Lunch from Trader Joe's
July 21, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

A brand new grocery store opened up near where I work! Yay! (Previously, there weren't any nearby.) I want to get my lunch there. What should I buy?

My goals here are three-fold: I want the things I buy to be 1) cheap, 2) healthy (ideally fresh), and 3) sized for one meal (with a few exceptions—I can keep something like a bag of tortilla chips around for a few days, for example). I have access to a microwave and hot water at work, but my only dishes are a bowl, fork, spoon, and knife (I plan to get a vegetable knife soon).

I am horrible at bringing packed lunches from home, so please do not recommend that.

The grocery store is a Trader Joe's. What should I buy from there for immediate lunch consumption?
posted by ocherdraco to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh fuck. You're in an insane amount of luck. Most TJs I have been inside of have had a very large frozen-entree section, all of which are very reasonably priced and mostly healthy. I would particularly recommend the black bean enchiladas, which are also suitable for a vegan diet.
posted by Electrius at 6:35 PM on July 21, 2010

They have prepared fresh salads and sushi, as well as lots of really good refrigerated and frozen meals that you can heat in the microwave. They also have lots of protein bars and drinks, which you may or may not consider a meal. Also fruits, veggies, cheeses, crackers... cheese, crackers, and grapes sounds like a good lunch to me.
posted by amro at 6:36 PM on July 21, 2010

While you're likely to get some good advice here where other people are sharing what they like, Trader Joe's stores usually aren't that big, so you can just walk over there and look around and see what looks good.

You'll discover that most of the food items being sold will have pictures of the item on the packaging or a description of what is inside that should help you determine if you will like it.
posted by andoatnp at 6:40 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

TJs has plenty of frozen pasta dishes. I've tried them all and the one that won out was a Gorgonzola gnocchi (their pesto bowl is the runner up). I sometimes grab some hummus, a bag of veggies, and a bottle of carrot juice and call that a lunch.
If you like Indian food, they've got a few curries (it's one aisle over from the dried fruit one) in pouches that you can just empty into a bowl and heat up in your microwave. They also have pad thai in a ramen set up (just add the sauce to the noodles and heat) but I found that quite flavorless. It's also on the same aisle right next to the Indian food.

They do have decent enchiladas too.

For dessert, I recommend one of their many ice cream mochi flavors (Mango is my favorite). Comes in a box of six (enough sugar to keep me happy). I'm assuming you have access to a fridge. If not eat two and share the rest with officemates.
posted by special-k at 6:43 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Prepared salads = awesome
posted by k8t at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2010

Get two apples, two oranges, two bananas, a small loaf of artisan bread, and a four-ounce thingy of goat cheese. Bring two ziplocks from home to keep the leftover bread and cheese. Eat two pieces of fruit and five slices of bread with a third or so (light smearing) of the cheese.

Hint: nuke the cheese for 15 sec when it's new to soften it enough. Ten sec for the second day. Five for the third day. Use a teaspoon to scoop out each bit of cheese, and use the back of the spoon to spread it - works beautifully.

You can mix up flavored bread with plain goat cheese, or plain-er bread with flavored cheese.
posted by notsnot at 7:26 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You'll discover that most of the food items being sold will have pictures of the item on the packaging or a description of what is inside that should help you determine if you will like it. (andoatnp)

Heh. This Trader Joe's is brand new and packed around lunchtime. I know I'll discover things I like on my own, but I'm looking for some things to get me started so I don't end up spending my entire lunch hour being jostled around the store.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:35 PM on July 21, 2010

Trader Joe's lunches are spectacular. I highly recommend the veggie samosas (microwave for 5 minutes; about $3.50 in the DC area), the black bean and rice burrito ($2.50, 3 minutes), chana masala ($2.50, 4 minutes), cumin-spiced lentils and rice (you get the picture about the price, etc), the veggie samosas again for a good measure, and the green chili and cheese tamales. I don't eat meat, but I hear the beef samosas, chicken tacos, and butter chicken are all good as well.

They also sell packaged salads for about $4 (most of them have meat, so I don't know), wraps for about $3-4 (I tried the chicken caesar as well as the chicken barbeque during a meat-ed period; they were good). I also like their very-mini-pizzas, which are sold 12 to a box, but 6 is enough for a meal. They can be microwaved.

My lunch for tomorrow is all TJ's - samosas, some peaches, some salt & vinegar chips (they have great ones in a yellow bag).
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:55 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Their tamales are pretty good, and their trail mix aisle is spectacular, so you should grab a bag of trail mix for those days when you just can't get out for food and you don't have any at work - a couple handfuls of nuts and dried fruit will keep you from keeling over. (Oh, and if they have this, you should grab a couple of containers: almonds covered in chocolate, which is then covered in cocoa powder and sea salt. They're like crack.)
posted by rtha at 8:04 PM on July 21, 2010

You should also consider ganging up with your co-workers to go together and buy things to share, like bags of chips, tubs o' nuts, guacamole, hummus, boxes of popsicles (try their Fruit Floes -- they are awesome on a hot day!)

As everyone's noted, the prepared foods in the refrigerated section are fairly decent, but they do tend to contain more sodium and calories than strictly necessary, being prepared foods and all. I like the burritos, though, as well as the green chile & cheese tamales in their frozen section.

Sometimes I just get an apple or banana, a small thing of Greek yogurt, and a thing of bread. And I think I got this from another AskMe thread: buy a box of couscous; you can just add hot water to it, and top with sliced tomatoes, hummus, or any fresh veggies.

I love TJ's so much!
posted by estherbester at 8:10 PM on July 21, 2010

Nthing you have to try the chocolate almonds. O.M.G. They are so addicting!
Not really a great lunch food, though.
posted by garnetgirl at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2010

I am a big fan of the TJ's Italian Country Salad.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:56 PM on July 21, 2010

I'm kinda with andoatnp, but I have to plug their delicious chicken caesar wraps (though they don't have them at every location, sadly). They also have cheap brie.
posted by cloudburst at 11:57 PM on July 21, 2010

Their sushi and thai spring rolls are my usual go-to lunch items. TJ's vary in stock a bit though so you may not have exactly what I have here. If you have access to a microwave, they carry prepackaged Indian food in pouches (Tasty-Bites & a TJ branded version) as well as precooked rice. There's also rice bowls in the freezer section.
posted by chairface at 3:16 PM on July 22, 2010

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