I'm a trained pastry chef who shops at Trader Joe's once a month. Here are 12 things I love buying there.

I'm a trained pastry chef who shops at Trader Joe's once a month. Here are 12 things I love buying there.
  • As a business owner and trained pastry chef, I want to eat well but am often short on time.

  • We only have one Trader Joe's in my entire state, so I stock up when I make my monthly trip there.

  • This month, I grabbed my favorite pasta, black garlic seasoning, probiotics, and snacks.

As a trained pastry chef who founded an ice cream company eight years ago, I work long days and unpredictable hours.

Picking up snacks, pantry staples, and salad kits from Trader Joe's helps me save money on takeout and ensure I always have something easy to cook when I get home. Plus, we only have one Trader Joe's in my entire state of Maine, so I try to stock up on my favorites when I make my monthly trip to the chain.

Here are some of the items I look for when I head to Trader Joe's:

Salad kits are perfect for a quick meal.

A bag of Dill-icious salad mix from Trader Joe's. Behind the bag is a display of meat on the left and lettuce and salad dressing on the right.
Salad kits are a great way to add more fresh veggies to your diet.Jacqueline Dole

I struggle to incorporate fresh vegetables into my diet, so I get excited whenever I find a fun new salad kit to try. The Dill-icious chopped salad kit from Trader Joe's is one of my favorites for a quick lunch.

This particular kit features shredded cauliflower, radishes, cabbage, lettuce, and kale. It also comes with a cucumber-dill ranch dressing and some potato chips to add for texture.

The salad is great when topped with some grilled chicken, but can also be enjoyed on its own.

The store has a great selection of wine and beer.

A bottle of champagne called La Burgondie’s Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve
For only $10, La Burgondie's Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve is a great buy.Jacqueline Dole

I love a sparkling wine that isn't too sweet. Trader Joe's carries one of my favorite bottles, La Burgondie's Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve.

This wine goes great with everything and is produced the same way as champagne. However, since it's not produced in the Champagne wine region, it's available for a fraction of the cost. At around $10, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better bottle.

The frozen butter chicken with basmati rice is delicious (and great if you're on a budget).

A box of Trader Joe's frozen butter chicken with basmati rice meal
When work gets busy, Trader Joe's frozen meals come in handy.Jacqueline Dole

I generally skip frozen meals to avoid excess sodium. But in a pinch, Trader Joe's makes some delicious options that are ready to eat in just a few minutes.

When I have a busy day at work and forget to pack lunch, it's great to have some of these frozen meals on hand. The butter chicken is my favorite — I swear, I could eat two packages. They're a delicious, budget-friendly option for just under $5 each.

The French macarons rival any found in a bakery.

A box of frozen French macaroons from Trader Joe's. Behind the box is a display of ice cream and other frozen treats.
I love the chocolate and vanilla French macarons.Jacqueline Dole

Although Trader Joe's has two variations of frozen macarons, I always opt for the chocolate and vanilla over the fruit. You're supposed to defrost these, but honestly, I love them straight out of the freezer.

Making macarons is a serious task and takes a lot of time, skill, and patience — which is why not many places offer them.

Once I left working in bakeries and restaurant kitchens behind, I vowed to never make them again (if I could help it). These are a delicious iteration of one of my favorite treats.

Trader Joe's has a myriad of unique condiments, including yuzu hot sauce.

Author holding Trader Joe's Yuzu Hot Sauce
Trader Joe's yuzu hot sauce is great on chicken.Jacqueline Dole

Trader Joe's seems to always be at the forefront of unique and under-recognized ingredients as they begin to gain popularity, and yuzu is no exception.

This yuzu hot sauce is one of my favorite condiments. It's punchy without being too overpowering, and goes great with everything from chicken to curry.

Even basics like yogurt somehow taste better from Trader Joe's.

Author holding Trader Joe's Coconut Cream Greek Nonfat Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a versatile, on-the-go treat.Jacqueline Dole

The coconut cream Greek nonfat yogurt is one of my favorite items in the store. It's great straight out of the fridge, as an on-the-go meal, or even blended into a smoothie. I also like to top the yogurt with cocoa nibs and fresh fruit and enjoy it as a dessert.

The coconut flavor comes through clearly and the yogurt is super smooth. I can't buy enough of these.

The chain's black garlic is perfect on just about anything.

Author holding Trader Joe's Black Garlic seasoning
I love pairing black garlic with cottage cheese.Jacqueline Dole

I love the rich, savory flavor of black garlic. Unfortunately, it's hard to find in most stores and can be pretty expensive. During my most recent trip, I picked up a jar for $3, and I can't believe how quickly it's disappearing.

A sprinkle of the crunchy black garlic seasoning goes great on everything from cottage cheese to pasta, making it a new pantry staple in my home.

Trader Joe's satisfies my newfound love for canned fish.

Author holding a tin of Cento Flat Fillet Anchovies
Trader Joe's carries my favorite brand of anchovies.Jacqueline Dole

It took me a long time to fall for anchovies, but I love them now. Although many small-batch and artisanal companies produce fish marinated in all sorts of amazing vegetables and spices, I still prefer a classic anchovy.

Trader Joe's carries my favorite brand, Cento, at less than half of what other high-end grocery stores charge. I always stock up so that I have a tin for my dressing, salad, or pizza. I even enjoy anchovies on toast.

I like Trader Joe's canned salmon, which I don't think is very common in grocery stores.

Author holding a tin of Trader Joe's Farm-raised Lightly Smoked Salmon
Trader Joe's lightly-smoked salmon is one of my favorite new finds.Jacqueline Dole

I've always been a big fan of canned salmon and love to toss it on top of a salad or use it to make salmon cakes. But before finding this gem at Trader Joe's, I'd never seen canned salmon available in a smoked variety.

The smoky flavor isn't overpowering but adds another level of flavor to an already fantastic fish.


I also snag hard-to-find pasta shapes at Trader Joe's.

Author holding Trader Joe's Cascatelli pasta
Cascatelli is the perfect shape for soaking up sauce.Jacqueline Dole

As a pasta enthusiast, I followed "The Sporkful" host Dan Pashman on his quest to invent a new pasta shape from the ground up. His creation was dubbed cascatelli and produced by Sfoglini, which retails for about $5 to $10 at most stores.

In early 2022, Pashman announced that Trader Joe's would also be producing the shape. I found it at my local store for only $3.

I really love cascatelli, as the shape is perfect for soaking up sauce. The ruffles are also fun, beautiful, and unique.

Trader Joe's has a great selection of flowers.

A display of flowers at Trader Joe's
I made my own wedding centerpieces using flowers from Trader Joe's.Jacqueline Dole

When my husband and I got married a few years ago, we were on a tight budget. To save money, we only hired a professional florist to make my bouquet and a few small pieces for the ceremony.

We purchased the rest of the flowers for our reception at Trader Joe's for about $200 and made our own centerpieces. The arrangements were gorgeous and using Trader Joe's was a great way to stay within our budget.

To this day, I still think the chain is a great place to pick up flowers for a party.

I pick up probiotics at Trader Joe's, too.

Author holding a bottle of Trader Joe's Advanced Strength Probiotic. Other vitamins and supplements are displayed behind the bottle.
I swear by a daily probiotic.Jacqueline Dole

Probiotics are not exactly glamorous, but they're very necessary. As someone with high stress levels and a fair amount of food sensitivities, I swear by a daily probiotic.

For $13, these advanced-strength probiotics have the same number of active microorganisms and probiotic strains as the competition, but cost about half the price.

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