What to Buy (and NOT to Buy) at Trader Joe’s

I took to Instagram Stories a few weeks ago and mentioned I’ve been thinking about doing this post…  And the response was overwhelming.  SO many of you wanted to see my list of best and worst products from Trader Joe’s.  I’m an avid TJ’s shopper, so this post was a fun one for me to put together.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

I snapped an iPhone shot of my shopping cart the other day at Trader Joe’s so you could see what a regular trip looks like for me.  Obviously, I don’t buy all healthy groceries there, I also love my snacks and cookies, lol.

Trader Joe's Shopping Cart Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Alright, let’s go {virtual} grocery shopping together!  I’m taking you through my favorite products department by department to keep this post as organized as possible.

What to Buy at Trader Joe’s:

Floral Department:  TJ’s is my go-to spot for flowers and not just during peony season…  Although, their peonies are the best!  They usually have a dozen roses in assorted colors for $6.99 at my local store and that price can’t be beat anywhere.  The price isn’t even the best reason to buy your flowers there, it’s how long they last.  I find that my roses last minimum 7 days, but sometimes even up to 14 days.  If you’d like to see a blog post about my flower buying tips and hacks for keeping them alive longer, leave a comment below and let me know.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Produce:  TJ’s is my favorite place to buy produce because A) the prices are great and B) the quality is great.  My favorite produce to buy there is: berries, spinach, cooked lentils, cauliflower and broccoli “rice” and bell peppers.  We also love their bagged brussel sprouts and pre-packaged fresh asparagus.

I prefer buying bananas at TJ’s because you can buy them individually.  This works best for us because we only really like to buy 2 or 3 at a time.  I’m looking at two bananas going bad on my counter as I type this, which is what I get for buying a bunch lol.

As for the cauliflower or broccoli “rice,” these have quickly become a favorite rice alternative in our house.  It’s a great low carb option that is super tasty. Per health.com, “Cauliflower has 25 calories per cup vs. 218 for a cup of cooked brown rice. (And, if you’re watching carbs, cauliflower has 5g per cup vs. 46g for a cup of brown rice.)”  That’s a great reason to make the switch over to cauliflower rice!  Here’s how I prepare it:

Warm olive oil in pan over medium heat and add in cauliflower/broccoli rice.  Season with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, garlic powder and a pinch (or two) of crushed red pepper.  Once cooked through, serve immediately.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Produce Pass:  Avocado prices tend to be higher than you’d expect.  Also, I’m not the biggest fan of their pre-made salads.

Bakery:  The only fresh bread I really love is their rosemary focaccia.  I haven’t bought this bread in a long time, but it warms so nicely and the flavor is amazing.

Deli/Refrigerated goods:  This is definitely my favorite store to buy cheese.  These are our favorites: Havarti with dill, organic pepper jack, shredded organic mozzarella cheese, Boursin, crumbled feta, goat cheese, and many more I can’t even think of right now.  I haven’t met a TJ cheese I didn’t love.  I did just see that they carry burrata and I don’t know how in the world I’ve missed that until now?

I swear by Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, but the kind in the refrigerated section near the cheeses, not the jarred.  It’s always fresh and lasts for weeks in your fridge.  It’s the perfect sauce: not too tangy and not too sweet.  We also love their whole wheat pizza dough in the bag.  You’ll find this right next to the refrigerated pizza sauce.  I have a special trick to making this dough…  I use a pizza stone that I heat up in the oven.  I toss the dough, put it on the stone, rub it with olive oil, sprinkle on Italian seasoning and bake for 10 minutes.  I take it out, rub the crust with olive oil again, then add topping and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  You get the perfect pizza every time using this method.

As you may know, the dips are right next to the cheeses in most TJ’s, but I typically pass on this section except for one item: Edamame Hummus.  Love this dip!  When I’m cutting back on soy, obviously I don’t buy it, but otherwise it’s super tasty and a fun twist on traditional hummus dips.

Matt loves their fresh hard-boiled peeled eggs just to have on hand for a quick protein boost.  I usually pick up my milk, eggs and yogurt at TJ’s too, the prices are lower than our local grocery store.

Meats:  I sometimes pick up organic chicken or lamb chops, but it’s not my sole purpose for my grocery trip.  I’d much rather make my meat purchases from our local butcher.  We’ve had two experiences where we got home and opened our fresh chicken only for it to be spoiled, so I purchase with caution.

Bakery Pass:  I’m not a fan of TJ’s English muffins, sliced breads, bagels or wraps.  They’re all just okay.  Whole Foods has the best English muffins in my opinion.  I’ve not tried all of their fresh baked sweets, but the ones I have tried have not been memorable.

Canned Foods/Rice/Pasta:  I buy all of my canned organic beans, tomatoes and stocks here.  I also purchase my almond milk and a lot of my baking products such as flour here.

I typically pass on the pasta and head straight for the rices.  My favorite rice products to buy are: 10 minute barley, 10 minute farro and Harvest Grains Blend.

Trader Joe's Shopping Cart Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

We have either Harvest Grains Blend, barley or farro at least once a week.  I love substituting barley or farro for rice in dishes such as taco bowls, for added nutritional value to the meal.

Another must buy in this aisle is their olive oil.  Our favorite is the Tunisian Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Snacks (non-frozen):  My favorite food life topic is snacks.  There are so many I love at TJ’s!  Here are the Lanter House favorites:

  • Oven Baked Cheese Bites
  • Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins
  • Partially Popped Popcorn
  • Speculoos Cookies
  • Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Roasted Seaweed Snack
  • Honey Butter Potato Chips
  • Soft baked Snickerdoodles
  • Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (Dare I say… Maybe even better than Reese’s!)
  • Kettle Corn
  • Chocolate Chip Brownie & Oat Bars (Great source of fiber!  Can’t eat while pregnant.)
  • Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Bites
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

Snack Pass:  Cereal.  I’ve yet to try a cereal that I love enough to buy a second time.  I’m also not a huge fan of their tortilla chips.

Frozen Foods:  My favorite thing to stock up on while shopping at TJ’s is their frozen foods.  I love this department because it has such an awesome variety and such unique products that you really won’t find at your local supermarket.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Here’s a list of my frozen food faves:

  • Turkey Meatballs (So easy to warm up and pair amazing with spaghetti squash.)
  • Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip (My blogger friend, Courtney, turned me onto this and I’ve eaten it twice this past week. Best dip, hands down.  Perfect for football season!)
  • Cauliflower Pizza Crust (Such a great los carb and healthy alternative for your pizza cravings!)
  • Organic Silver Dollar Pancakes
  • Tandoori Naan (Best naan ever!  Bakes in 2 minutes, no joke.)
  • Frozen Brown Rice/Quinoa
  • Turkey Burgers
  • Bambino Pizza Formaggio

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Frozen Food Pass:  I have a few in this category…  Mini Cinnamon Sugar Churros (tried to love them, but couldn’t), 5 Cheese Greek Spiral (I’m Greek.  I know a good filo dish and this isn’t one), Fully Cooked Falafel (too dry), Cauliflower and Broccoli Veggie Patties (just not a fan), Spring Rolls and Waffles.  There are other frozen items that I’ve tried through the years that were a total waste for us, but they’re just escaping me right now.  I’ll try to update this post with items on my next trip to the store.

What to Buy at Trader Joe's Angela Lanter Hello Gorgeous

Drinks:  Basically the only water we drink anymore is the TJ’s Alkaline Water + Electrolytes.  We buy this water by the case.  We’re big alkaline water drinkers, so this is the best bang for our buck that we’ve found to date.

Now I want to hear from you!  Did I miss a must-have from Trader Joe’s?  What are your favorite items to buy?  Leave your product suggestions in the comments below.

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51 Comments

  1. Jordan
    September 18, 2017 / 8:34 PM

    Thank you so much for posting – I love going to TJ’s with other people! A few of our faves are the 1. frozen roasted potato peppers and onion mix (I sauté it in the morning with spinach and over easy eggs topped with an avocado!) 2. Frozen superfood mix with quinoa and sweet potato – I mix this with grnd turkey, red pepper flakes, the lentils, bag of kale or spinach, black beans – super easy healthy dinner! 3. Triple ginger snaps 4. Mexican piñon coffee 5. Green dragon sauce (it’s not spicy but the flavor is amazing) — most everything you posted we love! Excited to try some of your suggestions!

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:38 PM

      That’s fun to have a friend to make a TJ’s trip with! I bought the superfood mix, but haven’t tried it yet, so I love your suggestions! What do you use the green dragon sauce on/for?

      • Jordan
        September 18, 2017 / 9:54 PM

        Oh man everything from eggs to chicken to tacos to turkey roll ups! I forgot about the everything bagel seasoning too! We go through it like crazy here – I use it on avocado toast in the morning. If I go with a friend I always find out about goodies like your post.

  2. Kayla
    September 18, 2017 / 8:35 PM

    I agree with this post and you gave me some new ideas to try! I love their sweet potatoes fries too, best frozen ones we have ever had! Their balsamic chicken is to die for as well! Really in love with the pumpkin pop tarts right now!

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:39 PM

      I love their sweet potato fries too! I always have fries in my freezer just in case we have a burger night.
      Is their balsamic chicken frozen? I’m definitely going to pick up the pumpkin pop tarts for my hubby for Fall!

    • September 19, 2017 / 7:58 PM

      Did you say pumpkin pop tarts! Oh my! My next purchase!

      • September 27, 2017 / 11:37 AM

        I’m definitely buying those next TJs trip for Matt!

  3. Marina
    September 18, 2017 / 8:40 PM

    Girl you haveeee to try TJ Joe Joe cookies! They’re all natural cookies and are my favorite! My mom bought them for us growing up and I can not, not have them in my house. They have been one of my top cravings this pregnancy, paired with a cold glass of milk. They’re I’m a yellow box. Ugh, amazing.

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:45 PM

      We love Joe Joe’s! Honestly, I think I have loved every cookie I’ve ever tried from TJ’s, lol!

  4. Mariane
    September 18, 2017 / 11:03 PM

    Thank you Angela for sharing this! I recently moved to the US due to my husband’s job and I am still kind of lost when grocery shopping here: what is worthy and what is not. You blog post helped me a lot!
    Ps.: I have already tried TJ’s burrata, it is beyond amazing! Just toss some olive oil and cherry tomatoes on it… perfect appetizer!

    • September 18, 2017 / 11:47 PM

      I can’t wait to try the burrata! I may have to pick some up tomorrow!
      Welcome to the Us, Mariane!! 🙂

  5. Linn
    September 19, 2017 / 12:06 AM

    If you like chocolate and almonds you should try their dark chocolate coconut almonds! They are amazing!! I am not usually a huge fan of dark chocolate but these are the best. For cereal I love their vanilla almond granola, it goes well with banana and almond milk:) and if you ever decide to get pasta I love their frozen mushroom ravoli with a truffle sauce, it’s worth the calories:)

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:38 AM

      Oh man, those sound delicious! I’d LOVE that pasta, but my hubby doesn’t like only one thing really: mushrooms. And I LOVE mushrooms!

  6. September 19, 2017 / 6:47 AM

    I am full on obsessed with Trader Joe’s Frozen Orange Chicken. I like it more than many take out places and is super easy. It’s a staple in my freezer. I often put it along side fried rice(ed cauliflower). While we are in the freezer section, I have to say their Paella is actually quite good. You don’t get very much but paella tends to be a pricier dish, so it’s understandable but I was surprised at the amount of shrimp and muscles that were in it!

    And amazing sweet treat is the chocolates covered, peanut butter filled pretzels. The peanut butter filled pretzels are good on its own but the chocolate covered ones are what dreams are made of. Plus you only need like 4 of them at a time because they’re so rich and tasty.

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:39 AM

      I haven’t had the Orange Chicken in forever! I used to make it with their frozen brown rice. 🙂

      I haven’t seen their paella, but I have to get it for Matt!

      I have those pretzels in my pantry right now. So good!

  7. Alyse
    September 19, 2017 / 6:55 AM

    I love to keep their frozen chicken potstickers on hand for the days when I forget to make my work lunch ahead of time. Pair it with some edamame and I’ve got a quick, easy and relatively healthy lunch to grab as I head out the door! Also, their all purpose baking mix is so convenient to keep in the pantry — just add eggs & water and voila!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:40 AM

      I haven’t tried the potstickers, but I’ve seen them in the store!

      I’m definitely going to check out the all purpose baking mix. I haven’t even noticed it before!

  8. Kristen B. Smith
    September 19, 2017 / 9:31 AM

    I really love the cookie butter (so good on a banana!) and their frozen chocolate croissants! Just set them out the night before to thaw and rise then bake in the morning – voila! As delicious as a French bakery!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:41 AM

      I haven’t bought cookie butter in a while. I need to pick it up for the holidays this year!

  9. Jenilee Brazauskas
    September 19, 2017 / 9:33 AM

    I love their lava cakes and their cookie butter cheesecake bites! Their eggplant cutlets are awesome too!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:41 AM

      I love anything cheesecake. Yum!

      Have you made eggplant parm using the cutlets? I usually make mine from scratch, but wondering how it would turn out with theirs?

  10. Angelica Emerick
    September 19, 2017 / 10:10 AM

    I love their Trader Joes Mandarin Orange Chicken! It is the best store bought orange chicken we have ever tried!

  11. Leah
    September 19, 2017 / 10:26 AM

    We love their orange chicken – it’s a staple in our house. I also love their chicken tenders. They have good nutrition stats and my 13 month old also enjoys them so win/win! I think they also have the best greek yogurt.

    I’m not a fan of their falafel like you said.

    Happy shopping!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:42 AM

      I haven’t tried their chicken tenders, I need to pick some up!

  12. Kirsten
    September 19, 2017 / 12:03 PM

    Cowboy Burgers! They are meatless but the best meatless patty I have ever had. Also their Pumpkin icecream. Creamiest I’ve had so far. It’s dangerous 😉

    • Leila
      September 26, 2017 / 5:33 PM

      Ooh I second the pumpkin ice cream. Making my pumpkin run this Friday

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:42 AM

      I need to check out the Cowboy Burgers!

  13. September 19, 2017 / 12:37 PM

    You’re making me with we had a Trader Joe’s near us but alas we do not 🙁

  14. Joanne
    September 19, 2017 / 2:06 PM

    I love this post! I sometimes have a love/hate relationship with TJs – mostly due to items being discontinued or wishing they had their seasonal items year round. 🙂

    The orange chicken is a staple in our household as well and we always have the frozen brown rice on hand. I typically don’t like brown rice but I like the flavor of theirs and how can you beat 3 mins in the microwave! I agree on the tortilla chips but their pineapple salsa is super yum! If I’m having guests over, the caramelized onion and feta cheese pastry bites are always a hit. Kiddos love the Vanana and the strawberries and cream yogurt, the organic creamy tomato soup, and my youngest loves the Green Plant juice. The sweet apple chicken sausage it great mixed in with eggs or with a pasta. And whenever I’m hangry or have a little headache, I swear by their peanut butter drizzled granola bars. Hits the spot!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:44 AM

      The seasonal items are such a pain in the butt sometimes… Just when you fall in love, they’re gone!

      I love their frozen brown rice! I haven’t tried their sausage before, thanks for the suggestions!

  15. Joanne
    September 19, 2017 / 2:32 PM

    Forgot to mention their corn bread and banana bread mix. Best I’ve ever tasted!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:44 AM

      I haven’t tried their cornbread because I grew up on Jiffy! I need to test it and see how it compares. 🙂

  16. September 19, 2017 / 7:53 PM

    Thanks to you and your list of items to buy at TJ’s I made my first trip there with your mom a few weeks ago! I loved almost everything on the list. I did take a shot at the bread and to say the least was let down! The cheese, pizza dough, pizza sauce and frozen items were all a big hit minus the Van’s Whole Grain waffles I purchased which were dry and had no flavor! I purchased a dozen white roses which are now 11 days old and still as beautiful as the day I purchased them! The cookie butter and chocolate covered pretzels were absolutely delicious! Oh, and the Milton’s Orginal Multi-Grain crackers are the best crackers I have ever eaten. I hope to make more frequent trips to stock up! Hopefully soon we will have a TJ’s closer to home! The prizes were great too, I purchased two weeks of groceries for under $200 and came home with a trunk full of grocery bags! Thanks for sharing your favorite items it sure made my shopping experience much easier! ❤️

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:44 AM

      It’s the best grocery store hands down!

  17. September 19, 2017 / 7:56 PM

    I failed to mention I was overly satisfied with the number of employees who approached us in the store asking if we needed assistance. The employees were so helpful and friendly! I loved this and it made my shopping experience that much better!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:45 AM

      It’s always nice to see good customer service… Makes you want to come back!

  18. September 20, 2017 / 1:49 PM

    their raw almond butter is the only one that is just the right consistency and not to try for me – it’s a little pricey so I stock up when it goes on sale every other month!

  19. Gina
    September 21, 2017 / 10:39 PM

    Everything but the bagel seasoning!! ??
    I have it on top of my avocado Toast every morning. Miss Angela, its the bomb!! You won’t regret it. Lol

    Thank you for sharing all of your yeas and neahs. I can’t wait to add a few to my own list!

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:45 AM

      I need to check out that seasoning! I had several people recommend it on Instagram!

  20. Adrienne Pitkin
    September 21, 2017 / 10:40 PM

    Their bruschetta sauce in fridge section is delish! In fact, my go to dip include this along with feta cheese and cooked lentils . Mix together and serve with pita chips or French bread . YUM!!!

  21. Leila
    September 26, 2017 / 5:30 PM

    Speculoos Cookies are my favorite biscuits to dip in my tea. 2nd are Vienna Fingers. But can I say I already love this website. I love the down to earth posts. Doesn’t come across as a celebrity post at Al. Became of a fan of Matt thru Timeless, than realized I had already been a fan for years. Clone Wars-Anakin! Was more excited about that. Being a huge Geek girl. So I am excited to follow you both thru your new family journey and wish you both the best. Now back to checking out other sections of your site. ?

    • September 27, 2017 / 11:23 AM

      We just bought those for the first time and they remind me so much of my family’s Greek cookies!

      Love that you found me through the Star Wars world because it’s one of our favorite projects Matt has ever been involved with. 🙂

      Welcome to the Gorgeous Family, Leila!!

  22. Mary
    October 2, 2017 / 3:40 PM

    Their veggie fried rice is amazing- such good flavor and so quick/easy to make! Tried their frozen chicken tikki masala meal and it was one of the best freezer meals made in the microwave I’ve had!!! Loved this blog post

    • October 4, 2017 / 9:13 AM

      Is the veggie fried rice frozen? I’ll have to look for it!
      I bought their butter chicken my last trip but haven’t tried it yet. 🙂

  23. Hadel
    March 5, 2018 / 7:52 PM

    I agree with a lot of your post and a lot of the above comments! I will say the one cereal I have tried that I loved is the Bran Cereal. It is high in fiber and low in sugar and and relatively low in carbs. My whole family loves it and it’s an amazing price too! Great for people watching carbs :). Also like their reduced sugar strawberry preserves. On a different note I also second the dozen chocolate filled croissants. They really tasted like ones I had in Paris!

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