Best of Trader Joe's / MOMS KITCHEN HANDBOOK

A few years ago I posted my Trader Joe’s Fab 15, a list of top picks for shopping at this popular food market with a cult-like following. I figured it was time for an update since the store has brought in new goodies and I’ve made new discoveries.

As I said then, “In a perfect world, I’d do all of my grocery shopping at a leisurely pace at the farmer’s market, make my own yogurt, cheese and butter, can all of my own fruits and vegetables, and have pastured chickens grazing in my backyard providing eggs naturally rich in omega-3s.” But that’s not reality and Trader Joe’s is one of several places I lean on to stock my kitchen pantry. Plus, who doesn’t love those tiny cups of coffee to swill as you shop?

So, here are my updated picks for what to buy at Trader Joe’s. You can find my first round of favorites by going here. I’d love to hear what yours are too, so please share with the rest of us in the comments section below.

  • Pain Pauline — The name and style of bread is clearly a play on the famous Pain Poilane of France And while it isn’t quite the loaf of its Parisian counterpart, it does make for an excellent slice of toast or grilled cheese sandwich. Plus, made with whole grains and just three ingredients — whole wheat, water, and salt — it meets my guidelines for a better bread. 
  • Freeze-dried fruit — The store stocks a variety of one-ingredient freeze-dried fruit, including raspberries, strawberries, and grapes. They’re a fine fix for a sweet tooth and excellent in place of dried fruit in granola and homemade muesli.
  • Dark Chocolate — I regularly buy this bittersweet chocolate imported from Belgium to chop up for cookies and other baking needs. It’s a generous amount at a significant discount over many mainstream brands.
  • Organic Persian Cucumbers — Persian cucumber made my list last time, but I’m pleased they now stock organic ones. While I don’t care for the excessive packaging, I do appreciate the convenience and crunch of a cucumber that requires no peeling or seeding. My kids love them.
  • Whole Wheat Lavash Bread — This is a pantry staple for wraps, roll ups, and easy Lavash Pizza. They also sell a white flour version, but I find the whole wheat goes under the radar with my crew.
  • Organic Popping Corn — One of the best, whole grain snack foods you can buy, and Trader Joe’s offers an organic one at under two bucks a bag. That’s a lot of movie time.
  • Old Fashioned Blister Peanuts — There’s some kind of magic in these peanuts. Bigger than garden variety peanuts, they’re superbly crunchy and perfectly salted. Tasty eaten out of hand, I also love them in peanut butter cookies or tossed into an Asian slaw. Double thumbs up.
  • Pure Maple Syrup — Although I grew up on Mrs. Butterworths, I’ve adopted pure maple syrup to pour over pancakes and use as a household sweetener. Trader Joe’s offers a more affordable option in a generous size than most markets.
  • Wild Sockeye Salmon (frozen) — Of course nothing beats fresh fish, but with the steep price of wild salmon these days. this frozen sockeye is a tasty alternative, especially with Miso Ginger Marinade.
  • Shredded Carrots — Sure I could peel and grate a whole mess of carrots to keep on hand, but the fact is, I don’t. This has become a refrigerator staple to add to sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
  • Multi-Seed Brown Rice Crackers with Soy Sauce — These tiny crackers are one of my kids’ picks for snacking. I like that the first ingredient is brown rice.
  • Mini Brie Bites — Another kid favorite for school lunch, these little Bries are darn cute and good for a morning snack along with a piece of fruit. Again, not crazy about the packaging.
  • Plain Organic Yogurt — I always have a tub of plain yogurt in the fridge, preferring to add my own fruits and sweeteners over having someone else do it for me. This creamy organic yogurt does the job.
  • Thai, Lime & Chili Almonds — Warning: these are spicy. Seasoned with lemongrass, lime, and chili, they make a good snack-food fix for the spicy-tolerant child or for a grown-up alongside a favorite cocktail.
  • Cabot Sharp Cheddar — A sharp Cheddar that is actually sharp, a little goes a long way with this Cabot cheese since it’s mega flavorful.

P.S. I also like the wine section of the store. Bargain basement prices and a good variety of options.

What are your Trader Joe’s picks?

Best of Trader Joe's / MOMS KITCHEN HANDBOOK


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  1. Stacy
    06.24.2014 at 3:13 AM #

    My absolute favorite product at Trader Joe’s is the Balsamic Glaze. I also love their Almond Milk, lite coconut milk, raw honey, coconut oil and spray. I could go on and on! You just can not beat the price on pantry staples and a few treats!

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 6:35 AM #

      I read about that glaze on Shutterbean. Must check it out.

  2. 06.24.2014 at 3:51 AM #

    Thank you for another great post! I am going to share a link to this on my page. Happy Eating:) #onebiteatatime

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 6:35 AM #

      Thank you Jacquelyn. Most appreciated!

  3. Annie
    06.24.2014 at 5:30 AM #

    Love their canned wild sockeye salmon! Making salmon salad sandwiches. Also their organic European style yogurt is delicious. I wish I had not discovered their dark chocolate covered pretzel thins!

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 6:34 AM #

      Good tip on the salmon. Love those pretzel thins.

  4. Nancy
    06.24.2014 at 5:52 AM #

    I like Trader Joe’s affordable spices. Our favorite is the 21 Seasoning Salute. It adds a little zing to your cooking. I buy several jars at a time because sometimes the shelf is cleared of this item.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 6:33 AM #

      Ooohhhh, handn’t thought of spices. Thanks.

      • Brenda Turner
        06.26.2014 at 7:26 PM #

        That’s one of my favorites too. Along with Smoked Paprika and Powdered Garlic.

  5. 06.24.2014 at 6:28 AM #

    Such a great post! I love seeing other’s TJs favorites. We stock up on more basic fare that we can’t get here in ND. We usually make a trip to Minneapolis 2-3 times a year just to go to Trader Joes. Our cart is typically overflowing with French Roast coffee, several packages of pasta, Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Albacore tuna in olive oil, Trader Joe’s O’s (cheerios), and seaweed snacks.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 6:33 AM #

      A Trader Joe’s road trip! You remind me not to take my abundance of options for granted, Kate!

  6. yunah
    06.24.2014 at 6:31 AM #

    smoked sardines, olive oil popcorn, dal in those packs, sauerkraut!

  7. 06.24.2014 at 6:53 AM #

    Frozen organic brown rice, Fair Trade Organic Coffee, cheese of any kind (have never seen those baby Bries-my daughter will be so excited!), pine nuts and other nuts, handmade corn tortillas, creamy Organic Tomato Soup, and the list goes on! Will def look for those blistered peanuts-too bad they don’t have em in the shells-that would be really fun!

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:19 PM #

      I like that tomato soup, too. It’s a good one to put into thermoses for school lunch or for a quick meal at home.

  8. 06.24.2014 at 8:50 AM #

    Thanks for sharing your favorites! I love the organic cucumber too, a little bit of TJ lemon pepper on top–yum! My fav’s are the 21 seasoning I sprinkle on everything & their multipurpose cleaner, works fab on granite countertops! Love Trader Joes.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:20 PM #

      Those are all new ones for me. Thanks for the suggestions!

  9. Lynn Pernezny
    06.24.2014 at 8:53 AM #

    Thanks for this list. We just had a TJ’s open in our area for the first time a month ago. I am still fighting the crowds and making discoveries, so this list is really helpful. Everything I’ve tried so far has been spot on, and you are absolutely right about the wines. Can’t beat the prices, and the selection is really good.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:19 PM #

      It does attract crazy crowds, even here in SF where it’s been around forever.

  10. 06.24.2014 at 11:05 AM #

    Katie, thanks for adding some new suggestions to my TJ’s list. Here are a few of our family favorites. I love the Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa to top salads. The Pineapple Salsa is divine on plain crackers like the ones you’ve listed. If you tire of the sweet heat, move on to their Red Pepper Spread on crackers or scooped onto raw veggies. We love this last one when drinking a bottle of wine.

    I almost always keep in my freezer the Black Bean and Corn enchiladas. They are perfect to bring to lunch when I’m in the office. For a quick dinner I like to serve their Gyoza over a spinach salad with the jarred roasted red peppers. I keep many of their frozen veggies stocked in the freezer when I want to add extra produce to a meal.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:18 PM #

      I haven’t dipped too heavily into the spreads and salsa, so appreciate the recommendations, Trina.

  11. 06.24.2014 at 12:13 PM #

    Great round-up! I am fortunate to live in walking distance of a fabulous farmers’ market and a TJ. Persian cukes — check (agree about the packaging), maple syrup — check, chocolate, of course — check. Loved the Pain Pascal; have not tried Pauline but after the last changeover it was fine but not great.The organic European style plain whole milk yogurt is my absolute favorite yogurt. (I have a suspicion it’s Straus but don’t quote me on that.) Toasted chopped pecans, almond slivers, and almond meal are all great time savers. The multi-seed soy crackers are good but the salt & pepper rice crackers are addictive. Happy shopping!

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:17 PM #

      Love having your picks in the mix here, Jennie. My sister lives in NYC and swears that European yogurt tastes like Straus, too.

  12. 06.24.2014 at 4:47 PM #

    I love so much about Trader Joe’s – the size of the store, the selections and the people. Thanks for the list!! A few other favorites are the Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette dressing to toss on some cut slaw or drizzle over spinach, 2-oz individual packs of cashews or almonds and the Chimichurri rice which I like to throw in tomato or red pepper soup in the Fall/Winter months.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:16 PM #

      Spicy peanut vinaigrette sounds right up my alley. Must try!

  13. Susan
    06.24.2014 at 6:12 PM #

    Great list – thanks!

    I’m excited to check out some new things at Trader Joes! A couple favorites for us are:
    * Veggie Masala burgers — vegan, really yummy and great for a quick meal.
    * Roasted sunflower seeds in salads, granola and trail mix.
    * Masala simmer sauce. We cook up some tofu, add ginger and garlic, the sauce and some frozen spinach for a quick and delicious dinner.

    • katiemorford
      06.24.2014 at 9:15 PM #

      Good ones, Susan. I like that Masala simmer sauce too…for a super quick supper.

  14. Amy
    06.26.2014 at 6:38 PM #

    So many things! Salsa verde, bruschetta (jar), coconut milk, coconut cream, vegetable wash, almond butter, sunflower seed butter to name a few. I also love the peanut butter pretzels for a treat.

  15. Amy
    06.26.2014 at 6:45 PM #

    Forgot one…plantain chips!

  16. 06.27.2014 at 6:19 AM #

    whole grain frozen waffles (in the red box) 1000x better than eggos, frozen edamame in the pod for snacking (microwave a handful for a minute and youre done), low calorie lemonade, eggplant garlic spread (great on sandwihces or to dip veggies in), and radiatorre pasta. its the only place around me that carries this kind of noodle, and its the only kind my BF will eat, oh and those chocolate croissants in the frozen aisle that you let proof overnight!

    • katiemorford
      06.27.2014 at 7:06 AM #

      Thanks Shelly. Love all of your picks. We have a family tradition of serving those chocolate croissants on Christmas morning. They are delicious!

  17. Gilli
    06.27.2014 at 7:42 AM #

    We always buy the Mediteranean Hummous, Sesame cashews (amazing), the Trader Joes brand feta cheese (wrapped in plastic not the tub), the pulled BBQ pork or chicken and their Sweet Hot Peppers and arugula with Burarata are delicious together!

    • katiemorford
      06.27.2014 at 11:34 AM #

      Most of those are new to me, but agree with the feta and burrata. Thanks for the fresh ideas.

  18. 06.27.2014 at 8:30 AM #

    Love this list Katie – everything looks delicious! Especially the nuts!

    • katiemorford
      06.27.2014 at 11:33 AM #

      Thanks Millie! Love your blog…very impressive!

  19. kim brady
    06.27.2014 at 11:11 PM #

    Wine you say… check out their Mystery Beer bags- a brown paper bag packed with a mix of a dozen different bottles and cans- for $9.99! The beer buyer told me they mix it up from the singles that are left over. Last time I had almost a full 6 pack of Prohibition Ales- Awesome deal.

    • katiemorford
      06.27.2014 at 11:14 PM #

      Hi Kim…so nice to hear from you. Definitely will check out the Mystery Beer bag. Thanks.

  20. TXSuzEQ
    08.09.2014 at 2:33 PM #

    Luv me some TJ’s! Some of my faves:
    Frozen Lite Mac n Cheese – Make for a quick carb side.
    Frozen Crescents – I put them on a baking sheet overnight in the Microwave with the light on (just enough heat to get them to rise) and pop ’em in the oven in the morning…to die for.
    Organic Blue Tortilla Chips
    Organic Stocks – Chicken, Beef or Veggie
    Olive Oil
    Peanut Butter
    Live Basil Plants
    Organic Potatoes

    • katiemorford
      08.10.2014 at 4:05 PM #

      Good ones! Thanks for sharing.

  21. AmyT
    08.14.2014 at 9:56 AM #

    My faves (I do the majority of my weekly shopping at TJ’s):
    Nuts! I love TJ’s selection of nuts, especially the ones that are lightly salted. Their prices are excellent, and the variety is wonderful.
    Frozen edamame- both in and out of the pods- are a go-to staple in my freezer at all times.
    Apple chicken sausages are an easy and quick weeknight meal. My family likes them with roasted sweet potatoes and a green veggie on the side.
    Their frozen fruit blends (I am currently loving the organic strawberry, mango, pineapple and banana blend) are the best thing to ever happen to a smoothie.
    Cage-free eggs, sold at a price comparable to store-brand (not cage-free) in the local grocery store. Sadly, it’s as close as I can reasonably get to raising my own hens…
    Fresh mozzarella balls play backup to my homegrown tomatoes and homemade pesto.
    Come to think of it… the entire cheese section is pretty-much my favorite place on the planet…
    Frozen reduced-fat fish sticks (both my kiddo and I LOVE these as a go-to weeknight quick meal with a salad on the side).
    Olive oil- a nice selection at excellent prices.
    Then there’s the coffee, the beer/wine section (Newton’s Folly hard cider is my current fave), the excellent selection of frozen prepared meals and pizza that aren’t too nutritionally horrifying (gotta watch the labels, though), and the snack aisle (pretzel thins and pita chips always end up in my cart)…. etc, etc….

  22. Anne Mullen
    04.28.2015 at 8:25 PM #

    I confess to not having read every comment, so I’m not sure if someone else mentioned my favorite. They sell a tart cherry juice from the Republic of Georgia, former Soviet Union, that became a favorite of mine when visiting our son and his family there. It’s called alublitzveni there – of course I’m not sure that’s spelled right – but it’s delicious. It’s quite strong, so I sometimes add some water to it.

    Thanks for all the other good suggestions. I’ll have to try them all.

    • katiemorford
      04.29.2015 at 6:42 AM #

      Nice to hear from you, Anne. That sounds delicious. And probably loaded with antioxidants, too. I’m thinking homemade cherry sodas for a special treat. I will go and give that a try. Thanks.

  23. Hope King
    09.27.2015 at 2:01 PM #

    love Trader Joes! My favorite and go to item is the Balsamic and Rosemary grilled chicken breasts. So easy to cut up and throw over a salad.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2015 at 5:34 PM #

      Oooh…I haven’t seen that before. I will check it out. Thanks for chiming in.

  24. PK
    10.26.2015 at 12:08 PM #

    In addition to your list, I love TJ’s:
    Tomato soup with roasted bell pepper
    Masala Burgers,
    Dark Chocolate (pack of 3),
    Unsweetened cocoa powder
    frozen molten lava cake
    Olive bread

    For kids lunch:
    Pesto pizza
    Sun dried tomato chicken sausages
    Mini chicken tacos
    Five layer fiesta dip (to make Lunch burritos)
    Chicken dumplings

    • katiemorford
      10.27.2015 at 3:49 PM #

      Thank you! Most of those are new to me. Frozen molten lava cake? Yum.

  25. Gigi
    11.03.2015 at 12:47 PM #

    Thank you for the suggestions! I’d like to include the low-sodium soy sauce and toasted sesame oil at ridiculously low prices, the EVOO’s for everyday cooking, the boxed red pepper and tomato soup and the cream of portobello soup, the 100% durum wheat pastas for only a $1, the precooked tiny black lentils, the eggplant spread, the turkey meatballs,the chocolate stout in single bottles, the piquillo peppers, the Marcona almonds, and the $1 half-baked French bread in the bakery section.

    And, yes, I agree on the wines, popcorn, frozen fish (miss the Artic Char!!), and the balsamic glaze (and the balsamic vinegar).

    • katiemorford
      11.04.2015 at 7:01 AM #

      GREAT additions. I’m looking forward to digging into your list of favorites. Thanks for sharing.


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