I started working at Trader Joe’s in January 2021. My colleagues and I are die-hard fans. We even make popular TikTok videos sharing our favorite articles.
As employees, we taste a lot of products so that we are well prepared to answer customer questions and give recommendations. I also do 90% of my purchases at the chain because the prices work well with my “frugal student” budget.
Here are Trader Joe’s top items that employees (including me) say are definitely worth checking out:
1. Tangerine pieces without chicken
I was skeptical about this one at first because I don’t usually like plant-based meat substitutes, but it was surprisingly delicious!
The sauce tastes similar to the original Mandarin Orange Chicken, which is one of Trader Joe’s most popular products. And the vegan chicken looks and tastes like McNuggets.
Enjoy them with noodles or rice and your favorite greens for an easy, meatless meal.
2. Macaroni and cheese and pepperoni pizza
A colleague recommended this pizza on my first shift at the store. It is now one of my most frequent purchases.
Mac and cheese is frozen in a plastic bowl, topped with pepperoni and marinara sauce. It is microwave safe, making it a convenient main dish to accompany a salad or steamed vegetables.
3. Sparkling water
My store team loves these cans of flavored sparkling water. As a colleague put it, “It’s sugar free, tastes fiery, and is way better than all the big brands.”
They’re also generally less expensive: in Los Angeles, an eight-pack costs about $0.60 less than an eight-pack from La Croix. I like to use it as a base for cocktails.
4. Scented candles
I’m a big fan of candles, and Trader Joe’s candles go above and beyond. They smell great and at $3.99 they are much cheaper than what you might find at other stores.
During the holiday season, the scents of Honeycrisp Apple, Vanilla Pumpkin and Cedar Balsam make time at home super cozy. I buy at least a dozen every few months.
5. Seasoned waffle fries
These fries came out in June, but they sell out all the time in my store. You get a huge bag for just $3.49 and can easily cook them in an air fryer.
They are good as a side dish, as a late night snack, or simply stuffed into a burrito.
6. Hold The Cone Mini Peppermint Ice Cream Cones
These mini cones are generally popular, but we think there’s not enough hype around the limited-time peppermint flavor.
They’re like the ice cream version of fine mints. And at just under 90 calories per cone, it’s a guilt-free sweet treat.
7. Jingle Jangle
This holiday treat is the perfect mix of chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered popcorn, candy covered chocolates and peanut butter cups. It’s great to bring to a family reunion or just for a snack.
The packaging also makes it a wonderful gift. My aunt is from Hawaii, where there are no Trader Joe stores, so she bought a dozen on a recent trip to bring it back to friends.
8. Diamond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Trader Joe’s has only released three Diamond Reserve wines, which are considered the best, and this one is an exclusive 2022 holiday edition. It’s well worth its $19.99 price tag and pairs well with Parmesan cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Napa Valley’s Oakville AVA (American Viticultural Area), home to some of the most prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon-focused vineyards in the world.
Christian Beltran is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in psychology. He works at Trader Joe’s nearby. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his friends, going to the gym, and doing TikToks. follow him @christianfromtraderjoes.
*The views expressed here by CNBC Make It contributors are their own, not necessarily those of CNBC Make It or the contributors’ employers.
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