The Top 16: Trader Joe's Survival Guide

I know people who rarely shop at Trader Joe's because they don't know where to begin processing the unfamiliar products and they aren't sure if they're getting a good deal.  I completely understand how this store can feel overwhelming, particularly if you're unaccustomed to the Trader Joe's private labels, but this shop is FAR too fabulous NOT to explore. So, to get you started, I've put together a list of my top 16 items (I couldn't cut it off at 15...)  This barely is a beginning on what I buy, but you can almost always find these things in my home.

In case you're new to TJ's (we're on close, personal terms), I'm going to start from the start of the store.

Flowers

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Do you know the old expression, "if you only have a dollar left, use fifty cents to buy flowers and fifty cents to buy bread."  Dave Ramsey may not approve of this financial advice, but I regularly splurge on a small bouquet.  If you buy your flowers at TJ's, you won't feel the pinch since the prices are reasonable.Crumpets

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I used to think there was nothing better than a perfectly toasted English Muffin, but that's before I had crumpets.  LOVE the version from Trader Joe's.  However, you have to eat them FAST or freeze them because they mold quickly after opening the vacuum seal.Fruits & Veggies

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There's SO much to love about the produce section at TJ's,; however, if the goodness feels overwhelming, I've narrowed the "must have" items to two.Pineapples

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I'm NOT a huge comparison shopper, but I never ever see cheaper pineapples than the ones at TJ's.  Publix and Kroger usually price theirs at $4.99 while Trader Joe's pineapples hold steady at $2.99.  Sold!Avocados

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If you like guacamole or eat tacos as much as I do, you have to grab the avocados! I pick up a bag of TJ's version almost every week.

Tri-tip

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You can't always find this delicious cut of meat, but at TJ's you can find tri-tip either plain, or in a Carne Asada marinade.  Throw this on the grill as the package directs and then top with some diced avocados. Deeeeelish.Eggs

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The brown eggs from TJ's are routinely more flavorful than the ones I pick up at the normal grocery stores.  It's not a 100% sure thing, and I wish I knew WHY this happens, but I pick up a dozen when I'm in the store regardless.Nuts

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TJ's is where I pick up nuts for snacking or my spiced nuts recipe, but the show stopper is the candied pecans.  Toss these into any salad to go from zzzzz to Wow!Cereal

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If you've ever made "White Trash" the TJ puffin cereal is a great option for the mix instead of Chex.  Not bad with milk either!

Lemon Pepper

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I realize it's random to recommend pepper, but TJ's has a number of unique pepper mixes.  Most are really good, but nothing touches the lemon pepper.  My favorite...Curry Sauce

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Across the aisle from the pepper are assorted sauces. This is an experimenter's paradise.  Go crazy in this section because there's very little risk of failure.  If you like mellow curries, this red or yellow version will serve you well!Coffee

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Sooooooo, I don't drink coffee, but Billy loves his TJ coffee.  I enjoy the fancy, in-store grinder which means we don't have coffee grounds. So, if you're into caffeine, give this a shot!

Naan

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In the freezer section, you hit the jackpot with the frozen Naan.  You can count on finding this in my freezer -- quick to heat and oh so delicious, especially with the curry sauce above! The garlic is great if you're game, but we usually opt for plain in an effort to keep friends.Mochi

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Further up the freezer aisle you will find beautiful circles of Japanese ice cream. I can't overstate how much I love these ice cream bites.  Ridiculously tasty!Salsa Verde

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I discovered TJ's version of salsa verde when I was making chilaquiles, but now I throw it on top of anything needing an extra kick.

Corn Salsa

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Not to be outdone by the salsa verde, the corn salsa brings on the flavor AND heat.  I stir a tablespoon or two with diced avocados and put on top of my freshly grilled tri-tip and presto! dinner is ready.

Cheese

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There's enough cheese in TJ's to make everyone happy, but I particularly love the hard cheese which is a Syrah-soaked Parmesan.  I could eat my weight of this wedge, but if you want something more mellow, there's plenty of goat cheese options. Now it's your turn to tell me what YOU always buy at Trader Joe's.

Go!

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