Though I wanted to save this section of Trader Joe's for last, I just couldn’t help myself. The frozen food section is probably my favorite department at TJ’s, which is extremely rare since I prefer making things from scratch. But that’s the thing about it: besides having a delicious variety of pre-made dinners & lunches, there’s a lot of affordable organic produce, poultry, and seafood that opens up an entire world of cooking possibilities. Here’s just a small sampling of what you can find in the frozen food aisle:
As much as I love going to my local farmer’s market, it’s not always feasible for me to do so for one reason or another (lately because of choir commitments). In order to keep myself somewhat healthy, I make sure to get as many frozen veggies and fruits as I can afford. Could I do this at any other grocery store? Of course! I just wouldn’t have choices like the Organic Foursome (carrots, corn, green beans, and peas), Brittany Blend (string beans, wax beans, carrots), Potato Medley (an awesome mix of potato wedges, peppers, and other veggies, all lightly seasoned), or my all-time favorite: Greens With Envy (spinach, edamame, broccoli, snap peas, and a whole bunch of other green veggies; sadly, I think it’s only seasonal). The fruits are just as fun, with extremely high quality whole berries, mango, pineapple (which is to die for, as each piece is coated with a bit of extra juice), the Very Cherry Blend (whole black Bing cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), and my latest favorite: Mangolicious (mango, blueberries, and raspberries. WOO!). There’s a lot more to choose from but these are just some of my usual purchases, since I find I can make just about anything with these basics. Everything is reasonably priced from about $2.29 to $4.99, and most of the produce is organic.
Seafood & Meats
When was the last time you were able to buy langostino without paying an arm and a leg for it? Or how about a reasonable amount of frozen shrimp for well under $10/bag? From Cioppino mix to stuffed salmon filets, buffalo burgers to lamb, there's a little bit of something for everyone who loves to eat meat. Personally, I like to snag the medium cooked shrimp (about 50/bag) for the beautifully low price of $5.99. I've mentioned this deal in previous posts and have compared prices at other grocery stores, including outlets, and TJ's still has the best deal. The lowest price I've seen for something comparable is $8.99 and sadly, most of the bag was full of freezer burn, not shrimp. Another staple I buy from the TJ's frozen meat section is the large bag of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts for $6.99 and $7.99 respectively. Thaw ‘em in the fridge while you’re at work and you’re ready to start cooking by dinnertime. Though I’d prefer to buy the whole, fresh chicken, these are very convenient and rather tasty as they use natural juices when freezing.
Prepared Meals and Appetizers
Ahh, this has to be everyone’s favorite part of Trader Joe’s. They offer amazing pre-made meals that make even the worst cook look like a pro. Entrees like Mandarin Orange Chicken, Shrimp Scampi with Pasta, Chicken Serenada, or sides like Gnocchi a la Gorgonzola are all delicious, heat in under thirty minutes, and cost under $8 for about 2 modest sized servings. In a pinch these are great to have around, though you can get more bang for your buck if you buy your ingredients separately (then you can make other meals out of whatever is leftover). Still, on a lazy night after a hard day’s work, these are fantastic meals that are made out of real ingredients with few, if any, preservatives. Part of my aversion to a lot of pre-packaged meals is the amount of crazy, difficult-to-pronounce chemicals that are thrown in “for freshness”. I’m fairly certain the human body wasn’t meant to consume that sort of thing on a regular basis, so I feel better when I read the ingredient list and most everything is derived from real food.
Now that I’ve had my say about the evils of processed foods, I’ll get back to the good stuff. The frozen appetizers at TJ’s are phenomenal and, once again, make you look like the greatest chef ever. Seriously, how often does one make Escargots en Brioche for about $6? Their Bruschetta appetizer is lovely, and they have this fabulous Black Truffle Flatbread that’s to die for. Mini-pizzas, sweet potato fries, chicken wings… you name it, they have it!
Last, but certainly not least, is the dessert section. From creamy New York Cheesecake to Chocolate Lava cakes, it's easy to get some fabulous, high-quality desserts for relatively low prices. The Tiramisu Cake is incredible (it's just a pain to wait for it to thaw!), but I highly recommend the Apple Blossoms. At just $1.99 for two, these little apple-filled pastries are delicious baked or just warmed in the microwave. You can also get some great natural fruit popsicles, tofu-based desserts, and ready-to-bake pastries. The only thing I find slightly lacking is their ice cream selection, but with everything else you're able to find there, it's not all that necessary!
Hope you've all enjoyed this edition of Trader Joe's 101. Sorry it took me so long! I promise the next one will come a lot sooner. Next up: Snacks! :)