There have been a few articles out lately that purport to give the big inside scoop on Trader Joe's best buys, with such fantastically specific tips like "befriend the freezer section" and "avoid produce." Incredibly helpful, thanks.
Let's get real: everybody has different food preferences and different ideas of what a great bargain actually is. But I think I've got a pretty keen eye for deals and a very keen taste for snacks, so here are my top 10 favorites of the moment. The things I always buy regardless of need, financial situation, or pantry space presented in the order in which they occurred to me.
I should add that the New Jersey stores don't carry alcohol, which would otherwise influence this list tremendously.
1. Dijon Mustard
For those who enjoy mustard with a nasty bite; I certainly do, but okay it's not for everyone. A little goes a long way, and by that I mean it's a little wasabi-esque in its ability to make your nose run. This has become my go-to mustard since Wegmans discontinued their dijon brand circa winter 2008 (their "traditional" brand with the French flag on it is not the same).
2. European-Style Plain Yogurt
This yogurt has the funkiest tang to it and a creamy, not gelatinous or starch-thickened texture like, well, actual European yogurt. It also makes a great starter culture for making yogurt at home.
3. Light Coconut Milk
Last time I shopped at TJ's, dented 400mL cans of coconut milk were on sale for $1.29. $1.29! This is at least 35% cheaper than anywhere else I've ever seen, including Chinatown. It even seems a bit creamier than the Thai Kitchen brand, which also tends to separate more.
4. Goat Cheese
$4.99 for 10oz, $2.99 for 5oz. Can't be beat. Individually wrapped 1oz rounds are also available for your on-the-go cheese needs, which also prevents the crustiness problem of re-wrapping a larger log.
5. Andouille Chicken Sausages
At roughly $1 per sausage, these don't immediately seem like the best deal. But packed full of flavor, one link can add smokiness and spice to a whole rice or soup dish without needing to waste time rendering bacon first. They're pre-cooked sausages! Best with the casing removed, but lacking patience you could just chop it into smaller pieces.
6. High Fiber Cereal
Twigs! But cheap twigs with pronounceable ingredients and 80 calories per 2/3 cup serving. Best for mixing in with their more delicious but less nutritious granola products.
7. Atlantic Harvest Smoked Salmon
No, probably not the best quality most sustainably harvested locally prepared stuff out there, but depending on the size you can get this nova for $10-15 a pound. It's beyond decent on a lazy sunday eggs benedict and is about half the price at most grocery stores.
8. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
These are seriously addictive to snack on and make a great addition to homemade granola or trail mix. Rather salty, but in a good way that prevents you from eating the whole bag in one hit. Also make an excellent avant-garde ice cream topping.
9. Gorgonzola Crackers
I will never have a box of these around the house long enough to be able to take a picture, sadly. They're kind of like Cheez-its for adults.
10. Vegetable Masala Burgers
By far the best frozen veggie burgers I've tried. Potato-based with peas and curry spices, they taste like the inside of a samosa and have a great soft texture that still holds together well on a grill pan. This photo was taken of the recycling bin; an empty box after less than a week should be a ringing endorsement.