado and spicy aoli. You can serve them with a bun, or in a lettuce wrap. Both equally fun parties in your mouth.
8. Trader Joe’s Organic Power Greens
This is my newest TJ’s discovery. There are few things you can buy that are so versatile–seriously. I originally purchased these to make green smoothies in the morning, but I have since used these greens for salads, put them in soups, sauteed them and served them with a fried egg on top. The healthful possibilities are endless.
9. Trader Joe’s Individually portioned, microwavable brown rice packets
GOODNESS these little things are lifesavers. Keep these in your freezer with a bottle of curry sauce in your cupboard, and you’ll never be lacking a delicious meal. They’re ready in just minutes, and steam in their little individual packets. Admittedly, I rarely make rice any other way.
10. Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup
I will admit, I’m a TOTAL soup snob. I turn up my nose at all pre-made, pre-packaged store bought soups. I think they all taste like complete garbage and are a waste of time and calories. (This is harsh, I know.)
That was…until I tried Trader Joe’s Latin Black Bean Soup. (Yet another thing I discovered at the sample station at the back of the store.) Heat up this soup, finish with some sour cream or greek yogurt with chives on top. Holy moly. You could also add any veggies or meats that you liked, and it would be incredible. I was so excited to find this.
11. Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Mac and Cheese
Another weeknight or weekday lunch lifesaver: Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Mac & Cheese. This is actually one of my favorite mac and cheeses ever, and that includes Kraft, Velveeta, and a slew of incredibly unhealthy others. This one isn’t bad for you, and it honestly does taste almost as good as homemade. I like to mix in a protein like chicken, and eat it with a little side salad. It’s the perfect portion.
12. Trader Joe’s Pre-cooked Pork Carnitas
I love Trader Joe’s carnitas. To make them extra special, throw a bunch of hot sauces, garlic, cumin, brown sugar, and a little bit of coca cola and let them simmer in a pot for a couple hours. Yes, they’re already cooked, but they still absorb flavor amazingly well. Then take them out and put them in tacos, or make them into enchiladas (I made my own version of this recipe recently) and they are to die for.
13. Trader Joe’s Spinach & Kale Green Yogurt Dip
If you ever have a deep longing for spinach dip (I mean, don’t we all?) but know it will blow your entire diet, this dip will change your life. It really does taste just like spinach dip, but it’s actually healthy.
14. Trader Joe’s “Just Sauce” Frozen Turkey Bolognese
Another total game-changer. This frozen turkey bolognese is good and healthy on it’s own, but if you want to bring it to restaurant quality, just add a little bit of wine, some garlic, a bit of cream, and throw it in a pan with some sauteed mushrooms, parmesan, and rigatoni and your mind will be blown. About the easiest thing to pull together on a weeknight, especially if you have company! (They’ll NEVER know this isn’t your Noni’s bolognese recipe!)
15. Trader Joe’s Cilantro & Chive Yogurt Dip
Another diet friendly dip. Which, don’t get me wrong, it’s freaking delicious as a dip, but I love it more as a topping–in a bowl of chili, in a wrap, on a sandwich, and the BEST–on greek style chicken or gyro wraps. Yum!
16. Trader Joe’s Fresh Ravioli
You truly cannot go wrong with any of TJ’s fresh ravioli varieties. They’re ready in just a few minutes, and can be combined with any delicious sauce that you like! Even serving them with simple olive oil and parm is a treat. I particularly love the mushroom variety!
17. Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce
I put this stuff on everything. It’s kind of this incredible hybrid of asian-mexican hot sauce. I can’t really put my finger on what I love about it so much. It’s not too spicy (for my taste, it could be much spicier) but it has an incredible flavor that goes great with mexican, asian and american dishes, and is even good on eggs!
Of course, I could go on. I could have easily listed out 50 of my favorite TJ’s buys (which, I mean, I can still do, if you’d like an encore!) But hopefully, this is enough to get you started.
18. You can’t forget about PEONIES!
It’s true–when they’re in season, you can’t get prettier peonies at a better price than at Trader Joe’s. Hydrangeas also come in second–but far from peonies. Nothing makes me happier than a full TJ’s cart with a couple bunches of Peonies on top. Ah.
What are your favorite Trader Joe’s finds?
Update: YOU GUYS. You are leaving me SO MANY GOOD TJ’s tips I am GEEKING OUT. I can’t wait to try all your amazing recommendations. Keep them coming!