Best Trader Joe's items to bring back across Canadian border?
April 27, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

The title says it all! Last-minute day trip across the border and back, and we're finally hitting this magical place called Trader Joe's. What are your recommendations for border-crossing-approved items from TJ's?
posted by sillymama to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Cookie butter.
posted by RobotHero at 10:50 AM on April 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Nuts! Cashews and almonds and walnuts, oh my. They also have good trail mixes. Watch out for disallowed fruits, though—I figure dried fruits should be exempt but I don't know.

Wine. I'm particularly fond of the Vinho Verde.

I am fond of their cooking sauces—curry and simmer sauces in bottles.
posted by grouse at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The speculoos cookie butter is amazing. I don't know what the border regulations are, though.

I like the blog What's Good at Trader Joe's?, and you might be particularly interested in anything they ranked at pantheon level.
posted by bcwinters at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

You're going to get a cooler and some ice packs, right? Cheese enchiladas

(even if there wasn't close to no access to frozen enchiladas at all in Canada, the TJ's are cheap and delicious)
posted by kmennie at 10:54 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Roasted coconut chips!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:59 AM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

The chili-spiced dried mangoes, if allowed.

We all very much love the frozen orange chicken (serve it over brown or white rice). Other must-haves: their knock-off sandwich cookies (Jo-Jos), biscotti and cereal bars.
posted by jquinby at 10:59 AM on April 27, 2013

American who just moved to Canada here. I often make day trips to Trader Joe's in my head.

Be sure to check out their chocolate bar selection. They had one filled with raspberry jam that was really good. Consider picking up some falafel chips. And, while baked goods may vary by region, they had some peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes that were very good.
posted by veggieboy at 11:00 AM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I keep their trail mixes in my desk at work for "holy fuck I skipped breakfast and I am staaaaaaarving" emergencies. I have some nut allergies and try to limit carbs, which rules out many I am sure are delicious, but my favorites are the ABC (almonds, dried blueberries, cranberries, golden raisins) and the Wasabi Wow (almonds, wasabi peas, cranberries).

The nice thing about their trail mixes is that anything that doesn't have any sort of crackery or chocolate component will last basically forever in an airtight container.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:12 AM on April 27, 2013

I'm a sucker for their Thai green curry simmer sauce, though I don't know if it crosses the border.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on April 27, 2013

Stock up on sesame-wasabi seaweed crisps. $0.99 per, so amazing.
posted by SpicyMustard at 11:23 AM on April 27, 2013

Not sure what is border friendly so I'll just list off some favorites. Yes, if you bring a cooler their frozen Mandarin Orange chicken is good, also the Mochi ice cream. The edamame hummus is quite tasty as well. Their canned tuna, tinned sardines and tinned smoked trout are good, as is most of the dried fruit and trail mixes. The Greek yogurt is good as well, and my husband and I are both addicted to the Chocolate European style lowfat yogurt. The frozen Gruyere Caramelized Onions & Ham Flatbread is a current favorite. It's billed as an appetizer but we've been known to have a couple as a main meal with a salad. Also, our cat goes nuts for their specially formulated cat tuna as a special treat.
posted by gudrun at 11:41 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fellow American living in Canada. I hit TJs every time I can:
-chocolate chips-- way better than any on offer here
-nuts and dried fruit. I love the dried wild blueberries.
-rosemary raisin crackers-omg!
-cheese! Half the price of cheese in Canada. (Dont know if its legal, but I don't declare it)
-pita chips
-yes, wine! I go w California and pacific NW wines bc I can't get them here in Quebec very easily

I usually fly so no cooler and no refrigerated items for me.
posted by picklebird at 11:43 AM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some things I only get at TJ if I can possibly help it:

-- Nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix

-- Wine and liquor

-- Dr. Bronner's liquid soap (cheaper here than I am usually able to find elsewhere)

-- Chewable melatonin in the 500 mcg dosage (other brands tend to be too high in dosage)

-- Vitamins/supplements in general

-- (Frozen) Mandarin Chicken (awesome) -- I know it sounds kind of odd, but it really is fantastic

-- Many of their frozen items, actually, especially their party-type appetizers, and fish/seafood

-- Again, frozen section, a good selection of uncommon frozen entrees that are much nicer than what you normally find in a supermarket...especially Asian and Mexican foods

-- Most of their sweet snacks (cookies, candy, pastry, etc.) are fantastic and a good value

-- Cheese, good selection and reasonably priced

-- Truffle mousse pate

-- Kerrygold butter (awesome)

-- Dairy in general, esp. full-fat greek yogurt which can be tricky to find (in my area)

-- Fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh carrot juice

-- Tuna or canned fish (sardines, herring, etc.)

-- Boxed soups (creamy tomato is my favorite)

In general I think TJ is great for "gourmet," unusual, and special occasion foods and beverages, as well as convenience foods and snacks. But also for some more basic items like nuts, some produce (lemons, limes, avocados, prepared veg in convenient single-person servings), coffee, olive oil, and supplements.

For inspiration, definitely check out the What's Good at Trader Joe's? site that bcwinters linked to above, and also the Fearless Flyer at the TJ website.

Warning: you will probably spend more than you expect. I can't remember the last time I got out of there for less than $60. Not that TJ is expensive so much as that I will walk in with a five-item list and half an hour later stagger out with a cartload's worth of stuff. It's sneakily appealing and stealthily adds up!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:48 AM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

more comprehensive list of allowable food.

Dried fruit and cheese are okay!
posted by picklebird at 11:52 AM on April 27, 2013

The "Pound Plus" bars are amazing. I always keep about five bars on hand for baking. You simply won't find better quality chocolate for the price; I believe they are actually Callebaut chocolate.

The parmesan crisps are outrageously addictive. I could easily eat a whole bag in one sitting.

Not all of their wine is good, but the wine that IS good is really good for the price. Their Amarone is about $20 and good enough for special occasions (we buy bottles of it for Thanksgiving and Christmas). They have a Nebbiolo I always buy as well. I don't like to drink the Two-Buck Chuck, but I do us it for cooking.

Nthing truffle mousse pate and cheese. The roasted red pepper soup is the most velvety soup I have ever had in my life. (The carrot and butternut squash, however, taste like nothing, respectively). Honey is a good deal. I put the Hot and Sweet Mustard on everything. The mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups are amazing.

I have a friend who swears by the frozen mac and cheese and clam chowder.

Here are their most favored products of 2012 (PDF).

posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh I almost forgot their California olive oil!
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2013

I eat about 5 of their individual sized quiches a day. Also, the frozen tamales are pretty good. Both of these things go great with the TJ brand jalapeño hot sauce. The French Roast coffee they sell is like 10 bucks for 2 pounds and it is better than nearly any other coffee you can get here in Seattle. Their Tuscan marinara sauce (in the can) is really great for the price.

Nthing the frozen mandarin chicken.

Individual sized trader joes pepperoni pizzas ("Bambino?" I think they're called).

Their wine selection is vast but I've never found anything stellar good. They're really much better for drinkable really cheap wines a la 2 buck chuck.

The kids love the crushers (puréed fruit in an astronaut slurping packet).

Be careful of the berries, they are frequently near moldy at the time of purchase.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

TJs strength is really yuppy convenience / party food.
things we like include:

stuff not needing refrigeration
- mini peanut butter cups - really great out of the freezer and less greasy than other versions I've had
- hazlenut chocolate bar
- mini cookies in the clear plastic tubs are good for sharing at work
- crackers - cheaper than Safeway, smaller quantity than Costco
- vitamins and supplements
- dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes - lots of nuts come in unsalted / raw versions, also some come in packs of individual size servings
- cleaning products, soaps (many have fragrances though)
- thin mini rice crackers multiseed w/ soy sauce
- mini pretzels
- jam and nut butters
- italian soda and juices

stuff needing refrigeration
- greek yogurt
- bagged salad greens - arugula, baby spinach
- microgreens
- uncured bacon
- nice sliced deli style cheese

frozen food
-pizza parlanno and other pizzas in the same shaped box
-tarte d'alsace (in the pizza section)
-frozen pastas w/sauce esp the gnocchis
-spanakopita, mini pot pies, other
-frozen chopped herbs

stuff we haven't liked
a lot of the frozen chinese style food
produce can be all over the map with freshness
posted by oneear at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2013

Greek yogurt, hummus, boil-and-eat palak paneer and chole, garlic/chili tilapia, canned tuna and anchovies, lentil soup.
posted by seemoreglass at 1:12 PM on April 27, 2013

Seconding their peanut butter cups. They also have a new (at least new to me) product: mango-coconut chews in dark chocolate. Heavenly.

Another vote for their nuts, trail mixes, and oils -- all very good. Also, things like jarred tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, bruschetta topping, etc., which are all great to have on hand (serve with crackers as appetizers or snacks, or spread on top of chicken or fish before baking or broiling for dinner).
posted by scody at 1:42 PM on April 27, 2013

They have these thin crispy meyer lemon cookies that I always keep on hand. I recently bought the toasted coconut variety and now I'm torn which one I love the most.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2013

Oh, and if you're planning on taking a cooler or something, so that you can get frozen foods: I'm never without a box of the apple blossoms for dessert (microwave and serve with cream) or the frozen chocolate croissants (proof overnight, then bake in the morning).
posted by scody at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2013

The Savory Rice Crackers. Oh man. If I'm feeling sad (or lazy), I buy a row and some hummus for dinner. I could eat them for every meal, every day.
posted by eenagy at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2013

The Rosemary Raisin Crisp crackers are delicious.
posted by belladonna at 2:10 PM on April 27, 2013

Something new I just got today and am loving: soft and chewy dried mandarin segments. Really unusual and so so good.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:19 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently made us a salad of just lettuce and TJ's artichoke hearts. the hearts are a great thing to have on hand except we keep eating them.
posted by Cranberry at 2:21 PM on April 27, 2013

Dark chocolate covvered toffee with pistachio coating.Nomz.
posted by softlord at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: Get the almonds with dark chocolate and sea salt. Oh my god, they are like crack to me.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have to try the dark chocolate bar with caramel and black sea salt! It's delicious, and way cheaper than you would expect for chocolate of that quality.

The frozen kimchee rice is delicious -- top with an over-easy fried egg and a squeeze of lime juice. I also like the frozen Penne Peperonata and the frozen French onion soup -- it come in little round blocks with the crouton and cheese at the top, so when you bake it (in an oven-safe mug) the cheese gets properly browned and melty. As far as shelf-stable things, the boxed tomato and red pepper soup is really good, especially with some Parmesan grated on top, and the jarred sun-dried tomatoes are really fresh and tomatoey-tasting.

The nuts are an incredible value -- you can really save a lot of money buying nuts there. Get one of the huge bags of walnut pieces.
posted by ostro at 7:07 PM on April 27, 2013

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