Trader Joe's is a college student's dream. The small-town market atmosphere mixed with friendly employees and murals of local sights really set the scene for a pleasant shopping experience. But the best part is the food. As a health-conscious company, TJ's provides a variety of options that are relatively "good for you," and, yes, their products are cheap.
As a fellow lover of the grocery chain, I asked college students across the nation what their must-have TJ's items are. After several interviews, here are the products that get "the college kid" stamp of approval.
*Items are listed at random and in no particular order.*
1. Cookie Butter
When you enter the TJ holy land, head straight to the preferred spread of the gods themselves: Cookie Butter. This shit is spreadable GOLD; swipe it onto a bagel, dunk a cookie in it, or even learn to bake with it! My fave method is eating it straight out of the jar. I mean, really, a snack this good requires immediate enjoyment.
Suggested by Sydney T. from Georgetown University.
2. Pork Gyoza Potstickers
These delicious dumplings are overstuffed with pork and assorted veggies. Not only are they tasty and filling, you can also cook them pretty much any way you want, which makes for a quick and easy meal.
Suggested by Janecia B. from Florida State University.
3. Sriracha Sauce
Let's face it: The sriracha trend isn't going to die out anytime soon. Embrace that good ol' spiciness, and reach for this $2.99 bottle of TJ's original fiery flavor. It's unlike the sriracha you may be used to, thanks to a perfected concoction of garlic and vinegar.
Suggested by Tiffany C. from University of Chicago.
4. Trader Ming's Mandarin Orange Chicken
This classic chicken dish is WAY better when you're not buying it from the mall food court. Trader Joe's packs this delicious din in the frozen aisle, making it easy for you to just pop in the oven after a long workday.
Suggested by Jessica M. from University of California, Irvine.
5. Bollywood Popcorn
Who can really resist unique-flavored munchies? This Bollywood-style treat is no different, thanks to a dousing of vegan tikka masala seasoning. Plus, a serving size is a whole two cups! #bless.
Suggested by Mattison C. from Louisiana State University.
6. Apple Blossoms
Do you ever just crave a sweet, summer slice of old-fashioned apple pie? TJ's has your back. Their apple blossoms are folded, bite-sized versions of America's traditional (and irresistible) dessert.
Suggested by Hana B. from University of California, Davis.
7. Green Tea Mints
These pick-me-up poppers are infused with all the antioxidants you'd find in natural green tea—because it's exactly that. The mints are made of powdered green tea and mixed with other sources of minty goodness to gift you with the perfect midday refresher.
Suggested by Susanna M. from Virginia Tech.
8. Riced Cauliflower
Trader Joe's has a knack for taking classic dishes and remodeling them to create something even better. Fried rice is soooo good to start with, but when you use cauliflower "rice" as a base, you're sneaking in some well-needed veggies disguised as your favorite grain.
Suggested by Lindsay B.
9. Pumpkin Butter
I know, I know. This very list opens with Cookie Butter, so why add something so similar? Pumpkin Butter is the seasonal sister of Cookie Butter, and honestly, it makes the cut too. It goes well with ANYTHING, and it places autumn within a lick's reach.
Suggested by Hannah C. from Pepperdine University.
10. Roasted Garlic Hummus Dip
When Sarah suggested this, I couldn't help but smile because this TJ's specialty is one of my personal go-to's as well. Hummus is a pretty reliable snack, regardless of what you actually dip in it. It's yummy with a variety of other munchies, from raw veggies (like carrots and assorted peppers) to your favorite chip or cracker (especially with a lightly salted pita chip).
Suggested by Sarah A. from University of Wisconsin, Madison.
11. Pizza Veggie Burgers
Pizza. Veggie. Burgers. Yup, you read that right. These patties are veggie-based, but they're not vegan-friendly; sorry folks, these bad boys are loaded with mozzarella cheese. However, they're an A+ selection for those craving a new take on veggies OR on pizza, and they're without a doubt one of the most interesting meals I've ever tried.
Suggested by Kelli H. from University of Pittsburgh.
12. Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies
Like all of TJ's sweet snacks, these cookies are undoubtedly delicious. But, the best part about them is they're just plain FUN. They're great for kids and students of all ages. (Admit it, studying for that English exam would be way easier with these bad boys.) Slap some of that famous Cookie—or Pumpkin—Butter on these lil guys and smile all the way to your next class.
Suggested by Alex B. from George Washington University.
13. South African Smoke Seasoning
This blend of spices mainly consists of heavily-smoked paprika, mixed with an assortment of other fan favorites like garlic (duh) and basil. It's great to lather on to pretty much anything your heart desires, from breakfast concoctions to dinner delights. I've heard it's best on morning veggies, so be sure to mix some into your breakfast omelet.
Suggested by Arva H. from Syracuse University.
14. Almond Cluster Cereal
Trader Joe's carries "Just the Clusters" cereal in an assortment of flavors, usually varying in different types of nuts with granola crunchies. "Ginger Almond & Cashew" is a popular choice, but they also offer "Vanilla Almond" and "Chocolate Almond." (Though it's not filled with almonds like the others listed here, their "Maple Pecan" is unquestionably just as delicious.)
Suggested by Kelly N. from University of San Diego.
15. Pita Crackers
All of the pita snacks I've ever enjoyed were in chip form, until I met good ol' Trader Joe. Their pita crackers are shaped differently than classic pita chips, plus they seem to be less messy. These are great with your cheese spread of choice, but if you want to switch things up, purchase these with some of TJ's roasted garlic hummus dip (#10 of this list!) for a real treat.
Suggested by Anita. W. from Colorado College.
16. Turkey Meatballs
Of course, meatballs are the perfect touch to any plate of spaghetti. If you're looking for a lighter option in terms of protein, then TJ's has you covered. Again. Their turkey meatballs come frozen, though fully cooked, so you just need to heat them up in the oven before serving with your noodles of choice. To add to their glory, they don't contain any preservatives or artificial colors and flavors. Thanks for looking out for us, TJ's!
Suggested by Lindsay B. from Tufts University.
17. The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar
I have yet to try this masterpiece, but let me just say, the photos alone have got me drooling. Chocolate is chocolate, so you can never really expect this treat to be a healthy option. However, dark chocolate is filled with fiber and antioxidants, so if you are going to reach for a sugar-packed snack, you should definitely go for this gem from TJ's that's 85% cacao. (And the serving size is 2/3 of a bar. AKA I'm probably gonna eat the whole bar.)
Suggested by Ellie T. from College of Charleston.
18. Organic Black Bean Rotini
Don't be fooled, this isn't pasta. It's black beans! This rotini is PACKED with protein—double the amount you'd get from normal, wheat-based pasta. It's true, it doesn't taste the way basic pasta dishes do. However, you may think it's way better (if you like beans, of course).
Suggested by Emily D. from Pace University.
19. Two Buck Chuck
Y'all. Wine for $1.99? I repeat. Wine for $1.99! As a Trader Joe's essential, the Charles Shaw Blend is undeniably a steal. You can get crappy wine at the corner gas station for $5. And yet, somehow, the holy land has concocted a wine for $2 that's actually... good? Yes, that's right. Charles Shaw Blend is actually good! Ahh! Rejoicing over here.
Suggested by Leah B. from Nova Southeastern University.
20. Shrimp Stir Fry
So, I had to add my personal favorite TJ's item to this list. I grabbed their frozen shrimp stir fry on a whim one day, honestly just searching for an easy vegetable-based meal that I didn't have to put much effort into. This bag of delight honestly surprised me because I wasn't expecting much. Aren't those the best discoveries? The frozen meal comes with a package of gourmet pepper seasoning, which is really the cherry on top of the dish. The spices are so good, I wish I could buy them in separate, single packets so I could pour them on everything. There's something about celery salt that really brings a meal together, you know?
After interviewing all my fellow foodie college students, I developed an even greater love for good ol’ TJ’s. My next trip to my fave grocery market ended with half my cart filled with these college-endorsed items. (And yes, they’re all SO good!)