7 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s, According to Food Editors|Recipes Spots

7 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s, According to Food Editors


Trader Joe's Store Front
Simply Recipes / Photo Illustration by Wanda Abraham / Ciara Kehoe

We’re big fans of Trader Joe’s here at Simply Recipes. We love to stock up on everything from their Gorgonzola gnocchi to their pepita salsa. The grocery store can do almost no wrong when it comes to snacks, quick weeknight conveniences, and beyond.

However, no one is perfect and thus, our beloved TJ’s isn’t quite either. Over the years, there have been a handful of items that have disappointed us and we’ve learned to simply skip over them during our shopping trips. Here are seven items we editors steer clear of at TJ’s and why:

trader joe's burrito wrap
Trader Joe’s

1. Packaged Sushi and Prepared Salads, Wraps, and Sandwiches

“None of these are prepared freshly on-site and you can tell,” says News & Features Senior Editor Myo Quinn. While they may look like a great grab-and-go option, Myo has found every one she tried to be bland and stale. “You’re much better off getting a microwavable meal or salad kit.”

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf with Slices Cut on a Cutting Board, Surrounded by Sandwich Ingredients (a Small Plate with Cheese, a Platter with Lettuce, a Small Plate with a Slice of Bread Topped with Turkey Slices and Tomato Slice, a Small Bowl with a Sandwich Sauce, and a Sliced Tomato)
Simply Recipes / Hannah Dela Cruz

2. Most Breads

Recipe Editor Laurel Randolph might be a self-proclaimed bread snob and so far, she’s only found a couple of items in the bread section to warm her carb-loving heart. “To be fair, I’m not impressed with grocery store bread aisles 99% of the time, but I think TJ’s sandwich bread is especially bad, and I’ve had more than one loaf become moldy in a day or two after purchase,” Laurel says.

Add turkey meatballs to tomato sauce
Elise Bauer

3. Frozen Meatballs

“The one thing that I tried and will never buy again at TJ’s is their frozen meatballs,” says General Manager Emma Christensen. She’s tried a few of their many varieties and while some of us, like Laurel, do actually like their Italian-style meatballs, Emma finds them to be “weirdly soft and taste blah” across the board.

beer in a glass
Andy Christensen

4. House-Label Beer

While Trader Joe’s sells a wide variety of beer, often from local breweries, Senior Editor Sara Bir isn’t a fan of their own branded beer. “Historically, their house-label beers are pretty gross. I don’t drink any more, but the drinkers in my life all agree. I just steer clear of the whole section,” she says. Their wine selection, however, is much more reliable. 

Two scoops of homemade ice cream recipe in a bowl.
Ciara Kehoe

5. Ice Cream

Though Trader Joe’s does have some pretty unique ice cream treats like their Hold the Cone! mini cones, Laurel isn’t inspired by the cartons. “TJ’s simply cannot compete with a traditional supermarket when it comes to ice cream. While many of their other frozen food offerings are superior, they offer limited ice cream selection and I crave a Baskin-Robbin’s kind of experience—an entire half of an aisle that’s just carton after carton, flavor after flavor,” she says.

Fresh Parmesan Grated Onto a Serving of Antipasto Salad on a Plate Using a Microplane, and in the Surroundings, Another Serving on a Plate, a Bowl With the Rest of the Salad, and a Jar With More Dressing
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

6. Shelf-Stable Salad Dressings

While there are some good finds among the refrigerated dressings, such as the green goddess dressing, TJ’s shelf-stable selection is worth skipping. “I’ve tried them all and they’re all too sweet, lacking in flavor, and not worth your hard-earned money,” remarks Myo. “Especially when homemade is so easy.”

Veggies for the best homemade vegetable stock
Elise Bauer

7. Most Produce

News & Features Editorial Director Ariel Knutson and I strongly feel about passing on most produce at Trader Joe’s. I once had tomatoes start to mold just a couple of hours after I brought them home. ”There are exceptions, of course, like the bananas,” says Ariel. (I think some sturdy items like onions, potatoes, and some citrus tend to be okay, too.) “But I find that a lot of the vegetables and fruit at TJ’s lacks in flavor. I also don’t love how they tend to wrap everything in plastic, even though I know that’s something they’re actively working on reducing.”

Article Categories:
Salad · Sandwiches

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