Another trip to Trader Joe’s might lead to a third …

When I wrote about my dear wife Karen and I’s first trip to Syracuse’s new Trader Joe’s in November, it moved many people to pitch in with helpful suggestions.

I so surely agree that three-buck wine that people I trust swear is drinkable is an idea whose time has come. And then we discovered that in our New York state, the laws don’t allow Trader Joe’s to sell that wine of which you boasted. Plenty of different beer and brews that I’ve never seen before, some of which I wondered about alcoholic content. But I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses on this trip, and squinting for alcoholic percentages didn’t help, so …

We came home with $53 worth of food, interesting fare all.

For a dinner, we’ve already scarfed the pre-cooked slab of barbecued pork ribs. Karen didn’t think the instructions that had her placing it on a cookie sheet at X degrees for Y minutes would have it cook up hot enough, but she changed her mind when she heard those babies sizzling. And they tasted pretty meaty good to me. But let’s get back to inside the store, and the search for a side. Our Trader Joe’s did not have a box of brown rice in the Uncle Ben’s/Rice a Roni variety. So we scooped up a bag of frozen Chinese vegetable fried rice from the cooler. Tasted great with the barbecue.

The pound of 85 percent lean ground beef for the Manwich sandwiches worked fine, despite the fact that at Wegmans we usually opt for the 90 percent lean. Here, the 90 percent looked gray. Yuck. The hamburger rolls came in a seeded choice. Delightful! And the bagged salad, iceberg variety, had plenty of other veggies sprinkled within. I’d have gone for romaine, but that choice was lettuce-only. Boo.

Let’s see. We came away with a humungous bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa. The chips were flat, thin, listless and salty compared to the major brands, I thought. Karen shrugged her shoulders and called them “OK.” The salsa had a kick, but was runny, with hardly any chunks. I shrugged myy shoulders and called it “OK.”

I threw a quart of half-and-half for my morning coffee into the cart, and Karen picked out three Greek-style yogurts. My home-brewed Dunkin’ Donuts has been fine for breakfast, along with the four bananas I selected, green at Trader Joe’s, and good this week at home. I haven’t heard a bad word about Karen’s yogurt.

I think this is kind of  special.

I think this is kind of special.

Which leaves me with what I declared our find of the trip.

I was wandering off on my own when I came across the two-pack of frozen French Onion soup in the open freezer. There was a skip to my step when I got back to Karen and the cart and held it out for her inspection. “Yeah,” my dear wife said, “I saw that and thought it would catch your attention.”

It sits yet in our back porch freezer, looking pretty every time I open it to fetch something else and calling my name oh-so-gently. It will make a great weekend lunch for Karen and I, I hope so much. Will today be the day?

What are the non-ordinary foods at Trader Joe’s that Karen and I are still missing? Do you have a favorite beer or ale from your Trader Joe’s I might think about checking out? Tortilla chips and salsa … thick or thin?

63 thoughts on “Another trip to Trader Joe’s might lead to a third …

  1. Pingback: Three Things Thursday (Saturday): March 21, 2015 | Drunk on Life

  2. I hope it tastes as good as the picture! We went to a new one before Christmas, had never been to one before. We bought said 3 buck chuck and drank it as well as other bottles there. Also got a ginger echinacea lemon drink (good) and a lemonade (watery and barely sweet), as well as meats (deli salami smelled like a pig hoof), and a slew of Christmas goodies we’d never seen. Chewy German gingersnappy cookies, sugary barks with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, chocolate cookies…it’s hard not to want to try a little of everything!


    • I ate a whole tub of the sugar-free chocolate covered almonds, Mark, and they were extremely delicious. Karen had the real chocolate and loved it.

      I’m not an Indian food fan. My bad. I love the hot, it’s the rest of the spices.


  3. Saw your comment about Aldi – have been there once and thought i’d bought McVities biscuits (great brand) at a good price only to find that they were ever so similar but not the real thing. Have never been back. I don’t like being ripped off and i don’t like company’s that are basically stealing someone’s product design. Rant over. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Looking forward to hearing about the soup.


  4. Hmm… soup in a box… Now that is interesting. I personally DO prefer flat, thin, salty chips (not sure about listless) and runny (not chunky) salsa, so I might like those. But sadly, we don’t have a Trader Joe’s here. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I guess that’s just one more reason for me to visit Syracuse. ๐Ÿ˜€


  5. This is hilarious to me, mostly because I can’t believe Syracuse just got one. In LA, Trader Joe’s were like 7-11s. Actually, that maybe a poor analogy; you probably don’t have many of those either. They were on practically every corner. When I lived in Pasadena, I had two different Trader Joe’s within five minutes of my house. That was ten years ago.

    I’d love to offer suggestions, but I don’t think you would like my suggestions. I buy staples, not novelty items there: bread, bagged lettuce, persian cucumbers, nuts, dried fruit and squirrel food, generally. I have started buying Kind bars for lunch, because I don’t have time to eat at work. That’s about as novel as it gets for me. Well, if you like tomato soup, we like their boxed tomato and red pepper soup.

    BEER! I am very glad you mentioned this. I work in New York (in the sticks,) and I’m going to have to check this out. In New Jersey, they can’t sell liquor of any kind except at two locations, neither of which are convenient. There is a TJ in NYC that sells wine, and they have LOTS and LOTS of wine. I think that store only sells wine. Dragging groceries from the city, especially heavy groceries, it a bit of a drag though.

    3 buck chuck is perfectly drinkable for $3, but not fantastic (c.f., Three Wishes wine at Whole Foods.)

    Boatswain is a brand of beer there I would recommend as a ‘good buy.’ It comes in large bottle (a little less than two pints.) They have four different kinds including an IPA, a double IPA, a stout and one other. It used to sell for $2.20 a bottle, which around here is a steal for almost two pints. It’s strong and looks like this:


  6. Open the flood gates! Cookies, condiments, chocolate and candy of all kinds. Fun produce like pomegranate seeds, cantaloupe slices. Sliced deli meats. Hummus. Chicken sausage. Jelly. Tea Tree Shampoo & conditioner. Frozen appetizers. Crackers. Tortilla chips (multi-grain and other funky combinations). Black bean dip in a jar by the salsa (vinegary.) Canned marinara. Tofu. I like my craft beer so I’ll pick up some local craft but I tried TJ beer years ago and didn’t like it. Just the 2 buck chucks…oh and their wine in a box (sorry!) OK, that’s off the top of my head as I image myself walking through the packed aisles. Here’s link you and Karen might like: Third trip will be the charm!!!


  7. A Trader Joe’s opened in Orlando within the last 6 months to a year. But they put it in a very cramped setting. Even with most of the stores waiting for tenants at that time, parking was madness.

    About that $3 bottle of wine. Bummer! I’ve had great wine at a very reasonable price. I get turned off when I ask what a store will recommend and their first question is: “How much do you want to spend?” I told the clerk that is not how you determine how good a wine will be. In Paris, we had some very excellent inexpensive wine … better than some of the higher priced vintages.

    Tell me how good that French onion soup is. If you love it, Dave and I might make a run to that store the next time we visit our daughters who live in Orlando. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  8. When Ron and I lived in Prescott, Arizona for a couple of years, we had the opportunity to go to Trader Joe’s. I don’t know. I was not impressed. I still see it as a California thing. Truthfully, I enjoyed COSTCO much more than Trader Joe’s. We are spoiled because we have a Class Six (Liquor Store) on the Navy base for us to choose from. Being retired military does have it’s perks. We can also go to Ft. Walton Beach to Eglin AFB, FL to the old commissary and Class Six Store we went to 30 years ago as newly-weds. I still am not a fan of Trader Joe’s.


  9. My youngest daughter lives close to Trader Joe’s but i shop mainly in the local markets of our smaller sized town of Delaware. I enjoy the different kinds of olives, the range of healthy choices there and the really inexpensive wines, as you mentioned, Mark! That French onion soup ready with cheese and croutons would be calling my name, too! Yummy sounding! I like the places where they feature salads to go, so Trader Joe’s is a good place for this. I like some of the homey looking breads that taste delicious and kind of a splurge, blueberry and cranberry kinds I have tried… Smiles!


  10. Trader Joes is really popular here. We have 2 within driving distance. My husband likes to go there for milk and eggs. Yes their cheeses are good and nuts. There are a lot of prepared foods that make a quick meal. Our Trader Joes has a wine and beer section. I think their wine prices are good. I used to eat the prepared salads a lot for lunch. In the warmer months we like the Chinese Chicken salad but I add cashews and their canned mandarin oranges to it. We buy a lot of their pasta.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh how I love Trader Joe’s, but I’m sure I made that point clear on your last TJ post. I like their spirits–gin, bourbon, etc. Not top-shelf, but better than the low-end brands while being nearly as inexpensive. I like their European sipping cocoa and my oldest daughter likes their pomegranate yogurt that has granola on the side. Their pretzel rolls are awesome. Anything chocolate is a yes. Can buy the big bars for baking for cheap. Pizza crust dough, thumbs up. All of their chicken and pork. Their light butter. Frozen skinny green beans. Whipped cream. Have a few clunkers–canned chicken noodle soup did not pass muster with my youngest, not did their granola bars. Glad you had another successful trip and good find on the soup. Always something new on the shelves, which makes return trips even more fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think I’ve told you what a TJ junkie I am. I love their Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, a mix of carrot and tomato, spinach and garlic, etc. Their cheese selection is incredible! They’re at least $2-3 less per pound than other stores. We usually get an Italian Toscano cheese (soaked in Syrah) and my favorite, a white Stilton with apricots. Any my husband’s favorite TJ’s item: Tarte d’Alsace, which is a thin crust pizza with gruyere cheese, ham and caramelized onions. It is incredibly tasty!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Haven’t been to Trader Joe’s for a while. I think it’s too healthy for my family!! (Ha, ha!) Went there more often as a single gal. I liked a lot of their pre-made stuff like the salads, sandwiches and frozen calzones. It suited the single life well to get healthy things that you can just eat or throw in the oven in the worst case scenarios.


  14. I have no recommendations for you Mark. I’ve love the single-serving salads at TJs when I’ve visited the States but that’s all I really know as we don’t have TJs in Canada.

    I hope the onion soup does not disappoint! โค
    Diana xo


  15. Enjoy your soup. My daughter swears by Trader Joe’s but I haven’t found anything there that makes it worth the drive through traffic across town. (She eats quinoa, couscous, rice milk and other such stuff) I find most everything we need at Publix around the corner or Freshville Farms just up the street. Every once in a blue moon, I’ll drive across town to Whole Foods for something special, but they’re so pricey.


  16. Mark, I’m hooked on TJ’s after checking out their stores in Calif., where they offer a wine called Two Buck Chuck (yes, I took a photo to send to my son in Seattle). Our staples at the local TJ’s include unsalted almond butter and blackberry jelly. Much better and cheaper than Wegmans and WAY cheaper than that nearby health food store. The free samples are clutch, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to tell my dear wife Karen right now that you endorse the almond butter. She buys the Wegmans variety now. The free sample stand was closed this trip because we went later in the evening, after our dinner at the Red Lobster across the boulevard. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, Karen just said that the blackberry jelly suggestion sounds good to her, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. your Trader Joe’s sound suspiciously like our Aldi supermarkets. Best thing about Aldi is the food is predominately sourced from oz. So we do not get grey hamburger mince. It does have imported wine and beer because the liquor laws won’t allow them to be in direct competition with ur 2 big ones ( coles and Woolworth/Safeway).. you know you can make yummy french onion soup from fresh onions and stock probably cheaper…


    • Somebody here in Syracuse has told me that Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi , Louise, so there you go. I’m not an Aldi shopper anymore, so I can’t say. I went a few times when they first came into the market but was turned off by what seemed like a desire to sell brands named similar to but a letter or two off from the name brands. You know, totally making one up, Rogo Spaghetti Sauce. I thought it was either silly or misleading. Or both.

      And maybe you can make a yummy French Onion soup, and my dear wife Karen can make a yummy French Onion soup, but I saw this and figured we’re here, let’s give it a go.


  18. I live in the middle of the country and my co-workers are on either coast. They boast of Trader Joe’s all the time and I haven’t a clue what treasures might be waiting inside. It sounds like an adventure.
    Your picture of the French onion soup is a sign that I need to pull out a recipe I’ve been wanting to try.
    Also, do you know what my favorite part of your posts are?
    Whenever you say, “My dear Karen.” I LOVE that!

    Thank you for letting me get my morning writing bugs out in your comments. I’m feeling a bit random today. Perhaps I need a dose of the coffee you mentioned.
    Have a great weekend, Mark!


    • Glad to help in the morning, Michelle. I was the opposite of your early start to the west today. I slept in at least an your later than usual and got to answering comments in kind. It’s OK. It’s Saturday. Let me know how your French Onion soup recipe turns out. I’ll return the favor about our frozen variety. I bet yours would win a taste-off. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m glad you like the way I describe my dear wife Karen. I think it sets the proper tone for my life posts because she sets the proper tone for my life!


    • I was disappointed that the pre-made romaine variety was with the lettuce only. But the iceberg-and-other-veggies was really good, so I am ready to try others, Mimi. And to the Italian section we will go, too, thanks.


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