April 6, 2015

When Trader Joe’s opened in Sarasota in 2012, it quickly became my go-to place to shop, both for the high-quality groceries and the great prices (plus, hello, all the sweet treats and free samples). These days, I mainly grocery shop there and at Costco, and over the past few years I’ve discovered some products that I keep coming back to, so I thought I’d share them with you here today. Please chime in with your own TJ faves, too! 

Spanish olive oil. Bon Appetit named this one of the best grocery-store olive oils out there, and I find that to be true: It’s perfect for cooking and drizzling over salads, soups, etc.

Picton Bay sauvignon blanc. I once read that you should always buy sauvignon blancs from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, and that advice is spot-on. This TJ exclusive–which is from exactly that region–is a new favorite, and a nice and less-expensive alternative to my usual go-to, Nobilo.

Frozen chicken tikka masala. The perfect grab-and-go meal, and it’s tasty and filling. (In fact, any of the TJ’s frozen Indian offerings are good, especially the naan.)

Flowers. Our TJ’s has the best prices on flowers in town, and last year the peonies I bought there bloomed bigger and lasted way longer than the ones I bought elsewhere. Right now ranunculus are in the TJ flower buckets here and I’m planning on grabbing a few bouquets for our apartment. The roses are always beautiful, too.

Burrata and ricotta. Don’t get me wrong, I adore our local cheese shop, but I can’t always afford to buy my fromage there. Trader Joe’s burrata comes in at a whopping $4.99, and is perfect served with halved grape tomatoes, chunks of prosciutto, basil and olive oil. And I buy the whole-milk ricotta when I’m too lazy to make my own, because it’s the only store-bought product I’ve had that actually mimics the consistency and flavor of the homemade stuff. Hashtag yay cheese.

Medjool dates. Another product that’s more expensive elsewhere. I love having these on hand for when I crave this smoothie.

Rosemary marcona almonds. These buttery little nuts are just the right amount of salty, and the rosemary adds a lovely nuanced flavor. I have to make a concerted effort to portion these out or I’ll easily polish off half a bag in one sitting. (Speaking of nuts, R. also enjoys TJ’s cashews.)

Chocolate croissants. Oh man, I have a box of these in the freezer right now, and it’s killing me not to eat them since we’re on this low-carb/low-sugar kick (I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out). These really are fantastic–they taste almost as good as the pain au chocolat I used to get from the French cafe across the street from my office. And all you do is let take them out of the freezer the night before you want to eat them and let them rise on a baking sheet. The next morning, pop them in the oven and you have serious breakfast perfection, especially with a strong cup of coffee.

Chicken parm lollipops. These little chicken parm bites are perfect as an appetizer for a party or as a super quick dinner, served alongside a nice green salad. (R., who is the ultimate chicken parm lover, was initially skeeved out by the fact that TJ’s labels these as “lollipops,” but he quickly came around after he tasted them.)

Parmesan pastry pups. Another great party appetizer: Last time we had people over, I served a plate of these alongside a bowl of Dijon mustard and they were a total hit.

Chia seeds and hemp hearts. I know, these are two separate things, but I’m grouping them together because they’re perfect for stirring into smoothies, and are also much more well-priced than I’ve seen at other stores.

Speculoos cookie butter. ‘Nuff said.

Peppermint Joe-Joes. These only come around during the holidays, but they are addicting–they’re chocolate sandwich cookies with a vanilla filling that’s studded with bits of candy cane.

And now I must know: What’d I miss? Would love to hear your Trader Joe’s favorites, too.

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