Raise your hand if you love Trader Joe’s as much as I do! Unfortunately for me, visiting this beloved grocery store requires about an hour travel each way that also includes a ferry ride and some traffic to go with it. Ouch! As a hardcore TJ’s fan though, this doesn’t deter me, as I have a system to go twice a month to stock up on my favorites.
Knowing that folks are stocking up right now more than ever, I thought I’d share with you some of the items that always make it into my cart, “the staples,” our family calls them. Maybe you know some of them already, or maybe some are new to you, but toss some or all of them into your cart during your next trip and give them a try! Here they are in no particular order, as I couldn’t pick any favorites, as they are all super handy to have at the ready for quick delicious meals.
- Ok, maybe I do “sort of” have a favorite. Soy Chorizo. Now before you raise an eyebrow, it really is delicious, even my meat loving husband would agree to this. It comes in a plastic casing, so you have to squeeze it out, then sauté it, but it smells and tastes incredibly close to the real deal, and full of flavor. My favorite thing to do with it is to make breakfast burritos or quesadillas. Anywhere you enjoy chorizo, this is a fantastic delicious, substitute if you eating more vegetarian meals. I always keep a backup in the freezer too, just in case I need a spicy fix.
- Creamy Chicken Poblano Ravioli. Yum! They have some great options when it comes to Ravioli, but this one takes the cake. They are just a tad spicy from the poblano pepper, but more flavorful than spicy, and are surprisingly filling. They heat up quickly, so from package to table it is pretty darn fast, especially if you are in a hangry mood. Before I start boiling the water, in a separate pan, I gently warm up some olive oil with a diced up clove of garlic, then turn the heat off so the garlic doesn’t burn and let it steep while I make the ravioli. I then toss the drained ravioli with the garlic oil instead of a heavier sauce, and top it with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Healthy and fast!
- Citterio Pancetta. This little box of goodness is so handy to have on hand to throw into salads, scrambled eggs, soups, pasta dishes, pizza, and protein bowls. We’ve used it on darn near everything. It’s an incredibly versatile item to have in your fridge when you need a little nudge of protein.
- TJ’s Already Cooked Quinoa. Elizabeth actually introduced this one to me, and now I always keep a box in my freezer. I use these for lunch emergencies when I didn’t meal plan, and need a quick meal. I just add in whatever needs to be eaten out of the fridge (or add the cubed pancetta from above!), and viola, lunch is ready! It can be found in their freezer section and is a snap to make straight from frozen when you are in need of a quick meal. This leads me to one of my favorite mixers to add into it, below.
- Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce. You may have walked by this unassuming gem many times, as I once did. Out of curiosity one day when I was looking at the hummus selection, I tossed it into my cart. Wowza, this little green monster packs a punch! It’s a spicy, herb and cilantro based sauce with origins from Yemen that gives huge flavor. I’ve added it to Quinoa, rice, lentils, hummus, sour cream, and have swirled it into greek yogurt to make it into a dip. A little bit goes a long way as it is a bit spicy, so start out with a small spoonful and work up from there. I highly recommend this amazing spicy sauce as a mix in for some delicious heat!
- TJ’s Steamed Ready-to-Eat Lentils. The ease of having a quick lentil salad is here! We keep a box of these in the fridge at all times to add a quick punch of protein to our salads or lunch bowls. I know, I know, lentils are easy to make, however, in a pinch, if you are on the go these are a much healthier option than fast food, or that lone piece of pizza staring at you from the fridge. Lentils are full of protein and fiber, this little baggie full is a ready to go meal if you add in your Zhoug sauce with some veggies on the side.
- TJ’s Already Made Pizza Dough. This is not only a timesaver, but an economical way to have your pizza fix. It is very reasonably priced for what you get, and they freeze beautifully. We usually keep at least two or three in the freezer to grab from. There are a couple of tricks to making this dough primo eating, the first is to take it out of the freezer and pop it in to the fridge the night before you plan to use it to defrost and proof. Then, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or two before you stretch it out. Doing this, you will have nice, pliable, perfect dough to make pizzas, calzones, and flatbreads. I love this dough so much.
- Trader Ming’s Mandarin Orange Chicken. The ultimate lazy dinner when take-out is not an option. This surprisingly tasty little number is on top of many favorite TJ lists for a reason. It’s fast to prepare, and tastes pretty darn close to the real deal. If you have an air fryer, by all means use it for this, as it will come out in perfect crispy little nuggets all ready to be glazed in that sweet amber sauce. Buy this to stock your freezer for dinner emergencies.
- The Gnocchi Trinity: Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Cauliflower Gnocchi, and Autentico Italiano Gnocchi. These three take turns in my kitchen, and always take real estate in my freezer and pantry. Each one is delicious. The warm taste of sweet potato shines through and is delicious in soups, while the cauliflower and traditional gnocchi’s are wonderful tossed with marinara or pesto and are great alone, or served with a protein. They cook up fast, and are a fun alternative to boxed pasta.
- TJ’s Organic Salad Dressings: Balsamic & Fig, and Rosé. These are some of the best prepared salad dressings I’ve tasted thus far. For fall and winter I use the balsamic fig, then switch to the Rosé for spring and summer. The Fig is subtle in the balsamic, giving it a warm sweetness rather than a fig taste, and goes well with sharp cheeses and nuts. The Rosé delicately sings through the herbs so sweetly, and compliments fresh veggies in salads, like snap peas, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes. These make excellent salads, and deserve to make it into to your pantry.
- Prepared Chicken: Shawarma Chicken Thighs and Pesto Genovese Chicken Breasts. The Chicken Shwarma thighs are one of TJ’s most tastiest offerings. The marinade is spot on, and infuses the chicken with tons of flavor, and is excellent grilled. On the spicy scale, it is not spicy, but get it’s flavor punch from warm notes of cumin, garlic, turmeric, and a hint of cinnamon. We use it over salad, in gyros, or grilled up with veggies and hummus for a quick dinner. The Pesto Genovese holds its own too, and is delicious served over pasta or quinoa with a lemon squeezed over the top. These two live in my freezer for a quick flavorful protein to grab.
- Trader Joe’s Marinated Artichokes. These babies are one of my go-to sides. Throw into some pasta? Yes please! Add to a protein bowl? You bet! Garnish a veggie pizza? Yup. Two jars take space in my pantry for a super quick spot of veggies without the hassle.
- Trader Joe’s Olive Tapenade. When you need salty briny taste in your life, this is your jam. My favorite use for this is to spread it on a sandwich (super yum) , however, we have also spooned it into pasta, thinned it with olive oil and used as a chicken marinade, served it with fresh burrata on a slice of toasted baguette, or set out as a dip with some pita chips. If you like kalamata olives, you will love this spread.
- Trader Giotto’s Bruschetta. There are two versions of this in the store, one is in the refrigerated section with the sauces and dips, and one is in the jarred condiments section. They are both equally delicious, however, I tend to favor the jar, as the shelf life is longer, and it can hang out in my pantry until I need it. This makes for a thick, tasty pizza sauce, or heated up with a touch of cream to make a creamy pasta sauce over your favorite noodle. To make an even quicker meal, mix it into your already prepared lentils, and crumble some goat cheese over the top.
- Last but not least, I l-o-v-e this shopper bag. If fits the perfect amount of food, stands upright when filling, and has nice deep handles for throwing the over your shoulder easily. They are 100 percent made of jute, very sturdy, and long lasting with a great price point. The perfect shopper!
And there you have it. I could go on and on about TJ food, and will share some of my favorite recipes using TJ’s items in some future posts. But for now, it’s time to scurry on down to your local TJ and stock you pantry with some of your new favorite items!
All photos by Marla Smith Photography