What to buy at Trader Joe’s: The full guide to their food

Trader Joe's best food IMHO
Trader Joe’s Loot

Although it’s been three six years since I moved to California, I still wallow in the awesomeness of Trader Joe’s (TJ’s). Their business model of offering only private-branded food and beverage is unique, so you kind of have to test out the merchandise to see what your favorite items are. Finding Trader Joe’s best food items isn’t a grueling task though. They sell an insanely varied line of groceries (around 4,000 SKUs), from über gourmet chocolate to some of the best frozen foods you can find. Having the corner on each specialty item appears to be working for them. This blog explores Trader Joe’s best food to buy, from veggies to herbs to coconut oil.

Based in Monrovia, California outside of Los Angeles (but owned by a German company), TJ’s is privately held and the actual producers of their grocery items remain secret. This is a fantastic story from CNN.com highlighting Trader Joe’s success and reveals some of their inner sanctum. I know my friends in Tampa FL have been anxiously awaiting the opening of their first now appreciate TJ’s. 

Although everyone will uncover their favorite TJ treats, this is the list of my best, go-to items. Have you discovered other TJ’s items you’d like to sing from on high? Let me know in the comments.

Find a Trader Joe’s near you

Trader Joe’s Best Food

Produce Section
Their organic items aren’t sectioned off so you’ll need to be vigilant if organic is important to you. I do find, however, that their produce isn’t always super fresh (or sometimes under ripe) so there are only a few items I pick up in this area, mainly for the price:

Fresh fennel
Green onions
Organic bagged lettuce
Organic sweet peppers
Brussels sprouts
Organic Cauliflower rice
Organic, multi-colored whole carrots

Frozen Section
This is where the convenience sets in. One thing I like about Trader Joe’s frozen items is the short ingredient list with things I can pronounce.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Gorgonzola gnocchi
Naan bread
Mahi Mahi fillets
Pork Shu Mai
Chicken curry

These aisles are where you can save SUPER $$. Usually about $2-$3 cheaper at TJ’s than at the regular grocery store (based on California prices, which are obscene to begin with).

Aged balsamic vinegar
Organic canned tomatoes
Canned black beans
Dijon mustard
Extra virgin olive oil (the slightly more expensive “Reserve” line tastes the best)
Jasmine brown rice
Organic walnut halves
Cashew Butter
Organic extra virgin coconut oil
Herbs and herb blends (really inexpensive): 21 Seasoning Salute (love!), thyme, smoked paprika, turmeric

Other Grocery Sections
Plenty more to explore!

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups (warning: addictive)
Dark chocolate with almonds and toffee
Pre-cooked lentils (refrigerated section)
Cilantro and jalapeno hummus (refrigerated section – addictive)
Herbed feta cheese

Wish I could say Two Buck Chuck is worth the hype. It isn’t. I find it too sweet. But if you must, the reds are better than the whites. These wines are tried and true:

Incanto Chianti Classico Riserva
La Ferme Julien White Blend
La Ferme Julien Rosé



  1. Deborah Gustavson

    Knew I could count on you for the 411. lol

  2. I would add to this list the frozen gnocchi with the red sauce — yum. We always have some in the freezer.

  3. Waiting for TJ to figure out that consumers look at salt levels. I think I was born too late for this. 57 years old.

  4. Scott: I hadn’t noticed that. Yikes! I bet there’s a ton of salt in their frozen foods. I’ll check from now on… or stick to their produce. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Mark Kirkpatrick

    I love TJ’s Linguini with Mushrooms and Linguini with White Clam Sauce! Also, their Polenta with Spinach and Carrots (frozen section) is to die for.


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