13 Trader Joe’s Items That Will Basically Change Your Life, According to Real Simple Editors
The many Trader Joe’s locations around the United States may be recognizable for their passionate fans and long (but worth waiting in) lines, but Trader Joe’s wouldn’t have its crowd of followers or aficionados without the excellent line of top-notch Trader Joe’s products. The best items at Trader Joe’s are great on their own, but the fact that you can only get them at TJ’s—unless you turn to that elusive Trader Joe’s black market—makes them even tastier, somehow.
What’s that saying about always wanting what you can’t have? When you can’t find your go-to Trader Joe’s snacks at the local mom-and-pop or corner store, you cherish making a trip to Trader Joe’s even more. Everyone has a favorite Trader Joe’s product, too, whether it’s the Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Smoked Salmon or that Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi. If you have yet to find a Trader Joe’s product to make braving the store and its weekend crowds worth it, you probably haven’t looked hard enough yet. Fortunately, for those just discovering all Trader Joe’s has to offer, the editors at Real Simple (current and former) have their own picks—and they just might offer a little grocery store inspiration.
Some Trader Joe’s products are a little out there, but the good news is that those famously low Trader Joe’s prices make sampling anything that catches your eye doable—and affordable. Fill up your cart with the colorful packaging and clever names that catch your eye, put together a little taste test, and prepare to fall in love. Once you’ve found your go-to Trader Joe’s snacks, you’ll never go back. Let these editor picks guide your first trip, but don’t be afraid to buy something new and different, too—you might be surprised by what ends up tickling your taste buds.
Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole with Greek Yogurt
“It may be lower in fat and calories than regular guac, but I actually buy it because it’s delicious. The addition of Greek yogurt adds just a tiny bit of tang, which tastes great on tacos or scooped onto tortilla chips. I’ve been known to eat the whole thing in one sitting, but the leftovers keep for a few days, especially when I use this trick for storing guacamole.”—Jennifer Davidson, Deputy Digital Editor
Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of Olives Pitted Salted Manzanilla Olives
“They come in a single serve bag for 99 cents. They pack them without the brine so they’re easy to eat on the go, and wow are they delicious. It wasn’t until after a recent trip to Barcelona that I noticed from the bag that these olives are imported from Spain, so it’s no wonder they’re so top notch. I like to bring them to work for a briny snack during that mid-afternoon slump. I also love to pack them in my carry-on to plop into an on-the-plane Bloody Mary while traveling (you’re welcome!).”—Brandi Broxson, Senior Editor
Trader Joe’s Carne Asada Autentica
“This is an absolute lifesaver for busy work nights. The meat comes pre-marinated (and delicious), so the time-consuming part is over.”—Anneke Knot, Assistant Beauty Editor
Trader Joe’s Chèvre with Honey Goat’s Milk Cheese
“It’s insane.”—Rina Stone, Executive Creative Director
Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn
“The kettle corn is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Every time I buy it, I eat way too much at once, feel sick, promise myself I’m never buying it again, and always end up going back for more.”—Betty Gold, Senior Digital Food Editor
Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips
“I’m not much of a snacker, but when I do snack, it’s on these salty chips. They feel like a healthier alternative to potato chips or even pretzels, with only three ingredients (and one’s technically a fruit!). I can snack on these and still feel like I’m getting a serving of fruit—I call that a win-win.”—Lauren Phillips, Associate Digital Editor
Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Tea Latte Mix and Trader Joe’s Spiced Chai Black Tea Liquid Concentrate
“These two Trader Joe’s products create the ultimate chai latte! Mixing these two items makes a wonderful fall drink that is good hot or iced.”—Sara Brown, Social Media Specialist
Trader Joe’s Dried Fruit Just Mango Slices
“These are so sweet, flavorful, and fun to eat—like fruit snacks for adults. Best of all, there are no added sugars or preservatives.”—Jenny Brown, Copy & Research Chief
Trader Joe’s Party Size Mini Meatballs
“I’ve found these to be a great three-fer in my home. Perfect for a young, picker eater who finds every other meatball ‘too spicy,’ great as a quick appetizer for an impromptu gathering (just add barbecue sauce), and a shortcut for delicious Italian Wedding Soup. A super useful item to keep in the freezer year round.”—Leslie Yazel, Editor in Chief
Trader Joe's Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto
“I don’t eat cheese so most pesto you find in the grocery store is off-limits for me (sure, sure, I can make my own but sometimes you just need something quick and easy, not to mention pesto ingredients quickly add up cost-wise). Enter Trader Joe’s vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto, which is delightful despite having no cheese. I use it for pastas, as a dip for crackers or vegetables, mixed into plain hummus, drizzled onto just about anything—pizza, roasted vegetables, eggs, you name it. It also freezes beautifully.”—Elizabeth Sile, Features Editor
Trader Joe’s Frozen Turkey Meatballs
“They are a great addition to a weeknight soup or pasta dish. Just add them to broth, then add spinach, orzo and voila!” —Filomena Guzzardi, Editorial Production Director
Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests
“They are my go-to get-together food. Crispy patties—or ‘nests,’ if you will—of shredded carrots and zucchini along with the accompanying soy sauce dip makes this easy appetizer a no-fail crowd pleaser.” —Stephanie Sisco, Home Director
Trader Joe’s Whole Milk Yogurt Cups
“Their yogurt is so creamy and delicious; we always get it. Sometimes, I have it as a dessert and add whipped cream on top.” —Rebecca Hart, digital creative director
To buy: $2.99 for six 4 oz. yogurt cups.