I may be a city gal, but escaping the hustle calls for a summer picnic. Rounding up dips and sides and sweets to nosh on allows for a multitude of flavor combos rolled into one meal. Without a single sandwich or entree to choose from, variety is what makes your picnic game strong. The outdoor feast is an opportunity to be adventurous and share bites on a blanket in the sun.

When it comes to quirky offerings and plenty of options, no one does it better than Trader Joe’s. The grocery store with a cult-following known for its kind workers and pumpkin spice products is the ultimate picnic-packing destination. Between the chain’s signature low prices and sheer amount of provisions, it can be difficult to decide what to select. Thankfully, a lifetime of Central Park picnics and living on a college budget has made me an expert in knowing how to fill your basket. Here’s how you can have a picnic with Trader Joe’s products.

The Centerpiece: Dips

1. Mediterranean Style Hummus

Photo by Trader Joe's

I am a woman of limited talents, but one of them is a self-proclaimed hummus connoisseur. I have sampled nearly all of Sabra’s available varieties (I’m partial to Lemon Twist) and even scoured Chicago for the best bang-for-your-buck chickpea spread. An item frequently found in my own fridge, Trader Joe’s is not playing around with their Mediterranean Style Hummus. The whipped texture and pine nut topping with an olive oil swirl are a step above TJ’s regular version of the garbanzo-based dip and a must-have for any picnic affair. 

2. Everything and the Elote Greek Style Yogurt Dip

Photo by Trader Joe's

I can’t stress enough the importance of variety when it comes to your picnic menu, and where else will you find a spreadable version of Mexican street corn than Trader Joe’s? A flavor popularized among shoppers by their Everything but the Elote Seasoning Blend, TJ’s took their iconic seasoning and mixed it with tangy yogurt, garlic, parmesan, and sweet yellow corn to deliver a smooth bite of chipotle goodness. 

3. Vegan Buffalo-Style Dip

Photo by Trader Joe's

Meat or no meat, Trader Joe’s has some of the best vegan products on the market. Providing a plant-based version of a classic Buffalo chicken dip means more picnic companions can partake in the eating experience. Lime juice and cayenne leave nothing to be desired from the cauliflower-based concoction and, when paired with Organic Corn Chip Dippers, it is impossible to not come back for more. 

Fresh Fruits and Veggies

1. Sweet Mini Peppers

Photo by Trader Joe's

Rather than attempting to cut a bell pepper on the go, TJ’s Sweet Mini Peppers are a single-serve version of the veggie platter staple. Scoop up Buffalo Dip or a dollop of Mediterranean Hummus, or enjoy the burst of produce on all its own.

2. Les Petites Carrots of Many Colors

Photo by Trader Joe's

Part of picnic planning is considering your aesthetic — how else can you capture the perfect photo if a certain food doesn’t go? Instead of the typical baby carrot to crunch on, grab pre-shaved Les Petites Carrots of Many Colors to up the wow factor of your basket and add a pop of orange, yellow and purple to the mix.

3. Apricots

Photo by Trader Joe's

Sharing is caring in the world of picnics, and some fruit is superior in that regard. Containers of juicy apricots are easy to pass around without skimping on the joy of ripe summer produce. Apricot season is May to July, so stock up while the stone fruit is in store. 

Crunchy Snacks & Carbs

1. Organic Corn Chip Dippers

Photo by Trader Joe's

The Organic Kid™ version of Fritos, Trader Joe’s Corn Chips Dippers are the definition of addicting. Every time they end up in our pantry, they barely last a single day. Yes, you are going to need the extra bag. Hearty, salty, and concave for the act of dipping in mind, there is nothing these fantastic snackers can’t pair with.

2. Sweet Plantain Chips
Photo by Trader Joe's

Thin and crispy, Trader Joe’s take on Colombian plantain chips are a welcome balance of sweet and savory. They cut through the spice of TJ’s Extra Hot Habanero Ghost Pepper Salsa or the kick of the Elote dip. According to their website, each plantain Trader Joe’s sources for their Sweet Plantain Chips is hand-peeled to ensure the fruit isn’t damaged in the tree-to-chip process. 

3. Fig and Olive Crisps
Photo by Trader Joe's

I sampled these Fig and Olive Crisps at my local Trader Joe’s and felt incredibly sophisticated. The addition of dried Mission figs and Kalamata olives to the seeded cracker makes for a more interesting flavor profile than sliced bread. These crisps are particularly crunchy and hold up well under the weight of any dip, cheese, or topping. Every picnic basket needs a bit of refinement, and Fig and Olive Crisps fit the bill. 

4. Garlic Indian Style Flatbread
Photo by Trader Joe's

A bread meant to be shared, TJ’s garlickly “naan” is the answer to your dipping prayers. Tearable, doughy, and slightly charred, Garlic Indian Style Flatbread can be served heated or as is. Though typically paired with a bowl of curry or hearty entree, there is no reason Trader Joe’s ode to the Indian carb can’t also sop up hummus and Buffalo spreads.

5. Everything but the Bagel Nut Duo

Photo by Trader Joe's

Another Trader Joe’s creation taking the world by storm: Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. Inspired by New York City’s staple bread product, the mix of black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic and onion, and flaky sea salt transforms its vehicle into a deli-worthy showstopper. Almonds and cashews doused in the renowned flavoring are robust and hearty counterparts to other elements of the outdoor meal. 

Sweet Relief

1. Triple Ginger Snaps
Photo by Amazon

Sugar, spice, and everything nice is exactly what Trader Joe’s promises with their enormous tub of Triple Ginger Snaps. Each mini cookie features three forms of ginger: crystalized, pureed, and ground. Upon first crunch, there is no doubt what cozy flavor is meant to be the star.

2. Sea Salt Brownie Bites

Photo by Trader Joe's

Little Bites has nothing on the fudgy brownies sold at Trader Joe’s. Decadent and gooey, with a hint of flaky salt, these chocolate-chip studded morsels are a step above the brownies from childhood. Use as soft serve topping bought from a nearby ice cream truck or enjoy alone — just make sure to get enough for seconds.

3. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Photo by Trader Joe's

Chocolate and peanut butter. Need I say more? Trader Joe’s swears by their Virginia-roasted peanuts used to make the treat’s creamy filling. Along with the milk chocolate variety, these bombs of nutty excellence are consistently ranked among the brand’s top products. Pop in the fridge hours before hitting your blanket for a cool indulgence.