Yes and No at Trader Joe’s

One of the things I’m enjoying about working at Trader Joe’s (besides that fantastic discount) is the opportunity to learn more about all the different and delicious items they offer. Some Trader Joe’s products have been around for a while, but I’ve been discovering lots of new things and have found much I can’t wait to try.

We’re buying most of our groceries at Trader Joe’s now, but avoid items that we can get other places that are just as good and priced lower. Aldi sells great cheese, for example, at lower prices and in sizes that make sense for us, and I like the fresh meat sold at Aldi as well.

There are many things I won’t/don’t buy at Trader Joe’s, even with a discount. It’s not that I think they won’t be delicious or we can’t afford them, but in some cases they contain too many empty calories or seem too frivolous, or I know I can find equally good products for less at other locations.Some of the items we skip buying at TJ’s include (with exceptions noted):

  • ice cream: we do like the tiny ice cream cones once in a while, especially limited edition flavors like the mint, coffee, or pumpkin ginger ones.
  • frozen breakfast items
  • bread & bakery: we like TJ’s whole wheat English muffins, flour tortillas, and flatbread pizza crusts, and occasionally we’ll get some scones and pita bread but that’s it.
  • desserts, frozen or otherwise: a New York cheesecake will come home once in a great while and we’ll occasionally buy a baking mix.
  • cookies & candy: mint JoJos are a requirement at Christmas, and the new cocoa-peanut butter marshmallows are absolutely delicious . . . and I don’t even like marshmallows!
  • dips or deli items: wine country chicken salad is the exception although I recently tried a Toscana cheese and wine spread that I plan to buy.
  • anything spicy: although their spicy products are very popular, most everything spicy from Trader Joe’s is too much for me these days. I have become super sensitive to the heat as I’ve gotten older.
  • beer and sodas: neither of us drink beer, although we did buy a can the other day to make the new beer bread mix, which was very good.
  • frozen pizza: the Bambino mini pepperoni pizzas are the one exception, perfect for an evening when I don’t feel like cooking
  • chips & crackers: the pickle potato chips could be a deal breaker because they are very delicious, but I’ve been able to resist . . . so far. The new mee krob snack from Thailand however is the most delicious snack ever IMO. I just bought six packages as they sell out super fast. I’m eating them sparingly though because I don’t know when they’ll be back in stock again.
  • dairy: eggs, shredded cheese, and the occasional cream, sour cream, or half & half for a recipe are exceptions.
  • coffee
  • flowers
  • toiletries, cleaning, & paper goods: we’ve decided to buy toilet paper and tissues from TJ’s going forward as they’re a good deal with the discount applied.

Some of our new Trader Joe’s favorites are:

  • Korean-style short ribs
  • bulgogi fried rice (love, love, love this!)
  • japchae
  • turkey and stuffing fried rice (a seasonal item)
  • butter chicken
  • mee krob
  • sweet potato gnocchi
  • schwarma chicken thighs
  • lemon scones (when they’re in stock)
  • Danish kringle (in any flavor). We’re glad that this only shows up once in a while because it’s soooo good
  • lemon or blood orange cake mix
  • beer bread mix

A few of these items have made an appearance in the break room since I started working so I was able to try them. Others we’ve bought have come from customer recommendations. My all-time favorite Trader Joe’s product remains the Gaetano d’Aquino pinot grigio, from Italy. I have been drinking this particular wine since it sold for $3.99/bottle, about 15 years now. When we moved to Hawaii in 2014, I sent along three cases in our shipment because I knew how much I would miss it. It’s currently $5.99/bottle, but remains as delicious as always. Brett tries different bottles of red from all over but I remain faithful to the d’Aquino.

There’s lots more at Trader Joe’s that we have yet to try, and new products come out all the time. I pay attention to whether or not something is a limited edition product, because that means it will only be around for a short time, like the pumpkin products in the fall. Although I don’t and won’t stock up, I will buy a couple more of a limited or seasonal product than usual when they are available, like the pumpkin pancake mix in the fall, or the stuffing mix at Thanksgiving. Things sell out quickly at our store, so I know to grab them when I can.