Fresh flowers are a must-buy at Trader Joe’s. Photo credit: Amber Guetebier
From weekly shops to party prep, Trader Joe’s used to be my one-stop shop. Even though I’ve moved to a place where there isn’t a Trader Joe’s on every corner, there are certain things I will make the trek for and won’t buy anywhere else. Here’s my list of the things you should always buy at Trader Joe’s.
There’s just something so consistently good about this appetizer-sized spanakopita from Trader Joe’s. They are the perfect two-bite size, keep forever (because they’re frozen) and also make a good quick meal when served with a salad and some cottage cheese. I have been buying these from Trader Joe’s for nearly 20 years and I have never had a bad batch. I’ve tried other brands from other stores and they just aren’t the same.
2. Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage
I am a vegetarian and have been for more than 30 years so I asked someone I know who is also a Trader Joe’s devotee what meat products she recommends. Without hesitation, she said these sausages. Made with real Vermont maple syrup, they’ve been a bestseller at TJ’s since 2004.
Not only will you find the famous “two-buck chuck,” you will find many high-end wines at great prices. Look for familiar labels like Kendall Jackson and other small wineries. They also have one of the best selections of Italian wines I’ve seen around, including Barolo and Amarone.
4. Mandarin Orange Chicken
While we’re on the subject of meat, the frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken seems to appear on every must-buy shopper’s list. It’s even in the Trader Joe’s product Hall of Fame. As a vegetarian, I always opt for the Chicken-Less Mandarin Orange Morsels. Similar products, if you can find them, often cost $1 to $2 more at other stores.
Specifically, Trader Joe’s Colossal Stuffed Olives. In most grocery stores, it seems like you have two choices: cheap, salty olives to drop into a martini glass or big, stuffed olives that cost $10 or more for barely enough to satisfy guests. I always stock up on the garlic-stuffed Colossal Olives. At under $4, you have guaranteed flavor and quality without having to spend twice that at other outlets.
6. Enrich Moisturizing Facial Lotion
This simple, lightweight moisturizer feels very similar to Oil of Olay’s Daily Moisturizer but at half the cost. It has a very mild smell (it’s labeled as fragrance-free) and broad spectrum SPF 15. If you’re in the market for an affordable non-comedogenic daily moisturizer with vitamins A, C and E, give this a try. I like that it comes in a nice 4-oz size because it fits better on my shelves, but I always buy two!
So much brie! Trader Joe’s always has a solid selection of cheese, including its award-winning Unexpected Cheddar, but I always nab some brie whenever I’m at Trader Joe’s. There’s often a new import added to the selection and the prices are significantly lower than other stores near me. Recently, I saw the same brie at another store for nearly double the price. Buy the brie.
8. Honey Mango Shave Cream
I am here to tell you that there is no better shave cream in the world. Even if you live in an unforgiving, Trader Joe’s-sparse tundra that wreaks havoc on your skin in the winter, this moisturizing shave cream is amazing. It smells great and costs very little—around $4.50 for 8 oz. Because it’s so creamy, you don’t need much, so it lasts a long time, especially if you can hide it from anyone with a beard who might want in on it.
9. Fresh Flowers
With maybe the exception of Whole Foods’s floral department, Trader Joe’s is unrivaled for grocery store bouquets. I am an avid plant nerd and professional gardener, and I have never been disappointed in Trader Joe’s flowers. They’re beautiful, fresh and well-priced. Beyond lively seasonal bouquets, you can also get orchids, succulents and more.
I didn’t think I’d end on breakfast food, but when I started to really think about something I go out of my way to buy every time I’m near a Trader Joe’s, these frozen hash brown patties fit right in my cart next to sparkling wine and roses. You get 10 of them for less than $3 and kids love them. They crisp up nicely, like a big flat tater tot.